Quote of the Day:
“Hell, there are no rules here–we’re trying to accomplish something.” –Thomas Edison
TB found myself this rainy summer morn in a humorless large meeting room staring blankly at the surrounding Junior Leaguers, distracted professionals and a large group of bubbling over, sunny ladies prone to speak to everyone in the voice most of us reserve for our three-year old scamps. And God bless ’em, if my career necessitated speaking to scamps for thirty years I imagine I’d talk that way too. But it wasn’t the sugar sweet sounds or the schoolmarm smiles that bothered me. It was the Rules.
“Be here at this time, leave here at that. Bring this, leave that, volunteer for these….I said VOLUNTEER, Dammit!” Ok, I added the “dammit” but trust me, it was part of the message, spoken aloud or not.
Rationally, I understand the need for Rules. And all the Rules at my Little Scamp’s new school are perfectly reasonable. It’s just that I hate being bound by rules inflicted upon me externally.
On the other hand, if I volunteer for something, really volunteer I mean–not at the point of an unspoken “dammit”–I love the rules. Sports rules? Love ’em. I want to know them all and know them best. I understood the infield fly rule at seven and I’ve never been able to figure out why it’s so hard for everyone else to get. I’ll never forget discovering that on strike 3, with first base open, I could make a run for it if the pitch I swung at and missed touched dirt even if the catcher scooped it cleanly. In a summer league game I once used my special knowledge to walk to first base calmly after a swing-and-a-miss as the other team ran off the field without drawing a throw from the catcher. I only hope you can imagine the smirk on my face when the umpire called me “safe!” and the opponents had to retake their positions.
I even love the Rules of my chosen legal profession. In fact my chief gripe about being a lawyer is the Rules are too often enforced haphazardly and inconsistently. I am devoted to the Rules of logic, though I sometimes run afoul of them. I have often considered writing a manifesto of the Rules of appropriate behavior amongst guys, but you see I cannot, for to codify the Rules is to make them no longer voluntary. When following the Rules is under duress rather than by choice I rebel against them and begin searching for loopholes, and finding none, resort to outlawry.
The Rules of the Road are sacrosanct. Drive in the right lane except to pass. Move over for a vehicle on the inbound ramp. Let one driver in line ahead of you in a traffic backup. For violations of none of these may you be fined. But speeding? That’s written down and punishable. I can’t abide the restrictions. Am I getting through on this?
The point is, I guess, maybe, I’m feeling a bit like a heel today. My little scamp, born free, given as much latitude as possible in our effort to teach her from the outset to think independently, to question everything….well, for the first time really she will be subject to a set of Rules neither of my own choosing nor specially designed to apply only to her. She is being formally introduced to the outside world and though she will not realize it she is being indoctrinated. She must stay in line, eat and drink according to the schedule, share. It will be good for her. It is the next step in learning self-discipline. It will only get worse as the years go by and by worse I mean better. My job is to reinforce the absolute importance of following those Rules while at the same time instilling a sense of healthy skepticism. In the meantime, I quietly seethe at the realization that I will be subject to the schoolmarm’s sweet insistence that I sit down and shut up while she talks.