Sunday, March 14, 2010

Two Ideas That Cause Most of the World's Problems

I think I’ve figure out Two Ideas that Cause Most of the World’s Problems

1) The Rules Don’t Apply to Me
2) I Want Things to be the Way I Want Them to be

The Rules are a shorter list than the ten commandments
1) keep your word, or explain why you were wrong to give your word in the first place.
2) don’t take risks with other people’s lives or their money. And if you have responsibilities, like children in your charge, don’t take risks with your life, either. See Rule #1.
3) the hoped for ends do not justify means that are likely to cause harm to anyone. Note: this does not mean that you must accept or allow dangerous behavior on the part of others. It does mean that you should not start wars.

If you break these rules, ultimately you will suffer. That’s the reason these rules exist.

The concept of I Want Things to be the Way I Want Them to be is more subtle. It’s valuable to have goals. It’s wonderful to want to change the world. Much of what we enjoy comes from working to get what we want, to improve the world.

Then there’s the negative side.
I don’t want to be late.
I don’t want to be poor.
I don’t want to be sick, or injured or crippled, or have my family or friends in this situation, either.
I don’t want to fail, and the same goes for family and friends, but it’s okay for other people. After all, for me to win, somebody has to lose.
I don’t want my children to do X.
I don’t want those people to do Y.
I don’t want that politician to win.
I don’t want to be passed over for a promotion, my work to get a bad review, someone else to win.

Another way to say this is: I want everything to be under my control – even other people’s decisions and accomplishments.

Since this is impossible, the next choice is Do We Allow Ourselves to Become Unhappy when things don’t go our way? It feels natural. But what’s the advantage? First we didn’t get our way, and then we decided to feel awful about it. That’s two negatives. And unlike in mathematics, two negatives do not make a positive in human lives. In a way, allowing ourselves to become unhappy when we don't get our way is a violation of rule #3. We're imagining that feeling bad will bring good. It never works.

I may have missed something. I may be off track. This is my thought for the day.


  1. You have to be careful with rules. A good example is from the John Wayne movie, The Shootist- where he says, "I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to people and I require the same from them." It sounds sensible, until you take it apart and see it is the exact OPPOSITE of the Golden Rule. It states that I will be the judge of everything you do and how it applies to me, and then I will respond as I see fit.

  2. Jon,
    None of the rules I gave apply to other people. If you apply them to yourself, you get the benefits.