15. June 2017 Sam Ryter

The weird and unquestioned rules of society (5min read)

Yesterday evening, I was lying in my bed, reading a book from Paulo Coelho. One part stuck with me, and the first thought I had this morning was to share it with you:

Do you know that train tracks are always 143.5centimeters or 4 feet 8inches? Its one of those thoughts that make you wonder, why? Why not make it 150centimeters which is a nice round figure. The reason is absurd and makes you wonder why things are the way they are.

When they built the first train carriages, they used the same tools as they had for building horse-drawn carriages. And why that distance between the wheels on carriages? Because that was the width of the old roads which the carriages had to travel. And who decided that roads should be that width? Well, suddenly we are plunged back into the distant past. It was the Romans, the first great road builders, who decided to make their roads that width. And why? Because their war chariots were pulled by two horses, and when placed side by side, the horses they used at the time took up 143.5 centimetres.

The distance between the tracks we see today, used by our state of the art high speed trains was determined by the Romans. When people went to the United States and started building railways there, it didn’t occur to them to change the width and so it stayed as it was. This even affected the building of the space shuttles. American engineers thought the fuel tanks should be wider, but the tanks were built in Utah and had to be transported by train to the Space center in Florida, and the tunnels couldn’t take anything wider. And so they had to accept the measurement that the Romans had decided was the ideal. But what has this to do with marriage?

It has everything to do with marriage. At some point in history, someone turned up and said: when two people get married, they must stay frozen like that for the rest of their lives. You will move along side by side like two tracks , keeping always that same distance apart. Even if sometimes one of you needs to be a little farther away or a little closer, that is against the rules. The rules say: Be sensible, think of the future, think of your children. You can’t change, you must be like two railway tracks that remain the same distance apart all the way from their point of departure to their destination. The rules don’t allow for love to change, or to grow at the start and diminish halfway through – it’s too dangerous. And so, after the enthusiasm of the first few years, they maintain the same distance, the same solidity, the same solidity, the same functional nature. Your purpose is to allow the train bearing the survival of the species to head off into the future: your children will only be happy if you stay just as you were – 143.5 centimetres apart. If you are not happy with something that never changes, think of them, think of the children you brought into the world.

Think of your neighbours, show them that you are happy, watch television, help the community. Think of society. Dress in such a way that everyone knows you are in perfect harmony. Never glance to the side, someone might be watching you, and that could bring temptation; it could mean divorce, crisis, depression.

Smile in your photos. Put the photos in your living room, so that everyone can see them. But never forget, these rules were established long ago and must be respected. Who established these rules? That doesn’t matter. Don’t question them, because they will always apply, even if you don’t agree with them.
from “the Zahir” by Paulo Coelho

I turned around in my bed thinking about all the ‘rules’ we follow, blindly, without even checking in if it’s our own truth…

Blindly following rules of society

Imagine some aliens from a different world would land with their UFO’s today, somewhere in the western-world… They would exit the UFO’s, dress up in human costumes and start to explore…

They would have a different perspective.

They would see people smoking and drinking alcohol – getting smashed to forget.

About high-heels. For them it would be such a weird thing, why would any woman wear those painful high-heels? Just because it’s considered ‘beautiful’?

About make up and people painting their faces while and thinking it’s ‘normal’

The aliens would see people running on treadmills at the gym.

Or sitting behind their phones on the subway. Being connected… online… and never really connected as human beings.

Self-awareness and questioning the rules of society

I could go on and on…but maybe it’s time for all of us to open our eyes.

If we don’t like something, we don’t need to follow those rules.

It’s a pattern of the generation ‘above’ us. “It has always been like this”…

But what if: Just because something is considered ‘normal’, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s also good for you?

We have a truth within us. I have mine. And you have yours.

There’s a gift within us. A gift that the world is waiting to receive. Most of our gifts never come to surface if we ‘follow the rules’… not our rules. But rules made up by someone we don’t even know.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said: “Break the rules, not the law, but the rules.”

And you know what? I like this sentence. Because you are the only one who knows, deep inside, what is good for you. You know already, deep inside what you truly want.

Don’t let yourself convince by rules. They are just made up (probably by some romans 2000 years ago…). They have nothing to do with reality.

The only thing that is real is your spark and excitement to create something in this moment. Trust.


What weird rules do you see society play by? Let me know in the comments!

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Sam Ryter

Sam Ryter is an author and professional coach. He helps people to create deeper and more fulfilling relationships with others, the world and themselves.