There is an famous Zen saying, “Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form.” Everything is changing all the time. Our bodies. Our minds. Our opinions. How do we keep it together?
One word: Rules.
Rules are designed to bring order to the chaotic communication that happens in any meeting of fragile, fickle humans. They help take the emotion out of the discussion. Rules are a delicate vessel to hold corrosive conflict. Love them or hate them, we all still need them.
But rules can change as well. They are ultimately empty too. Rules are only good if people follow them. And to make sure people follow them, they have to respect the values behind them. Values like: fairness, civility, respect, selflessness, generosity, compassion and duty to the larger group.
Rules aren’t about what you “can” and “cannot” do. They are ultimately about what you “should” and “should not” do to manifest these values.
If we want to live in a civil society then we need to respect the rules of debate and the values that underlie them. Without fair rules – there is no respect – just empty words.