I’m reading through Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. I tweeted out a shopping cart of reactions to the zany introduction of the book. You can read them here. Today I’m sharing a few reflections on the Overture section of the book. It’s an eagle eye look from Peterson on the history leading up to the 12 Rules.
What impressed me was the market research that went into the 12 Rules of Life. Professor Peterson discusses how his answers concerning finding purpose in life on the site Quora were incredibly popular. Those answers became the seeds for the book.
I’m not criticizing Professor Peterson for figuring out how to package his message. To do so would be to say something like he isn’t charismatic. (I sat through one of his classes. The man knows how to perform.) However, being charismatic and good at marketing does not mean your message makes sense.
The following bullet points in bold text are based on my tweets as I read through the Overture. They have been edited. No one wants to read the “Reading through the 12 Rules of Life” preamble of each tweet over and over again. The normal text following them are some bonus material. You can read the original tweets over at Twitter.
Here we go!
- I always thought progress is an escape from misery. I told that pearl of wisdom to a 12-year-old girl at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. She asked me what progress was and I told her. And, yes, I was kind enough to give historical examples. “See, there aren’t as many people dying from AIDs in sub-Saharan Africa now. That’s progress!”
- Reading great myths and religious stories for moral messages is an exercise in cherry picking. There’s great stuff in myth, but the interpretation is rooted in the reader’s own biases. Example: A lot of people think the bliblcal story of the Great Flood is a wonderful because there are all those fluffy animals on the Ark. On the other hand, you have to ask yourself Why did God have to kill so many children, elderly, and disabled people to make a point?
- Within a page or two of 12 Rules for Life Jordan Peterson talks about how Order is masculine. I think a lot of Irish mums kept order at home through the whack! of a wooden spoon back in the day. People with vaginas can keep order as well as those of us with penises.
- Dear Jordan Peterson,
What peer review study shows Chaos is innately feminine? Is it possible that idea came from a bunch of ignorant dudes who were in power and has no bearing in reality? From the guys who brought you The Earth is Flat!
- You don’t need to read Dante’s Inferno or Faust to understand the Cold War. Here is the Cold War in a nutshell: WW3 didn’t happen because of nuclear weapons. Mutually assured destruction is insane and effective. Hey, kids, I’m not for nukes. What I am saying is that our species would have more world wars than Fast and Furious sequels without them.
- If Chaos is feminine, then are economic open markets feminine? Because the only rule that matters is what the buyer is willing or able to pay. That makes capitalism feminine. Communism, with it’s government control would be masculine. For those of you who disagree with my assessment of the chaotic nature of free markets go down to the flee market on Sunday afternoon and haggle with a few vendors. The next time you talk to a financial planner ask them if they worship the Great Mother.
- Peterson does the slight of hand in the Overture. He says we must find a meaning to our suffering. (Couldn’t agree more.) However, that meaning must be based on a profound system or the horrors of nihilism occur. He uses nihilism as a bogey man. Nihilism is only a horror if you were brought up religiously. Those brought up in atheist homes are as psychologically resilient as those who weren’t. This is a common tactic used by holy men and marketers. HEY! HERE’S A COMMON PROBLEM. ONLY MY PRODUCT CAN SOLVE IT. USE IT OR SUFFER!!!
- The idea people need to have meaning in their lives is obvious. Drawing the conclusion that society will implode if ‘they’ is used as a singular pronoun isn’t.
Look, we’ve been withdrawing from religion because society has gotten healthier. Affluent countries with good social services are less religious and happier than, let’s say, Alabama.
- Jordan Peterson’s solution to conflicts between nation states as well as societal dissolution within groups is to be heroic.
Sounds like wisdom from a fortune cookie. Here are your lucky numbers: 1, 3, 13, and Christ, how I wish parents did their jobs properly and inoculate their kids against quackery.
- Jordan Peterson tells readers we must “stay on the straight and narrow path.” Once again, progress is a messy and unpredictable path. Civilization doesn’t move forward without coloring outside the lines.
- He says Order is necessary, but Chaos is needed. He then says “stay on the straight and narrow path.” The man writes like a jello.
- Peterson says the 12 Rules are ways to find meaning in life. Are the rules a precondition for discovering meaning? Or is it a case of a certain set of basic skills (i.e., don’t lick the light socket) is mandatory to have to be able to find your passion?
- Jordan Peterson writes if we lived properly, then we wouldn’t suffer from “aggrieved victimhood”. I wonder how many people thought Martin Luther King suffered from aggrieved victimhood?
- I just finished the Overture of the 12 Rules of Life and I just realized there was nothing about fostering compassion for others. There a lot of word salad for “heroism of pure Being” however.
- “Being” is the culmination of what each of us experiences individuality and what we share together as a group. There’s a lot of groupiness going on there. Not a lot of individuality. I wonder if Peterson would’ve been with those fellows that told Socrates he needed to drink the hemlock? “I’m sorry, you are corrupting the youth with your hippy/individualistic thinking.”
- How’s this for a thought? We scrap being a Knight Templar for Being. Instead we find work that is meaningful, manage our own cognitive biases, nurture compassion for each other, and be physically healthy. In other words, be an adult and don’t screw things up too much. Children, fools, and narcissists need to make their lives into something like a Hollywood movie. Count me out.
- Christ, there is beauty in just muddling through life. We don’t need the mythical language and fairy tale handjobs. Faith-based fairy tales can be nice. They can also be used to sell us crappy laws and unnecessary books.
And here’s an extra bonus bit for you all.