Do we even know what we want? : The Delights of Distraction No.93

Why do we know so many people who spend their lives doing things they don't like to do, buying things that bring them no lasting joy, and working hard at goals that offer no real fulfillment?

We have all experienced the "I'll have what she's having" phenomenon – you're out for dinner and drinks and you're not sure what you want, but then your friend orders a gin and tonic, and you say "I'll have one of those too." One second you didn't know what you wanted, and the next second you craved a gin and tonic. 

French Anthropologist René Girard studied this phenomenon and came up with a term for it: mimetic desire.“Humans don’t desire anything independently. Human desire is mimetic – we imitate what other people want. This affects the way we choose partners, friends, careers, clothes, and vacation destinations. Mimetic desire is responsible for the formation of our very identities. It explains the enduring relevancy of Shakespeare’s plays, why Peter Thiel decided to be the first investor in Facebook, and why our world is growing more divided as it becomes more connected.”

It's why 80% of successful entrepreneur-adjacent folk we know wear Balmain T-shirts, Yeezy shoes, go on low-carb diets and enroll their toddlers into chess tuition. Mimetic desire is why people apply to certain colleges, live in certain neighborhoods, have kids, attend concerts, and run marathons. We *think* might want all of these things. But do we really? 

Professor and Author Like Burgis coined a term for the desires that we inherit mimetically: Thin desires. "Thin desires are highly mimetic, fleeting, ephemeral—the kind of wants that leave us unfulfilled in the end because they were adopted from other people." The opposite - the things you deeply and inherently want - are thick desires. "Thick desires are the ones you’ve probably been cultivating your whole life, but they are usually buried beneath a pile of thin, ultimately unfulfilling, wants."

So how do you know where your desire falls on the thickness spectrum? Your thick desires are probably the ones most untethered to social signaling cues, they might be a tad earnest, far-fetched and embarrassing if you actually say them out loud; but they’re the ones that excavate and honour the best parts of you: your empathy, compassion, generosity and authenticity. 

Thin was so 90s chic. Here’s to leading a “thicker” life :)

To joyscroll: Ariel Adkins takes masterpieces to the next level by creating one-of-a-kind apparel inspired by some of the world’s most influential artists. Her instagram feed was a way of responding to grief and healing in response to the loss of her mother, who was an artist. She  paints directly onto the fabric of the clothing, and translates the forms and hues of specific artworks into wearable compositions.

To ponder: This article by Sahil Bloom does a run down of 23 lies he’s been told about careers, business, life, and more…

To read: A run down of the history of coffee shops in India and the evolution of big brands like Barista that dominated the market in big cities, moving to smaller towns to make way for more indie cafes and consumers grinding and making coffee at home. 

The confessions of a perpetually single woman, probably echoes a lot of internal conversations some of us have, in living alone or just feeling alone. “While it doesn’t invalidate my successes, the inability to achieve this one life goal—to “find love”—casts a little sorrow on the others. Even major achievements have a sour aftertaste. The more exciting things get, the more disappointed I am. Without a witness, a stakeholder, a rock—why bother?”

To cook:Deb from smitten kitchen has the uncanny ability to take a complicated recipe from one of the great celebrity chefs, pare it down to its barebones in terms of time prep and ingredients required, and still manage to create a dish with as much tasty nuance as the original recipe. Here she takes tofu and eggplant from an Ottolenghi cookbook - and turns it into something quick and delicious. 

To browse: ‘Found ephemera’ is one of our favourite genres of ‘internet oddity’, and this section on the Oakland Public Library website collects scans of things its staff have found in library books over the years. For example a note found within a book: “Remember I love u sweetheart. The past is the past, so let's not take it home with us, I just want to love you and be happy” Sadly no more information is forthcoming on the note, but everything here is a story, or a fragment of one, and we could spelunk in here for hours looking through these tiny ephemeral fragments of lives stuffed into dustjackets. 

To quote: "I have been alone but seldom lonely. I have satisfied my thirst at the well of my self and that wine was good, the best I ever had, and tonight sitting staring into the dark I now finally understand the dark and the light and everything in between. Peace of mind and heart arrives when we accept what is: having been born into this strange life we must accept the wasted gamble of our days and take some satisfaction in the pleasure of leaving it all behind. Cry not for me. Grieve not for me. Read what I’ve written then forget it all. Drink from the well of your self and begin again." - Charles Bukowski


To end:

An excerpt From Carl Phillips poem:

Youth with Satyr, Both Resting
There are certain words—ecstasy, abandon,
surrender—we can wait all our lives,
not so much to use,
as to use correctly;
then the moment at last comes,

Wishing you a busy & fulfilling week,

Viv and Ami

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