To fully understand what René Girard meant by human 'desire', we need a more comprehensive framework.
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Yesterday, during a solo dinner at my favorite restaurant in Saugatuck, I read this piece by Benjamin Wallace in NY Mag’s Intelligencer profiling Mark Manson, author of the “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” book, which has sold more than 12 million copies. The essay, titled “How Mark Manson Learned The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”, tells the story of Manson’s burn-out.
“Throughout his career, he had wanted to write about what he wanted to write about. When he’d lost interest in something — first Practical Pickup, then PostMasculine — he’d moved on,” Wallace writes. The most striking section comes one paragraph later (emphasis mine):
And I suddenly started being okay with losing it. And as soon I was okay with losing it, I felt great. I’d say the last six months, I’ve probably worked the least of my adult life.” Instead, he played a lot of Elden Ring and became a crypto degen. “The difference between myself now and, say, seven, eight years ago is I don’t feel like I’m seeking anymore,” Manson told me.
Manson’s "being okay with losing it” is the kind of death that Girard (and every spiritual writer who has come before him) has described as a type of conversion experience—if not a spiritual one, then perhaps a literary or intellectual one.
Though in Manson’s case, it seems like the conversion may have simply been to nihilism. (The next sentence: “Especially the last year or two, it feels like that craving for a philosophical foundation to base my worldview on is kind of gone,” Manson says.)
How did craving a philosophical foundation—a basic metaphysical stance in the world—become a bad thing?
Pour me another glass of that blaufrankisch, please. Thanks.
My encounter with the man behind the (very Stoic) “Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, got me thinking about how little we understand craving, or desire in general. Let me be clear: This is a newsletter for people who want to give more fucks. More fucks about the right things. The things worthy of lots of fucks. Thick desires.
(Ever wondered what thin desires look like when they come face-to-face with a thick desire? Watch this.)
Hearing the way Manson speaks about his past year, it seems that he’s getting some much needed rest. I could use some too. The question becomes: What kind of rest? Nihilistic rest? Or joyful rest?
The haunting message of the piece is that Manson believes that losing the desire to seek is a good thing. (At least Nietzsche believed in the power of the will!)
When I stop seeking, I’m dead. The difference—the hinge between fulfillment and misery—is between good seeking and bad seeking.
I want to seek truth. I believe the truth exists, and that the truth is worth pursuing—that it is worth seeking. And I want to surround myself with other people who seek it passionately.
They increase the desire to seek it in me, and I in them. This is the kind of community I want to be a part of. It seems to me to be one of the most important positive mimetic desires: truth-seekers positively infect others to seek truth. You hang around nihilists, and you eventually become one.
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