Lawns, Laws, and Deserts

Published on June 10th, 2011
Grass and Desert Juxtaposition

Scenario 1: A homeowner in an gated community in Arizona forgets to turn their sprinklers on before going on vacation for a week. They return to a scorched lawn and a home owners association (HOA) fine for $50 tacked to their front door. The offense: not keeping their lawn beautifully green.

Scenario 2: A member of a african village in or around the Sahara desert gets the novel idea to plant some beautiful bushes outside of their sleeping quarters. He returns one day to angry villagers cursing his name and threatening to uproot his bushes. The offense: wasting precious water on a non-essential decoration.

Context and Subjectivity

Law, like truth, is subjective, requiring context to come to a reasonable compromise for the people under its jurisdiction. In upscale areas within America, land values are often more important than water conservation and so the law reflects those values. In rural Africa, survival is far more important than appearance, and the law reflects these values instead.

Imagine if we applied one set of laws universally across all jurisdictions? People in Africa could decide how long or how often we could shower in America. People in America could determine whether water was to be used for lawn care versus basic survival.

To apply laws universally would be inappropriate in almost all circumstances, except perhaps in the case of human rights. But we are stuck there as well, because we would all come together with different definitions of those rights based on our own values, beliefs, and backgrounds. And even if we agreed on an exact same set of words, we all live by different dictionaries that color, shade, and define those words.

It's almost impossible to eliminate context from the discussion, because we see everything from our own subjective experience. Even stating "I'm looking at this objectively" is a very subjective opinion!

Our Own Book of Laws

We often make the assumption that everyone has the same beliefs, values, and knowledge base that we do. Others in turn make the same assumptions about us. So is there any wonder why we often experience a disconnect in our relationships with others? We are applying our own, individualized books of law upon each other. It's no different than people in Africa mandating how many showers I can take in a week. Now imagine doing this 6 billion times, once for each person in the world and their own, unique interpretation?

Clearly, it would be impossible to resolve them all. But oh do we try!

If I had one recommendation from a personal development standpoint, it would be The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. More on this in my other posts.

What's Your Perspective?

  • Do you feel the need to change the opinions of others?
  • Do you feel you're often misunderstood?
  • Do you feel like you're often from a different planet?
  • Are you at piece with this, or are you fighting to try and resolve it all?

And finally, please leave any feedback below. I'm always interested in a conversation on perspective! 


Images used under Creative Commons from hufse and sandy.redding.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.