Dec 17, 2021

Notes on Desire

 I came across this insightful article this morning - How to know what you really want . It talks about how our desires get formed. I could resonate with it so much. And at multiple points, I paused and reflected upon why a certain point makes so much sense. This post is just a collation of those reflections with examples.

"Desire (as opposed to need) is an intellectual appetite for things that you perceive to be good, but that you have no physical, instinctual basis for wanting"

Such an interesting take on connecting our desires to Intellectual Appetite! Someone desiring a high-end smartphone *intellectually* perceives that a superior configuration is better.

"Desire is a social process - it is mimetic. Mimetic desires are the desires that we mimic from the people and culture around us. If I perceive some career or lifestyle or vacation as good, it’s because someone else has modeled it in such a way that it appears good to me."

This is such a powerful truth. It is imperative to understand the sources of our desires. Our lives are pervaded by the constant updates from social media - posts, images, videos, and vlogs that play on our subconscious minds and create new desires as though they are coming from our deep needs, but in reality, influenced by others.

For eg, a few months back, I started following many bookstagrammers to rekindle my reading habit. Ever since I've observed that my desire to buy new books has substantially gone up. My Amazon wishlist is growing longer.

I have also observed a similar pattern when my favorite vloggers were showcasing sarees from boutique stores around the times of Navaratri/Diwali. My desire to buy sarees went up briefly during this time.

It is not only about material things, but also the kind of lifestyles/routines we observe in people whom we follow on social media, thereby leading to mimetic desire.

Inspiration is different from plain mimetic desire. What's shared as lifestyle doesn't show the complete picture. Attempting to copy or mimic someone else's lifestyle is just not possible or even worth it, however aspiring it seems like, from the lens of social media.

"Know where your desires came from. Your desires have a history. You can’t know what a ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ desire is unless you understand where it came from"

"Are any of us authors of our own desires? Yes, we can be. You might not be the sole author of your desires, but you can certainly take ownership and put your mark of authorship on them through your creative freedom."

My desire to buy and read more books has a history behind it. I wanted to read books apart from textbooks back in my school days. It wasn't financially viable back then. As soon as I started working, the very first purchase I made was a book. Since then, the majority of my expenses towards my desires per se has been towards books. And that culminated in a small home library, which I cherish a lot.

"To be anti-mimetic is to be free from the unintentional following of desires without knowing where they came from; it’s freedom from the herd mentality; freedom from the ‘default’ mode that causes us to pursue things without examining why."

Questioning ourselves on every desire before we pursue them gives us the much-needed pause and insight. And as the author of this article states, it is freedom. 

"Social media is a mimetic machine. What we typically call ‘social media’ is really social mediation – the mediation of desires. All day, every day, desires are being modelled to us through people we barely know. Mimetic desire is the hidden engine of these platforms."

And this point hits the nail right on the head. How desires are being carefully curated and mediated to us in subtle ways! I often wonder about this fact - earlier we would only know about what's happening in the lives of our neighbors, but now because of the vlogging trend, we get to know about the lives of total strangers - their shopping hauls, their life updates, their travel plans and much more. The fact that such vlogs have the potential to shape our desires is something to be watchful about!

If you have read this far, I'm sure you'd love the article. Do check it out.

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