Yes, we've seen a string of irrational, malicious and even murderous rules lately, but that's not what I'm addressing in this post.
Today my point is that rules by themselves – rules by their essence – are the opponents of righteousness. I know this strikes most people as impossible, but I'm convinced that it's correct and important.
I expect this concept to take root slowly; human psychology is just that way: It takes time to absorb and sift ideas that are not only new, but which stand against basic assumptions.
So, if this seems like it's "too far out there," please try to let it remain in your mind as a possibility, even if a far-fetched one. Thanks.
It Nearly Always Comes Back To Structure
There are multiple ways to analyze almost anything, but the one that stands out to me is analyzing the structure of things. As it happens, this type of analysis is rarely done for human affairs, which I think accounts for a significant share of our problems.
What I want to do, briefly, is explain the structure of righteousness, and show you why rules oppose it. So, let's start with a definition:
Righteousness is not merely doing the right thing, or even knowing that you are doing the right thing. It is doing the right thing by your own will.
You don't improve your inner workings by following rules. Rather, you surrender them to an exterior command. That insults your inner parts rather than using and upgrading them.
Once, however, you generate your own desire to do beneficial and courageous things, you both strengthen your inner parts and know that you are a source of benefit in the universe. That is righteousness, and it's a massively beneficial thing.
The great difference in the two models is that in one of them our inner parts are subsidiary and inferior to something external… our actions are derived from something outside… our goodness is not inherent, but subsidiary.
In the other model, our inner parts generate goodness, making us primary and potent beings; beings who continually improve.
Once we begin to see and accept this, we become objectively better beings… we grow and expand… and we very certainly become more confident and reliable beings.
And There Is Much, Much More
I won't take space to go through examples of how rules diminish us and self-generated goodness improves us, but there are many; I've written about them in our subscription newsletter, in other articles posted here, and other places.
Still, it's notable that the best human actions arise where rules are absent or disregarded. The human who surrenders his or her judgment to rules is highly unlikely to show courage and to stand up for the oppressed. The man or woman who summons the courage to act beyond the rules is the actual hero. As Martin Luther King noted:
We should never forget that everything Adolph Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal."
One final point: Humans have promoted rules as a path to goodness for millennia, with a doggedness to rival any compulsive disorder. If rules worked, we'd be a race of angels by now.
Rules do not engender human progress, rather they hinder it. Again, I know that this seems strange and even threatening, but I submit to you that while the concept may be foreign, it is true all the same.
Rules displace and disgrace our inner mechanisms. We and our entire world will be far better off once we stop treating them as idols.
Thanks for considering it.