The Rules of Safe Driving

There were four friends, one of whom died in a car accident. The other three (let’s call them Jim, John, and Bob) decided to take a road trip in his memory, but vowed to be safe drivers from then on out. Jim sat behind the wheel of the car for a while, but wouldn’t drive. He reasoned that there was some danger at any speed, so there couldn’t really be such a thing as safe driving. He later sold his car and never drove again. John agreed that all driving is dangerous, which is why he said there was no point taking any precautions – you might as well drive as fast as you want, seatbelts off, because there’s nothing you can do to avoid danger anyway. Later in life, John was also killed in a car accident. Bob was the one who drove for the road trip. He listened to the others politely, shrugged, and then simply drove as safely as he could. Over time, he learned more general rules of safety and actually averted several accidents, and eventually assisted with CPR on a crash victim, saving his life, and thereby honoring the memory of his lost friends.

One can reason that, because there are exceptions to nearly any rule, there are no rules: there are only incentives and deterrents. Typically, we live with a generation that rejects overall principles of life. The twin results are paralysis, bewilderment, rampant anxiety, and nihilistic indifference.

A person with no law can be a coworker, but never a colleague.I find that exceptions underscore the rules, as the old adage suggests. The logic of this is inaccessible to those driving this generation. It can no longer be grasped. “The exception demonstrates the rule.” I once knew a man who couldn’t believe in anything, because he couldn’t find anything perfect. He’s the non-driver – the man whose life is typified by an absence of realities larger than the immediate, and by a flight to pseudo-realities in which rules are consistent and ‘believable’.

I’ve never been able to befriend the other kind of non-believer – the nihilist. There’s simply nothing there that can be shared since, for him, nothing is really there at all. I’ve watched, though, the tragedy left in his wake.

I identify with the person who has some rules, whether rules of work, aesthetic principles, ethical propositions, or what have you. As a rule, a person with no law can be a coworker, but never a colleague.

When people reject the notion that there is any law to life – any order – any general principles by which to live, think, interact, contribute, create, work, etc… by their logic, we should never give anything to the poor, because we won’t give everything to the poor (You can actually observe this principle of skeptical nihilism at work – it’s quite telling). Same thing with environmental impact: the notion that because we won’t reduce our carbon footprint to zero, indeed cannot, then we shouldn’t be overly concerned with reducing it at all. This is a kind of skeptical nihilism that hobbles this generation’s ability to function in any but the most narcissistic fashion. It has reduced them to people of faith – whose faith is that nothing is truly real, pure, sacred, right or wrong, or worth radical changes to your life.

In fact, I look at most “pocket philosophies” coming out of the current culture as merely justifications for avoiding radical change to one’s life, whether it be consumption, luxury, culture, religion, work, or what have you. Most modern men and women will always arrive at a philosophy that protects the status quo, tho they will convince themselves that it’s what they really believe, rather than that they’ve simply chosen to believe it. Beliefs, like preferences, and indeed all effects, have causes. Another minority will arrive at some extreme effect on the other end of the spectrum – paralysis.

What people have a hard time accepting is what I’d call the Principle of Death: that the world as we know it is not an absolute – not necessarily “natural” and not therefore “normal” in that sense, and that we are unlikely to arrive at perfection within it, but that we must still strive toward perfection from our imperfection. A futile cause, arguably, because indeed the world is subjected to futility, but a cause that makes us fully human. Indeed, this is our work here – it is the genus of all that we properly call work.

[for reference, see Driving as a Mental Skill in this article]


  1. I hear you,

    Remember in C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, the “milk-and-water man”? Mr. milk and water constantly shifts his rules around to accommodate whatever he wants to do or feel at any given time.

    In my experience, such ones are not trying to arrive at truth, but are merely trying to justify their sorry condition by pooh-poohing anyone who actually stands for Truth. Truth excludes what is not True, and this is just too threatening for Mr. milk and water.

  2. Mm. Good analogy. I’ll have to re-read that. My favorites are God in the Dock, Abolition of Man, and Miracles.

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