WOF 3485: The Power of Mimetic Desire with Luke Burgis | The Word On Fire Show
Shortly after hearing about Mimetic Theory, which I mentioned in Journal Entry – 005, I happened to run into this podcast episode. I listened to it in the hopes that I would learn more about mimetic desire/theory, as well as find evidences of it in our modern world. This podcast episode did not disappoint.
Here are some of my takeaways after listening to the podcast:
One talking point in the podcast was René Girard's interpretation of the story of the adulterous woman brought before Jesus (John 8:1-11). This is the story where Jesus famously says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Before he even utters that famous line though, the bible passages specifically says that Jesus looks down and writes on the sand, while the scribes and the Pharisees try to get a reaction out of him. By the law of Moses they said, a woman caught in the act of adultery will be stoned. Jesus averts his gaze and keeps writing on the sand.
Girard thinks that Jesus was averting his gaze to avoid imitating the accusatory behavior of the accusers. If behaviors like that, can be imitated unconsciously, then that would explain so much of the toxic behavior online. All it takes is one person to throw the stone, and then everyone else picks up a stone and slings it at the accused.
You can see this play out in social media. A common example is when somebody gets jumped on by the masses for saying something wrong on Twitter or Facebook.
The key point from Girard is this: what Jesus was doing in that Bible passage, was showing us how to deal with negative mimesis. It can be really easy to get whipped up into being an accuser and start throwing stones all over the place. What we need to do, is take a step back and avert our gaze before coming up with our own judgement of the situation.
The hive mind of the internet, of social media, can be described by René Girard's Mimetic theory.
Another interesting point that was mentioned in the podcast, was the 10th commandment, “Do not covet your neighbor's goods.” How quickly we've forgotten that in today's world. And why wouldn't we, when this is what the internet and social media serves up everyday; photos and videos of our neighbors living their best life with the coolest products at their disposal.
Another way to look at it is, God already knew that we humans will fall prey to mimetic desire. So he tried to steer us away from it with the 10th commandment. And yet, we easily forget about it in today's modern world.
Social media has made everyone our neighbor.
The sheer reach of social media has made everyone appear to be our neighbor. And with that comes the unconscious imitation of our neighbor's desires. And with that comes rivalry and competition.
Can you see it now? This is why people keep trying to one-up each other on social media. It's rivalry and competition caused by mimetic desires. Mimetic conflict/desire/theory by René Girard does explain so much of our current state of the world.
For car enthusiasts, there's a short story on the rivalry between Ferruccio Lamborghini and Enzo Ferarri. The owner of Lamborghini realized that competing against Ferrari (mimetic rivalry) only brought him stress and sleepless nights, so he actively sought ways to avoid it.
To get away from mimetic desires and rivalry, you have to find God's mission for you.
How does that help?
It helps because that mission is going to be unique to you. Everybody else's mission is going to be different. That means you won't end up comparing yourself to others, because each person has a different mission.
If you focus only on your desires in life, if you focus only on what you want to do in life, you'll end up comparing yourself to others to see what they are doing and how they are doing relative to you. And then you'll find yourself subjected to mimetic desires, rivalry, competition, envy, etc...
If you've made it this far, I thank you for reading. In the event that this is my last post for the 2022, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!