Girard said that imitation is inevitable. So who should we imitate?
And it’s just not a question of who to imitate, but how to imitate them, as well.
If you’re trying to figure out your career path, and you look up to someone who happens to be a chess grandmaster, that doesn’t mean you should dedicate your life to chess. Humans are more nuanced than this – we all have different preferences, tastes, genetics, upbringings. We should be careful not to carelessly imitate others with personal things like this. We’re too personalized to be prescriptionized.
Instead of imitating specifically, a better approach might be to take a step back and examine how that chess grandmaster views the world. How do they make decisions? What’s their philosophy on life? How can their worldview inform your own?
On the other hand, imitation is great for mechanical things. If you’re putting a chair together, you want to have a step-by-step guide to refer to. Having such a formula ensures you’ll get the outcome you’re looking for.
Or if you’re looking to improve the opening of your chess game, you may want to imitate the grandmaster you look up to in a more specific way. After all, the way they learned their openings was by imitating others as well.
For big things that are very personal, imitation can be easily misguided and take us down a road that we didn’t realize we didn’t want. Yet, we can learn a lot from others without explicitly copying their actions.
Regarding imitating others, I think Tyler Cowen summed it up best:
“Want to be like me? Don’t be like me.”
If you made it to the end, I’m sorry.
This is not a piece of writing I’m proud of for, I think, obvious reasons.