This I Believe

Sean - Dallas, Texas
Entered on October 14, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: golden rule

Without a code to live by, we are as a boat out to sea without a rudder: adrift. The problem with that lies in the tendency of floating objects to run into other objects. If there was only one person who lived a life free of restraint, a life, according to our metaphor, adrift, and they lived in an isolated environment, then I would have no issue with a lack of code on their part. If that were the case then the actions of that individual wouldn’t affect the rest of us, and we would be able to go on about our merry, strictly codified, ways. Likewise, if nobody lived by a set of rules, and everyone was in it just for themselves, then I would have no problem with any individual’s lack of restraint. The issue with the lack of personal structure arises when the two different lifestyles, codified and one without code, attempt to co-exist. Even if two groups have separate codes by which they live co-existence is still possible, because each group knows what to expect from the other, because each is predictable. However, when one group lives by a code, and is predictable, and the other has no rules by which they live, and therefore is unpredictable, the two groups will have trouble co-existing. The two different lifestyles simply don’t mix well. Two groups, one following the a strict set of rules, say the Ten Commandments, the other the operating strictly for themselves (strictly speaking, this is still a code, but for the sake of this essay, we’ll consider a code to be a belief that restricts our normal impulses) will have trouble cohabitating.

Now, it’s a matter of judgment which of the two lifestyles you think will make for a better world, but I believe that in order for the world to function efficiently we must all live by a set of rules. Now I’m by no means saying that we should all live by the Ten Commandments, or by any other set of pre-existing protocols, and I’m not saying that everyone’s code would be the same. Just as no two religions are bound by the same set of rules, no two people should be expected to have the same personal codes. I don’t maintain that we should all operate under one set of rules, and it’s not the purpose of this essay to tell you how we should all act, but to state my belief: that each individual should have a set of rules by which they are governed.

Living by our personal standards should help smooth out interactions with our fellow man, and as such should not be totally self-serving. It should be more golden rule, and less law of the jungle. In fact the golden rule, when taken out of religious context, is almost a perfect example of a simple codification that can solve most problems. However, Jesus already wrote that one, so you’ll have to come up with your own.