“… my life is divided into two parts—before my encounter with René Girard, and after.”
Jean-Michel Oughourlian (1)
I remember reading this about a year ago and thinking: that is a huge statement to make of any person. Its the kind of thing people would say about the day they met Jesus – a conversion or new birth experience. But then it dawned on me – that is exactly the effect that the insights and ideas of René Girard had on me: a kind of an intellectual conversion experience that has indeed divided my life between before and after René Girard.
Four years prior to this I was introduced to René’s writings. What interested me at first, as an author and minister, was his understanding of human nature and the movements of desire. Inseparably bound to this was his understanding of the origin of human civilization and the part that sacrifice and religion played in it. Soon I discovered that theologians, psychologist, anthropologists, economists, literary scholars … have all advanced their theories by applying René’s Mimetic theory. The ideas he proposed were huge in scope and profound in their implication. I must have consumed more than a hundred books all related to Mimetic Theory while writing Desire Found Me.
It was towards the end of writing the book, as I began reworking the first chapters relating to self and desire that I experienced a crisis … not of faith, but rather a crisis of self. Previously I imagined that somewhere in me was a true self and all I needed to do was believe right for this self to be free. I began to realize that self is not a static entity, but a dynamic construct in constant flux, formed and shaped by desire. Desire is more fundamental to our makeup than belief. It is not my purpose to give all the details of that experience, but to summarize the outcome. In a way I lost my sense of self … and discovered a whole new awareness of what it means to be human. An awareness that has translated into a greater appreciation for the value of humanity and the possibilities of reducing violence in this world.
René Girard passed away on the 4th November 2015. You might read many obituaries that mention his great academic achievements – his influence can hardly be exaggerated. I wanted to simply remind you that great ideas don’t just influence other ideas … the best ideas become part of us. Word becomes flesh. Thank you René – somehow I think he can hear us – thank you for the courage to think and communicate so clearly. Because of you I know myself and others a little bit better, and most significantly, I have a greater awareness of the God who is not the product of our own violent projections, but the One who saves us from our own delusions.
Thank you René.
If you want to begin reading René Girard, I suggest his book The Scapegoat
For an introduction to the way Mimetic Theory impacts the way we read scripture see How Does Scripture Relate To Myth?
(1)(2012-01-01). For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and in Truth (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture) (Kindle Location 1144). Michigan State University Press. Kindle Edition.