The world is built on instructions. We all may wish to deny it, but the fact is there – in fact, as a society, we highly value instructions and the resulting rules. And, true, rules are necessary to governance. Rules are necessary to formulating calendars, putting our children through school, and doing thoughtless and sometimes pointless tasks like walking our dog on the beach (e.g. all the signs that remind you to pick up your animal’s excrement). So instructions and rules are essential to existence, are they not?
Why can we not simply leave it at that? We could, but we don’t. Instead, we put Rules on a pedestal, we parade them about, we print them and call them manuals, frequently disguised as “self-help books.” We buy and sell these books like any other product of mindless consumerism.
So rules have been carted about, monetized, and sold in the market, ingrained into our economy. As a result, most rules have lost their value and consistency; instead of researching “how to find happiness” and finding two or three answers, one may search this today, and find roughly 3.4 trillion answers via Google Search, many of these being eBooks, pamphlets, on the front shelves of Barnes and Noble, or, even better, on Amazon Prime. Yet many people still base their lives off some of these trivialized rules, taking them too seriously for their own good.
Many people try to find happiness, for example, in the essence of mushroom, within a maple-wood coffin, or planted alongside their local onion patch. People try finding Value by mixing organic ingredients in a triangular bowl, or reciting Mother Goose two and a half times while eating slug-root.
This becomes so bad that the Desire or Want becomes corrupted, and people begin producing and buying manuals on useless things such as “How to Make Yourself Look Like a Dog on Instagram Stories” or on more abstract and definitely impossible ideas such as “How to Magnify Your Eyelid” or “How to Encase Your Noise within a Washbasin.” No matter how far-fetched or impossible it sounds, though, people have published them for the sole reason of making money. Unfortunately, many consumers buy into it (pun intended).
Keep a look-out for suspicious rules that seek to infiltrate society. Rules that begin with “in order to…” or other such grabbing devices, integrate flowery and intense vocabulary, or offer an easy solution. No good rule-book offers an easy solution, unless it is a practical one such as “how to keep your teeth clean.” Although the warning signs are a bit vague, you’ll often know when you come across a sham-of-a-rule-book, claiming to ‘know the answer.’
Most likely, you’ll feel a little nagging sensation in your left pinkie finger telling your brain, “This isn’t right. This is probably a scam.” In times like these, listen to that pinkie finger. It’s probably more right than you know.
To prove how far manuals have gone, here’s an example from a manual I found at Barnes and Noble. Featured in this manual were the instructions for “How to Peel an Irish Sandbox:”
First, make sure your ocean has a canned tulip. Bake the tulip with a hint of gravy and a dose of hurt feelings. Add this marbled mixture carefully into a rotten soda can and gradually bring to boil, checking the temperature six hundred and seventy five rotations per year. Take the orange juice out of the rotten can and extinguish it with a flamethrower. Hug your scattered peanuts in a sock, then add the boiled tulip. Check the ocean for signs of stray men, and if there is a troubled vacancy, scan the cupboards for family potlucks. If there are none of these to be had, resort to a few sprigs of candied pamphlets, a few pinches of turtle dove feathers, and a couple snorts of Black Friday in order to establish a sandbox. Invite the sandbox to a wild party, and dance with it to the tune of “O where am I for my trousers are the sickly hue of purple,” and then dance for a thousandth of a second to the rhythm of an Irish jig. Fill up with merriment and a small assortment of exotic fruit, and sing “Where did that beetle go! O down the road to grandmother’s house!” And after much undefined applause from an crowd of audience members, sing another phrase of “Of turtle drops and marshmallows, there is no shortage!” Once boredom has filled the party, have your sandbox retire to a specially designed seat in the audience, and explain to everyone that you are about to do a front flip – however, to the sandbox’s amazement, perform three loop-de-loops and send a couple squadrons to the northern shores of Germany. Develop an orange slice and squeeze it upon the sandbox’s varnish, taking care to preserve the peel. Gather this charred peel, with the remnants of yesterday’s regrets, and slam dunk the NBA into a hopelessly large pot of horseradish. Once this has come to a simmer, chuck your orange peel out the skylight, hurtle your sandbox out the left window, and throw yourself out the right window.
–How to Peel an Irish Sandbox (B&N 2019)
Food for Thought.