We have rules for everything. They can be written or unwritten. Some people love them, some hate them. I guess what we all really need to know is when to make them or break them.
Look, I get why rules are important. We need them to give some sort of structure to our lives. We need the sense of order they can provide for us to be able to work together. The most serious of rules are the ones turned into laws. For the purpose of this post, I’m just going to write about the rules that won’t get us arrested or locked-up for breaking them.
According to the Collin’s English dictionary rules are: ‘instructions that tell you what you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do’. We have many different synonyms for the rules we are supposed to follow. We have: regulation, directive, stipulation, requirement, precept, guideline, direction…We have quite a lot of names for them. We value and use them that much.
Here’s the thing though. I view rules the way the Captain Jack Sparrow views the Pirate’s Code in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies: ‘the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules‘. They shouldn’t be held onto so tightly.
I think some people hide behind the rules. They feel safer with rules. They use rules to protect themselves and their insecurities.
Let me give you an example. A few weeks ago I posted an anime sketch my 15-year-old niece had done onto a subreddit on Reddit. In that post I specified that it was not my sketch. It was my niece’s. I had posted it without her knowledge. The reason being she is very talented but has no confidence in her abilities.
People on Reddit are known for their bluntness. The anonymity they have (you are only known as a username) means people are normally very open about their opinion. I asked what people thought of the image and if they thought I should encourage her to put her work out there more.
The response was amazing. Lots of people upvoted the image. Lots of people commented saying how good they thought the sketch was and that she was very talented.
During this time I had let her mother know the response her daughter’s artwork was getting. She then let her know and showed her the screenshots I had been sending and all the comments of encouragement she was getting. The girl was over the moon. She couldn’t believe that so many people thought so highly of her work.
That was until the last commenter said that I was breaking the rules as it was not my sketch. That they would be so upset and angry if someone did that with their work. That person obviously reported me as within the next minute the post was withdrawn by the admins.
So, regardless of the fact no other commenter cared about the rules before then. Regardless of the fact it was being so well received. This post, which was filling my neice with confidence in her abilities, was taken down due to someone else’s insecurities and the ability to hide behind the rules.
People have hidden behind rules before. Remember the ‘just following orders’ reasons from the Nazi’s who gassed the Jewish people in WWII? The most extreme example of hiding behind rules, when they instinctively must have known they were doing wrong.
“The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It’s people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages.”Banksy
And that’s another point. We all have an inner guidance. We all have a sense of what is really right or wrong, good or bad, whether our actions will cause harm or not. So why do we need so many damned rules in the first place. As shown, they can be so powerful we will let them override our sense of what is humanely correct.
I actually think that rules can also be so misleading. Yes, they can work up to a point. But at some stage they become stifling. They hinder creativity. They cause greater problems than they solve. You can get so caught up in doing what you are advised, or expected, to do, that you forget what you really want to do. What feels right for you.
This blog is my example. I got so absorbed in the ‘right’ things, or processes, in writing a blog post, that I forgot the most important thing of all. Writing the way I like. About the things I like and think may be important to others as well. And where did all these ‘correct way to blog’ suggestions come from in the first place? The people that found their own way.
The great thing about rules, the thing that is remembered most about them, is when they get broken. We someone sets a new standard that defies the rules that have went before.
Normally, this is more noticable in Art. Picasso broke the rules of Art and we’ve all heard of him. At the time his work was unlike anything seen before. It wasn’t accepted immediately. He hid it for 9 years because he knew it was pushing the boundaries. But we know him now, all these years later, because of his rule breaking.
And what about Hunter S Thompson and his unique style of ‘gonzo’ journalism which was a break from everything that came before. Where he took the traditional objective approach to journalism and infected it with personality and style.
You think it is only the artists or anarchist’s that want to break the rules? What about a religious leader?
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”The Dalai Lama
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘think outside the box’. Where the box applies to the standard understanding of something. The standard rules.
I say, forget the box altogether. There is no box. Make your own understanding of something. Blaze your own trail. The one that feels right for you. Don’t even think of breaking, or making, the rules. Just follow your heart, your own imagination. You’ll instinctively know what’s right for you.
Do you want to be someone who hides behind the rules all your life? Or do you want to be someone who lived the way you wanted, on your own terms. Did things your own way. It’s up to you. Would you rather make rules, break rules, or ignore them altogether?