Rules Are Meant To Be…

Willa and I were out on a walk when we happened upon this humorous photo opp. It immediately brought to mind the oft-quoted statement: “Rules are meant to be broken.”


Meant for their vehicle’s safety due to road construction, the folks in this instance turned a blind eye to the clearly posted sign.

Should rules be obeyed, regardless? Or should we follow the rules only when they’re in our best interest, or in the interest of the greater good?

When do rules apply to you?


62 thoughts on “Rules Are Meant To Be…

  1. Yesterday took Oscar , my King Charles Spanial to the vets for his annual booster .. In our vets is an area that shows a picture of a cat , in another area shows a picture of a dog . Knowing my little chap , who hates other dogs but mainly because he’s terrified of being beaten up , I thought it sensible to sit in the area for cats because they are usually in a cages.
    Once I made myself comfortable , Oscar jumped up beside me ( he likes his comfort ) When I looked up on the wall it clearly stated ‘Please don’t let you pet on the seats ‘
    I though quite a good example of disregarding rules.
    ☺️ Oh and by the way the receptionist and the vet couldn’t have cared less …they said everyone does it 🐾🐾🐾😽

  2. Hi Laurie

    A real depth of issue here.

    Clearly, from the perspective of the legal system, laws are there to be obeyed.

    Clearly, I don’t see it quite that way.

    Having spent over 40 years creating rule based systems for computers, and almost as long deeply engaged in the legal system of creating and administering law, I am left with a confidence that no rule based system can work for the community good all the time.

    The more rules you give people, the less people think about what they are doing, and just follow the rules – often with very sub-optimal outcomes.

    I am all for getting people to think for themselves, to trust there own judgements, and to act in fundamentally cooperative ways towards everyone else. And the law wont necessarily see it like that.

    And I see it as a matter of personal integrity to act in ways that are in the long term best interests of everyone, irrespective of what the law might have to say about any specific action.

    And it can be a very complex set of issue.

    I have liked the quote from Douglas Bader ever since I first heard it about 55 years ago “Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools” – and I believe it predates him by a substantial margin.

  3. Funny photo and interesting post, Laurie. I tend to be a rule-follower, although I’m sure I’ve been in situations where there are just silly rules that I’ve not followed (probably several when I was in high school). Laws are another thing. I would hope I’d have the courage to break some that are wrong–sit at the lunch counter, so to speak.

    Your post is timely. I was just reading and thinking about the clerk in Kentucky who is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. I think she is so wrong. I think she should resign if she won’t do her job–but I won’t get off on a rant here on your blog. 🙂

  4. Obviously, there isn’t an across the board answer to this. Some rules are in the interest of keeping society well lubricated and people rubbing elbows comfortably, some rules are more advice, things people have learned and strongly suggest you do because it works better that way. Some rules are intended for the benefit of people who hold power over other people, and following those rules is a cost/benefit decision. It’s a little like asking whether color is a nice thing – it’s just a thing. Some colors I like, some not so much, some are produced by means of artificial and toxic elements. It isn’t a thing that’s good or bad or meaningful in itself, is it?

  5. Do you remember how Daniel in the Old Testament defied the law of Darius the Mede and was thrown into the lion’s den? Daniel apparently thought God’s moral law superseded a king’s law, resisted bowing down, and lived to tell about it.

    Earlier this year a writer friend and I, whom you know very well, defied the notice on a No-Trespassing sign while we were hiking. We were curious about what was farther down the path and climbed over the fence. We gleefully broke the rule and lived to tell about it.

    Like Merril, I see a distinction between laws and rules. But if I continue with this, I may be guilty of circular reasoning.

    Laurie, why do you make us think so early in the morning – ha! Nevertheless, great question . . .

  6. There are rules?
    I like the quote Ted shared of Douglas Bader: “Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools”
    Yet it is usually the fools that don’t follow the rules which were created to keep them safe.

  7. Ah, that’s a toughie. I break rules when it will do no harm to others. In creative work especially, one must often break rules in order to make real art.

    I also suppose it depends upon the rule, like my Mom’s rule that said you must change your underwear everyday so that if you are in an accident you’ll still be looking clean and good! Do you suppose that’s a real rule? Once on an overnight trip I forgot to pack an extra pair of underpants and had to wear the ones I had two days in row. I never told my mother!!

    • Hi Joan, I was reading someone’s memoir not long ago and she addressed this underpants issue in a different way. Her story concerned her survival and recovery following a terrible accident. Your mom and mine had the same rule. But this woman’s memoir advised just the opposite: they’re going to be cut off and thrown away; always wear your rattiest if you plan to be in an accident. (Wish I could remember which memoir). Anyway, I think of it now as I dress each morning. (yeah; right).

  8. I agree with what others have said about the value of laws and when laws and rules become oppressive. And I have a comment on each. It does bother me when fully abled people park in handicapped parking spaces. I try to avoid judging knowing that one can not always tell by just looking If a person is dealing with issues. Do wish folks would think before they act in many situations.
    Overall I do think we over rely on laws. And I learned around college age that there is a level above the law which is moral and ethical in nature. It does take serious discernment to fine the line between anarchy and justice-based protest or disregard.

    • Audrey — I love the handicap parking example you shared (my pet peeve is people who litter). I applaud your closing statement: “…there is a level above the law which is moral and ethical in nature. It does take serious discernment to fine the line between anarchy and justice-based protest or disregard.”

  9. When they make sense.
    You’d love the French: whenever we see a ‘No swimming’ sign, you can bet your life they will and not only will they swim, but they’ll be jumping from bridges too!!!

  10. Laurie, there are written rules and unwritten rules, common sense rules and inexplicable rules. Rules to promote safety and rules that seem to exist only to confound the public. Rules meant for all, rules meant for a few and rules I lay down for myself. Some rules I obey without a second thought, rules that merit some inner debate on my part, rules I cling to and rules I simply blow off. Rules of Physics, rules of Finance, rules of Social Behavior. One thing I can be assured of though, like death and taxes, there will always be rules.

  11. Breaking rules for me depends on the consequences. For example, speed signs I usually follow within the 10 km variance that is generally the margin that will avoid a fine, expect in constructions zone. The law enforcement is fierce and the fines large enough to be worth avoiding in construction zones. I stick to the maximum speed with vigilance. And so it goes with the decision making about rules. But first I must somehow come across a rule for I definitely make it a low priority to seek them out. Jeff’s comment made me laugh so hard! There are rules? Perfect.

  12. Great question, Laurie. I described myself in BLUSH as a skater close to the edge but still within the lines. I’ve broken, followed, and skated. But if I don’t like where I am, I look for a way to change the story.

  13. Great topic, Laurie. As usual. I think rules, are like traffic lights in Boston: “suggestions.” (A tour guide actually said that to me). Someone else has determined the rules of the game that make their system work, then imposed them on the rest of us. If it’s our system too, then great. Rules are wonderful reminders to stay aware of whose rules you are choosing to follow at any given time and why. Suggestions. AND, Boston really is a miserable city to drive in. One of my Camel’s Hump blogs (#2 I think) will talk about following rules.

  14. Traffic rules should be obeyed for everyone’s safety, unless obeying them would harm someone, like a jaywalking pedestrian. Some etiquette rules need to be broken and replaced with kindness and common sense!

    At Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice there were signs everywhere instructing people NOT to take pictures, yet people were taking a lot of them and the security people were not stopping them. It was very confusing to me and I couldn’t ignore the signs, much as I wanted to take some pictures.

    • Barbara — I wonder if the “No photos” signs were so that the multitude of flash photography, over time, wouldn’t fade whatever was being photographed. That’s the rule in Hearst Castle in California.

  15. I follow the rules most of the time and I question the rules most of the time. I try to figure out the intention behind the rule and how it is useful or not. I use them as a brain tease, In our State I would advise that one follow the driving rules and speed limits, because the speeding tickets are often and very expensive and right now the smoke over the roadways is horrendous and dangerous. Drunks and Californians really stand out when one is driving. Then there are the Canadian drivers – fast and extremely polite!
    Fun exercise and picture!

  16. Sadly our society has become a “me me me” society, not only do so many break every rule they feel does “not apply to me” but even common courtesy has mostly gone out the window. Just see how many rules of the road you can count each time you get out there!!!
    Living in communities with covenants or apartments with rules there are soooo many who feel they do not have to follow the rules.

  17. Interesting post. I tend to be pretty rule bound for the most part. When I was working in the disabilities field I broke a few rules because I refused to do anything that would cause harm to the people I was paid to care for and protect. I also had a personal rule of not allowing myself to be forced to do anything that was immoral, unethical or illegal by an employer — and they did try. Sometimes breaking rules that are unjust is how we bring about change. But how far is too far? On the lighter side, my art is my rule free zone. I think we all need a little space to break all the rules without worrying about the world ending if we do. 🙂

  18. I try to follow the rules but it’s not very easy! lol as you said rules are made to be broken; ) So long as I see a good reason for them and I might get arrested if I don’t lol then I usually manage to do as I’m told…kind of 🙂 But if they don’t make any sense and I see no good reason…well!!! 😉

  19. Ha Laurie, I can’t say I have always been one to follow rules, though in some instances they are broken unbeknownst to me. Case in point: We just earlier this week received a $50 fine in the mail from NYC, saying I was 1.2 second in violation of a red light. I do recall the spot and remember crossing it when it was yellow. But unfortunately there isn’t much I can do to contest it. Ha!

    Another fantastic post!

  20. Generally I’m an obeyed of rule, apart from a tiny bit of trespassing now and again. I always think, if you’re going to break them you should be prepared to take the consequences. I would t want my car towed so I wouldn’t park there.

  21. I wouldn’t do anything that could make other people feel uncomfortable. Otherwise, I would think of consequences for me personally, and then decide if it is worth it ( parking in undesignated places, for example) :). Like, people who are taking pictures at the edge of the cliff think that it is only their own business, which is wrong – somebody might get nightmares after fishing their shattered body out of water. Making other people feel uncomfortable is a big no no.

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