Just Thinking About Rules

We’re taught to live by the rules. We observe as society sanctions people who break them. We watch those who deviate from the course judged appropriate by society suffer the consequences of nonconformity. Parents and teachers and churches and friends and employers collaborate to mold people into ideal models with only slight variations between them. Rules are necessary; not only to a civil society, but to a mentally healthy individual. Up to a point. Rules set parameters so we know what to expect from others (and ourselves), but they can crush creativity,  smother joy, and limit the questions we are willing to ask ourselves and one another.

We intentionally send mixed messages about following the rules. Films and books and stories we tell to one another often champion rule-breakers, individualists who refuse to conform; people who not only test the limits of acceptable behavior but rip past them with abandon. Rule-breakers simultaneously serve as heroes and villains, models of self-determination or selfish and immoral, self-absorbed egotists. Messages of caution usually accompany those tales. “Rule-breaking has consequences.” Serious consequences.

We dance so deftly on that fine line between condemning and condoning rule-breaking. I think the concept of rules, how and why we break them, and the inconsistency of the consequences of breaking them form an interesting topic for exploration. At the moment, I’m thinking of exploration in the form of essay, but perhaps it can take the form of fiction; maybe fiction can more easily show the inconsistencies.

Today, I will think about the rules I have broken—am breaking—and will  consider whether the topic really merits attention beyond a surface look. And that’s all I have to say about that. For the moment.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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