One phrase that I remember from veterinary school is “form follows function”. I don’t remember whether that was spoken by Dr. Masty in comparative ruminant anatomy, Dr. Greene in Intro to Radiology, or Dr. Krakowka in Pathology and Biology of Disease, but I think I heard it that autumn of 2012. Of course it’s also possible that I read it in a text book, and none of those people ever said it to me. It’s been nearly a decade since that first year and so much of it is a blur now.
Regardless of the source of that expression, it stuck with me and recently I’ve been considering it in other contexts. I think it’s a violation of this principle that explains the internal tension I feel over lifted trucks with wide wheels that never see anything but the highway, the ache of disappointment when I open Instagram, and Holden Caulfield’s refrain of everyone being “phony”.
So much of our lives are filled with impression management. We desperately seek to hide our insecurities through carefully curated profile pictures and vacation highlight reels. We laugh at Dwight’s unfettered ambition to be named Assistant Office Manager (rather than Assistant To The Office Manager), and yet we are doing the exact same thing in our neverending quest for status.
“Just a sliver more of that, and a little less of the other, and I’ll feel all better”.
We’ve become experts at maintaining a form of life without building the underlying function.