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The sixth rule

George Orwell had six rules for writing—the sixth rule was “break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

All systems should have a “sixth rule” in them—it’s how the system “pops out” of its strange loop, its Escher-like loop (or, in Buddhist terms, it’s satori—the moment of sudden enlightenment).

It holds good for Escher, Buddha, Wiener, Bach, and Orwell—you always need the rule that isn’t a rule so that you can complete the infinity loop.

This is why the Ten Commandments isn’t the optimal moral law—not without Jesus, because Jesus is “the sixth rule”, because he only legislates from the heart and so will drop any other rule when the moment arises.

So whenever you write rules, make sure to write “the sixth rule”—it’s the wild card or the joker that makes sure the system doesn’t break; and, in fact, the system doesn’t work without it at all—it has no hum.


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