Mimetic Monday: August 23, 2021
Play, Fiction, Hidden Forces
People and things worthy and unworthy of imitation.
Play is one of the most important things we can do as humans. Play is an end in itself. The purpose of play is play. It's not a trampoline to a better result, to anything else. And that's a rarity in today's world.
We play because play is good and desirable on its own.
I'm including it in this Mimetic Monday because play is strongly mimetic in nature. Have you ever seen two dogs playing in the dog park? One dog initiates the play (typically, with a play bow—she stretches her front legs out and brings her chest low to the ground as if she's about to lie down, rear sticking up in the air, ready to move in any direction), and the other dog can hardly contain himself. He imitates the play bow, and then they engage in a dance of playful desire.
I had a special experience of mimetic play while I was getting ready for a silent retreat in the hills outside of Italy with a bunch of my friends back in 2015. The silent part of the retreat hadn't kicked in it yet. When we got to our rooms, I opened my window and shouted out to see if anyone else would open their windows. I started comparing rooms with one of my buddies across the courtyard. I found a lacrosse ball in my bag (I had packed it to help roll out my thighs after long runs) and I started playing catch my friend. Within 5 minutes, about forty of our fellow retreat attendees poked their heads outside of their windows because they heard the laughing—the hooting and hollering—and wanted to get in on the action. We invented a new game on the fly: we had to complete 10 throws in a row without dropping the ball. A spontaneous order was created in the span of only a few minutes. I posted a short video of it on my Instagram if you want to check it out.
In the Hot Takeconomy, many are simply maximizing the algorithmic potential of what they say. To place an op-ed in a major outlet, you simply have to write something "contrarian"—and in the Zeitgeist. Ridiculous and extreme takes are being rewarded with virality, with little regard to the truth. Essays, op-ed's—and even the best non-fiction—is simply losing its power to effect change. The mimetic rivalry in smart-sounding hot takes is in an even greater speculative bubble than even NFT's. There's simply too much noise, and those who want to be heard the most are just shouting louder and louder.
I wonder if the Soaring Twenties (the 2020's) is going to need to be characterized by a bull market in good fiction and poetry. It seems like we need new forms. I prefer to show and not just tell: so here's a new short story from me.
What I'm Listening To
The Hidden Forces podcast by Demetri Kolfinas is one of my new favorites. We recorded an episode together on mimesis—and then my admiration and respect for Demetri only grew in our post-recording interactions and my deep dive into his other episodes. It's an anti-mimetic podcast in the best sense of the word—he's not interested in merely creating "content" but in having important conversations. And he cares. It's apparent. If you haven't checked out Hidden Forces yet, it's hard to go wrong with any of the recent episodes.
Have a beautiful week.
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