How men became Gods to one another

Or how a french philosopher demystified love and desire

Julius Kronberg — Romeo och Julia

So what exactly will you learn from René Girard book?

I will try to summarize the most important points , for me, from Girard book here. I will not really give you all the explanations needed for each point, because that would literally take me an entire book to write, and it’s better to read it directly from Girard of course. I will just give you a few of his insights, as food for thoughts, to get you interested in the subject.

1-The mimetic desire

This is THE theory of René Girard. The one he is the most famous for. René Girard thinks (it has been supported by some recent studies on children and animals), that desire works by mimicking other people desires. That’s the basis for learning (think mirror neurons), as for driving goals, and conformity and acceptance in society. It is the reason for the seemingly randomness of fashion trends. It is also the reason for the attraction for famous people, and for “popular” kids in high school.

2-Rivalry, or how men became Gods for one another

This leads to the second point, rivalry. In most great books of fiction, love exist because rivalry exist. Not always, we are going to talk about another possibility just after. But rivalry is a central theme in love stories. Why? Because, through the person we think we desire, what we really desire is actually our rival. The person we admire. It’s a hidden desire, but it’s the “real” desire. Without rivalry, the desire is weak. It doesn’t need to be a rivalry with someone we know: it can be with a famous person, like Don Quixote who admires famous knight of the past Amadis de Gaule, who drives his desire to become a knight himself (even though Amadis is dead since a long time). But, as Girard explains, the closest the rival, the strongest the desire.

3-Masters and slaves

But sometimes, rivals are not present. At least, not in the sense of another person. Sometimes the God is not a rival, but the actual love interest. This leads to the ever present theme of “Master and slave”, that exist in almost every great love story, as in real life.

4-No love without obstacles

And what about characters who are equally in love, and equally in desire of each others, like Romeo and Juliet?

Conclusion

There is so much more to learn from Girard great book. I’m barely scratching the surface of his deep mind. But I wanted to share some of his thoughts, as a preamble, for anyone interested in those subjects. At the end of his book, he points toward some “solutions” outside of the metaphysical desire, to feel a more profound and meaningful sense of love, but I’ll let you discover by yourself haha.

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Emmanuel

French guy, 31 years old. Illustrator, chess player. Sorry for my poor english.