The missing piece of this post finally fell into place on Christmas Eve of 2017.
I’ve been building on straight-talking Dr. Phil’s excellent advice. If you love your children, tell them how the world works.
I take this to mean that life goes better for those operating on a complete and accurate reality map, who know how to navigate through tough times. It saves the pain and confusion most of us feel, wandering through life blindly bumping up against walls.
My earlier quest was to recover the reality maps missing from childhood years, which I somehow knew must exist. Then it became my life work to share what I’ve been fortunate to find.
To my way of thinking, it is the greatest gift one can give, especially now, at seasonal low ebb, as prelude to the New Year’s returning light.
So I honor psychologist Jordan B. Peterson’s commitment to basic truth telling. I recognize him as another soul compelled by circumstances to the same archetypal quest, however different specific details of the journey may be.
I find the nobility of his compassion for young men especially moving. In his own unique way, the Professor is pouring himself into the work of providing young people – and the parents and grandparents who dearly wish them well – positive means for pushing back against the destructive influence a corrupt education system.
The latest gift added to the common sense tool box is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Timing being everything, release is scheduled for January of the New Year, 2018. At the invitation of a literary agent who suggested Dr. Peterson make his ideas accessible to everyday, non-academic readers, he spent five years completing this project.
JBP described the content to Dave Rubin. Essentially, his book advises people to “man up.” All of us have the potential to be much better than we are. Before criticizing the world, our first responsibility is to improve ourselves with discipline, carving out meaning in our lives as a bulwark against the chaos of life’s inevitable hardships.
An especially telling book review listed on amazon.com describes 12 Rules:
“Firm but caring. . . . Peterson speaks the way I always wished my father had. . . . He is the right man at the right time, someone capable of showing young men that cleaning up their room has cosmic significance, and that imposing a little order upon chaos is good for the soul, which in turn is good for the world.”—National Review
Lest inevitable trolls claim that he is giving his all only to get rich, let me remind you. He’s made it clear. Personal gain isn’t his motive. In fact, as he warns students, after achieving a certain level, additional income makes no difference to the quality of life.
He already earns enough for his family to live comfortably. He takes no pleasure in the hassles that come with sudden notoriety. He endures them because he has chosen to aim higher – for quality of outcomes.
I’ll give you two good examples of his compassion in action.
On Nov. 17 Andy@andysoraluce tweeted to Dr. Peterson:. . you’re the father I never had :’ )
JBP acknowledged Andy’s message same day, answering, And you’re the son I don’t know . . . get out there and nail it home.
This brief exchange drew 469 likes, 27 retweets and 15 comments.
John The Red tweeted, This is one of the many reasons why we all like you, sir.
Maggie Mae Megan responded, What a great answer.
Cassaubon wrote, I’m 47 years old and never since my high school Philosophy teacher has an academic had such a profound intellectual impact on me. Even greater than an intellectual impact: I feel as if my life has shifted towards an ideal; JBP has helped me seek out and find meaning in life.
My second example is another exchange that took place on November 16th.. The place: the UW-Madison’s Educational Science Building. The lecture’s subject: Campus Indoctrination.
In the body of his talk, JBP explained:
One of the hallmarks of both post-modernism and ideological thinking is the proclivity to reduce very complex phenomena to a single causes.
One cause used by ideologues to rationalize overthrow of the established order is “thrownness,” meaning the “arbitrary nature of human being”:
. . . you’re a certain race and you’re born with a certain level of intelligence, let’s say, although that can be impaired certainly with enough effort. You’re born in a certain culture with a certain language and in a certain socio-economic class and with a certain degree of attractiveness. And those are all things that are handed to you.
He paraphrases the argument:
The talents and catastrophes of life are by no means equally distributed. From the perspective of the standards of human justice and perhaps human mercy as well, there is something intrinsically unfair, unjust about the structure of existence itself.
Basically, because the distribution of wealth is unequal, life is inherently “unfair.”
The Neo-Marxist argument is flawed, however, because . . . the finger is always pointed at inadequate social structuring as the root cause of suffering. It’s so naive, it’s difficult for me to understand why people can possibly fall for it. There’s the hope that suffering can be relieved if we can just organize our societies properly.
Of those who promote simplistic, counter-productive ideologies, he says:
That’s a consequence of giving your God-given soul over to human dogma. And the universities are absolutely complicit in this. They take young people’s minds . . . they’re more or less looking for an identity . . . and no wonder . . . and they teach them this idiocy.
It also got personal. A questioner asked for JBP’s response to a slanderous article published against him in a campus newspaper, The Daily Cardinal. He dismissed it as “nonsense:”
The ideologues who pen that kind of nonsense have constant themes. Anyone who disagrees with them is pathological in some manner and uses the right of free speech to exercise that pathology. Well, No! Sorry! That’s not the case. . . . It’s palpably absurd.
It was during the Q & A session, the Dr. Peterson again demonstrated compassion. A student raised his hand:
Student: Now for starters, I feel kind of terrible for writing that article. [Laugher and applause from audience.] To give credit where it’s due, it was co-written with others, and I hoped it would come across a little more thoughtful and serious.
JBP: [Roars with laugher.] Are you serious???
JBP: It’s very brave of you to be standing there.
The student persisted, asking a question based on Neo-Marxist assumptions. Picking up on the observation that young people are looking for identity, he wanted to know how to cope with the by-products of social unfairness – alienation and loneliness.
Student: My question isn’t about [the article], but more about identity. Really, what you see in the sense of thrownness. It’s a consequence of human nature. Human nature creates hierarchies.
Hierarchies exclude or groups exclude. It’s necessary to sort. But what we see with a lot of the sorting is that it’s arbitrary. And it’s not the arbitrariness of nature, but rather the arbitrariness of the structures of society.
Maybe nature lends itself to creation of arbitrary structures within society. But then people self-identify with these categories. And these categories may be outdated or based on old understandings that ultimately lead to greater estrangement. So the question is, How do people reckon with the parts of their identity that may or may not contribute to environments where people feel more estranged, more alone?
Dr. Peterson answered:
JBP: That’s why you educate . . to separate the wheat from the chaff. Because you’re a historical creature. And it’s outside of you and inside of you.
And some of it is dead and corrupt, as you just said. And the estrangement is for no functional reason. It’s counter-productive. But until you understand the structures, for better or for worse, you’re in no position to do anything but make it worse.
The purpose of a liberal education is not to turn you into an avatar of capitalism, or of democracy, for that matter. The purpose of a liberal education is to enable you to comprehend the history in which you’re embedded, and then to act as an agent to reconstruct and revitalize that hierarchy.
But that’s a serious matter. And at 18, right out of high school, with no experience whatsoever, and no real education, you’re in absolutely no position whatsoever to be protesting about the structure of the Western world. It’s like, No!
Your observations about the fact that people are alienated by structures: absolutely. It does sort. And it sorts harshly. And of course, because you’re young, you tend to be sorted near the bottom.
But then he softened his remarks by adding encouragement.
JBP: Except I would point out that you’re young, and there’s really something to that. You might think that you have no power because of that, but I can say, You have all the power that youth gives you. And that’s not trivial. Power doesn’t lie where it’s obvious. It really doesn’t . People have more power than they think. But they squander it. They often squander it on ideologies, when they’re not just wasting their time.
And, finally, approval.
JBP: So anyways, it was very brave of you to stand up and ask that question, and take all that. [Huge audience applause.]
In sum, his fundamental attitude of respect earns him respect in return.
Of course, there’s much more to be said on the subject, but that must wait for another day. For now, let me close by giving you the missing puzzle piece I mentioned at the start. On Christmas Eve, I found it in Jesus Calling in the reading for December 25. It describes the purpose hidden in the Christ child’s unfair start.
Try to imagine what I gave up when I came into your world as a baby. I set aside My Glory so that I could identify with mankind. I accepted the limitations of infancy under the most appalling conditions – a filthy stable. . .
I became poor so that you might become rich.
So, please take a minute to think about it. What if you too came here on a soul mission, given challenges perfectly matched to your unique calling? What if you too have infinite inner resources to draw upon in fulfilling the deeper meaning and ultimate purpose your life?
What if life is complex and and mysterious, but inherently just?
It’s quite possible.
Food for thought.