Life Without Rules Annette

Posted: May 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

I read text-books and research books for entertainment and general, insatiable, curiosity. I also read incredible amounts of fiction, both popular and obscure. I’m weird like that.

My latest choice in educational material has been the “What to Expect” books, both “The First Years” and “The Toddler Years.” Why? A question in normal childhood development regarding one of my nephews. I didn’t know, so I decided to look it up. (The answer was extremely inconclusive. Precocity is purely a matter of opinion.)

Someone asked me, why would I read that? After all, there is no lack of great ‘fun’ stuff to read. Why look up how kids grow? Or any text book-y stuff?

The answer is simple. Unpredictable is scary. It is hard to deal with, impossible to fully prepare for, and leads to endless opportunities to screw things up. Reading about real life: science, nature, researching a project, any of those: leads to an increased understanding of the world around in all its glorious and amazing, ever changing, variety. It is also fun, with cool information and pictures.

Of all the things in real life, people are the hardest, and scariest, of all. Their emotions, motives, intentions, expressions; everything about them is often unclear even to themselves. What they think, intend, feel, say; all that changes from day to day or over more time. Even the relatively ‘simple’ progression of biological and social development varies so widely as to render ‘norms’ virtually irrelevant. This makes understanding people a really, really big challenge. Also, exhausting.

Fiction on the other hand, is comparatively simple. Not always easy; that’s no fun, but simple. I love complex fiction. I love Dr. Who, Tolkien, BBC’s Sherlock, S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse, and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I love Tom Clancy and his doorstopper thrillers with their interwoven plots and schemes, and the (admittedly less familiar to me) Marvel Universe with its endless tangles of characters.

The thing is, they are all simple. There are rules. All the characters in all the worlds the story tellers create exist for a reason. Their motives are told, or left a mystery on purpose for suspense, but they have them. Their emotions are stated and their thoughts explained. Effect follows cause, and actions lead to results/consequences. The plot developments occur in sequence (or out of them, for Timelords) and make sense, eventually. There IS a plot; a consideration real life, from inside anyway, appears to be lacking in. God’s plan, while ever-present, seldom comes with maps or sticky-notes on the table.

There are story telling conventions, “Tropes,” that all authors and creators use that can be predicted, or cheerfully averted to further the story and effectively share it with the audience. It means you know that when the good guy goes down a dark hole and his light goes out (X-files) the bad guy is there. “Saw that coming!” Or maybe not, but some other surprise is, “Well, that was unexpected.” And at the end, the story is over. The plot comes to some satisfactory conclusion. Unless the author is cruel and has an unhealthy fondness for cliffhangers, but you can’t have everything. Even so, your own knowledge of the rules of stories makes splicing on your own ending imminently possible.

I like when a story –events, a character’s life- have rules. People should come with an operating manual. And a help line.

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