Form vs. Content

There is a war out there and it’s been going on for a long time. It is the war between form and content, between the letter and the spirit.

We can see it all around us. From the pretty faces on the TV, to the ads for shiny cars and weight-loss pills, to the manner of teaching science in the public schools. In his book, “Surely You Are Joking Mr. Feynman!”, the brilliant, quirky, and highly entertaining XX-century physicist Richard Feynman calls it Cargo Cult Science. And despite its name, it’s not just about science but about the triumph of form over content.

Feynman’s story, which apparently comes from his commencement address to the 1974 class at Caltech, is about the natives of the South Seas. During World War II, those natives saw airplanes land on their land for refueling. When the airplanes stopped coming after the war, the natives arranged to make their own perfect replica of the runways: fires along the way, wooden hut for a tower, etc. They thought, presumably, that if they replicated the conditions perfectly from before, the airplanes will come back.

The story above is one of the more funny examples of what happens when form triumphs over content. There are other examples, however, all around us. And they are more subtle, less visible, and definitely not as funny! Have you wondered how every new diet looks so different from the previous ones but still manages to offer us the same miraculous changes without having to change our minds first? And how about those wonderful medicines. Be it the latest medical procedure or the next organic plant-based supplement – they all promise a new beautiful form of our bodies without having to change the content, that is our minds?

The truth is that we will never heal and become whole again unless we change our minds first. The true remedy is where the illness lies. In our mind. That is where we must find the peace, the love, the calm, and the joy. And everything else will follow…

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