Our society revolves around structure and order, even when things seem chaotic. We have clearly defined rules, such as laws and employment guidelines. We also have unwritten rules for social engagements and other interactions.
We honor certain expectations in society, even those who claim they are free spirits or against the system. You can rant about the government all day long, but odds are high that you’re still keeping the system intact.
Don’t believe me? Think about an average day.
The alarm goes off, and you get out of bed. Or maybe there’s no alarm, but you glance at the clock on your way to the bathroom. The numerals glow on your stove, microwave, and phone, ticking away the minutes.
You’re already playing into the system, and you’ve only been up for a few minutes.
Time is a man-made concept that divides our day into equal parts. Because time exists, we know exactly how long we spend at work or when to arrive at appointments or social gatherings.
Time as we think of it isn’t innate to the natural world; it’s a manmade construct intended to describe, monitor, and control industry and individual production. — Olivia Goldhill, Science Reporter
Monitoring the clock can be annoying, but time serves a purpose. After all, human beings often have an innate desire to organize their surroundings. We could be picking flowers and running through fields barefoot all day, but for many of us, life is nothing like that.
I mean, just sit here and think about it for a minute.
When you drive through a subdivision, which side of the road do you automatically drive on? The right side, of course, unless you’re dodging mail trucks or kids on scooters.
Speaking of subdivisions, do you live in one? Nearly 9 out of 10 people live in an urban or suburban area, so odds are high that you aren’t isolated from your community.
Now, drive down the nearest highway or busy road. Glance to your right, then your left. Don’t stare too hard; just clear your mind and gaze at your surroundings.
Everything looks exactly the same.
If one subdivision looks different from another, maybe it’s only because you’re telling yourself that it does. Subdivisions are all the same, really, even if they initially appear different.
Houses are spaced a certain amount of feet from each other. There are backyards, front yards, and maybe sidewalks. Often, the only difference is the style of the houses — and even then, you can only change so much. At the core, subdivisions are all the same. That’s why many people like them.
But enough about houses. Let’s move on to some other questions.
Do you stop at red lights and stop signs? As you drive, do you try to stay in your lane and not intentionally ram into the car next to you?
When you go to the store, do you stand in line with everybody else to purchase your items? Or do you toss a wad of bills on the ground and run out the door?
Are you a sports fan? Think about all the rules and routines. Three strikes and you’re out, throw the basketball through the hoop, or shoot the puck into the net. Follow the rules, and your team wins.
Do you like Top 40 music? It doesn’t matter who is singing; all the songs sound the same after a while. The beats are catchy and the lyrics are predictable. You don’t have to think too hard or feel too many emotions. You can just hum along and carry on with your day.
Do you ever find any of this weird?
Sometimes I think about all this structure in life and laugh. It’s funny because this world isn’t real. We just made it up.
I mean, it’s real — we’re really living our lives this way. But things didn’t have to be like this. Humans craved structure and control so much that they set up a life governed by rules rather than freedom.
Remember when I told you we could all be running through flower fields? Sure, you can do that now and snap a few cute pics for social media, but what next? It’s back to the rule-filled life your fellow humans have created.
Actually, you probably never escaped society’s rules unless you were frolicking in your own flower field. There are rules for everything, even nature.
Keep off the grass. Don’t pick the flowers. Only visit the field between sunrise and sunset. Drive home in your car and obey all the traffic laws.
Freedom is an illusion. We willingly participate in a world that tells us how to spend the majority of our time.
How much time do you spend doing what you want to do instead of what you’re expected to do?
Rules can be comforting. They keep us safe. They let us know what to expect.
We fit in if we follow the rules. Mow your lawn and pick up your trash so your neighbors don’t hate you. Wash your hair. Brush your teeth. Go to work. Pay your bills.
What if we all just stopped following the rules?
Would society collapse, or would we thrive? Take work, for example. Would we be happier without careers, or would we lose our identities? What if you couldn’t brag about your college degree or your promotion? If you had an in-demand skill, such as construction or farming, would you help your community for free?
Maybe we have to work if we want shelter and food and roads. Do we care enough about each other to create a community if we don’t feel obligated to live in one?
I think about this as I type articles on a laptop purchased with time. Time I spent working in exchange for money, and time someone else spent creating my laptop to earn money for their own wants and needs.
We could have created anything, but this is the world we made.