Anti-Mimetic is about understanding the mimetic world that we live in and then developing the anti-mimetic machinery in our guts to live in it—and flourish.
I believe René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire (the topic of my book Wanting) is the key to understanding the strange events in our world. I developed this newsletter to write about my experiences in trying to live a more anti-mimetic life—that is, one with some level of freedom from the trends, bubble, manias, clustering, conflict, and scapegoating that we see in so much of the world.
Author David Foster Wallace once mused that to live in a world in which the internet encompasses more and more of our lives, with increasingly sophisticated porn (like a virtual reality version), “We’re gonna have to develop some real machinery, inside our guts, to help us deal with this.”
Machinery that might also help us respond in a better way to the images we see on the twenty-four-hour news cycle, to the polarized political environment, and to other mimetic accelerants such as frictionless technology that remove every barrier to restraint.
We’re going to have to develop some machinery in our guts to help us resist dangerous mimesis. That will require being somewhat anti-mimetic.
What does this mean? It’s not that we should be (or can be) free of mimetic desire. Being anti-mimetic is not like Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “antifragile”—it’s not merely the opposite of mimetic. Being anti-mimetic is having the ability, the freedom, to counteract destructive forces of desire. Something mimetic is an accelerant; something anti-mimetic is a decelerant. An anti-mimetic action—or person—is a sign of contradiction to a culture that likes to float downstream.
I’m a veteran entrepreneur who, after attending NYU Stern and making my way through Wall Street and the start-up world, felt a painful hole in my soul for something greater. I wanted to understand human desire—not least of all my own—and we can build companies and families and schools that bring out the best in people, not the worst. I immersed myself in philosophy, theology, and classical literature for many years following my wild startup craze. I’m still starting and investing in businesses, but I’m doing it in a much different way these days.
I hope you’ll join me.
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