“Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.” -René Girard
This French scholar studied and compared common structural patterns in great literature. He discovered that the triangular formula, his theory called Mimetic Desire, was not only common among these works but in fact applied to all human desire.
“Only the great writers succeed in painting these mechanisms faithfully, without falsifying them: we have here a system of relationships that paradoxically, or rather not paradoxically at all, has less variability the greater a writer is.”
No doubt this goes along with what Joseph Campbell has written about myth. I find this fascinating not just when considering story development, but also because it applies to things in real life as well.
This psychological strategy goes into all advertising and propaganda. Once researchers figured out how to exploit the subliminal instincts in our hindbrains, our society transformed us into consumers at the mercy of our own primitive desires. Check out this documentary to understand what I’m talking about:
It is amazing how easily we can be compelled and manipulated. In this day and age, I believe it is very important to be aware of this psychology. It allows you to question your desires from a clearer perspective before every choice.
On the one hand, Buddhism teaches us that detachment is the pathway to happiness. On the other, without desire humans are not compelled to take action. Without action our societies would collapse, so civilization must balance human desire through its culture in order to be successful.
It’s all like the Allegory of the Cave, the question is where are you in it?