The most varied experience

We desire the same thing as those we admire. This, in short, is the Girardian theory of “mimetic desire”. It asserts that no desire is spontaneous because all desire has its roots in imitation.

I have some anecdotal evidence for this. Ryan Holiday was one of the main figures who has shaped my conception of my ideal future—a low-volume of high value remote work that subsidises the writing projects I want to get lost in. Had I not known about Ryan Holiday’s work and life I likely wouldn’t have desired or made an effort to attain that lifestyle, at all, and I likely wouldn’t be where I am today. Girard also speculates that because we desire what our chosen models desire, we are destined to eventually come into conflict with them. Can confirm. In recent months a curious aversion to reading Ryan’s work has appeared. I’d previously narrated this as a consequence of my outgrowing his ideas, but perhaps it is more honest to say that I feel some animosity because he has—as far as I can tell from my low-res, distant POV—attained that which I have thus far been unable to acquire.

Anywho, I won’t describe Girard’s theory in any more depth right now—I’m newly acquainted with it via the excellent The Girard Reader, edited by James G. Williams—but I am currently wondering about its consequences for creativity and originality. If Girard is on-point about the absence of spontaneous desire in the human realm—I tend to think he is—then what does that mean for how we produce?

Would it be strange to think that creativity comes less from some unique and innate ability, and more from a diverse array of experiences and informational inputs? If creativity, like desire, isn’t spontaneous and is instead based on the accumulation of past stimuli, then aren’t those who are most creative simply those with the most varied of experiences?

This would also add weight to the hypothesis that young people are less creative and less differentiated than older people simply because they haven’t experienced as broad a chunk of this thing called Life. For example, in my anecdotal experience, eighteen year olds differ less from one another than fifty year olds do.

Nevertheless, this speculation has me expanding my circle of consumption to things I otherwise wouldn’t have touched. A sensible strategy, right? After all, I’d prefer to have too wide a circle of interest than the opposite.