The other night I sat with other writers, in a workshop, to consider how the rules that guide one person might contrast with rules somebody else lives by. Like a man who has grown up thinking women should be barefoot and pregnant, always with a pork chop ready to put on the stove, might have a problem with a woman who is of the thinking that she should always be treated like a queen, with doors opened for her and a coat set down for her to walk on in a puddle in the rain. How could they come to co-exist was the gist of this exercise.
As I put pen to paper, these words, came to mind along with images of the Temptations: “Rules! Hunh! Good God! What are they good for?”
Now, I would never say “Absolutely nothing!” but I basically don’t need rules, generally, as I tend to be somewhat law abiding naturally. I mean I don’t need a sign saying “Slow: Children at Play” to keep me from driving 55 miles per hour in someone’s Hood. That would do no one any good. I don’t drink or text and drive. I’m never in a hurry because I want to stay alive. I have no robbing or molesting genes and I get mad at myself when I jive. My personal code of ethics and hitting on somebody’s wife would not jibe.
I got my attitude about rules early on in life from a number of experiences similar to one that came my way one day back around 1943, when I stepped onto a platform at a train station in Union, Mississippi and a man with more tobacco stuffed in his jaws than anyone should ever have to see, said to me: “Where you going, Nigger?”
Now, as a confused five year old, with no knowledge of the area’s mores, I said something innocently like “You talking to me?” And my mother, who was caught completely off guard, looked at me like I was the carrier of a fatal disease, so suddenly worried was she, since she knew the rules, that something bad could happen to me, while this tobacco chawing yokel heaved our luggage into the mud over a fence as though this was some kind of olympic event.
But, hey, that was “okay” because he made the rules and such a heartless rude attitude was the main rule of the day, one in which he could also: have his way with my mother and the townspeople would have been cool with that; hang me from a tree as though there was nothing to that; pretty much take my uncle Bud’s property and not have to flee and create a rule on the spot to justify such a travesty of justice and civility. That’s how it goes with rules. So rules just don’t appeal to me. And besides, those rules of an earlier day went against the very rules of the Milky Way, the rule that all that exists has a rightful place and, I’d say, when it comes to the human race we all deserve to live a life with dignity.
Then there’s just too many rules. “Thou shall not” rules which play havoc to people who are LGBT. Sex rules aimed at getting teenagers to abstain at an age when “doing it” is very much in their brain; rules where you have to take your shoes off and get X-rayed before you can fly in a plane; rules that make it a misdemeanor to smoke weed for your pain; rules that have no sting like boys and girls have to take PE everyday which isn’t happening since there are way too many pudgy children far and wide throughout the USA who don’t look as though they’ve ever spent any part of any day engaged in physical play.
So, what’s the real purpose of rules if they’re not taken seriously? If it were up to me I’d reduce them down to only those that keep us in line reasonably while I concentrate on just living a life; while I write some prose or a poem or a song or strike a pose in a dance that gets at what I feel, what I want to to give, how I want me and the rest of humanity to live; while, in essence, I simply try to “keep it real” and contribute to a world that’s deeply bruised and needs to heal.
And there are rules for such thinking: Rules of decency. Rules wherein: one person lets another person change lanes without having to drive recklessly just to find a little space to maneuver in; heterosexual folks don’t stand in the way of freedoms sought by gays and lesbians; folks of all colors are treated fairly; animals are treated humanely as special beings among all of humanity; no one blows smoke in your face, literally or figuratively; those who have lend a hand to those who have little to none; good deeds become a way of life; the love within us is shared free and liberally.
Oh, what would the future look like if rules like these were common place? Might our children, as a result of being exposed to such examples of Golden Rule-ish-ness, if you will, turn their world around, in contrast to ways and rules of life that falls short of such a reality?
Hmmm, that accomplishes, I think, the intent of this workshop piece. Maybe rules ain’t so bad after all.