Mimetic Monday: February 15, 2021


Hi everyone,

Here is this week’s Mimetic Monday: the art, people, and news that inspire imitation—for better or for worse.

  • 👉👈  Mimetic Alert. I found myself, by chance, in a Clubhouse room called “NYT vs rational discourse and free speech” the other night. I listened to everyone on stage go back-and-forth but never arrive anywhere—or even seem to make progress. I’ve been hearing a lot of these kinds of debates lately. The noise was amplified over the weekend when the New York Times dropped its report on Slate Star Codex and the “Rationalist” community: people who, in the words of the NYT reporter Cade Metz, “applied scientific thought to almost any topic” (in other words, they embraced scientism, which I don’t think is a particularly accurate depiction). The report insinuates that Peter Thiel is a part of this community, yet Peter Thiel is a student of René Girard—he is very well aware that, in the words of Girard, “in human relations there is a conflict principle that can’t be resolved by rational means. The conflict between rivals in love, or between two ambitious rivals, will never be healed by an idea or by recalling the distant past.” This is what the NYT report—and the incessant conversations—seem to be missing. I hope they choose to eventually dig deeper.
  • ⬆️ What I’m reading. Foreign news. Apropos bullet #1, I have tried to get outside of the mimetic fishbowl that is now the United States and find my news elsewhere. The writing from people on the outside is nearly always a bit more protected from the full-immersion biases that infect views from the inside. I’ve always found international perspectives far more interesting, anyway. I’ve always been attracted to the Financial Times. When I lived in Hong Kong, I always looked forward to the weekends when I could catch “The Fast Lane” (with Tyler Brûlé, back when he was still with FT—he now runs Monocle) and “The Slow Lane” with Harry Eyres. These columns were set up in a beautifully mimetic manner. They gave me both the active and contemplative inspiration I needed. In the end, we need both the fast line and the slow lane—and the brilliance of this section of the FT was that it forced a reader to synthesize. (BTW, while we’re talking the Financial Times: I think Lunch with the FT is the best interview format there is—if anyone ever decides to profile me, please take me to lunch! You’ll learn more about me by noting which beverage I order than anything I could tell you…) These days, I read a few different Italian publications every week (Italian is the one foreign language I can read with ease thanks to three years of school there), but I also enjoy Tribune de Genève (and it gives me the added benefit of forcing me to learn how to read French). Lastly, if you’re the kind of person who is looking for good content to share with your audience in the U.S., you’re pulling from a completely different (and more interesting) pool if you look at foreign sources first. (Note: the aforementioned Tyler Brûlé’s entire life, and his business model with Monocle, runs on mimetic desire. If you don’t believe me, read about his “aspirational” marketing philosophy.)
  • 🧐 What I’m Investigating. My brain. My “second brain,” that is. Actually, I’m working on creating it. For the past decade, I’ve wondered whether there is a way to “capture” all of the thoughts I have during the day (even the bad ones—and 99% of them are)—and, more importantly, how to build a “network between ideas” so that I can see how my thinking has evolved, how one book I read leads to the next book, and how information is cross-referenced between them. In other words, I’ve been looking for a paper trail for my brain. With Roam Research, I think I’ve finally found a way to do it. The founder, Conor White-Sullivan, has an inspiring entrepreneur’s journey. He also has a big, bold vision to change the way we think through networked thought. There has always been a huge gap between value creation and value capture when it comes to ideas, and I think this tool will help me bridge it somewhat. I am a total beginner at Roam, still working my way up the (rather steep) learning curve, but I’ve been inspired by those who are further up it than I am who have told me it’s well worth the effort. The end goal is to have a digitized, text-based map of how my thoughts are connected. I’m going to start by making a map of my upcoming book, Wanting, so that I can show how it dialogues with other authors and thinkers.


Have a wonderful week, everyone—

P.S. If you’re interested in continuing to learn more about what “mimetic desire” is, I’ve just released the second (free) installment in my Introduction to Mimetic Desire series. You can find that here.

P.S.S. Comments or questions? You can send me a tweet @lukeburgis (adding #mimeticmonday helps me find it). Text “mimetic monday” to (+1) 202-918-3743 to get text alerts about Mimetic Mondays via your phone and stay in touch with me directly via text.



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