Monday, March 21, 2022

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Mimetic Monday emails were on a short haitus, but we’re back. Thank you for your patience as I learn how to support a growing community of people who are interested in all of the ways mimesis affects our lives and our world, and who are committed to building a healthy human ecology in whatever sphere of work you are engaged in. I appreciate you.

The Mimetic

Reason, Belief, and Utility: these are the three horses that run in the soul, and they often fight for dominance.

Is it reasonable? Do I believe it? Is it useful? Three guiding questions. Unfortunately, these three faculties of Reason, Belief, and Utility, which I like to call “The Three Cities”—Athens (Reason), Jerusalem (Belief), and Silicon Valley (Utility)—are increasingly isolated from one another…and many times even at war.

In the modern world, there is a fierce mimetic rivalry between Reason and Belief: the modern mind has such a narrow and constricted view of little r ‘reason’ (narrow reason) that it is unable to see the vast domain of things, both theological and non-scientific, that it is able to and should probe. We’ve limited the domain of reason to a very narrow set of objects. Yet we all take certain things on faith, or we all have a ‘belief’ in something—even if it’s simply the sobriety of the airplane pilot whose jet we board. Other times, we do things based more on pure Utility—things that are both unreasonable and which are at odds with what we might truly believe. This entanglement between Reason, Belief, and Utility leads to confusion and anxiety.

The mimetic rivalry between the three cities is causing untold damage in our world and making it harder and harder to grasp what’s really going on. Everything from the Covid-19 pandemic to the Russian-Ukraine conflict could be better understood if we saw how they were interacting in each of the actors.

I am convinced that the best solutions to problems—and the healthiest human relationships—come when these Three Cities (Athens, Jerusalem, Silicon Valley), or these three faculties (Reason, Belief, Utility), are integrated and working together. United, they give height, depth, breadth. They allow us to approach problems with greater perception and approach people in a dignified way without confining them in any of these three places.

I’ll be talking and writing more about these three warring cities and the mimetic crisis among them in the coming weeks and months.

The Anti-Mimetic

I wrote an article this past week (titled Don’t Feed Your Conscience to the Dogs) about how ‘the free speech debate’ is often engaged in on a superficial level because what we’re really talking about when we talk about free speech is the conscience that the speech was born out of in the first place. The conscience is the sacred center of the human person, the seat of all speech (if it is good and true speech), yet there seem to be more attempts to compel speech—and in turn, compel the conscience—then at any other time in modern history, at least since World War II. I argue that the most anti-mimetic and healthy stance to take in the face of assaults on one’s conscience is not the reactionary approach to “speak one’s mind freely and openly and loudly”, but very often the opposite: to protect one’s conscience, to invoke one’s right to silence—to not manifest one’s conscience on every issue in the news cycle—and not throw what is sacred to the dogs.

Quote of the Week

“It is often said that second thoughts are best. So they are in matters of judgment but not in matters of conscience.”

—John Henry Newman

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