the five second rule

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You know that rule.

The rule states that if you drop something on the floor, you have five seconds to pick it up. Five seconds before the bacteria infect it. Be quick, be safe.

I have a mental image of these armies of slow moving bacteria marching towards the discarded food. Bacteria armies that bizarrely aren’t on the exact spot the food fell, but are somehow always precisely five seconds away. They respond like a shark to the scent of blood. Swooping onto the food to a five second deadline, moving to the sound of ‘dum dum, dum dum’ like a menacing time countdown sounding out the impending infection.

The reality is that there are probably more bacteria on the plate the food fell off, in the air you are breathing, on your fingers picking the food up…

In essence the rule is a fabrication, albeit a useful one when you drop a piece of your best chocolate. Nom nom nom. No point wasting that!

Often our own rules are inventions too. Fabrications. Untruths.

Rules about what we can do, or can’t do. Should do, or mustn’t do. Rules about cause and effect. This means that.

Yet we live our lives by them. We behave strangely, yet to a recognisable pattern, as befits the rule and its purpose. In much the same way as the five second rule gets us reaching down quickly for the food, looking at it, like the bacteria will be waving back at us, or will have inexplicably made the food luminous green. Blowing on it, like the bacteria will fly off, descending in tiny parachutes back to the floor to await the next food spillage, thus cleansing the said food morsel.

Fantasy. Yet played out like the truth.

 

the curse of three

teaspill

I threw a cup of tea over myself today.

This afternoon I nearly did it again, but this time only a few splashes landed on the same shirt I had dried out only hours earlier.

That completes the curse of three. Earlier this week I tripped on the stairs carrying a tea without a lid and the hot tea cascaded over my hand, burning me, as well as creating a slip hazard on the stairs, which I limply attempted to mop up with the remains of a toilet roll from a nearby facility.

Three teas – one week.  Impressive huh?  They say ‘bad luck comes in threes’.  I don’t know who ‘they’ are in that sentence.  But whoever ‘they’ are, that’s what ‘they’ say.

I wonder if, unconsciously, the existence of that ‘rule’ creates the reality. Having spilled a tea, does my brain go – hang on a minute, one isn’t enough, we need to comply with the curse of three rule?  Let’s make the body stumble twice more, that way this dope can continue to believe in that rule about bad luck coming in threes…

I wouldn’t put it past my head to do that.

Or maybe it’s a form of that thing we call confirmation bias?  The notion that I will notice only the things that confirm my beliefs or hypotheses. Maybe dropping my first tea creates a hypothesis that I’m getting clumsy or a belief that teas without lids are dangerous?  So I notice the other two tea incidents. Maybe there was a fourth episode or a near miss I’ve somehow deleted?

Anyhow… everything is fine now.  In case you cared.

I have done it thrice. My curse of three is done.  I now believe it won’t happen again, so whether it be confirmation bias, or the bad things rule, I’m done.

Cuppa anyone?

even freedom needs rules

  

I stumbled upon a small graveyard today in Oxfordshire. It was squeezed between some houses and seemed somewhat out of place.

A pair of wooden gates were invitingly ajar, snug beneath a small lychgate.

Wandering in, I discovered it was a war cemetery, with headstones for fallen RAF crew from the Second World War. Many were 18,19,20 when they lost their barely begun lives.

Under the lychgate was a laminated notice detailing the ‘rules’ of the cemetery. It spanned three portrait A4 pages.

Gazing upon it, some of these rules intrigued me…

“Toys may only be left at the graveside for a period of 12 months after burial.”

“Silk flowers, appropriate to the season, may be used, but must be removed when they become faded or bedraggled.”

“Nicknames or pet names may be used in addition to baptismal name, but only if placed in inverted commas.”

Rules.

We like rules.

Our lives, our society, our organisations are riddled with them.

It seems even in death, when you have given up so much, rules are to be obeyed.

Ironic since these brave young men lost their lives in the name of freedom.

they’re your rules, believe it or not

truth

We all have beliefs.

I’m not referring here to spiritual, religious beliefs. I refer instead to the invisible beliefs we hold about the world, about who we are and about what we are capable of.

I’m referring to the truths we hold, sometimes consciously, but mostly out of consciousness, such as “I can’t sing”, or “I’m not beautiful”, or “People are amazing” or “If I set my mind to it, I can achieve anything”, or “I’m stupid”, or “Working hard brings rewards”.

Such beliefs are typically generalisations, typically unconscious patterns, meta to our experience. They can be enabling, or they can be limiting. They act as a post-hypnotic suggestion and they direct future behaviour to confirm them.  They provide context, meaning, causation, structure and as such are irrefutable.  We will deny their inaccuracy, even in the face of cognitive evidence. They are in effect our own personal rules of the world.

Take “Working hard brings rewards”. A generalisation, in that it assumes always. A generalisation in that it doesn’t define work, or how hard, or what rewards? But, someone believing this, will work hard, they will, in all likelihood, value the rewards that work brings and justify or explain those as being earned by the hard work. The ‘truth’ of the belief, or personal world rule, is both acted out now and assumed to be required in future – after all, its truth is without doubt, its cause and effect undeniable, its outcome inevitable – such is the nature of a belief.

Meanwhile, work that doesn’t bring rewards, or rewards unconnected with working hard, may be dismissed as of little note, or simply go unnoticed. The belief could be enabling, in that it provides motivation, the believer will doubtless work hard, will attain and will get rewards. It could also be limiting, in that the believer will probably give up leisure time, family time, time for self and may be pressured with a weight of reward earning responsibility, or may burn out over time.

So what do you believe?  Do you know?

How do your beliefs enable you and how do they limit you?