12 Rules For Life: The Peterson Strikes Back (Book Review Part II, Episode 5)

“Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.” – Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back

DSC04363

The Boy and Pugsley engaged in an epic Lightsaber® battle.  At the end, The Boy cut off Pugsley’s arm and said “You are my brother, Pugsley, join me and we’ll rule our parent’s house . . . together.” 

As promised, there is the second part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  You can find the first part here (LINK).  The third and concluding post is here (LINK).

You can bet I won’t call it “The Peterson Awakens.”

Rule 5:  Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them

Children, are, perhaps the only legacy many people will leave on this Earth after they die.  Some parents are horrible and provide no limits to their children, creating tiny toddler tyrants, rather than children people like to be around.  You have seen these children.  You despise them.  Yet they exist.  Why?

Increasing divorce rates since the 1960’s increases the severity of this problem, creating fractured families.  Peterson blames a LOT on the 1960’s:  “. . . a decade whose excesses led to general denigration of adulthood, an unthinking disbelief in the existence of competent power, and the inability to distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom.”

See, I told you he was Dangerous.

This is the opposite of the nihilistic (at its core) “if it feels good, do it” philosophy that stems from Aleister Crowley’s “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”  Which was written by this guy:

crowley

Wilder Rule #56:  Hats make the man!

Here are some takeaways from this chapter.

  1. Order is required – children want limits.  But there can be too many rules as well, and parents are the key to sorting that out, as their interactions with their children determines the future of society.  Parents seem to have difficulty imposing their will on their children.
  2. Peterson: “Two year olds, statistically speaking, are the most violent of people.”  This cracked me up.  But it’s true.  And you have to tame them, either with rewards or punishment.
  3. Is physical punishment acceptable?   But only the minimum amount required.  The world is filled with physical punishment – just check out any middle school fight.
  4. You need two parents because being a single parent is a tough, tough job. Single parenting isn’t preferable – Dan Quayle was right, Murphy Brown was wrong.
  5. Understand your weaknesses, your dark side as a parent.
  6. Parents are simulators (for their children) of the real world. Use your efforts to make them “socially desirable.”

Peterson must be an interesting parent.  But I assure you, growing up at his house wasn’t boring.

Rule 6:  Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World

This is, so far, my favorite chapter (though the next one might be even more impactful).  Although I expected this to be based on an outward focus, this is Dr. Peterson adapting and providing a more generalized version of his “clean your room” lecture.

“Clean your room” is Dr. Peterson’s advice to those who have issues.  And, it’s literal, not just a silly metaphor or slogan.  He wants you to clean your actual room.  Why?  A variety of reasons – but it’s a way to start you off realizing you can make the chaos in your life go away, if only you try.  And cleaning a room, making it better, is something anyone can do.  It’s not hard.

But in this chapter, Dr. Peterson starts at the basics of broken people.  It’s a dark path.  “Everyone is destined for pain and slated for destruction.”  He takes us from mass shootings to serial killers to a suicidal Leo Tolstoy (The War and Peace author dude) who wouldn’t be around rope for a period of time, since he was pretty sure he was going to hang himself.  Peterson takes us to these places, because it’s important to understand what brought them to this state.

  • A belief that the world lacked meaning.
  • Suffering (in some cases) horrific abuse at the hands of others.
  • A belief that God or the human race was evil.

tolstoy

Tolstoy, looking for all the world like a garden gnome wearing dominatrix boots.

Although Peterson starts with mass shooters, the same beliefs that led them down the road to hurting others causes some people to destroy not outward, but inward.  Those beliefs are poison for the soul.

But some people, when confronted with a great evil, turn and face it right back, like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.  Dying of cancer, released in the nick of time for surgery to save him, Solzhenitsyn did what every good Soviet citizen did:  he wrote critical articles and, eventually, a novella critical of the Soviet state.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was actually published in the Soviet Union.  The Gulag Archipelago was published in the West.   Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel® Prize© for his writing – writing dedicated to making his home country better by showing the true horror of the Soviet state.  He turned what could have been bitter resentment into something that changed the world and toppled a totalitarian state.

Solz-gulag

Solzhenitsyn, looking dapper in his Soviet prison outfit, circa 1950.  (image from http://www.solzhenitsyn.ru)

I went through a similar situation with my first marriage.  It was constructed on mutual mistrust, and was painful for both of us.  I used that experience to reflect on who I wanted to be, and used that experience to reflect on who I wanted to be, and used that . . . sorry, stuck.  I figured out who I should be as a husband, and as a result?  I became better than I was.

I got a better life out of my difficulties.  Solzhenitsyn’s work helped end the Soviet system and made nuclear annihilation less likely and won a Nobel®.  To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to.

But Dr. Peterson has a sure-fire (seriously) way to fix this:  clean up your life.  There are a large number of questions in this section that Peterson asks that you really think about.  I’ll not repeat them all here, buy the book, cheapskate.

Peterson:  “Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong.”  Start to . . . because starting is the hardest part.

And how do you know if it’s wrong?  Seems like if it feels good, you should do it, right?

Peterson:  “Do only those things you can speak of with honor.”

And after you fix one thing?  Another thing to fix will become obvious.  And another.  And another.  After a while?  You’ve fixed yourself.  You’re useful.

Peterson:  “You will be then left with the inevitable bare tragedies of life.  But they will no longer be compounded with bitterness and deceit.”

Rule 7:  Pursue What Is Meaningful, Not What Is Expedient

There is a LOT of philosophy in this book.  And there is a LOT of the Bible.  Peterson feels that the Bible itself is an “emergent” document – one that has properties that exceed its sum.  It’s the distillation of thousands of years of stories culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection, honed and explained and shared until they have literally changed the way the Western world thinks (and paved the way for pesky things like science, freedom, liberty, and the abolition of slavery).

One emergent property is the idea that instead of instant gratification (which would allow you to lie, cheat, steal, and kill in the extreme) is replaced by delayed gratification.  This delayed gratification can be Earthly in the Christian world, or it can be Heavenly.  This ability to delay gratification is a significant difference between animals and humans and a defining part of Western civilization (though not exclusive to Western civilization).

Dr. Peterson explains that the delay of gratification can be compared to a bargain with reality.  I can do something now-like lift weights-to create a future that I want to exist-being strong so I can drive my enemies before me and hear the lamentations of their women.  No single weightlifting session makes me strong, it’s the sum of them that create the future state.  But my actions, like magic, create a different future.

Honestly, Conan the Destroyer was better than this one.  But the music was sublime.

As we begin the religious parallelism – the future is a “judgmental father” that wants you to sacrifice now, for a potential future gain.  Sacrifice what, exactly?  What limits are there to the sacrifice?

Maybe everything?

Peterson:  “If the world you are seeing not the world you want, therefore, it’s time to examine your values.  It’s time to rid yourself of your current presuppositions.  It’s time to let go.  It might even be time to sacrifice what you love best, so that you can become who you might become, instead of staying who you are.”

Powerful.  And think to the parallel construction of God sacrificing Jesus to transform the human race.  Just as Cain and Able had a sacrifice war, as Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son, God swaps the equation and makes a sacrifice for us, so that we might be saved.

But, Peterson returns to Cain.  Cain sacrifices.  And sacrifices.  And sacrifices.  And God says:  “meh.”  So Cain kills.  And that is the tragedy.  Cain was not necessarily evil before he became a murder, but Dr. Peterson observes: “. . . convictions must die – must be sacrificed – when the relationship with God has been disrupted.”

In this battle between the now and the future, proper action must be based on honesty, and generosity that is aimed at producing actions that make the world better – actions with meaning.

Rule 8:  Tell The Truth, Or At Least Don’t Lie

I’ve mentioned (in some other post) before about The Mrs., and how I promised her (and, more importantly, me) that I would never lie to her.  It gave me the power/ability/responsibility to bet truthful.  “Do these pants make my butt look big?” is a question that she’s never asked me.

It’s almost as freeing as a superpower – the freedom to always be honest.  One time in the B.C. (before cellphones) I was late coming home from work.  Really late.  It just so happens that the governor of the state of Alaska (not Palin, Murkowski) was next door talking to my boss.  And there were at least three television stations broadcasting.  I stayed until they left, and then went home:

The Mrs.:  “Why are you late?”

John Wilder:  “Governor, television stations, all next door talking to my boss – and I didn’t want all the ladies in Fairbanks to come knock down our door chasing me?”

The Mrs.:  “Okay.”

No questions, no disbelief.  Just . . . “ok.”

And, as I’ve said before, if I told The Mrs. that aliens took me time travelling to go dancing with Marilyn Monroe, Gary Busey and Cleopatra, well, she’d at least believe that I believed that.  She might think I was as nuts as Busey, but she wouldn’t think me deceitful or doubt my sincerity.

busey

Dr. Jordan Peterson:  “What should you do when you don’t know what to do?  Tell the truth.”

Peterson is a Truth absolutist.  He believes (in opposition to Post-Modernist thought) that there is Truth.  All things are not shades of gray.  There is Truth.  Additionally, speech that’s spin – meant to manipulate you?  It’s a lie, too.

Life sucks.  It’s going to be hard.  But to make it Hell?  You need to add lies.

Why not lie?  It contaminates everything.  Small lies become big lies.  Which infect and overwhelm everything . . . it gets to a situation where “. . . lies have destroyed the relationship between individual or state and reality itself.”

The pain from lying isn’t all outward – if you lie, your character is injured, and when life gets rough (as it will) you won’t have character to support you – only lies.  And lies hurt you in a different way – they create a victim mentality in you.  You believe that the world should conform to the lies that you have even begun to tell yourself, and when the world doesn’t?  You blame the world instead of yourself.  You create a victim narrative to explain it all.

What’s the benefit of telling truth?

Peterson:  “Truth reduces the terrible complexity of man into the simplicity of his word, so that he may become a partner.”

And that’s a pretty good reason to tell the truth.

And the truth is?  Peterson likes Trailer Park Boys, but probably not as much as I do.  Here’s a bit of Bubbles doing Bowie.  Enjoy.  Next Friday we’ll conclude this review, and maybe dismember some Ewoks®?

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

3 thoughts on “12 Rules For Life: The Peterson Strikes Back (Book Review Part II, Episode 5)”

The food fight is ON! Comments are OPEN!