Two-Sided Forms

Religion observes through the form of transcendence/immanence. The “ground of all being” is transcendent; this is what we do not see or experience in daily life, but, according to the religion system, we can get a glimpse through the curtain in brief experiences of grace. The transcendent is the unmarked side of the form because it cannot be explained or described. It’s an empty space. Everyday experience is the marked side, and religion devotes itself to describing the sins, transgressions, corruptions on this side. It develops elaborate classifications of sins, such as mortal/venial, the seven deadly sins, etc. In other words, religion first distinguishes this world of sin and corruption, marking it off from the perfect transcendent reality. Then it re-enters the form on the marked side to make further distinctions among sins. So sins in general are distinguished as mortal (unforgivable) and venial (forgivable) sins. Venial sins are marked, and mortal sins are unmarked. This leads to a focus on venial sins because there’s nothing religion can do with unforgivable sins. If you are not a sinner, there is nothing religion can offer you. For this reason, religion considers everyone a sinner.

For education, the form is uneducated/educated. The uneducated side is marked and it receives all the attention because there is nothing the education system can do with someone who is already educated. The K-12 grades, along with designated years of higher education, are created by re-entering the form on the uneducated (marked) side. The same goes for categories such as remedial, accelerated, and gifted. These are finer distinctions of the uneducated state. Even the “gifted” must be found wanting and offered further education.

Only students are visible to the education system. Once you are educated, the education system loses interest in you. It graduates you and takes your name off its books. Education can only retain its relevance beyond the university level through continuing education, including training for teachers and other workers. All of the seminars, workshops, conferences, etc., that employees must endure are just a means for the education system to maintain its relevance.

Similarly, in medicine, which observes through the form of sickness/nonsickness, the entire focus is is on the marked side (illness, sickness, disease). There is nothing medicine can do with nonsickness. Health is a nothing, a vast empty space, for medicine. A person is not even visible to the medical system until she/he is sick. And once the person is no longer sick, the medical system loses interest.

Through re-entry of the first distinction, sickness is distinguished as various degrees and kinds. For instance, it uses the acute/chronic distinction and the treatable/untreatable. If an illness is untreatable, medicine loses interest. Of course, patients with incurable illness are still treated in the hospitals but the goal is just to prolong life or offer a peaceful death. Here we have distinctions like good/bad death, with the goal being to eliminate the bad (painful) death. Various kinds of good death then receive all the attention.  Science is interested in untreatable illness (because it wants to understand it), but medicine isn’t.

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