"If you have an apple, and I have an apple and we exchange apples then we both still have one apple. If you have an idea, and I have an idea and we exchange ideas then we both have two ideas." George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rules? I Like Rules

     Yes I could be called one of those goody two shoes kind of guys.  Yes I have been accused of being a rule nazi (especially when it comes to my favorite games such as Settler of Catan).  I've been called old fashioned and just about every other name you can think of for someone who actually likes the rules and tries to follow them.  I've had arguments/discussions over rules with mission companions, coworkers, family, and old girlfriends.  And at the end of the day I choose to follow rules, to understand them, and to be grateful for them.
     Recently at my job I had an experience that made me especially grateful for a rule that was in place and the safety it represented.  I work on an assembly line and am required to wear safety glasses.  They are uncomfortable and sometimes get dirty making it hard to see.  Also no one looks good in safety glasses.  While placing a bolt and a nut using a wrench and a pneumatic drill I lost my grip on the wrench and the drill threw the wrench at my face.  It hurt, but not nearly as much as it could have had I not been wearing safety glasses.  At best I would have gotten a black eye and at worst I would have lost my eye entirely.  Either way I am grateful for the rule requiring me to wear safety glasses.
     A past girlfriend of mine really liked to break "minor" rules.  She hated when I would set rules for us, and we inevitably argued about them.  She would often ask if I trusted her to keep us out of trouble or if I trusted myself to do the same.  I would often reply that I didn't trust myself.
     I really do trust myself; I trust myself to make a smart choice before hand and not put myself in a position to get in trouble.  I trust myself to make guidelines for my behavior so my weaknesses are covered.  In this case not making out, because I knew it would become very difficult to not move on other things that I would sincerely regret.
     A soldier trusts his gun and his aim, but that doesn't mean he's going to walk behind enemy lines.  He's going to stay far away from danger and confront the enemy on his terms (really it's the terms of his commander who knows more than he does, but that's a topic for another day).
     In the case of my girlfriend I usually gave in to her and nothing good ever came of it.  I made some mistakes that I wish I could take back.  I often felt enormous amounts of guilt and self loathing because I knew I was better than that.  Eventually, with help (thanks Mom), I broke up with her.  It took a long time to overcome the depression that ensued because I wasn't true to myself and I didn't do what I knew was right.
     I like rules because they keep me safe.  They keep me from danger.  They keep me happy.  Some rules it's true, have no real purpose.  Rules made by evil people designed to enslave others should be fought against.  In general, however, rules have good reasons for existing.  They summarize knowledge and experience that has been passed on from one person to another.
     Safety rules at work protected me from serious harm.  Rules I had made or borrowed from my religious leaders would have kept me much happier.  Dieting rules keep a person healthy.
     If you don't like a rule, perhaps it is because you don't understand it.  If you don't like it or don't agree with it, question it.  Ask why it exists.  What purpose does it serve?  How can following this rule benefit me?  A smart person learns from his own mistakes, and a genius learns from the mistakes of others.  A genius would recognize that rules often arise from the mistakes of others, and by adhering to the rule, avoid similar mistakes.
     Sometimes rules simply provide order.  There is a rule (sadly on its way out) that says: "ladies first."  Have you ever tried walking through a door at the same time as another person?  Or awkwardly had a nonverbal argument about who goes first for something?  Allowing ladies first simplifies things.  The follow up that may have once followed this simple rule is: "elders first." (generally summed up in "respect your elders and betters)  Sometimes you won't know who is older and you still have problems, but if it helps at least the majority of the time I think it is worth following.  I heard it said once that rules are the grease of society.  They reduce friction and conflict.
     Next time you find yourself fighting against some rule, take a step back and try to understand it, rather than complain that it is a construct of some high-up paper pusher, male chauvinist pig, God, or whoever to constrain you and cramp your style.  Who knows, you may just like what you find.

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