Form and Essense

Human civilization is an interplay between form and meaning.

People forget why the form was created and what its meaning is. They like to take that form as it is. However, without the meaning, the form is dead. If you don't understand the meaning of things, you just mindlessly go through the motions.

For example, the problem of many fundamentalist religions is that they confuse the form and the meaning. They assume that the form is the truth. And there's nowhere to go from here, only to keep repeating the form.

Also, since we lost the sense of meaning, the form can get ugly very quickly. For example, Spanish Inquisition, for what is supposed to be the most peaceful religion, was burning people in a fire.

If you take the form outside the meaning, you quickly get to a contradictory logical labyrinth from which you can't escape.

For example, we have marriage as a form of human relationship. It declares the rules of the game. If you cheat - you are a bed person. You don't take care of your partner - you are also a bad person.

But who is judging? Everyone applies the rules, but who is there to judge the rules themselves?

I didn't invent marriage. So how do I know if the rules are right?

Marriage has meaning in the beginning. It facilitates deep relationships, reduces some life risks, and improves child-rearing.

Some people have open marriages, and it works for them. They seemed to reimagine the form of marriage for their particular situation. This is very cool to see the progress here.

Each form goes thru a lifecycle. Let's say we had a great religion with a founder who speaks some spiritual truths. People who listen to him understand the truth in his words. Even if his words are not 100% accurate - they still understand the intent and meaning. Take several generations down the road, and the living and beating heart of the meaning could be lost. Only the dead form of the words remains. People have a book with some rituals and rules written down. But the meaning is not 100% preserved.

The same could be with a country. The founders understood the meaning of what they were building. Unfortunately, with each generation, this meaning is increasingly lost. And then people take the written rules as a formality and start gaming the system - becoming lawyers to twist the rules to serve their interests. This is when the country decays unless the meaning is somehow preserved in the culture.

So each system goes thru similar phases: creation, bloom, stagnation, corruption, and death.

That's why it's important to always align with the current essence of things, not just the rules that some person created centuries ago, unless you understand the essence.

Science is a good system because it has mechanisms for self-reinvention. The scientific principle is good. It may not apply to everything in life, but for many areas, it's great. Of course, it has its own problems: groupthink, bureaucracy, etc. But the core is very cool.

Buddhism is also a good system because it's a religion of experience. You are given a guidebook on how to follow the tradition. However, you need to reinvent many things yourself. This is how you keep the tradition alive.

Some systems become victims of their own success. If the form is very useful, it becomes popular. If something is popular, it often loses the soul because it becomes the default. Then people get forced to comply with the form without being drawn to it naturally. Finally, the system gets to the phase of death and rebellion, where people think it's oppressive because they were forced to follow it.

For example, marriage could have been a social innovation. Everyone loved it and followed. It became the tradition. The tradition became the rule. Parents require kids to marry before they turn 23. A few thousand years later, a woman can get stoned on the street for adultery. The question: Is the stoning consistent with the original intent of the marriage? I don't think it is.