I do not perceive form as outward or inward; it is neither backward nor forward. I perceive form politically, as occurring alongside more apparent ethical choices, though it partakes of other flavors, philosophical, of which aesthetics is only a component part.
I have made a point of saying "form" not to enact for, or set it apart, but to acknowledge the middle of things. New forms come into being, or crystallize, assuming a meaning that in itself testifies to the ethics of forms and formalism. I am thinking just now of Trayvon Martin's hoodie. This garment became a device employed in empathetic identification, and now seems to have assumed the vestige of the tombstone. So very sad. I have felt myself speechless for a couple days now, and almost wished I would remain so.
I wish I could bring the form of Trayvon Martin to life, for all the forms I indulge in are nothing, really. I am alone with what I do while sharing points of contact, occasionally overlapping, for a time, with others.
It is a sad thing. This effort, the words, the time - then the sudden death of a young black man.
Forms can be made "symbols," yes. I see that I have resisted the term "symbol" in my postings. It's too neat and compact and seems to me to assume too much on the part of the symbol-namer and the symbol-reader. Such critical or literary terms are largely dead to me - they assume utter complicity. They imply a terminology that is not merely shared, but exclusive. Symbolism takes meaning and makes of itself a "form" to be exchanged, or held in lieu of greater, more exclusive outcomes.
I do not mean to be unfair or "exclusive" in terms of the history of symbolism, which is rich and remarkable. I have no argument with what the plow has done. ;-)
But, what about Trayvon. I pray for his peace, for his glory. I throw my heart there. This may be the form of a man beholden to the Word in his life, this I freely confess, allowing all possible shortcomings. But it is not a symbol of anything I can identify.
I do not pray for the peace of all in this matter. Oh no, quite the opposite. There is work to do. And in work perhaps is where symbols fail utterly. These vaguely transparent brittle globes. There is no place for such that shatters as the merest political implication in the work of this world.