“No. Not yet. One thing remains. Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.” – Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
The Boy in full Vader get up. He looked at me and said, “You are my Father, John Wilder. Can I have more cake?” and then force-choked me when I said no, three pieces was enough. So I cut off his hand. That’s good parenting where I come from . . .
As promised, this is the final part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.” You can find the first part here (LINK) and the second part here (LINK). Quotes, if not otherwise noted, are Peterson from the book. Sorry for the delay – the flu was busy attempting to eat my lungs. I’m better now.
I strongly recommend this book – and get no money if you buy it at this time – in the future, who knows?
Rule 9: Assume That The Person You’re Listening To Knows Something You Don’t
If you listen, most people are really not boring. Okay, some are. But they are mainly parents of children who haven’t graduated from high school and anyone from Iowa. Everybody else is interesting. Dr. Peterson talks about how he sat down with a woman, and within minutes she was telling him she was a witch. And not only that, a witch whose coven regularly got together and prayed for global peace – a world peace witch. By day? She was a minor bureaucrat; I imagined a driver’s license lady. Not who you’d size up to be a witch. Oh, wait. EXACTLY who you’d size up to be a witch.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve interviewed lots and lots of people for my job. I was never bored once. But I had people blurt out amazing things in the interview. “I got fired for stealing.” I was hiring for a position that had lots of financial responsibility, and maybe kinda lax oversight. No job there. “I hated my co-workers.” Yup. Big points for working well with others. Again, people will tell you amazing things if you just shut up and listen. Dates were interesting, too. Had one date where the girl’s plan was to go off and find herself in the Peace Corps after she’d just gotten out of a relationship with her husband who had buried a bus so he could grow illegal weed. Yeah, that night was an early exit.
But few enough actually listen (I’ve been guilty of that myself, lots of times) without responding – i.e., defining the problem for the speaker. Even worse is defining the situation for the speaker – Peterson discussed a woman who was unsure if she had been raped after continually getting drunk and going home with guys. He could have defined it as “yes” or “no” for her but that would have prevented her from sorting it out herself, which was crucial to helping her. He used this example to point out that being too intrusive in a conversation often warps it in a manner that changes the framework for the other person . . . and prevents them from getting better.
Peterson listens, because his theory is that people talk to simulate their reality. Humans are the only critters that do that – simulate entire worlds with our words and model the results of present actions into the future. When we run these simulations, we often simulate the words and behavior of others – I know I have a pretty accurate simulation of The Mrs. running. It’s over 98% accurate. The Mrs. likewise has one of me, too. We have tons of conversations with each other without even speaking to each other, because the other just our simulation.
Honest listening – turning off the simulator – is required for real conversation. Our filters and feedback contaminate the discussion. Once we get to that honest listening stage, we can have Real Conversations – Conversations where we truly hear each other and can create new knowledge, and sometimes solve our own problem.
Rule 10: Be Precise In Your Speech
Dr. Peterson begins with a discussion of the coming obsolescence of laptops. Most of our laptop experience is located outside of the laptop – it’s only a “single leaf, on a tree, in a forest . . .” Our laptops feed from all of the other computers out there – from the Facebook© servers to the wonderful servers that bring you Wilder, Wealthy and Wise and that Japanese cooking site you don’t want your wife to see that you’ve been to visit after she goes to bed so you can dream about sushi. Those exist outside of your laptop – and your laptop only pulls information from them.
But we don’t inhabit that forest. We inhabit a simplification of that world. In our world where we give objects purpose and meaning – we don’t let them simply exist – we give a car purpose – it must take us from one place to another. A light switch ceases to just exist – it gives us light, and in a blackout part of us is shocked (pun intended) when the switch doesn’t bring us light. Peterson feels that precision is required so we down drown in the vast amount of detail that surrounds us.
Our model gums up when violated. I used a light switch – Peterson uses a cheating spouse – inviting Chaos in. Peterson then pops some Yeats in the CD player for good measure:
The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Speech is required to sort this chaos out, to make sense of it, to dispel it. A night light might also be nice to scare the rough beast away?
“Say what you mean so you can find out what you mean. Act out what you say so you can find out what happens.”
Rule 11: Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding
Skateboarders are pretty talented, and Peterson spends some time discussing their skill, and the methods by which they optimize risks, which is crucial, Peterson felt, to growing as a man. Unfortunately (in Peterson’s opinion) there are adults who what to spoil all the fun by putting in features that make skateboarding impossible while also looking ugly at the same time.
Those adults are then (at least by proximity in the chapter) compared to a friend that Peterson had. Peterson’s friend (also discussed in earlier chapters) had a problem: he hated mankind. He came to no good, making himself a victim at every turn, and learning to hate beautiful, successful people. They seemed to make him even madder. Dr. Peterson then followed up with a description of a TEDx talk by a professor . . . who also hated the human race. These self-appointed judges spoil the fun . . . and the risk.
And the result? Boys are being pushed out. 25% of college degrees granted are in the fields of healthcare, psychology, education, and public administration. 80% of these degrees go to women. Peterson feels that this is Not Good. If projections hold, there will be very few men in non-STEM fields in the next few years. And this is bad for women.
How many college-educated women consider, say, a plumber a great catch? Some, to be sure, but not many. When it comes to marriage, women tend to marry someone either at the same social/economic status or of a higher status. As those guys disappear?
Marriage becomes something for the rich. The rest of the girls get hookups in their twenties, and a basket of cats when they hit 33. If they have kids, the results are similarly grim – because single parent families are statistically inferior in every way to dual parent families. So those rich kids? Yeah, life will be better for them. Because they have two parents.
Maybe patriarchy isn’t so bad? Feminism is a creation of Marxism (per Jordan), and between that and post-modernist thought – we’re trying to fundamentally remake civilization in ways that may not be as stable as civilization created over the last 11,000 years or so. And Marxism led to Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. And that idea became the most deadly idea of the entire 20th century – killing more people, primarily their own citizens than any other idea.
Peterson REALLY doesn’t like Post Modernism, either, since it’s a philosophy that says there’s no truth and makes the claim “that logic itself is a merely a part of the oppressive patriarchal system.”
Boys are boys, but society is trying to force them to be girls, per Peterson. Which is really, really wrong. Biology is a huge part of what makes a boy act like a boy, and a girl act like a girl. Then, a large amount of (enjoyable) discussion about ancient gods and Disney© animated movies.
Then we get back to Peterson, talking about when he worked on a railway crew. Peterson uses these (amusing) stories about men and how they want particular behavior from other men: Do your job. Don’t whine. Don’t be a suck up. What to men want and value from other men? “Be tough, entertaining, competent and reliable.”
The above ad is from comic books, literally all comics books, of the 1950’s and 1960’s. I sent away for as similar set of books. You, too can learn Karate for only $19.95. If you can learn karate by yourself from a book. With a poor work ethic.
Peterson (really) feels that the Charles Atlas ad captures a lot of human sexuality in seven panels. Women want tough men. It’s here that he combines The Simpsons and Fifty Shades of Grey in the same hilarious paragraph. Lisa Simpson doesn’t want Milhouse, dude, she wants a kinky billionaire. Or that bad kid from Springfield Elementary. Or a dude that will keep you safe on the beach.
Because women want men. Tough men. And you get men through risk. Through . . . skateboarding.
Rule 12: Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street
Peterson baits and switches here – starting with a discussion on dogs. But he brings back to cats, and also to the theme of the chapter – human suffering. It will literally suck to be a human. People die. People suffer, sometimes horribly and inexplicably. But, somehow, Superman™ needs Kryptonite© – this suffering makes life, well, not interesting, but certainly not fake.
It’s a worthy chapter, and my summary is short because I’m not one to use Peterson’s tough times, and I rarely write about my own. I’ll give you my bullet point summary:
- Dogs are Happy
- Cats have Terms and Conditions for Love
- Enjoy Both Dogs and Cats – They Have Purity of Being
- Because Life Sucks
CODA: Not The Led Zeppelin Album
Peterson caps it off – again, buy the book. I’ll just ask you – what do you want for yourself tomorrow? What about next year? Who could you be if you really tried?
So, that’s it. It’s a pretty long review, and I’m glad you stuck it out this far.
Pluses of the book? Amazing philosophical content. Easy read. Original thoughts.
Downside? Chapters could be more evenly edited to tie the content together, and follow the old rule – tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em. There are several chapters that I read a second time after about a week to write this review, and being prepped with the previous read and knowing what to look for, I enjoyed the chapters much more. Maybe this review will act as a guide you can use when you go through it to look for more content that sparks your interest.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Peterson also dictated this book – many of the passages sound like speech turned into text, though I might be wrong since I’ve heard a LOT of Peterson speaking but very little of his written stuff.
Overall verdict: totally recommend it. Best way ever to confront Vader. And then the Ewoks burned my copy – because they stopped making Star Wars® in 1983. Wonder what would have happened if they had made a sequel or two? I’m glad they never did.