John’s suggestion that the world is made up not only of “things” (TA EN TO KOSMO, v. 15) but of desires is a rich insight. He doesn’t limit the world merely to the artifacts that are evident in the world, nor to the institutions and practices of the world. The plural reference in verse 15 covers these multiple manifestations of the world, but at the heart of what John calls the world, the source from which the world flows, is desire. To put it more sociologically, (sinful) human culture – its institutions, practices, products – are all embodiments of evil desire or boastfulness. John hints that we should evaluate the world not only on the basis of what’s done or what things it contains, but on the basis of desire. And desire has a multiple relationship with culture: Desires are the “contents” of culture – culture is made up of embodied dreams, aspirations, lusts; on the other hand, the world is the source of desire, evoking certain kinds of desire. John’s sociology thus encourages us to ask what desires are embodied in roads, buildings, automobiles, iPods, coffee, customs, schools, and so on. John encourages us to seek to penetrate below the surface of cultural life to the desires that are provoking and provoked by the world.
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