85: The Nature of Desire with Luke Burgis

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Hosted by
Will Jarvis

In this episode, we’re joined by Wanted author Luke Burgis to talk about the nature of desire, Rene Girard, and a whole lot more.

You can find Luke’s work at https://lukeburgis.com/wanting/


William Jarvis 0:05
Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways that is worse in the past towards a better, more definite vision of the future. I’m your host, will Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives podcast.com.

Well, Luke, how are you doing this afternoon?

Luke Burgis 0:45
Hey, I’m doing really well. Well, how about you?

William Jarvis 0:47
Good, doing good doing good. I want to thank you for taking the time to come on the show today. And to get us started, do you mind giving us a brief bio and some of the big ideas you’re interested in?

Luke Burgis 0:58
Sure, brief bio, born and raised in Michigan, went to stern undergrad and worked on Wall Street for a little bit, worked in private equity and left in my early 20s moved to California and then up found in four companies in my 20s. A couple successes. A huge failure and I walked away from one out of out of sheer boredom, pretty much. And then my late 20s I had a oh, I call it a quarterlife crisis. Hopefully it wasn’t a midlife crisis, because a quarterlife crisis

Unknown Speaker 1:34
took some took

Luke Burgis 1:35
some time away and realized I had this deep desire to immerse myself in philosophy and classics, I sort of, I guess, I yearn for the classical education I never had. And I had the luxury of being able to give it to myself, essentially. And sort of self taught myself a lot of stuff. And what I thought would be a six or 12 month, time to do that, traveling around the world reading everything that I wanted to read, ended up turning into more of a more of a five year journey. I moved to Italy for a few years, I seriously discerned religious vocation at one point, spent some time, you know, in and out of monasteries and retreats, and I was an odd duck in that situation, you know, given you know, background in finance, and especially in the startup world, that’s, that’s not common. So that’s, and then I eventually sort of came back to the states and re immersed myself in a lot of the same stuff I was doing before, you know, in the startup world, and in business investing, but with trying to bring a different framework to it and a different perspective, and a better appreciation for what it was I was really trying to do and what was important to me, which is really to try to build a healthy human ecology. So big ideas. Jeez, I wrestle with God my whole life. So you know, that’s, that’s a big idea. I ended up getting a degree in theology during that five year period. Obviously, Gerard Rene Girard is been highly influential to me, wrote a book on his core ideas to try to make them a bit more accessible to broader public. Work has been a big idea of mine. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot these days, especially given you know, the so called Great resignation. I’ve been thinking about the reasons why people work, a spirituality of work, help people find meaning in their work, you know, that questions been really important to me, pretty much my whole life, you know, broader questions of, you know, sort of the intersection of, I would say, technology, religion, and philosophy. So, you know, big fan of a book and interested in a book and ideas by a guy named Michael Novak, who wrote a great book called The spirit of democratic capitalism, where kind of all these all these things kind of come together in the same. In the same book, we’re sort of grappling with these questions, like, you know, what is capitalism look like in the world that we live in today? What does it mean to be spiritual in the way that we you know, in the world that we live in today, so I kind of my meme for those three things is Athens, Jerusalem and Silicon Valley, right? Like, what is Athens have to do with Jerusalem have to do with Silicon Valley? That goes all the way back to the you know, second century question that Tertullian asked, we said, what is Athens have to do with Jerusalem and he was saying, you know, what is faith have to do with the reason essentially, you know, what are these two things have to do with each other? You know, he was basically saying that you know, we shouldn’t be Christian should be looking to, you know, rationalism and philosophy right where we’re in Jerusalem. And I think today we have to add a third city to that mix, call it Silicon Valley. It’s not a city but or Polit, San Francisco, whatever you want, that stands in for me represents technology capitalism. So what you know how do these three things come together. I call it the three city problem, kind of riffing off the three body problem, right? Or it’s like, you know that you, you sort of you can’t calculate where these things are going to end up in space, right? It’s impossible to do that. So the way that these three things are interacting in very interesting ways right now is something that also fascinates me a lot.

William Jarvis 5:17
Definitely, definitely. I love that and that these things are so connected, right? I remember, I was listening to a lecture by Gerard over the weekend kind of prepping for this podcast. One of the things he said was, you know, a lot of times we think we stopped burning witches, because, you know, we we’ve started becoming rational. But he’s like, maybe we became rational because we stopped burning red witches. So all these things together, they come together in, in, in very interesting ways.

Luke Burgis 5:40
We’re still we’re still burning witches, though. Unfortunately.

William Jarvis 5:43
We still aren’t we still are. But it’s yes. Perhaps in some ways, it works just a little bit less well than it than it did in the past. I, I’m curious, you know, I hear your story. I really enjoyed the book, by the way, it was it was excellent. And we’ll plug it in the podcast, make sure people have shown it, so they know where to go and find it. But you know, one of the things I found with a lot of people that have come to Christianity on the podcast, especially tech people, usually, you know, there’s this process where they go through, you know, baby, their lives are really hectic, they’re chasing, like a lot of goals, which maybe they’re of this world, and they’re not particularly pure, and are chasing their desires, I should say. And then they reach this breaking point. And then this have, you know, this has them question everything in their lives, and they go out and in some ways, they find God and they find their way back out out of the desert, if that makes sense. Was this kind of the case for you, if you had to chart your own journey, like, you know, things just got more chaotic? You you were chasing things like you didn’t really know why you’re chasing them. And then one day, you know, things kind of break and you have to reevaluate.

Luke Burgis 6:51
Hmm. You know, I wouldn’t quite describe it as things got super chaotic, actually. I mean, I was in. Yeah, but six, I mean, chaos and disorder is a big theme. And I think it’s a really important theme, actually, I think, chaos and disorder and Jordan Peterson talks about it a lot. But it’s actually like, at the core of everything that Rene Girard writes about, too, right? I mean, the scapegoat mechanism as a mechanism of order, right, and disorder, both we talk about that later. But so I wasn’t in a particular particularly large amount of disorder. At the time in my life, before I chose to explore this deeper, I was raised Catholic sort of cradle Catholic, and I think that I, so I think people can, can have conversions. And all in build is a lot of different ways. In many ways. There are people, right, a lot of people that read Gerard end up, sort of coming to an understanding of Christianity in a highly intellectual way. And I would argue, sometimes almost an overly intellectual way. And I’ve been, you know, trying to do that. And I think, Peter Thiel is way he describes kind of what your art did for him, is it sort of made everything at least click intellectually, but for me, that wasn’t really enough. You know, and I think that I had in, I had an experience of, I guess, my own weaknesses and shortcomings. And that became really apparent to me at a certain point, you know, call it, you know, my own sinfulness. And that was really that that combined, right, with, I think, the, the format, the intellectual formation that I had received, not only from Gerard from many other thinkers in the classical tradition, for me, I think those things combined really are what sort of like led me to the to the brink of me, let go my own will a little bit. And, you know, it didn’t happen overnight. You know, I don’t sort of have this kind of like moment, it was just this kind of long, like slow, slow burn. A lot of it me like letting letting go of, kind of you call it a will to power or something like that, right, that I had to control everything in my life. And in letting go of that I sort of described this in the first part of my book with, you know, in the step was still fall apart. And there was a bit of letting go that I experienced this tremendous freedom, which was a paradoxical sensation, kind of a paradoxical thing for me to feel that the very thing that I thought I needed to be free was the very thing that was sort of, you know, keeping me in prison inside of myself.

William Jarvis 9:40
Definitely, that it makes a lot of sense. It makes a lot of sense. I am curious, I want to talk about desire. And this place isn’t, you know, kind of like the Zappos deal in how we got here, how you got here, but how do we come to desire anything in the first place, and why is that important?

Luke Burgis 10:00
I mean, I certainly follow Gerards ideas on this. You know, I haven’t found any, I think when you combine sharara with sort of a, especially a classic for me, it Thomistic understanding of desire and teleology, right, that the desire, you know, we desire, ultimately, it’s a signpost leading us towards something. And the big question is, you know, what, what is that thing? And a theist is going to have a different answer than someone who’s not. But Gerards, you know, I think, you know, and for the theist, you know, God is the your is the originator of all desire, and at least back to him. But Gerards sort of understanding of the genesis of desire being in in through human relationships, was a game changer for me. It really exploded my very modern individualists idea of myself, and I realized that, you know, I’m constituted by the relationships in my life. And I think that we all are beginning with my parents. And, you know, I was leaning into the wizard articles, the romantic lie, the romantic live my own autonomy, the romantic lie, that was a straight line between me and the things that I want. And as I looked back of my life, from the very beginning, I could sort of see some of the very strong models that had led me in different directions, including why I wanted to go to the college, I wanted to go to why I wanted to work on Wall Street, even though I hated the kinds of work I always did, even I should have known better, I should have known when I was an undergrad, that working on spreadsheets was gonna make me miserable. So, you know, we come to desire the things we desire, not entirely, in my opinion, and this is the point of debate among people that that read it and follows your art. I wouldn’t say entirely through him, he says, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, right? Because I mean, there are plenty of things that I, I desire through, you know, multi factorial, I mean, like, I walk in a room, there’s all kinds of reasons why I could be attracted alone, all kinds of reasons why I could be attracted to a certain piece of food at the buffet, and not another one. So or, you know, a certain, you know, certain person, and you know, that we that, that can have something to do with biology, something to do with psychology. But I think that at a certain point, there’s always a little nuisance involved, and it’s sort of falls on a spectrum, you know, misses meaning that we’re affected by what other people want. They modeled desires to us, and we adopt those desires as our own without usually knowing that we’re doing it. And that, that is, I think, really important to understand that it operates on a kind of a continuum or a spectrum. And lately, I like to use the example of, you know, Bitcoin, you can have two people that buy the same amount of bitcoin on the same day. And one of them could do it for far more medical reasons than the other one, if that makes sense. You know, one of them could have done research and have really rational explanations for it, and I feel a little immune system, I mean, I would they known to have looked into bitcoin in the first place, right? If there wasn’t some of that going on. But far less than these systems, somebody who does it as sort of a knee jerk, you know, reaction, where FOMO is kind of the dominating force in the decision making process and the desire. So I think that, you know, we can sort of look at a lot of things in our life along this kind of spectrum. And we can ask ourselves seriously, like, how mimetic, am I actually being? So it’s really good examination of conscience for me, because sometimes when I’m honest with myself, I, I see that I, on the surface, I can give you these, like, what I what I think are really smart reasons why I do pretty much everything that I do, right? We always think that but you know, being honest with myself, I realized that, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of me striving a lot of the things I want.

William Jarvis 14:03
Got it. So it’s something like we should, we should spend more time thinking about why we want certain things and in understand that, you know, copying drives a lot of it and copying, you know, kind of our models people we look up to, and we should probably spend more time thinking about that. I’m curious, you know, how do you think about differentiating between, you know, desires that are more pure, versus desires that are Driven By You know, this mimetic kind of energy this force should is it just like, sitting down thinking like, okay, like, why am I designing this thing? Is it just that process of just sitting there taking a moment to think about it? Or is there is there some other criteria you use to think about what, what desires are kind of more pure and good versus things that are kind of bad if that makes sense?

Luke Burgis 14:55
Yeah, you use the word pure, which immediately calls to mind and one of the Beatitudes right like Blessed are the pure in heart, they will see God straight from the Sermon on the Mount. So what is pure heart mean? I sort of interpret that to mean purity of desire. And, you know, it’s hard for me to answer the question without sort of bringing my own tradition into it, you know, what makes the desire more more pure? or less pure? I mean, certainly. You know, sin has something to do with that. Right. From from a Christian standpoint, you know, the classic classic vices, the classic sense. So, you know, that’s, that’s certainly one factor. So I think, you know, that’s something that I sort of examine. I mean, MVB, in the one that Gerard said, was kind of the predominant form of mimetic desire in our world today. And it’s the one that people like to talk about the least, like, far less than than last, right? I mean, people openly brag about their lust. Well, at least at least a lot of young men that I know, Ron will openly brag about it, but me not so much, you know. So I think that from a Christian framework, the answer is pretty clear. Right? I mean, there’s certain sort of biblical guideposts there sort of evaluate right, the things that we want, right and have it have an understanding of, of purity. Let me just put that aside, though, for a second, because we got to talk about that all day. Just on a basic level, I think a lot of times you’re talking about the medic desire, or just desires in general. And it can become very abstract. And that doesn’t seem very, like the desire doesn’t seem like it’s grounded in much of anything at all. And I think so what does it mean to sort of, you know, be a little bit more grounded in desire? Well, you know, just in the last few months, having dealt with some, some really difficult family situations, my mom was in the hospital, I took over as the primary caregiver for my dad. And suddenly, I mean, really, in the course of 24 hours, like, I didn’t, I didn’t have the luxury of being able to, like, think about, like, where do I want to go on vacation? You know, what do I want to what do I want to, you know, I don’t know, what do I want to write next? What do I you know, like, all of these kind of like, abstract things that I am able to do, which is gone. And I was sort of grounded in this real, like, concrete reality of the responsibilities that were in front of me, you know, sick parents, you know, a house that I had to clean and get on the market and family responsibilities, people that have children, right. You know, I sometimes think like, you know, people have a lot of family responsibilities and, and just do a hard work and have to roll up their sleeves like this, all this talk about, like medic desire, it can just be like, well, what are you talking about, like, I have to, like, wipe my baby’s ass, and I have to, you know, do X, Y, and Z. And so I think that there’s a certain like, groundedness, right, those things are, by nature, they’re not as magnetic. Because they’re just like, real incarnate realities, responsibilities that we have to do. And I think that, that can be a tremendous gift when we’re faced with that. And I think maybe that idea is maybe secretly behind the desire that a lot of people have to be, you know, go move on farms and stuff like that. I mean, they’ll always find out that it’s not as glamorous as it looks in the in the documentaries. Right. But, you know, I do think that, you know, there’s some tacit understanding that there’s something really like, beautiful when we’re grounded in the real

William Jarvis 18:32
definitely, definitely, I, it almost seems like, it’s, it’s fairly easy to spot it in other people. It seems like to me it’s some level at least, right? Like I can look at I remember in college, you know, these people like Oh, my God, like, you know, I really want to go work at Goldman Sachs. And I’m like, Man, that you know, that sounds like really boring like, I’m terrible, you know, I mean, but But you know, when you’re caught up in it, it’s it’s like the it seems so vivid and real to some extent and very difficult to escape.

Luke Burgis 19:01
Absolutely. I mean, you know, I when I stumbled entourage thought I saw it and then everybody but but myself, and I joke with some of my friends to you know, when I sort of was in that process of discernment was super weird, man, because I like I moved to Rome and I ended up living I mean, at 29 years old, I ended up living with like, you know, 100 other guys with a shared bathroom after I’d made a lot of money in my 20s and, and lived a pretty comfortable life. And so it was jarring experience, right? It’s very humbling. And you know, you get you get there and you’re like, well, these are all guys that are like seriously just discerning you know, religious life and the first thing you say to yourself, or first thing that I said to myself is shit, these guys aren’t that holy. And then, but a week later I said shit, I’m not and and you know us See all of like the petty little issue we live in, in sort of a sterile closed environment like that it’s, you know, what I call in the book like a fresh mammoth stand, it’s like, basically like being a freshman in high school all over again. But even worse, because everybody’s 29. And everybody has a big ego. And, you know, people are like paying attention to how much spaghetti the other guy’s putting on his plate because he took money. So it’s can be really crazy. And then you realize that you start doing that stuff, too. And it takes a certain amount of awareness or good mentor somebody to be honest with you and tell you when you’re doing that. So yeah, you know that and that’s really the challenge with this is, you know, it’s easy to spot it in, you know, the economy, I think, in the stock market. But the more personal it is, the harder it’s always going to be.

William Jarvis 20:48
Definitely. We had Jerry Bower Bower on the show a while back, and one of the things he mentioned as, as a kind of an antidote to these things, is to instead of looking around, you know, it’s kind of to look up. So look up to and try and emulate Jesus. The question I didn’t ask him, then, which I’ll ask you now, is, what does that? What does that mean, in practice? Does that make sense? What attributes of Jesus should we seek to emulate? If that’s even a useful model?

Luke Burgis 21:18
Well, I certainly think Jesus is a useful model. Certainly, at least for a Christian. And I mean, even in his humanity, I think is a useful model for anybody. You know, sort of what’s funny, so I, people ask me all the time. So like, you know, what model should we adopt? And I think, you know, look for models of humanity, people that model a different way of being human, right, a different humanity. I think, even even when one sort of strips the claims of divinity aside, you know, I think that, like, what’s the what’s, what’s the most attractive way to be human? Right. And I think that actually is what led me down the path of exploring Christianity more closely in my adult life, because I was like, well, this sort of seems like the kind of man that I want to be before I’d really got into the theological questions. And so the humanity of Christ, I think, is worth meditating on and reflecting on. And when you see, know, Gandhi sort of famously said, you know, maybe I’d be a Christian, if I’d ever met one, you know, when you see any semblance of that in the real world, it’s incredibly attractive, just on a human level, and it’s sort of a chord that that sort of, you know, pulls one to explore a little bit deeper. You know, it can be abstract, though. And so, you know, for me, personally, for me, you know, being a Catholic, it’s, it’s grounding myself in, like, the life of the church, right. So I mean, which is, you know, sort of the Body of Christ. So it’s, you know, inserting myself into liturgy and worship and a rhythm of life and a plan of life. That’s how it’s concrete for me, you know, and, and without that. And it’s also incorrect, like, sort of, it’s, it’s, it’s, in a way, it’s the best way for me to say this, there’s inserting myself into a tradition and sort of submitting myself to it has its own taking on that yoke, sort of, is a way of following Christ. The way that I think like, you know, having children like changes a man, for instance, right, like, it just happens, like, it’s, it’s just going to happen without you even having to spend a whole lot of time thinking about it, right, like, just by the sheer necessity of having to do certain things and take on certain responsibilities. And for me, that sort of like liturgical life, like the life that I’ve constructed for myself as, as a member of a community has has done that for me, and it’s made it made it concretize and incarnate for me. So you know, that there’s probably a lot more to say there about just like the importance of being a part of a community in general, aside from the McAleese ecclesial community, that I think that’s kind of where a lot of growth happens. And, you know, that can happen, it could be in a company, it could be in a family you know, sort of at the the more intimate that community the better. And, of course, you know, the church, if it’s actually functioning correctly is meant to be a very intimate community.

William Jarvis 24:37
Is it something like a reminder that maybe you’re not the most important thing going on all the time, like, like, your individual self is not at there’s more important things, you know, the world and that you should be paying attention to?

Luke Burgis 24:53
Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s funny you say that, so I’m a big fan of retreats and specifically silent retreats and I’ve been working on organizing some of these for super busy, super successful people, entrepreneurs, because I’ve just seen, like, there’s a huge demand and a huge hunger for it. And, you know, I get there. And I did one of these not too long ago, and from a few people who I know well enough to be able to give them a hard time. It’s like, well, I’m so busy, there’s no way that I could ever leave my company for three days to go on one of these things, like, the whole thing would just fall apart in a matter of three days, if I was to step away, and ask me on my phone, and I’m like, Dude, you’re not that important. Like, you’re important. But I promise you that, you know, you step away for three days is not going to make or break this company, because people are going to be able to step up, and you’re just not as important as you think. So I like I know him well enough to be able to go mark time about that. But I mean, there’s always an excuse. So short answers, yes. I think that’s a big, that’s a big part of it. Right? Like understanding that we’re, we’re part of, of something bigger here, all of us are part of a tradition, whatever it is, we’ve been shaped by it probably far more than we know. And, you know, for me, it was sort of a matter of like, rejecting it is, you know, as hard as I could, you know, then realizing that it it sort of really shaped me as a person and then inserting myself back into later in life. Definitely, I’m very magnetic and tiring, I guess, and some of the stuff.

William Jarvis 26:34
That’s good, that’s good. I want to talk about envy a little bit more. You know, I was struck by the thought a couple days ago that, you know, social media platforms, things like Instagram, in particular, the study, I read Jonathan Hite either put out or retweeted. And it was something along the lines of if you look at the the rise of teen suicides, it corresponds with the rise of, of social media is particularly Instagram. It’s like photo based media, where you only show the best parts of your life that ever happened. And it’s like, just you know, hyper mimetic and distrait into your veins. Do you think this is like something where it’s often missed in the debates about social media is like this hyper mimetic it kind of attitude and like the envy that comes out of these platforms? Because it is just so taboo to talk about envy.

Luke Burgis 27:27
Yes, yeah. You know, and I think the work that a lot of some people are doing in the space, John talks about interest in Harris talks about it, you know, the focus is really on the tech itself, and on the dopamine hits of the tech. So it’s a pretty materialist kind of, you know, way to look at it. And I think all that stuff is true, I think it’s all true, I just don’t think that it tells the whole story. You know, it’s, it’s the irony is that we create the technology, which means that it’s derivative of us, it’s subordinate to us. And then we end up imitating the technology that we created. You know, and there’s, there’s actually a beautiful psalm that kind of talks about, you know, that, you know, the imitation of people imitating the works of their hands. And how perilous that is, you know, those are pretty low models to imitate. And, you know, I wasn’t a General General Jim Mattis said something like, you know, PowerPoints making us all stupid, or something like that. And it’s sort of, like, outlawed in the Pentagon. You know, I mean, it’s just, it’s just an example of, you know, tech technology. Like, we conform ourselves to the very tech that we built. You know, I think I think porn has had detrimental neurological effects on us. We have a whole generation that’s been raised with us. There’s been like, you know, Trickle Up porn, addicts that have made their way into people’s bedrooms and like we don’t even understand like how much this is affecting us. But envy is something that nobody really talks about. You know, I didn’t Instagram they launched their own internal study and this come out a few months ago, and they found that something like you know, one in three teenage girls have has really bad like sort of body image issues because of Instagram like Instagrams internal research identified this and they didn’t want it to get out. Similar study and there was a there’s an island and she’s, I think it’s an it’s, it’s around Fiji. There was an island where there were there was not a single television on the whole island. They were introduced, I think it was in the 70s. And within like a year of television, being introduced on that island, it massive proportion of young people, particularly young girls, had body image issues. And I remember very distinctly that the crazy thing was that in that in that culture being skinny was not attractive is actually the opposite, like being too skinny was like not a sign of health. And within a year of having television introduced in that island in the 70s, totally reversed. Because they were being exposed to images from from the west of extremely skinny people. And I think that that was back in the 70s. And it was with television. And I think Instagram is just the same study on steroids. So, you know, envy is part of that. She’s when we look at these studies, I don’t know why they’ll talk about teenage girls, because guys, as as bad if not worse. That’s maybe that’s telling in and of itself. Yeah, we don’t we’re not examining this enough, right. I mean, but certainly, like, one thing I’ve noticed just over the last few years, is, you know, the propensity of men to brag about both their gains and their losses in the stock market. Right? It’s like you, especially on Reddit, and we’re all paying attention, at least if you’re on those platforms, like you can’t help but not pay attention, and measure yourself in some way. And I think that it ends up becoming the real power of social media. I think that that I mean, I lived in Vegas, I understand the the effects that a slot machine can it has on the human brain. But these are all extremely sort of materialist views to me. And the effect that it sort of the cuz I mean, I do think of Gerard and a lot of the things he’s writing about desire as being somewhat spiritual desire been for me in sort of a spiritual plane. And I think that that is far more powerful. To think about that, that draw that temptation to constantly compare, out of envy and out of pride is the real edge. I think I wrote in the book, that it’s the engine of social media, far more than then, you know, anything that dopamine labs real company could ever come up with to engineer their apps to be more addictive?

William Jarvis 32:01
Definitely, definitely the spiritual plane does seem to be at some level, much more important, very least. I’m curious. You know, it seems like we live in an age where at some level, the individual is being you know, smashed. It’s like, everything’s collective like even in it, Paul, you know, identity politics, I think about it. It’s like, recently defined by categories, like, where do you sit in any given category? Things like this. I’m curious, you know, how important is is, how important is emphasizing the uniqueness of each individual. I think there’s an important lesson I get from Christianity is how everyone is unique, everyone is important. But it’s something that seems to be somewhat missed. And the individual has been somewhat smashed within the modern discourse.

Luke Burgis 32:48
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s even been, I think it’s even missing within Christianity. For the most part, within the church, I mean, I see it myself. So you know, John Paul, the second, I think he was writing way back in the 60s. During the Cold War, wrote, This has really jumped out at me this quote, I’ll never forget it, he said, the evil of our times consists in a pole variation of polarization, it polarization of the fundamental uniqueness of each person, that evil is even more on the metaphysical order than the moral order. So sort of a metaphysical degradation and metaphysical polarization of the fundamental uniqueness of the human person. So you know, he’s a Christian personal list. You know, the Pope was not just like hyper individualistic, that’s not what he’s saying. But, you know, he, communism was very much on his mind. And so this collectivist sort of trend, and I see it again, in the world, news warning about that in the medicine and metaphysical order now, he was writing really before the internet, as we know it. And that line is so haunting to me, because I’m now thinking about what something like digital identity does to you know, to adopt his work right, to pulverize our unique metaphysical sort of identity to homogenize us into bits and bytes or, you know, NF T’s and on a blockchain whatever. So there’s there’s kind of a mass of marginalization going on, that I think we have to fight against. So I’m not I’m not a techno utopian. And one of the main reasons that I’m not even I think some people that are have some really smart ideas. I haven’t heard a convincing case for it not continuing to pulverize the fundamental uniqueness and repeatability of each of each human person at the metaphysical level and I think that’s really important to put the brakes on or to think seriously about how technology is shaping that, because Gerard himself said that when there’s this mass marginalization, and when there’s kind of a, too much similarity in the metaphysical order between people, then you have a crisis of on differentiation, crisis of similarity, really, that ends up, you know, making people fight to differentiate themselves in increasingly crazy ways. And, you know, people end up, you know, so you get into Lilliputian fights about the correct way to slice an egg, you know, eventually. So, you know, it’s, it is concerning, I think it’s actually the number one, number one thing that anybody in tech needs to think about. You know, what do we do about that? What can we do? I think, you know, attending to the uniqueness of each person is really important. Getting to know people individual level breaking through the mediated reality, that is social media. You know, we’ve I think we forget how weird it is. I don’t know if you’ve ever met anybody that’s been like a mutual friend of yours on social media, like, have you ever met anybody? For the first time in real life? It’s, it’s weird, man. It’s really weird. And then, you know, you like you, you forget the reality of the person, you know, in the uniqueness, you know, and you’re sitting down to talk to them, you know, you’re getting a beer and their voice sounds different. Or they, you know, you can pick up a little traits and characteristics that were flattened, suppressed, whether intentionally or unintentionally, in the digital world. And there’s kind of this like, awesome, awesome, like breakthrough of, you know, this metaphysical reality. That, that, that we so often forget. And I think that we have to be intentional about making that happen, because the world doesn’t seem to be doing it for us. Like, it seems like we, this is an area where it’s most important to be anti mimetic, and to not just go with the flow, because the flow seems to be, you know, floating downstream seems to be towards less than less of our fundamental uniqueness.

William Jarvis 37:22
Definitely. Well, it seems like even that, at the level of, you know, people are incredibly lonely today. They, you know, people are, they’re not involved in social groups, like they were like the PTA, and, you know, all kinds of things, let alone church attendance. I mean, church then is just like, you know, it’s flatlined. Right? Do you see that kind of trend reversing? I mean, you know, like, especially like, in your case, like, you know, are you bullish on church attendance going back up that people like, more in person community once we get through the pandemic? Or is this this, like a continuing trend where we’re more connected at one level than we ever happened before, but at the basic human level, were less connected than we ever really happen?

Luke Burgis 38:04
I’m certainly not bullish on church attendance. I sort of follow, you know, the, the former Pope, Benedict, you know, basically said, you know, it seems like we’re headed towards being in inevitably smaller church, but hopefully stronger church. I do notice, it’s funny, in that, where I go like that, in some of the more traditional communities, there seems to be, there’s going to be bursting at the seams with with attendance. And a lot of young people, and some of the other places where you have some kind of, I don’t know, I call it more like sort of modernist sort of, like liturgies are empty, and and the emptying out is not enough to compensate for what I see flowing over to some of the other communities. So I think I think it’s going to continue to decrease and I’m just speaking within the Catholic world, I think, you know, mainline Protestant churches are, are in serious trouble. So, you know, I think people are finding substitutes for for that, I think they’re finding them in, you know, everything from crypto to, to, you know, Discord servers to, to the workplace. And I think that there are a lot of substitutes now for that. So human connection, and you know, that the broader point is human connection in general. And I think it’s really, really important to not allow the digital connections to be a substitute for the in person connections. Can they scale? Not really, but, you know, I don’t I don’t you know, I don’t know, I feel like scale is sort of become a bit of a god, you know, scale at all costs. And if you can’t scale it, it’s not worth anything. Manage a great book, I should look it up real quick. There’s a great book that just came out all about scale, and I’m only five pages into it, which is why I can’t remember the name of it. But I highly record because it’s sort of takes this very nuanced view of the way that we think about scaling things, which everybody in my world and yours probably, you know, looks at leverage scale. These are all wonderful things, but it acknowledges where they’re important. And then it acknowledges, like where we don’t need to scale where we shouldn’t scale where skill, it’s actually detrimental to human life.

William Jarvis 40:22
Definitely, definitely. And, I mean, it’s so interesting, right? I mean, even even in our public spaces, I mean, no one even no one can really go into public spaces anymore. Like, I think about the areas where I actually interacted with people of all different walks of life. And the last time that happened to me, was in high school, you know, went to a public school and rural eastern North Carolina, I got to meet everybody, I think about how few people I know, even had that experience. And now, you know, we can’t even get together in person, period through the pandemic. But it just seems like this trend, and you know, offices are going away. It just emerged community just seems to be on the decline. And it seems like a really bad trend, just generally.

Luke Burgis 41:02
I totally agree. Yeah. And the name of that book, just so I can. I don’t like plugging my own books. So now I can actually plug somebody else’s because it’s really good. It’s called the voltage effect. How to make good ideas, great and great ideas scale by John list. Phenomenal. I’m only a little bit into it, but it’s, it’s great.

William Jarvis 41:21
Awesome. I’ll put that, put it in the show notes. And be sure to include it. Do you mind if I throw out a quote from Gerard and just get your take on it? It’s like, oh, cool. So Gerard says, having repudiated religion in order to become more rational, modern man comes full circle, in the name of superior rationality embraces a rational and technical form of rationality. What do you think Gerard meant by that?

Luke Burgis 41:48
If I remember, right, he, he says that, and I say says that rather than rights now, because like the vast majority of his corpus is, is from dialogues and conversations that he had with other people. That’s why Cynthia’s havens book, conversations with Gerard is so great, because it just captures the conversations. But he said that in the context of talking about the, how the modern world is sort of different than than the world say, you know, pre the French Revolution. And he uses this phrase, talking about this phrase to call to the experts, and he says, you know, now have been repudiated religion. So, we translate that having repudiated the old models, okay, having, you know, we no longer look to the saints or the priests or, or anything like this, the old models don’t work no more. We don’t look to them. We’re, you know, we’re too rational for that. So having mediated all of them, and I would stay, you know, and throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You know, we’ve now we’ve now adopted a new kind of model. And this new kind of model is the hyper rational, it’s the expert. He said, Neo now, you know, we used to have the cult of saints. Now we have the cult of experts. And the problem with that, is that it’s rationalism untethered or divorced from everything else, you know, from any kind of framework in which rationalism can operate in a healthy way, you know, in rationalism, you know, can become extremely tyrannical. And some of the worst things in human history. They’ve all had. They’ve all been rationalized by the people that did them. Okay. So, we’ve come when he says, we’ve come full circle, we’ve embraced a rational and technical form of rationality. He means among other things, you know, that we’re just finding just different ways to enact the scapegoat mechanism. But now, you know, we stand on our rationality, when we do it, even though it’s it’s a kind of rationality that’s, that’s divorced from, you know, often sometimes from a moral framework, from any kind of transcendent framework from anything that would put guardrails on it. And, you know, we use it to justify ridiculous things. I mean, look at some of the things that have been done in the name of, you know, a reason in the course of the pandemic. You know, this hyper mimetic rush to some decision based on partial partial reason. That doesn’t account for all of the circumstances that doesn’t account for, you know, the reality for all of the different complexity that goes into basic decision making, right? I mean, you know, it, you know, it’s right. Is it is it rational to not allow somebody to see their dying family member in the hospital? Who has COVID? Right. I mean, like. So, you know, these are things that we’ve been grappling with. And I think that Gerard is warning against the new idols as another way to put it. And, you know, he, he calls them experts and experts have a bad rap. I’m not against experts. But I think what Gerard is warning against is, is having thrown out all of the old models because we’re, we have to we need models, right? It’s just a matter of where we’re going to get them from. And we have to be careful that our, our, our new gods are not a lot worse than the old ones.

William Jarvis 45:51
You know, what you’re saying, I love that explanation reminds me of, you know, whenever people say, you know, trust, trust science, they’re never, they never mean Trust, the process of forming a hypothesis and testing, etc. They always mean trust the experts what’s really, really this interesting thing, like, you know, it’s this new model, we need to copy going forward,

Luke Burgis 46:11
I find that both when people start talking too much about the science or the experts, they’re both of those words to me are poker tells for this, this person is full of shit, or actually actually doesn’t want to have a serious conversation right about, like, testing a hypothesis, right? Because science is actually advanced by people having different opinions. You know, that’s like that’s the whole point. That’s how we move forward. And you know, when we begin to when people when people don’t want to see that happen, it’s and then they start talking about the science and trust the experts. It’s just a massive red flag. Definitely.

William Jarvis 46:52
Are you down for a round of overrated underrated before we let you go?

Luke Burgis 46:55
I’m down let’s do it.

William Jarvis 46:56
All right. So the the line from Hamlet, Polonius says this be true to oneself? Is that overrated or underrated?

Luke Burgis 47:05
Mughal overrated on that one? It wouldn’t be very Gerardi enough me to not say that it’s it’s overrated, because what does be true to oneself even mean, if we’re in this dyadic sort of mimetic relationship all the time, right? So you know, I can’t be true to myself. Unless I’m true to my wife. I can’t be true to myself unless I’m true to something outside of myself. So I’m going to I’m going to say that that one is overrated, but it certainly is one that I think let’s say 90 plus percent of people probably kind of do it. You know, Frank Sinatra is I didn’t my way. You know, it’s it kind of kind of fits right into that, but I think it’s overrated,

William Jarvis 47:47
Catholicism, overrated or underrated?

Luke Burgis 47:52
Well, I think, you know, if you probably guess what my answer to that one is, I’m gonna say underrated. I’m gonna say. I mean, not not.

William Jarvis 48:01
How about how about to Protestants? So, you know, I’m Protestant, you know, do Protestants generally underrate Catholicism?

Luke Burgis 48:09
And vice versa? Yes, I think that, that that, you know, Catholics under eight under eight Protestantism, and I think that the Catholics and Protestants would be very wise to draw on the rich traditions of the other, right, like reading like, Karl Barth been highly influential for me, you know, because, like, I think, you know, together you know, form we form a bigger picture, right of what it means to be a Christian. So, you know, Catholicism, I think, it’s hard to call something underrated that I guess is formed such a, such a, you know, a huge backdrop to the last 2000 years with the church and the role that has had to play. But I think that I think that it’s it’s underrated, because some of the some of the beauty of the tradition has been obscured under some of the sort of tragic scandals that we’ve seen over the last couple couple decades, which is sort of you know, call it a call it a stock that is, um, you know, just had a, like, 10 really, really bad earnings earnings calls in a row. But the fundamentals are still really solid. Definitely, definitely. Gil Bailey’s

William Jarvis 49:20
violence unveiled overrated or underrated.

Luke Burgis 49:24
Oh, man, I mean, everybody that’s read that book, loves it, including me. So I would say it’s not underrated by anybody that’s read it, but it is massively underrated or just people aren’t aware of it. And in the Dravidian community is just a fantastic book is really one of the smartest that I’ve I think that I’ve read I mean, if anybody really wants to introduce your artist, one of the first books that I would recommend, actually aside from Gerards work himself. The I pulled the phrase from that book, which makes up a chapter In my book and it’s disruptive empathy. Gill Gill uses that phrase disruptive empathy, sort of the, you know, the kind of empathy that disrupts a violent scapegoating process just really struck me. So I borrowed it acknowledged him, but I borrowed it because I thought it was so powerful. So the book is just full of rich, like saturated phrases like that. And in really Smart Insights, and Gil assista, just a great guy. I had the privilege to meet him up in Sonoma, where he lives and he’s just incredibly, incredibly great human.

William Jarvis 50:33
Definitely. Yeah, I found the book. I think it’s criminally underrated. I just, I got so much out of that book and just explaining modernity, it was just this incredible book. So I got to plug that. Well, Luke, thank you so much for taking the time to come on. Where should we send people where can people find you? Where should they go?

Luke Burgis 50:51
You can go to Luke Burgess comm that’s my handle on all social media. And I read a substack used to be called Auntie the medic. I just changed the name of it yesterday to the fourth wall. So you can find that on my website.

William Jarvis 51:05
Nice. And I know you won’t do it, but I will. I want to plug the book. It’s bolted. It was incredible. I really enjoyed it. And I recommend everyone go check that out. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes overrated at this point. Thank you very much. Thanks. Appreciate it. Take care.

Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week with a new episode of narratives.

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