Laws, rules, recipes, and rituals

“A law isn’t a rule, tip or step; it distinguishes the movable parts at play behind an observable phenomenon. A law is invariable.” (The Three Laws of Performance, Zaffron and Logan, 2009).

“From My laws the sweet-smelling savour of My garment can be smelled, and by their aid the standards of Victory will be planted upon the highest peaks.” (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 20)

“Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight! ‘ (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 21)

Of all the lessons I have benefited in life, the lesson of the difference between the law and the rule is, possibly, the most important. I think my first introduction to this concept was a story told in my family about the introduction of a young Sikh man (new migrant farm labourer) to my grandmother (a Scottish migrant and farmer pioneer to North Queensland, Australia). When asked his name, the young man replied, “Peter.” My grandmother responded indignantly, “You are a Sikh, your name cannot be Peter. What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Sarvan.” She affirmed, “Than we shall call you Sarvan.” The young man is still a friend of the family and is now 90 years old. Many of his Australian friends know him as Peter. The story poignantly speaks of what was to become a social norm in Australia in which anyone from a non-anglo background was considered to have a name too difficult to pronounce and so is ‘named’ by the first anglo-Australians with whom they work, with an anglo name. My grandmother, who spent long hours cooking and cleaning, all her life, was, in her own way, a progressive woman with the insight that a person’s name and culture are to be respected. The law, EVERYONE FROM ANY CULTURE IS AN EQUAL AND DESERVES EQUAL RESPECT, motivates the sons and daughters of colonial rule to learn non-anglo names and culture, and strips away the unofficial rule of the social norm that is based on a simple bullying to make a person from another culture more like the dominant culture.

The second time lesson I was given about the concept of law, was by a Gr 9 English teacher who taught me that creative thinking and writing was that any theme could be explored by any genre, and that any story could be told from any number of points of view.  Perhaps here I even learnt, LIFE IS A STORY THAT HAS INFINITE TELLINGS.

The third lesson was given by a Senior maths teacher who offered this option: for your exams, you can try to learn dozens of formulae to apply to exam questions, as you find them in the text book; but I will teach you how to derive each formula from first principles, so all you will have to learn is how to identify from the question, the approach to derivation and no memorization will be necessary. As my confindence for memorization was and is still poor, it worked a treat for me and I gained quite good results. It occurred tome then that, ALL ANSWERS CAN BE DERIVED FROM THE APPLICATION OF FIRST PRINCIPLES TO THE PROBLEM.

The fourth lesson was given by a senior lecturer during my Physiotherapy undergraduate years. In one lecture s simply offered the observation that, “there are many methods of approach to a musculoskeletal or neurological rehabilitation problem. Some of these have become ‘schools’ of approach. The scientific approach is not to be hampered by a single ‘school’ approach, but learn any number of methods so that, depending on an evaluation of the client, you can offer a best ‘custom-made’ service.” A SCIENTIFIC APPROACH IS ONE THAT UTILISES WHATEVER METHODS ARE SHOWN TO BE BENEFICIAL.

The fifth lesson was gradually unfolded over a few year when, as a young man, I was trying to find the answer to ‘why?’ or in the words of “The HitchHikers’s Guide to the Galaxy”, a fictional series I was fond at the time, “the answer to life, the universe and everything.’ The first part to this answer was to recognise that the Baghavad-Gita had a similar message to the Bible. This lead to an opening of awareness for any idea of philosophy that might be added in an eclectic fashion to a view of the world and my purpose in it. This lead to a study of the teachings of Baha’u’llah whose observations on the consistence of purpose of diverse religions could be resolved through His own being and teachings was extraordinary. THERE IS AN PROCESS WITHIN EXISTENCE THAT, IN ABSTRACT-COGNITIVE SOCIETIES, PRODUCES OCCASIONAL SUPRA_LUMINARIES WHOSE INSIGHTS ACT OVER MANY HUNDREDS OF YEARS.

Among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is His “Most Holy Book”/”Kitab-i-Agdas”/’Book of Laws”.  Throughout this book, Baha’u’llah provides specific rules garnished with exhortations for the behaviour of the socio-spiritual human and human organisation. The exhortations tell us something about the underlying Law. Reaching for the underlying law provides for both justice in action in certain circumstances, and infinite human spiritual progress at all times.

For example on theft, Baha’u’llah directs, “Exile and imprisonment are decreed for the thief, and, on the third offence, place ye a mark upon his brow so that, thus identified, he may not be accepted in the cities of God and His countries. Beware lest, through compassion, ye neglect to carry out the statutes of the religion of God; do that which hath been bidden you by Him Who is compassionate and merciful. We school you with the rod of wisdom and laws, like unto the father who educateth his son, and this for naught but the protection of your own selves and the elevation of your stations. By My life, were ye to discover what We have desired for you in revealing Our holy laws, ye would offer up your very souls for this sacred, this mighty, and most exalted Faith. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 35)  Here is is clear that Baha’u’llah expects Baha’is to become very compassionate for the wayward. However He is stern that this compassion doesn’t cause human society to undermine itself by allowing repeat offenders continued access to society. He observes this is about elevating all our stations, and we might ask, what it is that global society might become when there is no theft. He further observes that the benefits are potentially so vast, that we should make every sacrifice to ensure it occurs this way. Note, however, that he has not described any restrictions or demands about the length of prison, exile, or any other interventions that might be considered in order that a person is not relegated to a life of outcast within society. So I could go on, taking examples from marriage laws, burial laws etc.

Rules, recipes and rituals can make life easier. Once remembered, they can be enacted without thought. They provide an efficiency of life that is important for all of us to be able to apply our energies to the most important advancements. Yet, if we develop societies that become ritualised around the most important advancements such as human relationships, then those efficiencies become barriers to a deeper understanding and endeavour. Thinking we know the right behaviour by enacting the ritual, we can fail to respect others stories, fail to remind ourselves of the first principles from which we can derive clarity; and limit the methods we could use to achieve the best outcome.


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