In this post I will discuss the theory about accomplishing something. In this sense I refer to accomplishment as the result of a given action whereby action I also mean inaction. For instance, the decision not to take action is also an action.

Goethe, I believe, said that “you can do what you want, but you can not want what you want”. What does that mean? It means that you can practice playing the guitar if you want to practice playing, but that you can not want to become a guitar player. Neither can you want to become popular, rich, smart, and so on.

In order to become something, to reach a goal, to get results, you must want to do what it takes, but you can not want to do it. Looks like we’re in something of a bind.

To get out of the bind, you have to find the desire somewhere your heart. If you have no heart, you can rant about your goals for an eternity, but you won’t get anywhere. I see many people with no heart. They’re always making excuses and exceptions and postponing this. It’s quite sad.

Form follows function or in other words results follow action. Results never obtain from desires or goals.

Frequently, as Goethe observed, people get this backwards. They want to reach some kind of specific form thinking that that would be neat. Then, as an afterthought, they try to think of actions that would lead to this form. Many women want to lose weight around their mid section (the form). The function they use to reach this form involve some kind of arcane diet (peanut butter sandwiches and carrots.. WTF?) and hundreds upon hundreds of crunches. Another example would be people going to college to “get an education”. They want the form, but many people don’t study nor do they think, so eventually all they will have upon graduation is a piece of paper. Such people concentrate on the wrong function because they do not understand reality and as a result they achieve the wrong form.

In a complex system such as the human body, the political system or nature, things happen slowly. So when a the system is asked to perform some function, say, the US decides to function as an empire, the form of the US will change slowly. Similarly, if I decide to sit down keeping all my limbs very still, drive everywhere and consume lots of twinkies, I won’t get fat overnight. Rather my body will notice the decreased demand on my muscles and start shrinking them. It will notice the twinkies and boost insulin levels trying to suppress the high blood sugar level by turning some of it into fat. Later, when this becomes harder, it will adapt again by decreasing insulin sensitivity and eventually the “form” will be fat and diabetic. This is not a desirable form, but it is a result of natural functions which kept the body alive during and despite the inactive twinkie diet which would otherwise have been deadly. Similarly, if you really understand a system, such as an eco-system, or the human body, or a government hierarchy, geopolitics, stock market etc. you can predict the eventual form or manifestation once you identified the function.

Identifying functions is something that has become a lot more interesting to me as I get into my 30s. Funny how that is.

Look for the function. Ignore the form.

Current culture wills it differently putting form over function which is why so many people are confused and incompetent in identifying trends, methinks.

Originally posted 2009-05-31 01:03:12.