Breaking all the rules


This month has led me on the path of the Abrahamic traditions. Abrahamic traditions are those religions that trace their origin back to the figure Abraham. Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Eastern Monotheistic religions. Or, in my world, the religions of ‘right and wrong’.

Rules are there to be broken. My favourite story to illustrate this, is based on the experiment ‘Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys (the Hollywood version).’

An experimenter puts 5 monkeys in a large cage. High up at the top of the cage, well beyond the reach of the monkeys, is a bunch of bananas. Underneath the bananas is a ladder.

The monkeys immediately spot the bananas and one begins to climb the ladder. As he does, however, the experimenter sprays him with a stream of cold water. Then, he proceeds to spray each of the other monkeys.

The monkey on the ladder scrambles off. And all 5 sit for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon, though, the temptation of the bananas is too great, and another monkey begins to climb the ladder. Again, the experimenter sprays the ambitious monkey with cold water and all the other monkeys as well. When a third monkey tries to climb the ladder, the other monkeys, wanting to avoid the cold spray, pull him off the ladder and beat him.

Now one monkey is removed and a new monkey is introduced to the cage. Spotting the bananas, he naively begins to climb the ladder. The other monkeys pull him off and beat him.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The experimenter removes a second one of the original monkeys from the cage and replaces him with a new monkey. Again, the new monkey begins to climb the ladder and, again, the other monkeys pull him off and beat him – including the monkey who had never been sprayed.


What do monkeys have to do with the way we spiritually live our lives?

Do not indulge in evil thoughts and sights (Num. 15:39)

Do not crave something that belongs to another (Deut. 5:18)

Issue 2061: If a person does not possess any wealth, and it is obligatory on him to maintain his dependents, like, his wife and children, he should start earning. Moreover, to earn is recommended for Mustahab acts like providing better means of livelihood to one’s family, and helping the poor persons.

Above are just 3 religious rules that seem so common, we often don’t even question the impact they have on our life. Yet, hands up if you feel a slight ping of guilt moments after you have a negative thought towards that lady who struts through the office like she owns the place and doesn’t even acknowledge your friendly smile.

I am definitely not saying, stop being kind. Please do not stop being kind. What I am saying is that we need to look at the background of the ‘rules’ in our lives and why they are there.

Being a true rebel though, means you question the rules that are in place and challenge them. Being an avid fan of dr Martens I would say ‘kick them’, but appropriate footwear does apply here.

An Ammonite or Moabite shall never marry the daughter of an Israelite (Deut. 23:4)

A widow whose husband died childless must not be married to anyone but her deceased husband’s brother (Deut. 25:5)

If menstruation stops during Salat and the mustahaza woman does not know whether or not it has also stopped internally, and if after her prayers she understands that bleeding had totally stopped, and she has sufficient time at her disposal to offer prayers again in the state of purity, it will be an obligatory precaution for her to act according to the rules applicable to her and pray again.

This is just a very small selection of the rules that I will continue to question. Why should any woman feel shameful about her monthly period, which is natural as sin? Yes, I said natural as sin. Meant it too!

I was having a great conversation around the topic of rules this morning. My conversational partner asked me: ‘if you were God, what rule would you create for this world?’

My statement being, ‘are rules really necessary?’.

My dream is to live in a world where we do not need something written down in order not to do stupid stuff like harming each other. We could just try taking our own responsibility and act from a place of wisdom and love. ‘Dream Big’.

The most interesting part of the conversation, was talking about the rules we set for ourselves. I was challenged to think of the rules I set for myself, being a woman who stands in her own authority.

My main rule is to live my life to the best of my ability, whatever that might mean in any point in time.

Secretly I do set myself a lot of rules. During the course of this day I am becoming more and more aware of what they are. ‘Do not have more than 2 cups of coffee a day.’ ‘No television during the day.’ ‘take 1 day a week to practice spirituality.’ ‘any day off should include a minimum of 30 minutes cardio exercise and yoga afterwards.’ There is no use of writing all of them down, but maybe it is time for a good review of my personal rule book.


“I am free, no matter what rules surround me.

If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them;

if I find them too obnoxious, I break them.

I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

― Robert A. Heinlein






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