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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Case of the Missing Rule Book-

It was around my junior high (now called Middle School) time of life that I began to realize that not everyone was playing the Game of Life by the same Rule Book. I could not recall receiving my copy, and so absorbed my idea of the rules from my parents and others close to me. That, by the way, is how we all learn the rules, such as they are.

Now at that time I began to feel a bit cheated. I had an innate fondness for clear rules, and the fact that not everyone was playing by the rules I had defined for myself was a bit grating. I began seeking the missing Rule Book. I looked to Science, but found rules there only applicable to the study of Things. People seemed to me to be greater than Things, so I quested on. I needed rules to live by. That quest led me to the nebulous realms of Religion and Philosophy.

Our family did not follow a particular religion in my growing up years. There were vague remnants of Christianity in our mix, but they were more of a tint than a full coloring. Coming of age in the late 1960's and early 1970's, I of course gravitated toward the popular popularization of Eastern Religions. My quest, however, was ill-defined. I drifted, like a leaf in a stream.

In the Army I met a fellow who followed Jesus in a fashion I had never seen. His level of commitment drew me to him, to learn what was the source of this passion. I was shortly after that swept up in the Jesus Movement. I relish the memory of that experience. I got, in a sense, the Rule Book I had been missing.

With the passage of time I learned that the Rule Book was not universally understood and applied, even in something so seemingly monolithic as Christianity. For some that can drive them from a particular faith. I know of many who were so driven. In my own case it drove me to think about the whole thing, and try to come up with something to hold it all together.

I would love to be able to share the set of rules I have come to understand, to present you all with a Rule Book that covers everything. I have not found such rules. I have, over time, come to understand the guiding principles that form my own life, but they are not really rules and not necessarily transferable. At least, not transferable in the form of a Rule Book.

When I dabbled in Philosophy I gained a lot of insights from philosophers, and was especially drawn to the philosophers who tried to build  systems of rules that explained everything. I longed to be that philosopher who came up with a universal system adopted and held in high esteem by everyone, but I failed. I know you are surprised, but I failed. Yet in failing I honed a way of thinking that runs rather joyously along the borders of Reason and Mysticism.

I am the result of a long flow of genetic materials coming together at a particular time, influenced by a culture which is itself the consequence of a long and convoluted flow of history. So are you. So are we all. So many influences, some determinant and others malleable. It is a river flowing, an unending dance. We swim with or against the current, but are all swept away.

Obviously, metaphor has come to be the core of my philosophy, such as it is. We only come to know the portion of the river that is flowing around us. We only learn the steps of the dance as we go along, learning from and teaching the other dancers as they flow like a river around us. We are swept along, for a time. Swept along.

Can anyone in the midst of the flowing waters know the River as a whole? Many will say they do, but I doubt the truth of that. Yet we can all find the flow of the River where we are, and swim with it, using the currents and eddies. Can anyone in the midst of the Dance know the Dance as a whole? I think not. Yet we can take our place in the Dance, interacting with the other dancers and adding to the whole.

It is obvious that this is the place where God would come into the picture. Indeed, in my own experience He did. Were I writing this with an evangelistic intent, I would introduce God as I have come to know Him and encourage others to know Him, too. That, however, I choose to save for another time and another writing. Here I am painting with metaphor, drawing analogies.

Hardly definitive, these analogies. Yet perhaps they may prove constructive. Who can know what one word or deed might bring about in such a mighty River, such an intricate Dance? Cooking meals. Raising children. Working at the task at hand. Even writing and telling stories. They are all part of the flow of the River, and steps in the Dance.

Rules are good. They are like the banks of the River, the fundamental steps in the Dance. They are part of the whole, but not everything. No, not everything. Go with the flow, and dance like nobody is looking. Take what you need, and add what you can. Try, and fail. Try again. Succeed. Imagine. Create.

There are plenty of rules out there, and plenty of rule makers. You can even make your own rules. As to a Universal Set of Rules for Everything, I am not so sure. I just don't think it is designed like that, this thing called 'living.' That is not such a bad thing. The River flows on, and the Dance changes over time. Perhaps so should the rules.

The Case of the Missing Rule Book is closed.

1 comment:

Carol said...

I was hoping you knew the rules, I'm still trying to figure them all out and apparently, I'm a slow learner.