I can think of a few good sets of rules. The Ten Commandments comes to mind, as does The Rules by the Velominati. The Four Agreements. Even Fight Club has rules. What is the purpose of self-applied rules? For an individual? For a society?
I have a B.A. in Philosophy. (Yeah, I know, and to be clear, the chef I worked for when I was in college heard about my major and told me I’d be spending a lot of time in kitchens. Prophetic bastard.) My areas of interest were epistemology (the theory of knowledge and its origins) and the philosophy of language (which ties into my interest in writing). I remember, I’m afraid, few details of the philosophy courses I took at UNC-Chapel Hill and Glasgow University, but I can quote Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative from memory: Act as if the maxim of your actions were to become, through your will, universal law.
At first blush, it’s the Golden Rule, right? Kant didn’t write it in English, and I don’t read, speak, or translate German (I did have to look up whether he not Kant wrote in German. Told you I remember little), so we take a slight leap of faith giving full weight to a translation.
I didn’t begin this article to explicate the Categorical Imperative, but rather to lay out rules for myself in this self-selected forum. I’ll strive not to write and publish thoughts that contain too much spleen, or sarcasm, or navel-gazing, or wild speculation, or regurgitation, or blood-lust, or vitriol, or passive aggression.
Maybe I just answered, or partly answered, some of the questions at the end of the first paragraph. I can’t quite discern how the categorical imperative got me here. But maybe each of us, or each respected society or organization, creates rules so that important decisions are made, in the words of the wedding vows in The Book of Common Prayer, reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly. I’ll give it a try:
- I will do no harm to those I love. I’m not, however, writing in a vacuum (although I have no idea if anyone will read this) and I am aware that someone may use something that I write against me, or someone I love.
- I will not fan the flames of political, religious, or racial tensions by engaging in speculative or overly partisan discourse on those subjects, if I in fact go near them at all.
- I’m already on rule 3 and have not used the words swim, bike, run, or cook, which seems odd. I don’t yet know if each article will contain an element of those four actions. I titled the page SWIMBIKERUNCOOK because my body spends more time in those pursuits than anything else. And I’m writing because my mind needs to write. It always has. The words and ideas used to arrive in a torrent, too fast to make much sense in a sustained narrative. I’ve mined, bit by bit, through some of my older fiction, and it is painful to read. I think it was a Frenchman who wrote that “Each moment is a chunk of ore from which the precious metal must be wrought”–maybe Rimbaud or Verlaine or Baudelaire–and I did zero refining in those days. I had no ability, or desire, to rewrite or edit back then (I’m talking fifteen to twenty years ago). I also had only a pen and spiral notebook. Well before that, I remember the poster above the blackboard in Mrs. Vanstory’s ninth-grade English class bearing the quotation, “Easy writing’s curst hard reading.” I plan to write, rewrite, excise adverbs with a machete, and generally (shit! that one got past me) make these articles clear.
- To try and apply the C.I. to this next law … should I strive to write as if the maxim of my actions were to become, through my will, universal law? That seems responsible, but ambitious.
Four rules seems like plenty. (WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT THE COMPUTER? YOU SHOULD BE OUT RIDING!)