The Rules: Or How to Be A Reasonable Human

I’ve talked about the rules before in this blog. Most notably, I discussed them in the post logically entitled The Rules, which, quite frankly, I had forgotten all about until I noticed that WordPress automatically assigned the URL the-rules-2 for this post, implying that there was a rules 1, which there was. Ta-da!

However, as awesome as the first rules post is (or maybe it isn’t–I didn’t actually read it), those are not the type of rules to which I am referring now. The rules in that post are rules for conducting yourself while engaging in not necessarily strictly legal activities in a shady or possibly malevolent manner.

In this post, I’m talking about rules of the universe. That’s what I call them anyway, but they’re not really universal since they really only apply to Homo sapiens. They are the rules I created to conduct myself as a reasonable member of society. These rules are the kind that people should be mindful of irrespective of the circumstances. If you follow them, you will be a better person guaranteed (there really is no guarantee–I was speaking purely metaphorically. Please, don’t sue me. You’re not getting your money back).

I don’t mean to imply that I’m some sort of expert on above-average humans and what makes them that way. The truth is quite the opposite. I’m really a misanthrope, still overcoming a debilitating case of childhood shyness and social anxiety disorder. It took a lot of work and I’m definitely still an introvert.

However, in the process of learning how to cope with the big, bad, scary world, I learned some valuable lessons, which turned into rules that I try to follow myself. I thought I’d share them, just in case anyone ever needed to know how to be a completely adequate human being. Say, for example, giant metal space insects came to visit and the only available resource on how to be human was this very post, it might come in handy. And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords (gratuitous Simpson’s quote).

Rule #1: Don’t be a human statue. That shit is creepy and dumb.

Rule #1: Handle your shit.

By shit, I mean everything from paying the bills to suppressing the impulse to run people over with your car. Shit is all the nonsense that responsible adult humans have to deal with in order to have a roof over our heads, food on the table and a bed to sleep in at night. Your job is shit.

If everyone handled their shit, there would be a lot less pollution, strife and woe in the world, but a lot of people don’t. Some people think that someone else will come along and handle their shit for them. Sadly, sometimes this is true. Some parents don’t raise their children to know how to do simple chores like laundry or cleaning a bathroom. Some don’t teach them the value of hard work and money. Some children don’t learn manners and responsibility. When those children grow up, they act entitled. They think clothes magically clean themselves like a cat and the rent is paid by fairies or leprechauns. As if. Everyone knows that leprechauns are terrible with money.

It’s never too late to learn to be responsible. If you take responsibility for your actions and acknowledge that all actions have consequences, everyone will be better off, including you.

Rule #2: It is not about you.

Really, it isn’t. Ask any cosmologist or astrophysicist how important you and everything around you are on a cosmic scale and they will most likely laugh in your face. To quote Carl Sagan again talking about the Pale Blue Dot photo simply because I love this quote (there’s more to the quote at the second link):

Earth as seen from 4 billion miles away
Earth as seen from 4 billion miles away

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

On a cosmic scale, you and your shit are entirely insignificant. It’s not about any of us. We don’t really know what it is about, if anything, but it definitely is not all about you.

Rule #3: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

I’ve written about this one before in the post 10 Things I Hate Part 4, so I’ll quote myself: “I hate broken promises. Promises are how humans show loyalty. They are what separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. So, when you make a promise, keep it. If you don’t think you can absolutely keep your promise, barring any unforeseen circumstances like getting hit by a bus, don’t make one. It’s very simple.”

Rule #4: Say what you mean, mean what you say.

Don’t be passive aggressive. My grandmother was the passive aggressive master. Nothing was ever direct with her and it drove me to want to murdilate her more often than not. If you have something to say, say it. Don’t fill the world with more circuitous requests, shallow compliments and vague hints.

Rule #5: Don’t say something behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Whenever I’m talking about someone, I pretend as if they could walk in the room behind me and overhear what I am saying at any moment. I never say anything bad about someone behind their back unless I’m prepared to say the same thing to their face.

Obviously, there are times when this rule doesn’t apply, for instance, walking into your boss’ office and calling him a festering boil of inequity to his face isn’t a great idea, but in general, it’s a good rule. Besides, there’s always the possibility that the person you’re talking to is gabby and what you say will get back to the person you’re complaining about anyhow.

Rule #6: Listen.

Listen to people when they’re talking with you. It sounds simple enough, but how many conversations have been derailed by interruptions that only obliquely relate to the topic at hand? Most people are so concerned with preempting awkward pauses in conversation that they’re frantically stacking up topics like chess moves without really listening to what the other person is saying. I can confirm that if you listen more than you speak, eventually, people will ask for your opinion and it will really mean something to them.

Rule #7: Pay attention.

Watch buildings being built. Notice the leaves turning. Find shapes in clouds. View as many sunrises or sunsets as possible. Visit the ocean at least once in your life. Smell flowers, look at stars, hear the birds. Most importantly, read, listen to or, if you must, watch the news. Know what’s going on in your world and the world at large.

Paying attention has manifold benefits. Being well-informed is never a bad thing. Knowing what’s happening out there broadens your mind and exposes you to different viewpoints. You might read a news article and think, hey, that’s neat, I’d like to know more, so you go find out more only to end up down a rabbit hole of information that is far removed from where you started. That’s alright. If you know what’s happening, you can walk into any party or social gathering and have a conversation with anyone. Small talk is a part of all of our lives, but it doesn’t have to stay small.

Rule #8: Laugh.

To err is human. To laugh at our errors is the most human quality of all. If you can’t find humor in your own human failings, life will crush you under its weight. Life is agony and unfairness and injustice. It is also spectacularly funny. Humor balances everything out. Find something that you think is funny, point your finger at it and laugh maniacally for as long as it’s funny. Then go find something else to laugh at. Laughing is the best part of any day.

There should probably be ten rules, but since these aren’t the ten commandments, there are eight. By the way, I’ve never numbered them before, aside from the first two, so the rest might not be in the correct order of importance. This is the first time I’ve written these down. It’s nice to have them there in written form. With these rules, I make my way through life. Enjoy. Or not. It’s up to you.