Sunday, August 10, 2014

Form vs. Structure

"In each of us there is another whom we do not know."
- Carl Gustav Jung

Approaching 39, and only now am I beginning to understand the gravity of Structure over Form.

Form is when you are the fastest runner on the field, the smartest student in the classroom, the strongest fighter in the ring, or the most attractive person at the party. Form is what you are at the time of observation. Your form is beautiful, ugly, wise, foolish, powerful,sympathetic, immoral, righteous, regretful, and indignant.

Structure is the architecture that forms reside within. It is the city you live in, the friendships you maintain, the family you build, and the career you bet on.

Your identity is a combination of form and structure. It is the story you tell yourself throughout the course of your life: a success story, victimization, sacrifice, triumph, anticipation mixed with uncertainty. In the beginning, you tend to modify only your form, but eventually, you hit the limitations of that form and take measures to modify boundaries of the structures around you.

An architect is able to influence the narrative structure of your story. Your theme is part of a larger framework that began long before your time and continues to evolve whether you choose to fill “your” role or let somebody else fill that role. The form that an object takes is ultimately inconsequential to the structure that survives it.

“You”, the Construct
You believe that you are who you are because your brain is hardwired to reinforce whatever patterns of reality you can perceive as knowledge. Knowledge is comfort, and we choose to be comfortable.

Consider for a moment that this form you are currently occupying is merely a temporary assignment of values to an address in memory space, and the programs you interface with every day are structures that existed long before you entered and will exist long after your exit.

There is no "you". The manifestation of "you" is merely the output of systems that you engage with in a feedback loop. Your internal nature is eclipsed by the influence of external nurture, and after a certain age, sources of nurture will only come from your actions.

Formless Perception
Your form is your humanity. It will always be the context of the story you are weaving, but sometimes you need to separate that humanity from the framework in order to change the ending of your story.

When you think about what you want to be or whether you are making the best choice, consider the story about a person in your situation who is not you, who does not have your friends, and does not carry your personal obligations. What parts of the setting need to change in order to make that avatar happy?

When you think about who you would include in your life as a companion, boss, or collaborator, ask yourself if the theme told by their story is one that you would reinforce as a stranger. Examine their actions within the system, how they handle boundaries, and the meaning that they extract from their interactions with other humans. Would you be willing to enter a partnership with this stranger?

Temporal Architecture
Own the fate of your relevance within the timeline by controlling the setting and framework of your story. Make big intentional decisions about what nurtures your form because those life-changing choices govern who you become with very little regard for the intrinsic properties of your nature. No matter what structure you adopt, the psychological defense mechanisms of your ego will catch up to the situation and convince you that this is who you are supposed to be.

That is what I learned at the age of 38: Our self-reinforcing identity is deeply constrained by the time and place in which we live as well as the people that we allow to fill our mindspace. By remaining fluid and detaching from the concept of any particular container, we become less vulnerable to cognitive dissonance and open up to the prospect of being replaced by better versions of ourselves more suited to discovering shared meaningful narratives and interfacing with them.