Photo taken by yours truly.

You can learn a lot about life waiting at red lights. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about other people. It can be quite amusing to watch people and how they react.

How do you behave at a red light? Do you respect the red light? Why? Do you respect the orange light? Do you speed ahead to not get the red light or do you slow down? Do you anticipate the green light? Do you wait for others to cross before you go? If someone runs a red light do you follow them?

What about if you’re in a car? On a bike or on foot? Does it make any difference?

Are red lights even useful? After all there are small cities that function without them. Cities where all signs are removed. Somehow people start driving more carefully when they have something to loose.

Red lights are rules. Rules about how to behave.

A fascinating question has always intrigued me about red lights.

Would I run a red light, if I were in a car, alone, in the middle of the night, where no one would ever know? Why would my answer be different depending on the circumstances? Should I always act the same way? Or should I be adaptable?

If you are the only person waiting at a red light, a red light is stupid. If you were the only person left on the planet and you were in a car, and there was a red light in front of you, would you stop? Would you wait for it to turn green? That sounds completely absurd. Ants don’t use traffic lights and yet they function perfectly well.

Do you feel guilty if you run a red light? Shame? Do you feel you have to justify yourself? Do you feel repulsed by the mere thought of it?

A red light is a rule. A societal construct. You must learn when it is perfectly fine to break the rules. If you live only according to other people’s rules and aren’t adaptable you will use rules to justify cruelty and absurd actions that go beyond your common sense humanity.

Rules allow segregation, rules allow genocide. Rules are what allow society to function at large. Rules remove decision making fatigue. Rules save time and energy. Rules are useful. But blind adherence to rules is dangerous.

You must learn the rules. Then you must break them. Rules are designed to be broken. Progress is made only by those who break the rules. All societal changes are based on people breaking rules and replacing them with new ones. Every artist must begin by learning the rules of his craft. Once he has mastered them, he must break them. He must go beyond them and set himself free, letting inspiration and creativity take over. If he does not do this he is not an artist, he is merely an unoriginal copycat.

The french expression, l’exception qui confirme la règle, the exception that confirms the rule, speaks to the essence of rules. Every rule has an exception, otherwise it wouldn’t be a rule. Rules are inherently fragile. Study the rules to know where they break down. Then use your common sense to break them.

The justice system is based on rules. The medical system is based on rules. Religion is a set of rules. Any system with humans is made of rules. Those rules were created by other humans. Humans aren’t perfect. Rules aren’t either. Change comes from breaking those rules. Be it human rights, slavery, segregation, marriage, parenting.

Most social rules are a restriction of freedom. In an ideal society where every individual is fully conscious and self aware rules would be useless. Everything would be allowed. Killing would be allowed. But since people are conscious they would never kill. And even in the rare case that it did happen these individuals would be treated compassionately. Unfortunately not everyone is conscious. There are many unconscious shadow sides to human nature. That is why rules exist. They help regulate our animal nature.

Computers operate according to rules. Computers follow rules better than you ever will. If you are trying to be a mediocre computer you should find another occupation.

Do what computer can’t. Break the rules. Think different. If you disagree with something. Do it differently. Show me by your actions what you mean. Don’t use pretty words to tell me about what you don’t like and how it should be. At the end of the day only your actions count.

You must learn the rules. Then you must break them. If you do not break the rules you are nothing more than a glorified computer in a meat sack desperately in need of an update.

You must respect the rules, especially old ones. If they exist they serve a purpose. Beware of getting rid of rules, for rules are useful. Once you deeply understand them, move beyond them. When you understand a rule you know its purpose, you know its limitations. That is when and where you can insert the knife of your intellect to destroy the rules of your society and find better ones. Some of the most creative and innovative ideas came from people who didn’t even know a rule existed.

Feel free to break a rule too early. You can break a rule without understanding it as many a rebellious spirits have done, are doing, and will forever do. You will most likely make a stupid mistake that will teach you why the rule exists in the first place. But now you will have personal experience as to why the rule exists. You will understand it better.

Be humble and learn the rules before completely rebelling. Find the exceptions. Mindfully break them, discard them, set them aside or blatantly ignore them.

A person who mindfully breaks the rules is safer than a person who never does. This is not reckless rebelling against rules. This is careful consideration followed by a conscious decision to disagree.

Life is beautiful because it doesn’t operate according to fixed rules. It is constantly evolving, breaking it’s own rules. One could argue that life doesn’t even have any rules.

If you want something better than rules, look for principles, look for values. Those don’t break so easily.

The next time you see a red light, remember to look beyond the bright color. There are unseen rules. Be aware of them. Understand them. Consciously break them.

Have a great day !

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