The Mole People

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields very kindly invites us to join the Friday Fictioneers in their weekly creative quests of a hundred words or less prompted by a photo. Click here and join in! Photo prompt © Anne Higa  

The Mole People

In the underground caves we lived the squalor that passed for life
Each of us coveting the other’s baubles, driven by transient desires
One took another’s wife, someone her neighbor’s pearl of contentment
Deceived and deceiving we lived as opulent moles in a darkness unrelenting.

We were aware of an abundant life above ground, one richer in life and meaning
We yearned to quench ourselves in the unfathomable joy of its Light pouring
Through the dim recesses of our shadowed being, but mechanically going to and fro
We multiplied our labors seeking promised pleasure in glinting mirrors of craving eyes.


Dear reader: A little background to the above poem. In reading the 20th-century philosopher René Girard, one can’t help but be struck by how the last of the Ten Commandments focuses exclusively on covetous desire, something that the second tablet of the law enumerates to a certain extent. Thou shalt not covet. Girard finds the breaking of this law to be the root of violence in every culture. Here’s how he explains his theory of mimetic desire:

In reading the tenth commandment one has the impression of being present at the intellectual process of its elaboration. To prevent people from fighting, the lawgiver seeks at first to forbid all the objects about which they ceaselessly fight, and he decides to make a list of these. However, he quickly perceives that the objects are too numerous: he cannot enumerate all of them. So he interrupts himself in the process, gives up focusing on the objects that keep changing anyway, and he turns to what never changes. Or rather, he turns to that one who is always present, the neighbor. One always desires whatever belongs to that one, the neighbor. Since the objects we should not desire and nevertheless do desire always belong to the neighbor, it is clearly the neighbor who renders them desirable. In the formulation of the prohibition, the neighbor must take the place of the objects, and indeed he does take their place in the last phrase of the sentence that prohibits no longer objects enumerated one by one but “anything that belongs to him [the neighbor].” What the tenth commandment sketches, without defining it explicitly, is a fundamental revolution in the understanding of desire. We assume that desire is objective or subjective, but in reality it rests on a third party who gives value to the objects. This third party is usually the one who is closest, the neighbor. To maintain peace between human beings, it is essential to define prohibitions in light of this extremely significant fact: our neighbor is the model for our desires. This is what I call mimetic desire.

René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, pp. 9-10. (Click on the title for more of this excerpt.)

47 thoughts on “The Mole People

  1. I enjoyed the clever way you brought covetousness to life in your poem. Perhaps the most impressive line is the last one, “We multiplied our labors seeking promised pleasure in gleaming mirrors of craving eyes.” You very cunningly suggest that the mole who has the good things is motivated by the envy he sees in the eyes of his neighbours. In other words, he’s just as sinful as they are, just better at acquiring ‘stuff’!

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    1. You absolutely nail it Penny. Girard’s perspective added to the second half of the ten commandments and Christ’s exhorting us to love our neighbors as ourselves seem to hone in on this universal flaw: that our desires are mirrors of others’, and I agree that the persona’s “success” seems implied.

      Thank you so much Penny for taking the time to give me your feedback. Grateful for it as always.

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  2. Oh man, big Girard fan too! I don’t necessarily agree with all he says but he is a great dialogue partner. I think he helps emphasize key ideas we tend to overlook. His ideas about mimetics and biblical exegesis are so interesting aren’t they?
    Also, great story. It reminds me of Wells Time Machine and the Morlocks with a hint more of we can stop this if we try to it. I like it. Have a great rest of the week Dora!

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    1. I had Morlocks in mind as soon as I began writing of underground people. Love the movie too, both versions. And Girard’s keen anthropological readings are difficult to discount, so it’s hard not to be a fan. :>) Thanks for reading and commenting Anne.

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      1. I know. Sorry, resisting the urge to say something very corny like let’s talk some more about Rene Girard but not just because everyone else will be doing it one day. Before, during, and after reading his work, I’ve often thought in another day and time I would be the one being burned at the stake and his theses credibly explain so much that had previously just made me stare in horror and confusion. As someone who has always preferred to make my own way, not because it is or is not cool, and people telling me I do not understand your motivations at all Anne. And me like is there a particular reason you need to understand my motivations? His explanations made a lot of sense in a oh yes groupthink and the desire to rebel against group think. I can totally see that now. Please do not burn me at the stake.

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      2. The nub of it all is the “skandalon” — the stranger/outsider that can be made the scapegoat for what threatens society, its norms, its collective existence or identity. And when Christ came, the willing victim driven not by self-interest but self-abnegation, the one who offers a way out of this cycle of violence and fear, he turns the system on its head. He becomes the ultimate scapegoat by bearing the violence and at the same time providing a way out of it: love of neighbor/ stranger/outsider. He turned the world upside down.

        Simone Weil would understand what you are saying perfectly. She’s another of my favorites. She said she felt most comfortable as an outsider, standing just on the threshold of the church, never “joining” the Catholic church, so she would not be a part of a collective mindset, but be able to welcome the stranger and the outsider.

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      1. From what I see, fear is the root of all evil and love is the root of all good. Those two are eternally locked in battle. Love will win every time — if we give it a chance.

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  3. GHLearner

    What an ordinary, wise and insightful story. I am floored how you manage to put so much meaning in these 100 words, a perfect piece. And I agree with what others said, the abovegrounds’ greed drives people underground, because why else the separation? Human greed constructs a class system, whether acknowledged or not. I often wonder if we can ever overcome this competitive drive. It hurts us but also drives us forward as a species (and often too far). Rules and regulations, more or less authoritarian, may help, but as long as most of us don’t acknowledge these rules as right and good in our hearts, and willingly strive to live by them, nothing will change.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words GH. I agree with you: it’s what’s in our hearts that drive us to live charitably or greedily. And the class system is definitely indicative of where our hearts tend to drive us en masse. Every culture and land has it — what an indictment!

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  4. There are so many things going through my mind that I hardly know what to say, so I’ll try to keep it short and simple. It is in human nature to want. Whether or not we need, we want. Without God’s influence in our hearts, we will go to whatever lengths possible to get what we want.

    Only in Him can we find true contentment.

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