Friday, 24 May 2019
Richard Rene: "Where's my cookie?": A correctional chaplain's pastoral reflections on mimetic desire and violence in Rene Girard and Maximos the Confessor
This paper explores, through the pastoral lens of a correctional chaplain, René Girard's hypothesis of mimetic desire (and its resulting violence) in conversation with Maximos the Confessor's, Four Centuries on Love and Dialogue on the Ascetic Life.René Girard posited the idea that desire is not self-generated, but stems from the imitation of the another's desire for a given object. In Girard's view, rivalry over the desired object inevitably leads to ever-escalating violence that only ends (at least temporarily) with the scapegoating of a random victim. Drawing on experiences with incarcerated men in a maximum security institution, the author identifies Girard's hypothesis at work in an environment where deprivation sharpens desires and violent rivalries over the smallest of objects. The author then traces parallels to Girard's hypothesis in Maximos the Confessor's Four Centuries on Love and Dialogue on the Ascetic Life, identifying human passions for created objects as the source of mimetic rivalry and violence.The paper concludes by suggesting that Maximos' understanding of contemplation offers a way to orient inevitably mimetic human desires in such a way that they do not necessarily end in violence. Through the ascetic imitation of the saints, God becomes the sole object of one's desires, rather than created objects (other people, money, possessions, and so on). Possessed by this "blessed passion of holy eros," a person can transcend the mimetic rivalry and violence that is latent, not just in a prison context, but in society as a whole.