What do people want? Tears for Fears was certain that everybody wants to rule the world. Some would say we all want figgy pudding and even children know that we all scream for ice cream.
If we’re following the logic of Charles Darwin’s theory, eating ice cream or figgy pudding might just seem instinctual – we want food because we’re hungry. We want a friend because we’re lonely. But there are a whole raft of things humans want that meet no basic need. Why would someone want to rule the world? Sounds exhausting.
Puzzled by inexplicable human desires, philosopher René Girard proposed that people largely just want what others want. For better or for ill, we mimic each other. Girard’s theory of mimetic desire contends that wanting to copy others can be channeled for good – if we witness someone acting bravely, we feel the desire to do the same. But as writer Luke Burgis writes in a recent piece on Girard’s theory, wanting the same things also creates rivalry, which sounds a lot like Saint James in his epistle: “What causes fighting among you? You want what you do not have”.
Girard is right in his observation that to be a human in this fallen world is to experience all sorts of desires but in attempting to account for every yearning, mimetic theory leaves a lot of questions. Can anyone avoid being pulled through life by one desire after another? Is being a good person just a matter of finding a good model to mimic?
While the mind science cults teach that we can reverse our desires and Eastern religions aspire to be free from any desire at all, Jesus Christ goes to the source, promising us a new heart, one that is being conformed to his desires. He is also our model, the God-Man who knows all our human frailty, yet was never driven by godless desires.
In his Word we see the brutal truth about the war our sinful desires create within us – we don’t do what we want to do. But there is hope for wretched men like us – Jesus will save us from the body of death and we will be like him. “He is risen, you are paid for and he won’t be long anyway.” This is true comfort and joy.