I call it the mimetic faculty, the nature that culture uses to create second nature, the faculty to copy, imitate, make models, explore difference, yield into and become Other. The wonder of mimesis lies in the copy drawing on the character and power of the original, to the point whereby the representation may even assume that character and that power. In an older language, this is "sympathetic magic," and I believe it is as necessary to the very process of knowing as it is to the constructionand subsequent naturalization of identities.
I am often caught musing as to whether the wonder of the magic in mimesis could reinvigorate the once-unsettling observation that most of what seems important in life is made up and is neither more (nor less) than, as a certain turn of phrase would have it, "a social construction." It seems to me that the question of the mimetic faculty tickles the heels of this upright posture and makes it interesting once again. With good reason postmodernism has relentlessly instructed us that reality is artifice yet, so it seems to me, not enough surprise has been expressed as to how we nevertheless get on with living, pretending–-thanks to the·mimetic faculty–-that we live facts, not fictions.
Custom, that obscure crossroads where the constructed and the habitual coalesce, is indeed mysterious. Some force impels us to keep the show on the road.