Monthly Archives: September 2017

Storyteller and other poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

 

Storyteller and other poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

 

“Telling a story helped us figure out who we were.”

When shaping verse, poet Naomi Shihab Nye reflects on her Palestinian heritage, her family and the power of humanity. Nye discusses her most recent compilation of work, Transfer, and what continues to inspire her to craft thoughtful and expressive poems. Naomi Shihab Nye has authored more than twenty-five volumes of poetry and won numerous awards.

girl

Naomi Shihab Nye (age 8) with her father, Aziz

 

Storyteller

by Naomi Shihab Nye

 

Where is the door to the story?

Is the door left open?

 

When he sat by our beds,

the day rushed past like water.

 

Driftwood, bricks,

heavy cargoes disappearing downstream,

 

no matter, no matter,

even the trees outside our screens

 

tipped their cooling leaves to listen.

We swam so easily

 

to the stone village, women in thick dresses,

men with smoky breath,

 

we sat around the fire pitching in

our own twigs,

 

the world curled around us,

sizzled and popped.

 

We dropped our troubles into the lap of the storyteller

and they turned into someone else’s.

 

Naomi Shihab Nye says:  “Storyteller” is a remembrance of my Palestinian father’s warm gift for telling comfortable tales and transmit precious scenes and details to his children from our youngest days forward, makes me feel touched about your own connection to your own sacred past and traditions. My father would have loved that too, always emphasizing the foolishness of power conflict in his beloved Jerusalem, his endless desire for people to share and get along. His family was Muslim, he was ecumenical, his stories were universal. As a newspaper journalist he was curious and had great appetite for information. So in some cellular way, you could say I inherited my affection for telling and listening from him and this passion is at the heart of all my work both poetry and prose.

 

Many Asked Me Not to Forget Them

Where do you keep all these people?
The shoemaker with his rumpled cough.
The man who twisted straws into brooms.
My teacher, oh my teacher. I will always cry
when I think of my teacher.
The olive farmer who lost every inch of ground,
every tree,
who sat with head in his hands
in his son’s living room for years after.
I tucked them into my drawer with cuff links and bow ties.
Touched them each evening before I slept.
Wished them happiness and peace.
Peace in the heart. No wonder we all got heart trouble.
But justice never smiled on us. Why didn’t it?
I tried to get Americans to think of them.
But they were too involved with their own affairs
to imagine ours. And you can’t blame them, really.
How much do I think of Africa? I always did feel sad
in the back of my mind for places I didn’t
have enough energy to worry about.

 

Dusk

where is the name no one answered to
gone off to live by itself
beneath the pine trees separating the houses
without a friend or a bed
without a father to tell it stories
how hard was the path it walked on
all those years belonging to none
of our struggles drifting under
the calendar page elusive as
residue when someone said
how have you been it was
strangely that name that tried
to answer

*

Darling

by Naomi Shihab Nye

1

I break this toast for the ghost of bread in Lebanon.
The split stone, the toppled doorway.

Someone’s kettle has been crushed.
Someone’s sister has a gash above her right eye.

And now our tea has trouble being sweet.
A strawberry softens, turns musty,

overnight each apple grows a bruise.
I tie both shoes on Lebanon’s feet.

All day the sky in Texas which has seen no rain since June
is raining Lebanese mountains, Lebanese trees.

What if the air grew damp with the names of mothers,
the clear belled voices of first-graders

pinned to the map of Lebanon like a shield?
When I visited the camp of the opposition

near the lonely Golan, looking northward toward
Syria and Lebanon, a vine was springing pinkly from a tin can

and a woman with generous hips like my mother’s
said Follow me.

2

Someone was there.
Someone not there now was standing.
Someone in the wrong place
with a small moon-shaped scar on his left cheek
and a boy by the hand.

Who had just drunk water, sharing the glass.
Who had not thought about it deeply
though they might have, had they known.
Someone grown and someone not-grown.
Who thought they had different amounts of time left.
This guessing game ends with our hands in the air,
becoming air.
One who was there is not there, for no reason.
Two who were there.

It was almost too big to see.

3

Our friend from Turkey says language is so delicate
he likens it to a darling.

We will take this word in our arms.
It will be small and breathing.
We will not wish to scare it.
Pressing lips to the edge of each syllable.
Nothing else will save us now.
The word “together” wants to live in every house.

 

 

In 1966, at the age of fourteen, Palestinian-American writer Naomi Shihab Nye moved from Missouri to the West Bank with her family in the fraught lead-up to the Six-Day War. They stayed there for only a year, departing for San Antonio before the fighting began, but the experience left a lasting impression on Nye—as did later conflicts in the region.

Nye explores one such conflict, and her relationship to it, in “Darling,” from our March 1995 issue. In the poem, she shifts between descriptions of everyday life in Texas and struggle in the Middle East, drawing tenuous connections between the two places through her own memories and experiences. The stanzas are weighted with a sense of loss and separation, even as they link disparate scenes together. But in the contemplative final section, and through her deft navigation between Texas and Lebanon earlier in the poem, Nye speaks to language’s power, however fragile, to bridge divisions between places and cultures—or, at least, to the hope that it can.

 

Haunted

We are looking for your laugh.

Trying to find the path back to it

between drooping trees.

Listening for your rustle

under bamboo,

brush of fig leaves,

feeling your step

on the porch,

natty lantana blossom

poked into your buttonhole.

We see your raised face

at both sides of a day.

How was it, you lived around

the edge of everything we did,

seasons of ailing & growing,

mountains of laundry & mail?

I am looking for you first & last

in the dark places,

when I turn my face away

from headlines at dawn,

dropping the rolled news to the floor.

Your rumble of calm

poured into me.

There was the saving grace

of care, from day one, the watching

and being watched

from every corner of the yard.

*

In “Scared, Scarred, Sacred,” the poet remembers the time her father explained the need for a bus transfer. After his death, she finds stacks of pink transfer tags in his drawer, pulled off suitcases used on long flights. (An impressionistic image of a tag dominates the front cover.)

 

Scared, Scarred, Sacred

All your life you were flying back to

your lost life….

dropping down like the Oz house.

You kept the key, as Palestinians do.

You kept the doorknocker.

And now you are homeless for real.

Fire ate your body, you became as big as

the sky.

*

Two Countries

 

Skin remembers how long the years grow

when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel

of singleness, feather lost from the tail

of a bird, swirling onto a step,

swept away by someone who never saw

it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,

slept by itself, knew how to raise a

see-you-later hand. But skin felt

it was never seen, never known as

a land on the map, nose like a city,

hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque

and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.

 

Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.

Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.

Love means you breathe in two countries.

And skin remembers–silk, spiny grass,

deep in the pocket that is skin’s secret own.

Even now, when skin is not alone,

it remembers being alone and thanks something larger

that there are travelers, that people go places

larger than themselves.

*

Member of the Tribe

 

Unfortunately it’s true.

Like it or not.

Educated or not.

This is one of the many things

Americans don’t understand about Iraq.

Kill a member of the tribe,

the whole tribe now hates you.

How could they not?

The Americans think they hate you today,

thank you tomorrow.

Tribes are like tape recorders,

they won’t forget. Don’t ask me how

Arabs kill Arabs, knowing this.

As for Afghanistan,

I don’t understand that at all.

I don’t understand so many things.

Still, we must tell what we know.

*

“When One is So Far From Home, Life is a Mix of Fact and Fiction”

 

No one should hold that against you.

It’s a means of survival.

Sometimes I thought my best talent was

taking a skinny story, adding wings and a tail.

Dressing it in a woolen Bedouin cloak

with stitching around the edges.

Putting a headdress on it.

Making a better picture.

Your mother got mad at me sometimes

for telling a story differently but it wasn’t a lie,

just a story in different clothes

with other things emphasized.

My own mother dressed up stories for 106 years

till that last winter she rode in her bed

like a boat, sitting up to sleep.

Maybe it’s our duty to be shaped

a hundred times by the same stories.

We think we’re telling them

but really they’re keeping us alive,

memory oxygen breathed out and in.

*

Different Ways to Pray

 

There was the method of kneeling,

a fine method, if you lived in a country

where stones were smooth.

The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,

hidden corners where knee fit rock.

Their prayers were weathered rib bones,

small calcium words uttered in sequence,

as if this shedding of syllables could somehow

fuse them to the sky.

 

There were the men who had been shepherds so long

they walked like sheep.

Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—

Hear us! We have pain on earth!

We have so much pain there is no place to store it!

But the olives bobbed peacefully

in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.

At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,

and were happy in spite of the pain,

because there was also happiness.

 

Some prized the pilgrimage,

wrapping themselves in new white linen

to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.

When they arrived at Mecca

they would circle the holy places,

on foot, many times,

they would bend to kiss the earth

and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

 

While for certain cousins and grandmothers

the pilgrimage occurred daily,

lugging water from the spring

or balancing the baskets of grapes.

These were the ones present at births,

humming quietly to perspiring mothers.

The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,

forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

 

There were those who didn’t care about praying.

The young ones. The ones who had been to America.

They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.

Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.

They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,

for the twig, the round moon,

to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

 

And occasionally there would be one

who did none of this,

the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,

who beat everyone at dominoes,

insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,

and was famous for his laugh.

*

Before I Was a Gazan

 

I was a boy
and my homework was missing,
paper with numbers on it,
stacked and lined,
I was looking for my piece of paper,
proud of this plus that, then multiplied,
not remembering if I had left it
on the table after showing to my uncle
or the shelf after combing my hair
but it was still somewhere
and I was going to find it and turn it in,
make my teacher happy,
make her say my name to the whole class,
before everything got subtracted
in a minute
even my uncle
even my teacher
even the best math student and his baby sister
who couldn’t talk yet.
And now I would do anything
for a problem I could solve.

*

Blood

 

“A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,”

my father would say. And he’d prove it,

cupping the buzzer instantly

while the host with the swatter stared.

 

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.

True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.

I changed these to fit the occasion.

 

Years before, a girl knocked,

wanted to see the Arab.

I said we didn’t have one.

After that, my father told me who he was,

“Shihab”—“shooting star”—

a good name, borrowed from the sky.

Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?”

He said that’s what a true Arab would say.

 

Today the headlines clot in my blood.

A little Palestinian dangles a truck on the front page.

Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root

is too big for us. What flag can we wave?

I wave the flag of stone and seed,

table mat stitched in blue.

 

I call my father, we talk around the news.

It is too much for him,

neither of his two languages can reach it.

I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,

to plead with the air:

Who calls anyone civilized? 

Where can the crying heart graze?

What does a true Arab do now?

*

Supple Cord

 

My brother, in his small white bed,

held one end.

I tugged the other

to signal I was still awake.

We could have spoken,

could have sung

to one another,

we were in the same room

for five years,

but the soft cord

with its little frayed ends

connected us

in the dark,

gave comfort

even if we had been bickering

all day.

When he fell asleep first

and his end of the cord

dropped to the floor,

I missed him terribly,

though I could hear his even breath

and we had such long and separate lives

ahead.

*

Alive

 

Dear Abby, said someone from Oregon,
I am having trouble with my boyfriend’s attachment
to an ancient gallon of milk still full
in his refrigerator. I told him it’s me or the milk,
is this unreasonable? Dear Carolyn,
my brother won’t speak to me
because fifty years ago I whispered
a monkey would kidnap him in the night
to take him back to his true family
but he should have known it was a joke
when it didn’t happen, don’t you think?
Dear Board of Education, no one will ever
remember a test. Repeat. Stories,
poems, projects, experiments,
mischief, yes, but never a test.
Dear Dog Behind the Fence, you really need
to calm down now. You have been barking every time
I walk to the compost for two years
and I have not robbed your house. Relax.
When I asked the man on the other side
if you bother him too, he smiled and said no,
he makes me feel less alone. Should I be more
worried about the dog or the man?

*

Everything in Our World Did Not Seem to Fit

 

Once they started invading us.
Taking our houses and trees, drawing lines,
pushing us into tiny places.
It wasn’t a bargain or deal or even a real war.
To this day they pretend it was.
But it was something else.
We were sorry what happened to them but
we had nothing to do with it.
You don’t think what a little plot of land means
till someone takes it and you can’t go back.
Your feet still want to walk there.
Now you are drifting worse
than homeless dust, very lost feeling.
I cried even to think of our hallway,
cool stone passage inside the door.
Nothing would fit for years.
They came with guns, uniforms, declarations.
LIFE magazine said,
“It was surprising to find some Arabs still in their houses.”
Surprising? Where else would we be?
Up in the hillsides?
Conversing with mint and sheep, digging in dirt?
Why was someone else’s need for a home
greater than our own need for our own homes
we were already living in? No one has ever been able
to explain this sufficiently. But they find
a lot of other things to talk about.

*

Famous

 

The river is famous to the fish.

 

The loud voice is famous to silence,

which knew it would inherit the earth

before anybody said so.

 

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds

watching him from the birdhouse.

 

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

 

The idea you carry close to your bosom

is famous to your bosom.

 

The boot is famous to the earth,

more famous than the dress shoe,

which is famous only to floors.

 

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it

and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

 

I want to be famous to shuffling men

who smile while crossing streets,

sticky children in grocery lines,

famous as the one who smiled back.

 

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.

*

Truth Serum

 

We made it from the ground-up corn in the old back pasture.

Pinched a scent of night jasmine billowing off the fence,

popped it right in.

That frog song wanting nothing but echo?

We used that.

Stirred it widely. Noticed the clouds while stirring.

Called upon our ancient great aunts and their long slow eyes

of summer. Dropped in their names.

Added a mint leaf now and then

to hearten the broth. Added a note of cheer and worry.

Orange butterfly between the claps of thunder?

Perfect. And once we had it,

had smelled and tasted the fragrant syrup,

placing the pan on a back burner for keeping,

the sorrow lifted in small ways.

We boiled down the lies in another pan till they disappeared.

We washed that pan.

*

Burning the Old Year

 

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.

 

So much of any year is flammable,

lists of vegetables, partial poems.

Orange swirling flame of days,

so little is a stone.

 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.

I begin again with the smallest numbers.

 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,

only the things I didn’t do

crackle after the blazing dies.

*

Where Are You Now?

 

I position my head on the pillow

where you told your last folktale,

mixing donkey, camel, mouse,

journey, kitchen, trees,

so the story grew jumbled,

uncharacteristically long.

I listened from the other small bed

thinking, not about the story, but,

it’s the last one I’ll hear from this voice,

remembering two and four and six

when this voice calmed me every night,

thinking, how will I live without this voice?

At one point, you hallucinated.

Politics came in, a rare speck

of religion, even a bad nurse

you’d had at the clinic,

frustration of long illness

tangling with the tale,

Oh Dad, you’ve been so brave,

to which you replied,

What else can I do?

and returned to the comforting

donkey, bucket of olives,

smoke curling up from twig fire

over which anyone, a lost girl,

a wanderer, a dying man,

could warm his hands.

*

What is Supposed to Happen

 

When you were small,
we watched you sleeping,
waves of breath
filling your chest.
Sometimes we hid behind
the wall of baby, soft cradle
of baby needs.
I loved carrying you between
my own body and the world.

Now you are sharpening pencils,
entering the forest of
lunch boxes, little desks.
People I never saw before
call out your name
and you wave.

This loss I feel,
this shrinking,
as your field of roses
grows and grows….

Now I understand history.
Now I understand my mother’s
ancient eyes.

*

 

Denied, Deported, Detained

Statue of Liberty Dreams of Emma Lazarus, Awakens with Tears on her Cheeks

Give me your tired, your poor…
But not too tired, not too poor.
And we will give you the red tape,
the long line, white bread in its wrapper,
forms to fill out, and the looks, the stares
that say you are not where or what you should be,
not quirw, not yet, you will never live up to
us.

Your huddled masses yearning to be free…
Can keep huddling. Even here. Sorry to say this.
Neighborhoods with poor drainage
Potholes, stunning gunshots…
You’ll teem here too.

You dreamed a kinder place, a tree
no one would cut, a cabinet to store your clothes.
Simple jobs brining payment on time.
Someone to stand up for you.
The way I used to do, for everyone. Holding my torch
to get you to your new home in this country stitched
of immigrants from the get-go…
But you would always be homesick. No one said that.

I was the doorkeeper, concierge, welcome chief,
But rules have changed and I’m bouncer at the big club.
Had no say in it, hear me? Any chance I could be, again,
the one I used to be?

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
It’s still up high. At night I tuck it into my robe.
And worry. What will happen to you?
Every taunt, every turn-around,
hand it over. That’s not what you came here for.
I’ll fold it into my rubbing rad,
Bring back a shine.

*

My Body Is a Mystery
My body is a mystery
a magical geography of skin
It keeps me in

And I travel in it everywhere
sometimes it seems to beat me there
and then we meet again
Oh my eyes are the windows
And my face is the sky
And my legs are the trees that hold me
My hands are the branches and my head is a box
and I spend my lifetime picking locks

My body is a symphony
a tuba and a piccolo and drum
I hear some drum

And it sometimes seems to beat so low
And other times it makes me want to run
and then I have to run

Oh my blood is the music
and my voice finds the notes
And my lungs are conductors singing One! Two!
And I sometimes lose the melody but I
never lose the dream
of the songs that might come through

Because my body is a mystery
a magical geography of skin
that keeps me in
And I travel in it everywhere
sometimes it seems to beat me there and then
We meet again
Oh we always meet again

*

1935

 

You’re 8 in the photograph,

standing behind a table of men

dipping bread in hummus.

You spoke inside

my head the moment before I saw it.

Now the picture hangs beside my desk, holding

layered lost worlds where

you are, not only the person I knew

but the person before the person I knew,

in your universe, your life’s possible story

still smiling.”

*

Daily
These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky

This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it

The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world

*

Burning the Old Year 

 

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.

 

So much of any year is flammable,

lists of vegetables, partial poems.

Orange swirling flame of days,

so little is a stone.

 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.

I begin again with the smallest numbers.

 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,

only the things I didn’t do

crackle after the blazing dies.

 

*
You Have to Be Careful

You have to be careful telling things.
Some ears are tunnels.
Your words will go in and get lost in the dark.
Some ears are flat pans like the miners used
looking for gold.
What you say will be washed out with the stones.
You look for a long time till you find the right ears.
Till then, there are birds and lamps to be spoken to,
a patient cloth rubbing shine in circles,
and the slow, gradually growing possibility
that when you find such ears
they already know.

 

*

The Rider

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

*

One Boy Told Me

 

Music lives inside my legs.

It’s coming out when I talk.

 

I’m going to send my valentines

to people you don’t even know.

 

Oatmeal cookies make my throat gallop.

 

Grown-ups keep their feet on the ground

when they swing. I hate that.

 

Look at those 2 o’s with a smash in the middle—

that spells good-bye.

 

Don’t ever say “purpose” again,

let’s throw the word out.

 

Don’t talk big to me.

I’m carrying my box of faces.

If I want to change faces I will.

 

Yesterday faded

but tomorrow’s in boldface.

 

When I grow up my old names

will live in the house

where we live now.

I’ll come and visit them.

 

Only one of my eyes is tired.

The other eye and my body aren’t.

 

Is it true all metal was liquid first?

Does that mean if we bought our car earlier

they could have served it

in a cup?

 

There’s a stopper in my arm

that’s not going to let me grow any bigger.

I’ll be like this always, small.

 

And I will be deep water too.

Wait. Just wait. How deep is the river?

Would it cover the tallest man with his hands in the air?

 

Your head is a souvenir.

 

When you were in New York I could see you

in real life walking in my mind.

 

I’ll invite a bee to live in your shoe.

What if you found your shoe

full of honey?

 

What if the clock said 6:92

instead of 6:30? Would you be scared?

 

My tongue is the car wash

for the spoon.

 

Can noodles swim?

 

My toes are dictionaries.

Do you need any words?

 

From now on I’ll only drink white milk

on January 26.

 

What does minus mean?

I never want to minus you.

 

Just think—no one has ever seen

inside this peanut before!

 

It is hard being a person.

 

I do and don’t love you—

isn’t that happiness?

*

Driving Back

People do not
pass away.

They die,
and then

they stay.

*

Over the Weather

We forget about the spaciousness
above the clouds

but it’s up there.The sun’s up there too.

When words we hear don’t fit the day,
when we worry
what we did or didn’t do,
what if we close our eyes,
say any word we love
that makes us feel calm,
slip it into the atmosphere
and rise?

Creamy miles of quiet.
Giant swoop of blue.

*

Valentine For Ernest Mann

 

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.

Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”

and expect it to be handed back to you

on a shiny plate.

 

Still, I like your spirit.

Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,

write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.

So I’ll tell a secret instead:

poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,

they are sleeping. They are the shadows

drifting across our ceilings the moment

before we wake up. What we have to do

is live in a way that lets us find them.

 

Once I knew a man who gave his wife

two skunks for a valentine.

He couldn’t understand why she was crying.

“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”

And he was serious. He was a serious man

who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly

just because the world said so. He really

liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them

as valentines and they became beautiful.

At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding

in the eyes of skunks for centuries

crawled out and curled up at his feet.

 

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us

we find poems. Check your garage, the off sock

in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.

And let me know.

*

Burning the Old Year 

 

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.

 

So much of any year is flammable,

lists of vegetables, partial poems.

Orange swirling flame of days,

so little is a stone.

 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.

I begin again with the smallest numbers.

 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,

only the things I didn’t do

crackle after the blazing dies.

 

Advertisements

Jordan Peterson quotes

 

 

Jordan Peterson quotes

Here are some notes I have culled, mostly from the youtube talks by Jordan Peterson. The bits that struck a chord with me. The quotes below may have been taken out of context, and edited somewhat, so that they are more or less comprehensible. Dr. Jordan B Peterson is a professor and clinical psychologist at the psychology department, University of Toronto.

* * *

“There’s something about the human being – whatever it is that makes us conscious that interacts with the chaotic potential that constitutes reality and extracts out from that the order within which we live and that there’s something divine about that, and that’s the value of the human being.

“The idea that each individual – even criminals, murderers & the worst and most reprehensible people have to be treated with the respect due a divinity because we partake in the capacity to extract habitable order from chaos with our consciousness, with our speech and with our capacity to communicate and we recognize insofar as we each recognize the other as valuable. It’s predicated on that observation we each have something to offer each other and something vital, and you know that if you engage in a real conversation with someone – a meaningful conversation that suspends your sense of fragile mortality for a moment – you understand that in that communication between people, something of inestimable value emerges that you have to pursue and if you live for that, you live for that relationship with yourself. You live for the discovery of that relationship when you’re engaged in an artistic pursuit. It’s the core of meaning in life, and it’s not an illusion. In fact it’s a manifestation of the highest functions of your nervous system because what your nervous system does is signal to you that you’re in a place and time that you cannot see when you’re engaged in something meaningful you need comes upon you and it’s secure for the catastrophes of tragic mortality that wonderful engagement in what’s meaningful that you do you can and do experience and that you can get better at experiencing if you practice and that’s because your nervous system which has evolved over billions of years has learned to tell you when you’re standing on the border between chaos and order and keeping them in balance and that’s what manifests itself is meaningful and that’s the same phenomena that’s referred to in the creation stories in Genesis and it’s the same idea that’s reflected in the strange Christian assistance that the thing that saves mankind.

Viktor Frankl came through the Nazi prison camps and he developed logotherapy as a consequence of that. The principles of logotherapy were laid forth in his book man’s search for meaning, and one of Frankel’s propositions was essentially that because life is suffering, and can be unbearable suffering, that it’s necessary for people to have our countervailing meaning to buttress themselves against the tragedy of existence. Frankel basically claimed, and this is an existential claim, that if you that you could find that meaning in collective belief, but that there were terrible dangers associated with that.

Conscientiousness keeps your neuroticism in check. So clean your room, establish disciplined habits, get up and go to bed at the same time.

Disciplining yourself: wanting to do something positive with your life – making your own life better.

Our true path should be something like: Imagine the noblest aim that you can conceptualize and then sacrifice your life to attempting to attain it.

Everything that there is in the world at any given moment is right where you are, so pay attention!

If you really want s t you’ll make the sacrifice for it, so unless you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, you don’t really want it.

Life is suffering, right, indisputable, what do you do about that? You voluntarily accept it and then strive to overcome the suffering. You do that in a way that makes it better for other people and then one question might be how well does it work and the answer is that the only way that you can find out is by trying. That’s the extension element of it – the proof is to be derived by the incarnation of the attitude in your own life. No one can tell you how it will work for you, it’s your destiny to discover that and you have to make the decisions to begin with. It’s like because you can’t do this without commitment – you have to commit to it first – that’s the act of faith that the Kierkegaard was so insistent upon. You have to say I’m going to act as if being is good, I’m going to act as if truth is the pathway to enlightenment, I’m going to act as if I should pursue the deepest meaning possible in my life and there’s reasons to do none of those -they’re real reasons, so it’s really a decision. But you can’t find out what the consequence of the decision is unless you make the decision.

The culture that we grow up around has to be given its due respect because we owe everything to it, because it shapes us into everything we value.

You’re all in no matter what you do. You’re all in*. This is going to kill you, so I think you might as well play the most magnificent game you can while you’re waiting, because you don’t have anything better to do really.

Why not pick the best thing possible that you could do? Why not do that? Maybe you could justify your wretched existence to yourself that way.

[*To be fully committed to a task or endeavor; to give or be prepared to   give all of one’s energy or resources toward something]

Find something better to do. Set your sights high, make a plan, figure out who you could be, and see if the obsessive use of a smart-phone (or whatever) fits into that vision of nobility.

The more you sacrifice the more potential you gain.

By absorbing that information, which is learning, essentially you build yourself into a different person – a stronger and more informed person. Also a more a more intact person – a person with more integrity and with more strength and with more direction, and at the same time you differentiate your map so you’re living more and more in the real world. So as you approach your specific goal, even if it’s a culturally conditioned goal, the learning that you do along the way transforms you and it transforms the nature of your goal. Things shine forth – there’s a reason for that, and you know that because when you’re attending to something you’re interested in, and you’re engaged, that’s when you’re alive and that’s when life is worthwhile. It’s so worthwhile that in those moments you don’t even ask the question about it. The question itself goes away because the meaning that you’re united with is so powerful that it can push back the adversity that would otherwise characterize life. Nietzsche said the person who has a ‘why’ can bear any ‘how’ and that’s a really useful thing to know because you think, “Well we’re very vulnerable creatures in our life, and catastrophically and terrible things happen, and how can we bear that?” And the answer to that is and always has been that you have to be in sync with it, it’s the resurrection stone it’s up to you…  It’s a diamond, it’s a jewel, the idea is that if you follow the thing that manifests itself to you is interesting it will lead you through adversity you’ll lead yourself to do things that are difficult, but not beyond your capacity because it’s tempered for that, and what will happen is as you hit yourself against the world pursuing what you’re interested in, you’ll tap yourself into alignment – your molecules, your structure, internal structure, will become non-contradictory like the internal structure of a jewel which is something that reflects light that makes you hard and durable and able to bear the terrible conditions of existence without becoming corrupt. TS Eliot said something about this: “we shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time.” That’s a five line summary of the most remarkable elaboration of the nature of the relationship between individual human consciousness and reality itself -that’s to follow what you’re interested in and it’ll take you over adversity and then through it, it’ll transform you from a citizen into an individual and then the doors will open again and at that point you’re strong enough to have your life and at that point you’re strong enough not to fall prey to pathological belief systems.

You need to know that which you want to sacrifice so that you set yourself down a path which interests you. Your nervous system gives you flags letting you know that which is truly necessary because without out you just can’t live without it. What are you sacrificing to become that which you want to be most and what is it that you want to become? As you work towards that which you are most interested the parts of life that seem dull disappear and you become so immersed in that thing, you transform yourself into something that has so much experience in the world that you bring yourself into an alignment that is no longer self- contradictory.

Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.

How to make yourself more productive and smarter? Get up early in the morning and get to work.

Jordan Peterson says:

You take people and you expose them voluntarily to things that they are avoiding and are afraid of and know they need to overcome in order to meet their self defined goals, if you can teach people to stand up in the face of the things they’re afraid of they get stronger. You don’t know what the upper limits to that are because you might ask yourself if for 10 years you didn’t avoid doing what you knew you needed to do by your own definitions within the value structure that you’ve created to the degree that you’ve done that what would you be like? well you know there are remarkable people who come into the world from time to time and there are people who do find out over what they could be like if they were who they were. We do not know the limits to that and so you ask yourself well what would happen if you just stop wasting the opportunities that are in front of you – who knows how much more efficient you’d be?

WORK:

Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. Jordan Peterson

Don’t avoid doing what you know you need to do.

Expose yourself voluntarily to things that you are avoiding and are afraid of and know you need to overcome in order to meet your self-defined goals. If you learn to stand up in the face of the things you’re afraid of you get stronger.

I made mine (rules). And so can you. I’ve been as happy as I can be ever since.

I think you can find what compels you and what might enable you to live in a high quality manner despite the suffering that’s associated with life. I think you can discover that and I think part of the way you discover that is by watching yourself and learning when it is that you’re meaningfully engaged. You have to notice that it’s something that happens to you in some sense rather than something that you do. You have to notice when you’re meaningfully engaged and then you have to work to expand the amount of time that you spend in that state.

I would say that if you’re going to set up your life so that you maximize your meaningful engagement there’s a number of other things that you have to do at the same time, and one of those is that you have to get very clear about who you are and what you’re doing.

I think that one of the things that you have to do if you’re going to attempt to maximize meaningful engagement is that you also have to do such things as endeavour to stop deceiving yourself and other people in every way you possibly can.

There are things that you can do, find yourself engaged with the world at such a level that your existential concerns could disappear. And we can even understand that biochemically, to some degree, because if you’re really interested in something you get a dopamine release – an exploratory dopamine release. That’s great!

Arrogance, deceit and resentment lead to ruin.

You have to notice when you’re meaningfully engaged. What is meaningfully engaging? Maximize and concentrate on that. Notice when you’re meaningfully engaged. Then you have to work to expand the amount of time that you spend in that state. So, watch yourself and learn when you’re meaningfully engaged. Get very clear about who you are and what you’re doing.

On being ideologically possessed: “You can predict absolutely everything someone is going to say. Once you know the algorithmic substructure of their political ideology – which is usually predicated on 5 or 6 axioms – you can use the axioms to automatically generate speech content. You don’t even have to hear the person, you can just predict what they’re going to say. That alleviates any responsibility whatsoever they have for thinking, and it also allows them to believe that they have full control and knowledge about the entire world, and also the capacity to distinguish, without a moment’s thought, between those who are on the side of the good, and those who are not. And that’s where the danger really comes.”

Pathway to a Meaningful Life: aiming at the good, telling the truth, and adopting responsibility.

If people shouldered their responsibility, the problem of meaning would vanish.

Happy means things are going well in terms of progression to your goal. Stop makes you anxious, and reverse makes you frustrated. We look at life through a motivated lens. The way the world looks depends on what you want.

If you don’t know where to go, then there’s no point in going anywhere.

Not knowing what to…[to do/what you want?] hurts you, it damages you and can kill you. It’ll make you age, fat, and give you diabetes etc.

You can tell it if you have a memory that’s more than 18 months old approximately, and when you pull that memory up to mind, if you still have an emotional reaction that means you haven’t fully articulated the memory. You haven’t analyzed it causally and you haven’t you haven’t freed yourself from its grasp. You’re carrying it like a weight and your brain responds to that suggesting to Millennials that instead of rushing out there to change the world by changing other bad people, they should look inward and sort themselves out properly.

Consider that what you don’t know as redemptive. What you know now is what you know. How is your life now? Is it satisfactory?

What are the most valuable things everyone should know?

Tell the truth.
Do not do things that you hate.
Act so that you can tell the truth about how you act.
Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.
If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things.
Pay attention.
Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you need to know. Listen to them hard enough so that they will share it with you.
Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationships.
Be careful who you share good news with.
Be careful who you share bad news with.
Make at least one thing better every single place you go.
Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.
Do not allow yourself to become arrogant or resentful.
Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible.
Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.
If old memories still make you cry, write them down carefully and completely.
Maintain your connections with people.
Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement.
Treat yourself as if you were someone that you are responsible for helping.
Ask someone to do you a small favour, so that he or she can ask you to do one in the future.
Make friends with people who want the best for you.
Do not try to rescue someone who does not want to be rescued, and be very careful about rescuing someone who does.
Nothing well done is insignificant.
Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
Dress like the person you want to be.
Be precise in your speech.
Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
Don’t avoid something frightening if it stands in your way — and don’t do unnecessarily dangerous things.
Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
Do not transform your wife into a maid.
Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.
Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.
Read something written by someone great.
Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.
Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.
Don’t let bullies get away with it.
Write a letter to the government if you see something that needs fixing — and propose a solution.
Remember that what you do not yet know is more important than what you already know.
Be grateful in spite of your suffering.

* * *

The fool is close to the truth because you can’t learn anything new unless you’re willing to be a fool. When you try something new you’re always a fool, so unless you’re willing to be a fool you can’t learn anything new. You’re a worse fool if you don’t try it, so you have to be fallible in order to progress. You have to master a new skill, but you’re avoiding it because you know you’ll be bad at it when you first do it. If you’re a perfectionist you tell yourself you can’t allow yourself to be bad at anything – to be a fool.

Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.

If you take people and you expose them voluntarily to things that they are avoiding and are afraid of, you know that they know they need to overcome in order to meet their goals or self to find gold, if you can teach people to stand up in the face of the things they’re afraid of they get stronger. You don’t know what the upper limits to that are because you might ask yourself: if for ten years if you didn’t avoid doing what you knew you needed to do by your own definitions, right within the value structure that you’ve created, to the degree that you’ve done that; what would you be like? Well you know there are remarkable people who come into the world from time to time and there are people who do find out over decades, long periods what they could be like and they’d get stronger and stronger and stronger and we don’t know the limits to that.

Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.

Whatever a person values most highly is their god. If people think they are atheistic, it means is they are unconscious of their gods.

The truth buttresses you against the vicissitudes of being – that’s your salvation

Even the fundamentalists have the wrong idea about religious truth. Religious truth is not scientific truth. The stories in Genesis, which are very old stories, maybe tens of thousands of years old—they’re obviously not scientific theories, because the people who wrote them weren’t scientists…these stories, they come up everywhere, there’s no avoiding them, and it’s because they’re true, but they’re not true like scientific truths. They’re a behavioral truth, or a pragmatic truth, or a dramatic truth—and part of the reason why our society is so damn unstable now, and part of the reason why all of this weird chaos is emerging…this is a consequence of Nietzsche’s observation back in the late 1800’s about the death of God. We blew the metaphysical foundations out from underneath our culture, and the whole thing is shaking and twisting.

Jung said that science is nested in a dream. The dream is that if we investigated the structures of material reality with sufficient attention and truth, that we could then learn enough about material reality to then alleviate suffering: To produce the philosopher’s stone – to make everybody wealthy, to make everybody healthy, to make everyone live as long as they wanted to live or perhaps forever. That’s the goal – to alleviate the catastrophe of existence. The idea that the solutions to the mysteries of life that enable us to develop such a substance, or multitude of substances, provided the motive force for the development of science. Jung traced that development of the motive force to over the period of 1,000 years. Jung went back into alchemical texts and interpreted them as if they were the dream upon which science was founded.

It’s certainly possible that the terrible truth is its own remedy.

We seem to encounter the world as a field of possibility from which we extract out choices.

Jung said at one point that people don’t think so much as thoughts appear in their heads and they believe them.

Life can be meaningful enough to justify its suffering.

Watch your metaphors, folks, because it isn’t clear whether you come up with them or they run you so you better watch them.

There’s no better way to bring better being into being than by speaking the truth.

You’re much better off confronting your fears than waiting for them to find you.

The way we’re constructed neurophysiologically is that we don’t experience any positive emotion unless we have an aim and we can see ourselves progressing toward that aim.

Pain argues for itself. I think of pain as the fundamental reality because no one disputes it.

If you’re terrified of mortality, terrified of vulnerability, there’s always the possibility that the life path that you’re following isn’t rich enough to buffer you against the negative element of existence.

No one can tolerate being alone for any length of time. We can’t maintain our own sanity without continual feedback from other people.

We need to know where we’re going and why. All we’re ever concerned about, roughly speaking, is where we’re going. That’s what we need to know. Where are we going, what are we doing, and why? And that is not the same question as what is the world made of objectively.

Don’t use past tragedies as an excuse to not move forward in your life. That excuse is counter-productive. No nostalgia for catastrophe. There’s no excuse for not getting at what you should be doing.

Follow what you’re interested in and it’ll take you over adversity and then it’ll transform you from a citizen into an individual and then the doors will open again and at that point you’re strong enough to have your life and also not fall prey to pathological belief systems.

Everybody acts out a myth, but very few people know what their myth is. You should know what your myth is, because it might be a tragedy, and maybe you don’t want it to be. It means that at every point in time, we are acting out a myth, and it’s necessary for us to identify what it is. How do we go about doing this?

That sacrificial issue is so important because you are not committed to something unless you’re willing to sacrifice for it. Commitment and sacrifice are the same thing, and I think it it borders on miraculous that those concepts are embedded into this narrative at the level of dramatic action. Instead of abstract explanation people are acting this out and then the fundamental conception is so profound that it’s really quite inspiring, it’s breathtaking really when you understand what message is trying to be conveyed. You have to make sacrifices . What do you have to sacrifice? You have to sacrifice that which is most valuable to you currently that’s stopping you and god only knows what that is. It’s certainly the worst of you, it’s certainly that, and god only knows to what degree you’re in love with the worst of you so well, you move from the unbearable present to the ideal future and you can’t help that.

The fundamental lesson is not to let what you are stop you from being what you could be. So then the question is what do you identify with? If you identify with what you are, then you’re a tyrant & if you identify with chaos because, that’s the opposite of order, then you’re nihilistic. You know that they’re both necessary, you know that you have to live with both of them but would you identify with the capacity to continually transcend what you are and then seek out error?

Don’t look back; follow the good: “Look at the terrible thing that’s just happened to me!” You think you’re absolved of any necessity to move forward because of your current catastrophe. It’s like, well actually you’re not, and it’s rather rude of you to use it as an excuse and it’s certainly counterproductive.

Bereft of solutions, I had at least been granted the gift of a problem.

Buy a piece of art you know, find one that really speaks to you and buy a piece of art because you invite that into your life. And if you do – if it’s a real piece of art – because you’ll also get a little introduction to the artist – and then that will seep into your life, and that’ll change things like mad. But it’s really unbelievably worth it because it opens your eyes to the domain of the transcendent. That’s the right way of thinking about a real piece of art, it’s a window into the transcendent – that’s what it is, and you need that in your life because you’re finite and limited and bounded by your ignorance and your lack of knowing, and unless you can make a connection to the transcendent you don’t have the strength to prevail.

Nothing is more real than terror and pain.

If you want something what does it mean to want it, and what it means is to sacrifice whatever is necessary to get it because otherwise you don’t want it. You don’t want something unless you’re willing to sacrifice for it, and if you don’t want it you’re not going to get it because you’re scattered, but if you do want it and you make the proper sacrifices then god only knows what might happen.

So, if you straighten yourself out and aim at what you want, and make the proper sacrifices, your life will turn out in the manner that you might want it to turn out. If you don’t make the effort you will fail! It isn’t in anyone else’s purview to make that judgment – the only person that can possibly figure that out is you it’s something that can’t be stolen from you I would say it’s your destiny – it’s a destiny that cannot be stolen from you. You can forego it – you can say well I’m not willing to put in the effort because what if I fail? Well, first of all if you don’t put in the effort you will fail because life is hard and it takes everything out of you to do it properly, so you will fail . . . and if you make the proper sacrifices you might fail that’s why I like the ambiguity in the story of Cain and Abel.

The sense of meaning that life can provide to you is proportionate to the amount of responsibility you decide to take on.

The dream is something that extends you beyond where you already are – that’s why it isn’t verbally fought – it’s something else, it’s like a pseudo part that’s going out into the unknown. That’s what art is, and the artists who subsume the artistic vision to the ideological framework are putting the cart before the horse. It’s like the ultimate and creative sin to do that because you’re harnessing the greater to the lesser. You understand things and you could tell a story about what you understand. . . it’s like Oh no, you tell a story about what you don’t understand, and then you pull everyone into the story – the story’s an exploration in that way, and you know, that’s why I don’t really think that Ayn Rand qualifies as literature. I liked her books – I got into them, but she knew what she was saying, and you can tell because all of her good characters are the same character they have different bodies, but they’re the same people and all the bad people are the same people and they’re all voices for a political viewpoint and, you know, she does weave them into that heroic plot, and that redeems it to some degree, but she’s not Dostoevsky. What Dostoyevsky did, and he was the greatest novelist that ever lived as far as I’m concerned, he didn’t know the answer when he started writing and so he’d have one character stand for one set of principles and ideas and another character stand for another and he would develop those to the fullest extent and put them in a battlefield.

The thing about not lying is that lies make you weak, and you can feel it. It’s the antithesis of meaning, I would say, because meaning is associated with the truth. So, if you’re lying, you’re at the opposite pole of that. That’s the deceit part, and it makes you weak. You think, “Well, I’ll lie and I’ll get away with it.”  It’s like, no you won’t! You cannot get away with warping the structure of being. Well, that’s why the arrogance comes in – it’s like well, I can lie and get away with it. It’s like, I see here’s your theory: There’s all this reality around you that you don’t comprehend at all, and there’s not that much of you – there’s a lot of it – mm-hmm and you’re going to do something that isn’t in harmony with that, and it’s going to work. That’s your theory… Well, it’s part of it. You can’t! You can get away with it for a short period of time. Right, so you think, “Well, I’ve got away with it so far. . . . it’s like yeah, it’s like that funny line in The Simpsons. Bart comes up to Homer and says, “Dad this is the worst day of my life.” and Homer says, “Yeah the worst day of your life, so far your life, so far. Yeah, just. . .”

You can’t have the conversation about rights without the conversation about responsibility because your rights are my responsibility… and then the question is what are you leaving out if you’re leaving out responsibility. And the answer might be well maybe you’re leaving out the meaning of life.

If I can’t say what I think, then I don’t get to think, and if I can’t think then I can’t orient myself in the world, and if I can’t do that, then I’m going to fall into a pit and take everyone else with me.

People mostly think by talking. Not only do they think by talking, but they correct their thoughts by talking. If you deprive people of the right to think, then you doom them to suffering. You doom their stupidity of its right to die. You should allow your thoughts to be cast away into the fire — instead of you.

I’m very upset by the criticism — very, very upset, but I know what the consequences of failing to engage in the necessary conflict are — and those consequences are worse. To speak words that others told me to speak is to kowtow to a corrupt ideology and would break the part of me that is useful in the world.

We are all monsters and if you don’t know that, then you are in danger of becoming the very monster that you deny.

Men’s stress levels are very high. I’m telling them something they desperately need to hear — that there are important things that need to be fixed up. I’m saying, “You guys really need to get your act together and you need to bear some responsibility and grow the hell up.”

The message I’ve been delivering is, “Find the heaviest weight you can and pick it up. And that will make you strong. You’re not who you could be. And who you could be is worthwhile.”

Some of the young men who come to my lectures are desperately hanging on every word because I am telling them that they are sinful, and insufficient, and deceitful and contemptible in their current form, but that they could be far more than that, and that the world NEEDS THAT. This presents an ideal that can be approached and life without that is intolerable. It’s just meaningless suffering and that’s true if you have all the cake you can eat and all the girls you can have one-night stands with.

Don’t apologise for what you think.

You know if you are aiming at something worthwhile, and you really believe that it is worthwhile, and you have thought it through, you know, so that you are not weak, and you’ve got your damn arguments mustered, then when you make progress – even a little bit – you think, ‘Hey, that’s alright!’ and you get a little kick, a little dopamine kick. That’s what you want, because that’s where your positive emotion comes from. You can use cocaine if you want, but ha, but that tends to have a relatively detrimental medium to long term consequences. But it activates the same system, so you have to aim at something, and you should be aiming at something that’s realistic, that you want, that you could get. You know, like not easy, because if it’s easy, in some sense you have already got it. It’s got to push you, and that’s part of the pleasure actually because there are two things that you want to do when you are pursuing something that’s important, and one of them is to get the thing that is important. But the other is to make yourself better at pursuing things, right? So you can get both of those at the same time. You’re aiming at something and increasing your competence at the same time. It’s like, that’s a good deal! That’s a good deal and there’s a lot of intrinsic meaning to be felt in that. You could write out a plan. How you are going to do it and how you are going to keep yourself on track? You could write about why it would be good for you if you did this, and also why it would be good for your family…

At one point, we are told that “expedience is cowardly, and shallow, and wrong” and “meaning is what emerges beautifully and profoundly like a newly formed rosebud opening itself out of nothingness into the light of sun and God.

Don’t blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your enemies. Don’t reorganise the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your own household, how dare you try to rule a city?”

Start by doing it badly. I tell people to do something haphazardly, a tiny bit at a time and badly…because you can do that! You have something and then you can fix it, you can iterate and fix that bad first draft, or whatever, that’s the most valuable thing. You need a bad first draft of yourself, and there’s an idea that Jung developed about the trickster and the Jester, or the comedian. The trickster is the precursor to the saviour – that’s one of the things I learned from Jung. It was just so unlikely, it’s so amazing that the satyrical in the ironic and the troublemaker …that the comedian, the fool is the precursor to the saviour. Why? Because you’re a fool when you start something new, and so if you’re not willing to be a fool then you’ll never start anything new, and if you never start anything new that you won’t develop. So the willingness to be a fool is the precursor to transformation, and that’s the same as humility, and so if you’re gonna write your destiny you can do a bad first job and you’re gonna get smarter as you move forward. That’s the thing! So, when something beckons to you that’s what happens. Maybe the star that Geppetto wished on was the wrong damn star, but at least it was a star –at least it was in the sky and at least it moved him forward. So if something in your life grips you and fills you with interest and you think, “Well, should I do that?” …the answer is if not that, then something. What if it’s a mistake? It’s a mistake rest assured, what do you know? You’re gonna stumble around, right, and what’s gonna happen is this? You’re gonna move to… you’re not gonna stay in stasis, you’re not gonna wander around in circles, and I see people that said, “Well I never knew what to do and now I’m 40 it’s not so good…Well, there is literature that suggests that people are a lot more unhappy when they look back in their lives about the things they didn’t do about the mistakes they made while they were doing things and so because there’s redemptive mistakes, and a redemptive mistake would be a mistake that you make when you go out and try to do something and you actually think, ”Okay I’m gonna try to do this.” and you’re not good at it. You make a bunch of mistakes …it’s like, “What’s the consequence if you pay attention?” is you’re not quite so stupid anymore. The thing is you’ve been informed by the results of your errors, and so what happens is you follow the beacon, you follow the light. You’re blind, so you don’t know where the light is. It’s dimly apprehended only, and you’re afraid to follow it but you decide to take some stumbling steps towards it and as you take stumbling steps towards it you become illuminated and enlightened and informed because of the nature of your experience, because you’re pushing yourself beyond where you are and you’re going into the country that you have not yet been in and you learn something.

Even though you’ve travelled 20 miles, let’s say, on that road and you’ve only moved 3 miles forward. You’ve moved three miles forward instead of falling backwards because the thing, too, is that if you stand still you fall backwards. You cannot stand still because the world moves away from you. If you stand still and there’s no stasis, there’s only backwards and so if you’re not moving forwards then you’re moving backwards and that’s more of the underlying truth of the Matthew principle: ‘To those who have everything more will be given, from those who have nothing everything will be taken.’ It’s a warning do not stay in one place. So, as you zig and zag maybe, then maybe the cataclysm of each transformation starts to lessen and there’s not so much of you that has to die with every mistake and maybe you end up oriented at least reasonably properly and if you were sensible that would have been your trip. As you stumble forward you illuminate and inform yourself and as the world is made of information, and if you encounter it and tangle with it, then it informs you and then you become informed and then you’re in formation and then you’re ready.

What you don’t know is more important than what you know. Then what you don’t know can start to be your friend.

If you listen to people, they’ll tell you amazing things that you can use in the future. Listening is a transformative exercise, ‘cos if you really listen to people in your life, for example, they’ll tell you what’s wrong with them and how to fix it, and what they want.

Do you want to be right, or do you want to be learning? That is, do you want to be the tyrannical king who’s already got everything figured out, or do you want to be the continually transforming hero, or fool, who’s getting better all the time?

I think it’s a miracle when the lights are on, and the reason it’s a miracle when the lights are on is because it’s not the natural state of the lights to be on. The natural state of things is to fall apart and not to work, and yet the lights work all the time. Our great societies work, and they work magnificently, and that doesn’t mean they’re perfect – but nothing is perfect – and you don’t throw away the wheat with the chaff.

It’s not that you should be proud of your culture. It’s like, no you shouldn’t be proud of your culture! You should bloody well recognize that it’s got some things right and that all of your good fortune is dependent on that, and then you should take the utmost responsibility for continuing to play the damn game properly. You should have enough sense to be grateful for all the sacrifice that was made by all those people that came before you so that you could end up being the beneficiary of this eminently playable game. Well, what are the rules of the game? There’s an idea in Genesis, this is the foundational story of Western culture that Being emerged from something like potential from chaos as a consequence of God’s use of language, the logos. Logos is the deepest idea of the West and that means something like ‘clear, competent, truthful, communicative endeavour’.

You can jointly engage in the endeavour to bring forth the habitable order that is good from the chaos of potential. When we insist that the immigrants who come to our countries to become beneficiaries of the game that we’re playing and follow the rules, we are not merely saying we have a culture you have a culture; you’re in our culture so you should follow our rules. What we’re saying instead is we have inherited a culture and it seems to work, and it works well enough so that we’re happy to be here and many people would like to be. If you want to come to our culture and be a beneficiary of the game, then you have to abide by the rules that produce the game. We’re not saying that you have to do it because it’s ours or because we’re proud of it, or because in some sense we’re right as individuals, or even as a culture. We’re saying it because we’ve been fortunate to enough to observe what the rules that make a functional society actually are, and sensible enough to thank God most of the time to follow them well enough so that there are a few countries on the planet that aren’t absolute pits of catastrophe. Now I didn’t know what to say about immigration when I decided to give this talk, but I don’t think it matters because there are many complex things that can be said about immigration, about many of the problems that face us. But there’s a ‘Medic’ question which is not how do you solve a difficult question, but how do you solve the set of all possible difficult questions. The answer to that is quite straightforward: speak the truth and play fair, and that works. So I’ve been communicating that as diligently as I can for the last three decades, predicated on my observation that we got some things right that we should do better with it even, and that if we transformed ourselves each and every one into better people predicated on the observation of that core identity that we would then become collectively the sort of people who could probably solve any problem that was put to them no matter what its magnitude. So what I was hoping to do today to set off this discussion about identity and immigration in Europe in the 21st century is to say, ‘Be the sort of people that can generate the proper solutions and then perhaps the solutions will arise of their own accord.’ Thank you.

You have to be alert when you’re suffering. You have to be alert to the beauty in life, the unexpected beauty in life. You have to look for those little bits, of that little bit of sparkling crystal in the darkness when things are bad. You have to look and see where things are still beautiful and where there’s still something that’s sustaining and, you know, you narrow your timeframe and you’d be grateful for what you have, and that can get you through some very dark times and maybe even successfully if you’re lucky.

The central figure of Western culture is Christ, and we can look at that psychologically because Christ is the dying and resurrecting hero. What does that mean psychologically? Well, it means that you learn things painfully, and when you learn something painfully a part of you has to die. That’s the pain you know when a dream is shattered, for example. A huge part of you that constituted that dream, maybe even the biological substrate of that gene has to be stripped away and burned, and so life is a constant process of death and rebirth. And to participate in that fully is to allow yourself to be redeemed by it, and so the good is that process of death and rebirth voluntarily undertaken. It’s like you’re not as good as you could be, so you let that part of you die. Until the entire world is redeemed, we all fall short.

***

The Jordan Peterson Moment 

Opinion by David Brooks, Jan. 25, 2018

My friend Tyler Cowen argues that Jordan Peterson is the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now, and he has a point. Peterson, a University of Toronto psychologist, has found his real home on YouTube, where his videos have attracted something like 40 million views.

In his videos, he analyzes classic and biblical texts, he eviscerates identity politics and political correctness and, most important, he delivers stern fatherly lectures to young men on how to be honorable, upright and self-disciplined — how to grow up and take responsibility for their own lives.

Parents, universities and the elders of society have utterly failed to give many young men realistic and demanding practical wisdom on how to live. Peterson has filled the gap.

But what’s most interesting about Peterson’s popularity, especially the success of his new book, “12 Rules for Life,” is what it says about the state of young men today. The implied readers of his work are men who feel fatherless, solitary, floating in a chaotic moral vacuum, constantly outperformed and humiliated by women, haunted by pain and self-contempt. At some level Peterson is offering assertiveness training to men whom society is trying to turn into emasculated snowflakes.

Peterson gives them a chance to be strong. He inspires their idealism by telling them that life is hard. His worldview begins with the belief that life is essentially a series of ruthless dominance competitions. The strong get the spoils and the weak become meek, defeated, unknown and unloved.

For much of Western history, he argues, Christianity restrained the human tendency toward barbarism. But God died in the 19th century, and Christian dogma and discipline died with him. That gave us the age of ideology, the age of fascism and communism — and with it, Auschwitz, Dachau and the gulag.

Since then we’ve tried another way to pacify the race. Since most conflict is over values, we’ve decided to not have any values. We’ll celebrate relativism and tolerance. We deny the true nature of humanity and naïvely pretend everyone is nice. The upside is we haven’t blown ourselves up; the downside is we live in a world of normlessness, meaninglessness and chaos.

The mundane things you do every day are your life, and you want to get those things right.

All of life is perched, Peterson continues, on the point between order and chaos. Chaos is the realm without norms and rules. Chaos, he writes, is “the impenetrable darkness of a cave and the accident by the side of the road. It’s the mother grizzly, all compassion to her cubs, who marks you as potential predator and tears you to pieces. Chaos, the eternal feminine, is also the crushing force of sexual selection. Women are choosy maters. … Most men do not meet female human standards.”

Life is suffering, Peterson reiterates. Don’t be fooled by the naïve optimism of progressive ideology. Life is about remorseless struggle and pain. Your instinct is to whine, to play the victim, to seek vengeance.

Peterson tells young men to never do that. Rise above the culture of victimization you see all around you. Stop whining. Don’t blame others or seek revenge. “The individual must conduct his or her life in a manner that requires the rejection of immediate gratification, of natural and perverse desires alike.”

Instead, choose discipline, courage and self-sacrifice. “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life.” Never lie. Tell your boss what you really think. Be strict with your children. Drop the friends who bring you down. Break free from the needy mother who controls you.

Much of Peterson’s advice sounds to me like vague exhortatory banality. Like Hobbes and Nietzsche before him, he seems to imagine an overly brutalistic universe, nearly without benevolence, beauty, attachment and love. His recipe for self-improvement is solitary, nonrelational, unemotional. I’d say the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment than through Peterson’s joyless and graceless calls to self-sacrifice.

But the emphasis on strength of will, the bootstrap, the calls to toughness and self-respect — all of this touches some need in his audience. He doesn’t comfort. He demands: “Stop doing what you know to be wrong. … Say only those things that make you strong. Do only those things that you could speak of with honor.”

And Peterson personifies the strong, courageous virtues he champions. His most recent viral video, with over four million views, is an interview he did with Cathy Newman of Britain’s Channel 4 News. Newman sensed that there was something disruptive to progressive orthodoxy in Peterson’s worldview, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. So, as Conor Friedersdorf noted in The Atlantic, she did what a lot of people do in argument these days. Instead of actually listening to Peterson, she just distorted, simplified and restated his views to make them appear offensive and cartoonish.

Peterson calmly and comprehensibly corrected and rebutted her. It is the most devastatingly one-sided media confrontation you will ever see. He reminded me of a young William F. Buckley. The Peterson way is a harsh way, but it is an idealistic way — and for millions of young men, it turns out to be the perfect antidote to the cocktail of coddling and accusation in which they are raised.

***

By just doing nothing, and if you assume your time isn’t worthwhile, you’re not in a state of responsibility-less bliss but in a state of existential suffering and anxiety. That’s crazy!

By lying to yourself or the selective omission of information is the most common form of lie. It’s passive avoidance, you know, wilful blindness. That’s the most common form of deception, but although active deceit can also play a role, and if you contaminate the structure of your being with false information or with deceptive practices, and you wilfully blind yourself, then you’re going to be led astray by your sense of meaning. You’re going to pathologize it, so part of the issue here is that you don’t want to interfere with your ability to see because you’ll wander off the road and into a ditch. So, why should I tell the truth? This is a great question every man and smart kid figures out, and the smarter the kid or the younger they figure that out it’s like…well if I can lie to get what I want why shouldn’t I want to get what I want? That’s a great question.

From an article in The New Yorker:

Peterson recounts an experience when, as a psychologist, he worked with a client diagnosed with paranoia. He says that such patients are “almost uncanny in their ability to detect mixed motives, judgment, and falsehood,” and so he redoubled his efforts to say only what he meant. “You have to listen very carefully and tell the truth if you are going to get a paranoid person to open up to you,” he writes. Peterson seems to have found that this approach works on much of the general population, too.

Source: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/05/jordan-petersons-gospel-of-masculinity

What I would say to people is …select the domain in which you can act. Straighten it up first, and that’ll transform things a bit. You put your house in order. Then, you can start to put your town in order, or maybe your street, or maybe your neighbour. God only knows. Start where you can start. And you might think, well, what’s that? Well, it’s nothing you can wave a placard in the street about, which is a good thing. That’s like praying in public. This is more like praying in private. Fix up what you can fix up, and see what happens. And I don’t think that there’s anything that’s more powerful than that.

Behind the façade of ordinariness, individual lives are uniquely extraordinary.

Pilgrims come there to trudge up the steps one at a time towards the cathedral and there’s something deeply symbolic about that. Yeah, the idea that’s being expressed is profound and necessary, and that is that we all need a vision of the way that life in the world could be. We want to have a vision that that could be as good as it could be, the least amount of suffering and the most for everyone, and the question is how do you approach an idea like that. And the answer to that is by carrying your burden one step at a time up the hill, and that’s what you do in life. You’re not a victim, or if you are you carry it and you take responsibility for it, and you’re someone other people can rely on and you tell the truth and that way you make the world a little better instead of worse, and that’s the alternative to ideological possession and collective action, group hatred and tribalism and all those things that tear us apart. Accept that your life is tragic and that you’ll suffer, and that there’s evil in the world.  It’s your responsibility to take that on to yourself and to carry it forward towards the good. That’s meaning in life, and that’s the antidote to chaos and to catastrophe, and the West knows this. This is why this we’re an individualist culture because we know that the individual has to be set above the group. But it’s not the individual in all his right, it’s the Indian, it’s the individual in all his responsibilities and that’s the part of the dialogue that’s missing from our culture currently, and I believe that’s why my book has become so popular, and the lectures as well because I’m telling people, suggesting to people, and particularly but not only to young men that they need to except as much responsibility as they can tolerate and then build themselves into people who can tolerate even more responsibility, and to be and to accept that gratefully because that’s where the purpose and meaning in life is.

From the Sermon on the Mount (“. . . seek ye first the kingdom of God”), and to arrive at this: “Posit the highest good that you can conceive of, and commit yourself to it.” Then shall your day-to-day concerns and perceptions be meaningfully aligned with the good. The world shifts itself around your aim. The nobler your aim, the better your life.

There’s always good reasons for not doing what you should, that’s for sure. The reasons pile up day after day to not do what you should -especially because you’re aiming at things in the future, so don’t use a tragic past as an excuse to not move forward. When you leave somewhere terrible, do not look back. When there’s no nostalgia – that’s the letting the dead parts of yourself go. And then if you’re going to follow the good there’s no excuse not to do it, and it means no excuse whatsoever under any circumstances. There’s no excuse whatsoever for not getting at what it is that you should be doing. Moreover, the New Testament stories suggest that it’s absolutely reprehensible to justify your action with the catastrophe that extracts mercy from other people.

In my practice I’ve found that there’s a tricky game that’s going on, “Well of course I can’t do that. Look at the terrible thing that’s just happened to me!” It’s like, Yeah okay, I understand you’re absolved of any necessity to move forward because of your current catastrophe. It’s like, well actually you’re not, and it’s rather rude of you to use it as an excuse and it’s certainly counterproductive.

A lot of what people regard as their own personalities, and are proud of about their own personalities, aren’t their own personalities at all. They’re useless idiosyncrasies that differentiate them trivially from other people but they have no value in and of themselves. They’re more like quirks.

Aim small. You don’t want to shoulder too much to begin with, given your limited talents, tendency to deceive, burden of resentment, and ability to shirk responsibility. Thus, you set the following goal: by the end of the day, I want things in my life to be a tiny bit better than they were this morning. Then you ask yourself, “What could I do, that I would do, that would accomplish that, and what small thing would I like as a reward?” Then you do what you have decided to do, even if you do it badly. Then you give yourself that damn coffee, in triumph. Maybe you feel a bit stupid about it, but you do it anyway. And you do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And, with each day, your baseline of comparison gets a little higher, and that’s magic. That’s compound interest. Do that for three years, and your life will be entirely different. Now you’re aiming for something higher. Now you’re wishing on a star. Now the beam is disappearing from your eye, and you’re learning to see. And what you aim at determines what you see. That’s worth repeating. What you aim at determines what you see.

You might think, “I will make a different plan. I will try to want whatever it is that would make my life better—whatever that might be—and I will start working on it now. If that turns out to mean something other than chasing my boss’s job, I will accept that and I will move forward.”

Are you happy to be in your room? Stop rotting away at home. It’s better to wander around without a clue than to do nothing while waiting for the perfect moment that will never arrive or that you never will recognize as such. How does one start doing something today to move towards a lofty but hazy goal? It’s better to write bad first drafts and make mistakes than to stay in stasis — because the sacred ideal is always moving. There’s no stasis, because if you stand still you fall backwards.

From the Aspen Ideas Festival:

Forgive me if I’m being slightly imprecise, but I’m trying to gloss your book for an audience who might not have read it. There is a sort of Jungian archetype, chaos is feminine, order is masculine, and the subtitle of your book is ‘An Antidote to Chaos.’

Well, there has to be an antidote to anything that’s manifesting itself in excess, and it’s chaos that’s manifesting itself in excess at the moment in our culture. So that’s what I decided to address in this book, and mostly that was because I suppose it was addressed at least in part to younger people, and what younger people have to contend with generally speaking is an excess of chaos because they’re not very disciplined, and so you need to you know that we kind of have this idea that while you’re free as a child – and then let me see if I can put this properly – that you have a certain delightful wonderful positive freedom as a child and then that’s given up as you approach adulthood, but the truth of the matter is that you have a lot of potential as a child but none of that is capable of manifesting itself as freedom before you become disciplined. And discipline is a matter of the imposition of order, and the order is necessary especially for people who are hopeless and nihilistic, and lots of people are hopeless and nihilistic – way more people than you think, and part of that is because no one’s ever really encouraged them. So the book is in part a matter of encouragement, it’s like…lay yourself a disciplinary structure on yourself, get the chaos in check, and then you can move towards a state that’s freer because it’s disciplined. First, if you’re going to become a concert pianist there’s going to be several thousand hours of extraordinarily disciplined practice. That’s the imposition of order on your potential, let’s say, but what comes out of that is a much grander freedom and so in virtually every freedom that you have in life that is true freedom, is purchased at the price of discipline, and so because I think that it’s nihilism and hopelessness that constitute the major existential threat – especially to young people at the moment – then I was concentrating on the necessity of discipline and order. So the issue with regards to the metaphysical or symbolic representation of chaos, and as feminine, well that’s a very complex problem. The first thing you have to understand is that there’s no a priori supposition that order is preferable to chaos in any fundamental sense. They’re both constituent elements of reality. You can’t say one’s bad and the other’s good. You can say that they can become unbalanced, and that’s definitely not good. Too much chaos is not good, obviously, too much order is not good, equally obviously. Those are the two extremes that you have to negotiate between, and I’m not making a causal claim with regards to the idea that reality is an amalgam of chaos and order. I don’t think that there is any more accurate way of describing the nature of reality. That’s the most fundamental, maybe not the most fundamental truth, but it’s certain there’s two fundamental truths. Reality is composed of chaos and order, and your role is to mediate between them successfully. That’s  metaphysical and symbolic truth, but it’s more than that because that’s actually how your mind and your brain is organized. Not only conceptually, but emotionally, motivationally, and physiologically.

So, and I don’t really understand how that can be because it isn’t obvious to me how the most fundamental elements of reality can be chaos and order.

But the evidence – that that is the case is overwhelming – I can give you a quick example which is quite interesting. So you have two hemispheres -there’s a reason for that. The fundamental reason for that is that one of them is adapted for things you don’t understand. That’s roughly speaking the right hemisphere, and the other is adapted for things that you do understand – that’s the left hemisphere. And so that’s a chaos/order dichotomy and the fact that you’re adapted to that – that you’re the very structure of your brain – reflects that bifurcation and indicates as far as I can tell, beyond a shadow of a doubt, because it’s also a characteristic of non-human animals…

People are most disappointed in life when they’re disappointed in themselves. They see that they’ve made things worse than they had to be.

Meaning is actually the instinct that helps you guide yourself through that catastrophe, and most of that meaning is to be found in the adoption of responsibility.

It’s not brain exercises that keep you sharp, it’s exercise. So if you’re 50, you can restore your cognitive function to the level of the 30 year-old through exercise. If you’re not in good physical shape then one of the things that suffers most greatly is your cognitive function.

If you have a sufficiently noble purpose, the suffering will justify itself and I think that’s empirically testable, and I do believe it’s the case because I’ve watched people confront the suffering voluntarily.

Men ‘question’ ideas, while women ‘question’ men. Mmmmm! [I’m not sure of the exact word used by JP]

One of the things that I’ve really tried to puzzle out, and it’s not like I believe this. I’m just telling you about the edges of my thinking, of being…is that you have this crazy alliance between the feminists and the radical Islamist that I just do not get. It’s like the feminists, it’s like why aren’t they protesting non-stop about Saudi Arabia? It’s just completely beyond me, like I do not understand it in the least, and I wonder – I just wonder is this what the Freudian means? Is there an attraction, you know, is there an attraction that’s emerging among the female radicals for that totalitarian male dominance that they’ve chased out of the West? That’s a hell of a thing to think, but after all I am psychoanalytically minded, and I do think things like that because like I just can see no rational reason for it. The only other rational reason is that the West needs to fall and so the enemy of my enemy is our, yeah, it’s a guy… Exactly now, what is it I thought that’s wrong with the enemy of enemy is my friend. Yes, exactly, so elements tend to vote liberal as well, so that that could be the case but I am NOT going to shake my suspicions about this unconscious balancing because as the demand for egalitarianism and the eradication of masculinity accelerates, there’s going to be a longing in the unconscious for the precise opposite for the problem of that. The more you want, you scream for equality the more your unconscious is going to admire dominance. That’s how you think if you’re analytically minded. [Sorry if this isn’t 100% coherent]

You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored. You will not know what to target, and you won’t fly straight, even if you somehow get your aim right. And then you will conclude, “There is nothing to aim for.” And then you will be lost. [p.76 in 12 Rules…]

If you are suffering – well, that’s the norm. People are limited and life is tragic. If your suffering is unbearable, however, and you are starting to become corrupted, here’s something to think about: Consider your circumstances. Start small. Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you? Are you working hard on your career, or even your job, or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down? Are there things that you could do, that you know you could do, that would make things around you better? Have you cleaned up your life? [from 12 Rules From Life, P 106]

How should you conceptualize your life? Peace and tranquillity? I don’t think so! I think if you’re lucky your life is an adventure and hopefully it’s one you undertook voluntarily, and an adventure isn’t leisure and tranquillity. It’s alertness and readiness.

“Fiction lies to you in the most truthful possible manner.” quoted by JP

An ‘intelligent’ woman said something along the lines of, “Well, I’m not sure I should bring a child into this world.” and I thought ‘Oh God, Christ’, you’ve got to come up with something better than that. Such a bloody cliché which is what I told her. I said, “You know, you must have thought that up when you were 16.” It’s like, really? You can’t do any better? This is a very, smart woman. It’s like, really? Yes, obviously this is a vale of tears and you know a well of suffering and all of that you know if you ask 30 people who are wondering about having children, while they’re wondering 20 of them will say that and so that that tells you how original it is. It’s not original at all, it’s not a thought. It’s like this little, it’s like a  a meme or something that lives in your mind. It’s not a thought, and it’s certainly not something that you should just take at face value and say “Oh well, I’m not having a family. There’s too many people on the planet already.”

I think it was the Club of Rome who prophesied, by the way, that there would be so many people on the planet by the year 2000 that there would be widespread starvation and they were completely and utterly wrong about that. I think it was the Club of Rome who either compared us to a virus or a cancer on the face of the planet. It’s like, “Oh really? That’s what you think about people? Mmmm! Isn’t that something to think about? Human beings as viruses and cancer? What do you do with viruses and cancer? Invite them in and make them at home? It’s like, no you try to eradicate them. You’ve got to bloody well watch your metaphors folks, because it isn’t clear that you come up with, or they run you, so you’d better watch them!

The worst punishment isn’t waiting for those who committed to something and did wrong, the worst punishment is reserved for those who committed to nothing and stayed on the fence and that’s really something. That’s really something to think about, and it’s also something I believe to be true because I see that stasis is utterly destructive because there’s no progress. All there is, is movement backwards. There’s aging and suffering and no progress, and so not committing to anything is the worst of all transgressions. To commit means to put your body and soul into something. To offer your life as a sacrifice means that you’re willing to make a bargain with fate. The bargain is ‘I’m going to act as if I give it my all.’ Then the best possible thing will happen because of that and to not see the analogy between that and the act of faith in God is to misunderstand the story completely, and it has to be an act of faith because how are you gonna know you can look at other people? But that isn’t going to do it. Kierkegaard was very clear about this sort of thing. There’s certain sorts of truths that you can only learn for yourself through experience, and that’s of course why Abraham also has to go out alone – he has to leave his candidates – it’s the individuation process like dying, it’s something that you do alone. There’s no way you can tell what is within your grasp. Let’s say unless you make the ultimate sacrifice, and there’s no way of finding out without actually making it. So that’s the sacrificial act, that’s really in the act of Abraham being called upon to sacrifice Isaac. Think about that as Abraham’s been doing, he’s been breaking himself into pieces trying to progress forward through starvation and tyranny, and war and deceit, the potential loss of his wife and childlessness, and like everything that can really befall you in some sense.

The landscape within which we have to erect our stories is fundamentally one of an overarching chaos, a chaos that exceeds our capacity to comprehend in any sense individually, familial, socially or economically. We’re always threatened by the collapse of the structures that we inhabit constantly, we have to work well. It’s like you own a house, you know the house falls apart because you’re stupid, or the house falls apart because you do repairs wrong or you ignore things or because you’re incompetent. But even if you’re competent the house falls apart, it’s just entropy and so things have a proclivity to fall apart on their own, so you just have to run like mad just to keep them doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

*

On Failure

“Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

God! That sounds pretty optimistic. I think it’s a description of the structure of the existential reality, and by which I mean…when I’m in my clinical practice and I observe, and this is also the case with my students, let’s say people’s lives aren’t what they would like them to be. So then you ask, “Well, forget about tragedy and catastrophe because that’s self-evident, and we’re not going to discuss that, although the degree to which you bring about your own tragedy is always indeterminate. I would never say that every terrible thing that is visited on a person is something they deserved, I think that that’s a very dangerous presupposition, especially because everyone gets sick and everyone dies. One of the main reasons that people don’t get what they want is because they don’t actually figure out what it is. And the probability that you’re going to get what would be good for you, let’s say which would even be better than what you want, because you might be wrong about what you want. But maybe you could get what would really be good for you. So, why don’t you? Because you don’t try, you don’t think, “Okay, here’s what I would like if I could have it.” I don’t mean in a way that you manipulate the world to force it to deliver you goods for status or something like that. That isn’t what I mean, I mean something like, “Imagine that you are taking care of  yourself like you were someone you actually cared for, and then you thought, “Okay, I’m caring for this person. I would like things to go as well for them as possible. What would their life have to be like in order for that to be the case? Well, people don’t do that. They don’t sit down and think. “All right, let’s figure it out.” You’ve got a life. It’s hard, obviously! It’s like, three years from now you can have what you need. You’ve got to be careful about it. You can’t have everything, you can have what would be good for you, but you have to figure out what it is, and then you have to aim at it. Well, my experience with people is that if they figure out what it is that would be good for them and then they aim at it, then they get it. It’s strange, because they don’t necessarily have an idea about what would be good for them. Then you take ten steps towards that, and you find out that your formulation was a bit off, and so you have to reformulate your goal, you know, you’re kind of going to zigzag like this as you move towards the goal but a huge part of the reason that people fail is because they don’t ever set up the criteria for success. So since success is a very narrow line, and the probability that you’re going to stumble on it randomly is zero, and so there’s a proposition in here. The proposition is that if you actually want something, you can have it now. The question then, would be what do you mean by ‘actually want’? An answer is that you re-orient your life in every possible way to make the probability that that will occur as certain as possible. That’s a sacrificial idea, right? It’s like you don’t get everything, obviously, but maybe you can have what you need, and maybe all you have to do to get it is to ask. But asking isn’t a whim or today’s wish, it’s like you have to be deadly serious about it. You have to think, “Okay, I’m taking stock of myself and if I was going to live properly in the world, and I was going to set myself up such that being would justify itself in my estimation, and I don’t mean as a harsh judge exactly, What is it that I would aim at? Well, one of the things I found is that in a test of this theory, let’s say you could try this. This is a form of prayer: Knocking, sit on your bed one day, and ask yourself, “Ah, what remarkably stupid things am I doing on a regular basis to absolutely screw up my life?” If you actually ask that question, but you have to want to know the answer, because that’s actually what asking the question means. It doesn’t mean just mouthing the words. It means you have to decide that you want to know! You’ll figure that out so fast – it’ll make your hair curl! Carl Jung thought about this. He thought that people had two poles of consciousness. One was the individual consciousness that we each identify within, the other was something he called the Self, and the Self is what you might think about as the divine within. That’s a close enough approximation. It’s the universal part of your consciousness, it’s your conscience. That’s another way of thinking about it. Whatever your conscience is, but it’s something that you can consult. It’s like the Socratic ‘Daemon.’ Socrates said that the thing that made him different from everyone else in Greece was that he consulted his Daemon, his genius. He asked himself how it was that he should conduct himself in the world, and then he did that whatever it was. He didn’t try to force a solution. He didn’t try to force a solution selfishly. He said, “I’m going to manifest myself in the best possible manner in the world. I would like to do that which would be well.” You’re perfectly capable of thinking. God only knows how! You’re perfectly capable of immense feats of imagination, and dreams and fantasies. God only knows how you do all of that! What would happen if you consulted yourself about the best possible outcome for yourself? You might get an answer! Well, that’s what this proposition is.

If a miracle actually happened, you’d forget about it in six months.

You have your aim, you have your ambition, and that’s what turns the world into a potentially positive place. The higher the aim the more the positive emotion. You think, well why should I bother? Why should I bother doing something lofty and difficult? Because it’s worth it, that’s why. Because the alternative is stupid suffering, because what happens is that you don’t need a framework in order to suffer. You can just lie there day after day and suffer. Right? That’s the easy, that’s the default condition. If you don’t have a lofty ambition then you suffer miserably, and the reason for that is that life is really complex, short, finite, full of suffering, and beyond you. So, you can just lie there and think about that. It’s horrible, and so that’s not helpful. It’s just not useful, and so you know people often say life is meaningless. It’s like, no it’s not! That’s wrong, because if it was meaningless that would be easy – you could just sit there and do nothing and it wouldn’t matter, right? It’d be like you look like a lobotomized sheep – it’s just irrelevant, but that isn’t what happens. When people say that life has no meaning, that isn’t what they mean. What they mean is, “I’m suffering stupidly and intensely, and I don’t know what to do about it.” Well, the suffering is meaningful – it’s just not the kind of meaning you want. So, how do you get out of that? You adopt, you note the baseline of suffering which is very high, and then you say to yourself, “Okay, I need to do something that justifies that, and that’s not so easy because if the baseline for suffering is high, if you’re going to make something of yourself, let’s say so that it’s worthwhile to exist in the world. Then what you have to do is aim at something that’s so well structured that you can say, “Yeah, earthquakes, cancer, death of my family, dissolution of my goals, ultimate futility of life, and the heat, death of the universe. Hey! It doesn’t matter – it’s worth it to be like that.

You’re like Caine because that’s what that story’s about because Abel’s the guy who has a goal and is making the proper sacrifices, and Cain is the person for whom, by his own fault at least in part, things aren’t working out. So the default for not doing this is something like building resentment and bitterness, with an underlying flavour enhancer of murderous resentment. Something like that, which you will act out in the world, which people act out in the world all the time. It’s no wonder because without this, something lofty pulling you along, then the baseline is stupid suffering.

Find something in your life that’s so worthwhile doing that the fact that you’re going to suffer is justifiable.

If you adopt the attitude – an attitude that’s like, to make things better wherever you are and however you can, what would actually happen would be that things would get better wherever you are in all sorts of ways. We’ve really as a species, you might say or maybe even as singular individuals, we’ve explored that rarely. It isn’t something that’s often put forth as a proposition, and it’s quite surprising to me.

If we can’t learn from what happened in the 20th century then we are absolutely incapable of learning, because what happened in the 20th century was as bitter a set of lessons as you could possibly imagine.

The answer to the conundrum which is why people don’t aspire to the highest good is because they’re deeply ashamed of themselves, and their weaknesses, and their insufficiencies. That’s not the only reason, I mean there’s the desire to avoid responsibility, and there’s all the negative motivations as well like resentment and hatred, and the desire to make things worse. Trying to make it better is one of the things I really have learned as a clinical psychologist. You just cannot believe how powerful incremental progress is. You can do the calculations –  it’s like compound interest. If you make your life a tenth of a percent better a week, in two or three years you’re in such a better place than you were. That it isn’t even like the same domain, and if you keep that up for ten years or twenty years, you know, especially if you’re young and you start early, you start to straighten yourself out and fix the things that you can fix, you can transform your lives in ways that are completely unimaginable. God only knows what the upper limit of that is in terms of human possibility, because we are amazing creatures. When we really get our act together, and stop running at 10% of our capacity, that’s what you do.

The fact that things aren’t exactly the way they should be, at least gives you something to do. That’s something great to do, because there’s no shortage of suffering and trouble. There are so many things that need doing that all you really have to do is open your eyes and look at them and then decide that you’re actually going to do something about them and you might think, “Well, what’s within my scope of influence. It’s so trivial that it’s not worth doing.” But it won’t stay trivial for long. I really don’t believe that anything done right is trivial and my experience in my life has been that anything I actually did paid off, or it didn’t pay off necessarily in the way that I expected it to pay off and that’s a whole different story, but if it was genuine commitment to do something even if it went sideways and the outcome was really something other than what I expected. The net consequence over time was nothing but good, so every new frontier that can be conquered is an advance forward and there’s no shortage of frontiers, because we’re surrounded by the unknown. We’re surrounded by our own ignorance and we can continually move into that domain – into the domain of chaos, or we can restructure pathological order and that’s the secret to proper being.

*

Set your ambitions, even if you are uncertain about what they should be. The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity.   [p.141 in 12 Rules…]

There was something very pathological about a utopian vision of perfection that it was profoundly anti-human, and in Notes from the Underground Dostoyevsky demolishes the notion of utopia. One of the things he says is, “Imagine that you brought the socialist utopia into being, and that human beings had nothing to do except eat, drink and busy themselves with the continuation of the species.” The first thing that would happen under circumstances like that would be that human beings would go mad and break the system. Smash it just so that something unexpected and crazy could happen, because human beings don’t want you to be in comfort and certainty. They want adventure and chaos and uncertainty, so that the very notion of a utopia was anti-human because we’re not built for static utopia. We’re built for a dynamic situation where there are demands placed on us and where there’s the optimal amount of uncertainty.

Conscientiousness tends to keep neuroticism in check. Organize your life and surroundings, clean your room, get up and go to bed at the same time every day, buckle down and find one primary mode of discipline, establish disciplined habits. Find something you can hit hard and concentrate on. Pick something rather than nothing, and set yourself to master that. You need to have a primary discipline which is absolutely necessary to succeed in life. After that you can branch out and you become unstoppable. It’s useful to subjugate yourself to something voluntarily. So, if you haven’t found your passion, don’t wait around until you find the damned thing, because you may never find it. So, pick something and focus on it. If you move strongly and forthrightly towards it for a few months and you discover it isn’t the thing for you, it isn’t going to be a waste anyway because the pursuit of any discipline or knowledge pays off even if it’s not in the way that you expect.

*

Chaos is the catastrophe that will suddenly enter your life, chaos is the flood that’s definitely coming, chaos is the ever-present possibility of apocalypse in your personal life, in your familial life and in this broader social life. Chaos is the consequence of your finite fragility existing in a world that’s beyond you, chaos is potential, chaos is what lies before you, chaos is what you can call on when you need something to rescue yourself from malfunctioning order – it’s a permanent element of existence, chaos is what you don’t know, chaos is what’s outside the fire, chaos is what’s outside the walls of your house, chaos is what’s outside the walls of your town, chaos is what’s outside of the borders of your country. All of that is chaos and potential order. Order is where you are when what you’re doing is working in the manner that you intended. It’s a very specific definition. How do you know that you know what you’re doing? Well you don’t, because you don’t know what you’re doing because you don’t know everything. Everything you do is bounded by ignorance.

*

If you’ve defined a domain of order and you stand in it and you wait. The disorder will enter all by itself, because things aren’t static. Things change all the time, and your attempt to bind yourself within a static structure is destined to fail because everything around you is in flux, and the thing that you’ve parceled out as permanent will transform itself across time.

The nature of the world is order, chaos and order – and your goal is to keep the relationship between those two things optimized, and you do that by doing what’s meaningful not what’s expedient.

If you adopt the attitude – an attitude that’s like, to make things better wherever you are and however you can, what would actually happen would be that things would get better wherever you are in all sorts of ways. We’ve really as a species, you might say or maybe even as singular individuals, we’ve explored that rarely. It isn’t something that’s often put forth as a proposition, and it’s quite surprising to me.

Find something in your life that’s so worthwhile doing that the fact that you’re going to suffer is justifiable.

The answer to the conundrum which is why people don’t aspire to the highest good is because they’re deeply ashamed of themselves, and their weaknesses, and their insufficiencies. That’s not the only reason, I mean there’s the desire to avoid responsibility, and there’s all the negative motivations as well like resentment and hatred, and the desire to make things worse. Trying to make it better is one of the things I really have learned as a clinical psychologist. You just cannot believe how powerful incremental progress is. You can do the calculations –  it’s like compound interest. If you make your life a tenth of a percent better a week, in two or three years you’re in such a better place than you were. That it isn’t even like the same domain, and if you keep that up for ten years or twenty years, you know, especially if you’re young and you start early, you start to straighten yourself out and fix the things that you can fix, you can transform your lives in ways that are completely unimaginable. God only knows what the upper limit of that is in terms of human possibility, because we are amazing creatures. When we really get our act together, and stop running at 10% of our capacity, that’s what you do.

The fact that things aren’t exactly the way they should be, at least gives you something to do. That’s something great to do, because there’s no shortage of suffering and trouble. There are so many things that need doing that all you really have to do is open your eyes and look at them and then decide that you’re actually going to do something about them and you might think, “Well, what’s within my scope of influence. It’s so trivial that it’s not worth doing.” But it won’t stay trivial for long. I really don’t believe that anything done right is trivial and my experience in my life has been that anything I actually did paid off, or it didn’t pay off necessarily in the way that I expected it to pay off and that’s a whole different story, but if it was genuine commitment to do something even if it went sideways and the outcome was really something other than what I expected. The net consequence over time was nothing but good, so every new frontier that can be conquered is an advance forward and there’s no shortage of frontiers, because we’re surrounded by the unknown. We’re surrounded by our own ignorance and we can continually move into that domain – into the domain of chaos, or we can restructure pathological order and that’s the secret to proper being.

*

Set your ambitions, even if you are uncertain about what they should be. The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity.   [p.141 in 12 Rules]

If a miracle actually happened, you’d forget about it in six months.

If we can’t learn from what happened in the 20th century then we are absolutely incapable of learning, because what happened in the 20th century was as bitter a set of lessons as you could possibly imagine.

There was something very pathological about a utopian vision of perfection that it was profoundly anti-human, and in Notes from the Underground Dostoyevsky demolishes the notion of utopia. One of the things he says is, “Imagine that you brought the socialist utopia into being, and that human beings had nothing to do except eat, drink and busy themselves with the continuation of the species.” The first thing that would happen under circumstances like that would be that human beings would go mad and break the system. Smash it just so that something unexpected and crazy could happen, because human beings don’t want you to be in comfort and certainty. They want adventure and chaos and uncertainty, so that the very notion of a utopia was anti-human because we’re not built for static utopia. We’re built for a dynamic situation where there are demands placed on us and where there’s the optimal amount of uncertainty.

Conscientiousness tends to keep neuroticism in check. Organize your life and surroundings, clean your room, get up and go to bed at the same time every day, buckle down and find one primary mode of discipline, establish disciplined habits. Find something you can hit hard and concentrate on. Pick something rather than nothing, and set yourself to master that. You need to have a primary discipline which is absolutely necessary to succeed in life. After that you can branch out and you become unstoppable. It’s useful to subjugate yourself to something voluntarily. So, if you haven’t found your passion, don’t wait around until you find the damned thing, because you may never find it. So, pick something and focus on it. If you move strongly and forthrightly towards it for a few months and you discover it isn’t the thing for you, it isn’t going to be a waste anyway because the pursuit of any discipline or knowledge pays off even if it’s not in the way that you expect.

*

Chaos is the catastrophe that will suddenly enter your life, chaos is the flood that’s definitely coming, chaos is the ever-present possibility of apocalypse in your personal life, in your familial life and in this broader social life. Chaos is the consequence of your finite fragility existing in a world that’s beyond you, chaos is potential, chaos is what lies before you, chaos is what you can call on when you need something to rescue yourself from malfunctioning order – it’s a permanent element of existence, chaos is what you don’t know, chaos is what’s outside the fire, chaos is what’s outside the walls of your house, chaos is what’s outside the walls of your town, chaos is what’s outside of the borders of your country. All of that is chaos and potential order. Order is where you are when what you’re doing is working in the manner that you intended. It’s a very specific definition. How do you know that you know what you’re doing? Well you don’t, because you don’t know what you’re doing because you don’t know everything. Everything you do is bounded by ignorance.

*

If you’ve defined a domain of order and you stand in it and you wait. The disorder will enter all by itself, because things aren’t static. Things change all the time, and your attempt to bind yourself within a static structure is destined to fail because everything around you is in flux, and the thing that you’ve parceled out as permanent will transform itself across time.

The nature of the world is order, chaos and order – and your goal is to keep the relationship between those two things optimized, and you do that by doing what’s meaningful not what’s expedient.

Nothing I’ve ever done (in terms of effort and soul) in life has been wasted. Something of value always accrued to me when I made the sacrifices necessary to do something worthwhile. So go do something!

Commitment and sacrifice are the same thing.

Treat yourself as if you were a creature of value. Then there’s a recognition of your divine worth.

If you don’t understand a phrase, that actually means you’ve missed something. It doesn’t mean that that’s not germane to the story, it means you’re stupid & you didn’t get it. Mmmm!

If you forthrightly pursue that which God directs you to pursue then all things are possible.

There’s no reason to bow down before evil because we’re capable of so much more.

You have to make sacrifices, and what you have to sacrifice is that which is most valuable to you currently that’s stopping you. God only knows what that is, it’s certainly the worst of you. It’s certainly that, and God only knows to what degree. You’re in love with the worst of you, so you move from the unbearable present to the ideal future. And you can’t help that.

An answer is if not that, then something. What if it’s a mistake? It’s a mistake rest assured, what do you know? You’re going to stumble around, right, and what’s going to happen is this…you’re going to move, you’re not going to stay in stasis, you’re not going to wander around in circles and I see people like that. They said, “Well, I never knew what to do and now I’m 40.” It’s like, that’s not so good. That’s not so good and you might say, “Well, there is a literature, too, that suggests that people are a lot more unhappy when they look back in their lives about the things they didn’t do than they are about the mistakes they made while they were doing things.” That’s really worth thinking about, too, because there’s redemptive mistakes and a redemptive mistake would be a mistake that you make when you go out and try to do something. You actually think, “Okay, I’m going to try to do this.” When you’re not good at it you make a bunch of mistakes. It’s like, the consequence if you pay attention is you’re not quite so stupid anymore. That’s the thing! You’ve been informed by the results of your errors and so what happens is you follow the beacon, you follow the light.

The willingness to be a fool is the precursor to transformation.

When you realize that there is no distinction between you and your experience – they’re the same thing – then when you put together your house you’re putting together yourself.

You have the voice of culture within you but it’s old and dead and out-of-date, and it’s not fully articulated and updated. Then what happens is that if you enter into a dialogue with it, and you hammer yourself against the world, then you get hammered into shape and so does your conscience. So you both become elevated, and so I think that’s ridiculously cool because it means that you don’t have an infallible guide. But you do have something within you that you could build into an infallible guide if you cooperated with it. So the picture that I have in my mind of the cultivation of virtue in general is like taking a block of wood and trying to carve out a sphere out of it. It’ll never be perfectly round, but the more you carve the rounder and rounder it’ll get.

Should you doubt your conscience, like what are things that we should watch out for?

What your father, for example, says is probably not true, but some of it’s true. If someone can tell you why you’re wrong they’ve given you a great gift because then you don’t have to be wrong anymore.

Stop doing the things you know to be wrong, and you’ll discover just how worthwhile and rich life can be!

One of the experiences I’ve had in my life fairly commonly – their variety of different ways this is especially true when I was paying a lot of attention to my dreams which I did for about 15 years. I guess that now and then I would feel like I’d learned some things and had sort of consolidated them, and then before I went to sleep I’d think, “Okay, I’m ready to learn something else.” I didn’t say that without trepidation, and usually because when you learn something you know it’s not that pleasant because you usually learn something about why you’re wrong. The deeper the thing that you learn the more you learn about why you’re wrong, and there’s a death that’s associated with that because then you have to let that part of you that’s wrong die and that’s where the sacrifice is. So you have to make a sacrifice, you have to be willing to make a sacrifice before you’re going to learn something. Perhaps what you’ll learn is in proportion to your willingness to make a sacrifice, and I really do believe that. I also believe that because I think that if you commit to something that means that you don’t do a bunch of other things. So that’s the sacrifice of all those other things if you commit to it. You set your sights on it if you really commit to it, and you get the sacrifice right, so to speak, then the probability that that thing will be successful vastly increases. I also think that’s not a naive way of thinking, or a foolish way of thinking. My experience has been that that’s the case, and so back to the dream, I mean, I do think that we learn in trepidation…

Write for 30 mins a day about what you’ve understood of what you’ve read, and formulate clear questions and answers about it.

A piece of art opens your eyes to the domain of the transcendent. The right way of thinking about a real piece of art is as a window into the transcendent. That’s what you need in your life because you’re finite and limited, and bounded by your ignorance and your lack of knowing. And unless you can make a connection with the transcendent you don’t have the strength to prevail, and that’s part of the covenant with God.

You’re going to suffer anyway, no matter what, so why not go that extra mile and then relax, instead of doing nothing and feeling guilty? It’ll put the suffering in context & give it meaning.      Re: a JP comment

If the place that you’re in has any degree of possibility, if it isn’t inhabited by demons, so to speak, the best way to act is to lift your aim upward and attempt to get your act together, to tell the truth, to live a meaningful life and to do difficult things. All of that, and that is the best way of mastering a new territory. The degree to which you’re able to act that out is precisely proportionate to the degree to which you’re going to become a master in that territory. It’s really quite remarkable how fast you can move forward if you can establish yourself somewhere and prove yourself useful, assuming that you’re around people to whom proving yourself useful actually matters.

If you have an ideal of any sort, how is that not transcendent? It transcends you, that’s the first thing, and it doesn’t exist in reality. It exists in a place of possibility, and believe me we treat places of possibility as if they’re real because people will call on you about your possibility in your potential. They’ll say to you you’re not manifesting your full potential, and you might say, “Well, what do you mean by that?” Potential doesn’t exist. It isn’t here now. You can’t measure it, or weigh it. You can’t get a grip on it. They’ll say, “Don’t rationalize. You know perfectly well what I mean when I’m talking about your potential.” And so we could, and you do and everyone does, and everyone knows exactly what that means. So that’s a metaphysical reality that we’ll immediately accept as real, and we’ll also castigate ourselves and others for not fulfilling it because we’re just not happy when the people around us don’t fulfil their potential. You really feel that something has gone wrong, and so there’s a transcendent reality and potential. Then when you hypothesize an ideal that you might pursue, which you always do if you pursue anything, because to pursue something means you don’t already have it. You’re pursuing something that doesn’t exist and you’re probably not pursuing something that’s worse than what you already have because why would you? That’s completely counterproductive, so in in the mere fact of your pursuit of a transcendent reality that you can journey towards, that’s more valuable than the reality that you have now. That’s predicated in some sense on something like an eternal verity or an eternal truth.

If you’re suffering, ask what errors you’re making.

If there’s something holding you back, you have to let it go. You seriously have to let it go because there isn’t anything more important than progressing forward, and cheap sympathy, cheap empathy and cheap nostalgia…none of that is sufficient, none of that will work because the consequences of not putting things together immediately are dire and there’s no time to wait.

Stay on the Goddam path…and be careful!

If you’re not getting from people what you need, there is some possibility that you’re not approaching [them appropriately?] – especially if this happens to you repeatedly across people, and this is a virtual certainty if it happens to you repeatedly across people – especially if you have the same bad experience with people, it’s not them it’s you. That is, you get what you evoke.

There’s no excuse whatsoever for not getting at what it is that you should be doing. Don’t use catastrophe as an excuse to not do what you should, to move forward. It’s absolutely reprehensible to justify your inaction with a catastrophe that extracts mercy from other people.

When I look at people who are bitter, and who want revenge, it’s generally because their sacrificial efforts have failed.

Even when people have the kind of history that if they revealed it to you, you would say, “Well, it’s no wonder you turned out that way. The people who turn out that way still know that it’s wrong, they still know that however deep their own suffering, however arbitrary their own suffering, however much that’s caused by the malevolence of others as well as the tragedy of existence, that that does not in any way justify their turning away from the good. I believe everyone knows that. I believe that they know it implicitly, even if they don’t allow themselves to know it explicitly. I believe that. If they violate that idea then they violate themselves and that they end up in Cain’s position, which is the position of the man who’s been given a punishment that is too great to bear.

Dreams could be revelatory, and you can include in the dream all genuine art, all genuine literature, all the elements of human creativity that we would consider fine arts or humanities based. Anything that’s like that, that’s not ideological, would fall under the rubric of compensatory fantasy. So Jung’s idea was that the ego basically attempted to impose a coherent and somewhat simplified perspective on the world which would be like Betty’s initial viewpoint (in Lynch’s film), and that the fantasy world did everything it could to account for what that system could not account for and then to try to start making sense out of it, and the reason it used fantasy and dreams and artistic productions and so on – even rituals – is because the non-understood reality has to be acted out and presented as an image before it can be understood in any articulated manner.

For Jung the intellect and articulated knowledge occupied a very limited and circumscribed space, and then outside of that area there was the dream world which included all of artistic production and then outside of that was the unknown itself and the way the unknown was transmitted to the conscious articulated mind was through a lengthy process of dreamlike representation, and every time you go see a movie or every time you read a book of fiction or every time you have a fantasy or a dream, you’re participating in the process by which what’s truly unknown is transformed through the dream into articulated knowledge, and in any way any genuine artist does that. Psychoanalytic thought can easily become ideological as happened very frequently with Freud’s followers. It happened in the case of artists like Salvador Dali who would take Freud’s excavation of symbolic language and then use it consciously in a manner that that aped or mimicked true spontaneous symbolic expression.

A real artist is someone who is isn’t using symbols to express what they’re attempting to express. A real artist is attempting to express what has not yet been expressed and has no choice other than to use imagistic or symbolic representations because there isn’t anything else yet, and you can really see this when you read someone like Nietzsche but even more so in the case of Jung who is quite obscure, but the reason he’s obscure is because of the things he was writing about, especially in his writings about alchemy.

With this act, she was better than perfect. She was perfect in the way that will make her more perfect in the future and that’s meaningful. She’s on that border between chaos and order and that’s meaningful. So what I would say is what your brain does for you is tell you when you’re in the right place at the right time by infusing your life with significance and engagement, and it’s saying, “Look, you’ve got the cosmos lined up around you. It really, truly is.” You’re in the right place at the right time. You’re in your domain of competence but you’re stretching yourself so that you’re actually improving at the same time, and that’s Perfect. I think for a long time we’ve cast doubt on the reality of meaning, and that’s part of the death of God. There’s nothing more real in life than the sense of meaning. Meaning is an unerring guide. If you’re going to allow your sense of meaning to guide you, you don’t want to lie to yourself because you pathologized the instinct.

Imagine someone, critically minded and rational, is standing behind you in the street as you’re listening to the great strains of a symphony and taps you on the shoulder to say, “Well, you know that Symphony is going to end, so what makes you think it has any meaning?” It’s just not the right question. It’s like, the symphony has no meaning because it ends? Well, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on. If that’s the way you think, or maybe you’re thinking too much. Yes, you’re thinking too much and not paying enough attention.

The reason you have to change is because you’re suffering unbearably, yeah, it’s as simple as that. You have to change if your life isn’t everything that it could be, unless you want to continue the suffering.

Being better is better than being who you are. It’s as simple as that. Do you want to be better than who you are, or do you want to be who you are? If you want to be better, then you welcome error. You say bring it on. I’ll try to listen. I’ll try to make the changes as rapidly as I can without tearing myself into shreds, because that can happen. I mean, you want to maintain some of your structure, but there’s such an optimistic idea that the human capacity for internal eternal transformation is the antidote to unbearable tragedy.

The thing I said before about how connecting this personal growth to the idea of the logos was really powerful, and reframing this I’ve heard you speak about this in a certain way as almost like a heroic mission. You take on ultimate responsibility for your words, you take on responsibility for moving the world either closer or further from chaos that this is really, you take on responsibility for moving the world closer to heaven or hell.

We need a message that allows you to reframe your own life in that same heroic way. You think we need a heroic story of our own to combat it? Well, what do you have otherwise? You have a life of pleasure seeking, and you have no admiration for yourself if you live a life like that.

Could you describe what you mean by the rebirth of the logos? In that context, well, part of it is taking voluntary responsibility for the appalling condition of your life and the willingness to take responsibility for the shape of destiny. Essentially, that you’re a suffering creature that’s mortal and that you’re the locus of evil. Both of those things, and that it’s your response. That your life is about responsibility, and it’s your responsibility to voluntarily accept that and then to do what you can about it even though it’s in some sense you know it’s an enterprise doomed to failure. In some sense because you’re going to die, and the world is a place of carnage, and that you can accept that. If you can’t accept it, then what that means is that you’re not integrated enough because if you’re integrated enough then you can accept it. It’s the test of the integration. So your character isn’t forged sufficiently if you cannot tolerate that, and it’s not like it’s an easy thing to tolerate. Often what people do, is they just don’t think about it. They just push it out of their mind, and no wonder. But they pay for that with shallowness and with self-contempt, and with the inability to bear…

Adopting responsibility is the appropriate thing to do and we need a rationale for that, because why the hell would you adopt responsibility without a rationale? It’s like the default position is aimless, impulsive, pleasure-seeking and inertia because all you have to do to have that is do nothing and that’s easy. So then the immediate question is well why not just do that? One of the answers is because you and the world will go to hell, and very rapidly. That’s a pretty good answer, and it’s actually true. You know what that means in any eternal sense is not an easy thing to say, but the proximal sense is true enough. So even if action is not morally acceptable in the face of the unkempt unfinished state of being, I guess that’s a reasonable way of thinking. Mmmmm!

There’s no better pathway to self-realization [and the annulment of being] than to posit the highest good that you can conceive of and commit yourself to it. Then you might also ask yourself, and this is definitely worth asking, “Do you really have anything better to do, and if you don’t well why would you do anything else?”  So, if you orient yourself properly, and then pay attention to what you do every day…that works!

The world shifts itself around your aim. You’re a creature that has an aim. You have to have an aim in order to do something. You’re an aiming creature. You look at a point and you move towards it. It’s built right into you, and so you have an aim. Let’s say your aim is the highest possible aim, well that sets up the world around you. It organizes all of your perceptions. It organizes what you see and don’t see. It organizes your emotions and your motivations so you organize yourself around that aim. Then what happens is the day manifests itself as a set of challenges and problems, and if you solve them properly then you stay on the pathway towards that aim and you can concentrate on the 8th day. So that way you get to have your cake and eat it too, because you can point into the distance – the far distance, and you can live “in the day”. It seems to me that that makes every moment of the day supercharged with meaning. That’s how, because if everything that you’re doing every day is related to the highest possible aim, you can conceptualize well. That’s the very definition of the meaning that would sustain you well in your life. Then the issue is back to Noah. Well, all hell is about to break loose and chaos is coming. It’s like, when that’s happening in your life you might want to be doing something that you regard as truly worthwhile, because that’s what will keep you afloat when everything is flooded and you don’t want to wait until the flood comes.

Notes from the youtube video ‘Jordan Peterson – The Tragic Story of the Man-Child’

Peter Pan is this Magical boy and Pan is the God of everything.

Children are magical and they can be anything. They’re nothing but potential and Peter Pan doesn’t want to give that up.

The problem with being a child is that all you are is potential and its really low resolution as you could be anything. But you’re not anything.

No, I’m not sacrificing my childhood for that….

In Neverland, while Neverland doesn’t exist, and who the hell wants to be king of the lost boys?

And he also sacrifices the possibility that held a real relationship with a woman because that’s Wendy, and she’s kind of conservative and middle-Class.

London dwelling girl wants to grow up and have kids and have a life. She accepts her mortality and her maturity

Peter Pan has to content himself with Tinkerbell who doesn’t even exist. She’s like the fairy of porn and she’s the substitute for the real thing

There’s a sacrificial element in maturation – you have to sacrifice the Plural Potentiality of childhood for the actuality of a frame.

The question is well, why would you do that? Well, one reason is it happens to you whether you do it or not, so you can either choose your damn limitation or you can let it take you unaware when you’re 30 or older. Even worse when you’re 40 and then that is not a happy day you see, and I see people like this.

And I think it’s more and more common in our culture because people can put off maturity without suffering an immediate penalty. But all that happens is the penalty accrues later.

Choose your damn sacrifice because the sacrifice is inevitable. But at least you get to choose it.

When you adopt an apprenticeship at least you become something and when you’re something that makes the world open up to you again. You know, like if you’re a really good plumber.

That child you left behind as you were an apprentice, but then you get to be something and regain that potential at the same time. You get to pick your damn sacrifice. You’re sacrificial whether you want to be or not.

***

It’s like I’m not hearing what you think. I’m hearing how you’re able to represent the ideology you were taught, and it’s not that interesting because I don’t know anything about you. I could replace you with someone else who thinks the same way, and that means you’re not here. That’s what it means. It’s not pleasant, as you’re not integrating the specifics of your personal experience with what you’ve been taught. To synthesize something that’s genuine and surprising and engaging in a narrative sense as a consequence, and that’s the pathology of ideological possession. It’s not good, and I know where you stand on things once I know a few things. It’s like, why have a conversation? I already know where you stand on things.

The narrative they’ve been trying to paint recently is, well you know, the more identity politics leaning media types that have been covering what I’m doing have a very difficult time with it because they can only see the world through their ideological lens. The lens that they use basically assumes that the world is populated by groups, above all. They assume that every individual within that group is nothing but a mouthpiece for the group, and its claims for power. I’m trying to help people put themselves together as individuals, but that isn’t part of their narrative because within that narrative framework, which I’ve characterized in other people as well as postmodern/neo-Marxist, and even those two things don’t fit together logically very well in that narrative as there aren’t any individuals. We are just groups and power, and so when they talk about me they have to put me in a group oriented category of one form or another.

If you could be who you could be, how would you configure yourself, career, education, family? Who would you admire? You need a meaning (by adopting as much responsibility as you can) to offset the tragedy of life. So you need a noble goal. Something that ennobles you.

Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie.

Strive to be positively predisposed towards being, towards existence, despite its fragility and suffering. So classically speaking, the two highest virtues are truth and love, and it’s difficult to put one of those ahead of the other. Love means something like hoping, hoping and striving forth.

Good things tend not to happen randomly, right things fall apart randomly, so you need a vision. You need a plan for the future.

Carl Jung believed that psychotherapy was unnecessary if a sufficient moral effort could be substituted. So he thought of psychotherapy as a fundamentally moral process, and really believed that it was a consequence of truth. I would say that’s true of all the clinical psychologists and psychiatrists that I’ve studied. In the final analysis, their fundamental claim is that something like a combination of courage and truth is redemptive. It’s very interesting, because it’s a restatement of a very old idea, the oldest idea in the West, perhaps, that courage and truth are redemptive.

If you’re in Freudian psychoanalysis you go into your past, and what you haven’t yet been able to process, because perhaps you’ve avoided it – that might be repression – I think it’s not a bad example of repression although sometimes you avoid something because you cannot understand, and sometimes you avoid because you will not understand. But the confrontation with what you found intolerable in the past is curative, and that’s generalized across the psychotherapeutic disciplines because … there are certain truths that are considered intolerable. In some sense you’re encouraged to voluntarily confront, to analyse, then to articulate, then to accept, and then to adapt to. And so there’s a call to courageous truthful being in the psychotherapeutic process that looks to me like a recapitulation of the psychotherapeutic process that looks to me like a recapitulation of a much older religious idea. That’s another good example of the truth that people act as fundamental moral agents. Then there’s a more prosaic element, and you can think about this. I think it’s worth thinking about the spirit of the human being as being so powerful in its potential that it could be confronted and accepted as a fundamental responsibility, and then transcended and repaired as a consequence, and so that was an inversion of the most pessimistic possible view, I suppose, which is that life is erratically suffering and malevolence. The opposite view, which is that if that is taken on voluntarily, then it’s something that can be transcended and rectified and that’s the sacred responsibility of every single person.

In a recent Atlantic Monthly article review of a political science paper, the guys took the political spectrum from radical left to radical right and then identified the racial and economic constituents of each of the groups. The most racially homogeneous group were the radical leftists – they’re all white – they’re the ones who are least convinced that current political practice is a problem, whereas the minority groups that they purport to serve are convinced in the majority that political correctness is already a problem, and they have a mean income of more than a hundred thousand dollars a year. So they’re also rich and they’re much more likely to be well educated. So paradoxically the most racially and an economically homogeneous group, the most patriarchal group across the entire political spectrum, is the radically collectivist leftists who are almost all Caucasian, well-educated and rich. In imposing their neo-colonial view of the oppression of minorities on minority groups who by a majority of above 80% across the minority groups think that political correctness has gone too far.

From J P’s 12 Rules for Life tour in Portugal:

What I’ve said to you tonight is that some of the fundamental elements of life is suffering, and it’s contaminated by malevolence. We need a deep meaning in order to be able to withstand that without having it corrupt us, because life is very difficult and bitter. That deep meaning is to be found in something like the adoption of responsibilities, heavy responsibility for your own well-being in the highest possible sense for the well-being of your family, and for the stability and integrity of your community. And if you fail in that, not only do you fail to bring out what’s best in you and then fail in life, and suffer for that because you certainly will; but the hole you leave in the structure of reality that could have been filled by what you could have been is going to be filled by something positively hellish. That’s on you, and so that’s a useful thing to know, because if you’re going to buttress yourself against the catastrophe of his existence with a meaningful goal, let’s say a meaningful set of responsibilities, then you actually have to understand that you have a canonical role to play. The idea in the West is that each individual is the sovereign pillar of the state, that’s what we’ve decided. We took the old Egyptian idea of sovereignty and it became universalized. It took thousands of years, so that everybody became in principle the conjoined union of Osiris and Horus, the embodiment of tradition and the vision of life. That’s the ideal person, and it’s upon that ground that the idea of this state itself, a modern democratic state where everyone’s equal before God in the law. It’s predicated on the idea that each of us are sovereign individuals, and that sovereignty carries with it a tremendous responsibility; and what’s remarkable about that responsibility is that bearing that voluntarily, is exactly the same thing as finding the most meaningful thing you can possibly do in life. That sustains you psychologically against this suffering, but it also puts the world together. It’s because if you take on that responsibility, not just psychologically, if you’re there for yourself you can put your life together and there can be a lot less foolish suffering and malevolence associated with your conduct. Then if you can get your act together in some reasonable manner, then maybe you become someone that your family can rely on, and then there’s more people you can carry. That’s the definition of strength. We have this idea that the tyrannical patriarchy is only predicated on power, and the power is associated in some fundamental manner with the arbitrary exercise of tyrannical constraint. It’s complete nonsense! Functional hierarchies are predicated on their ability to encapsulate and to utilize genuine strength, and genuine strength is the ability for you to rely on yourself, and for other people to rely on you as well. That’s way more powerful than any casual utilization of tyrannical power. Those sorts of organizations are neither stable nor productive as we know, if we look at how dictators comport themselves around the world. So the idea that our hierarchical structures, when they’re healthy, are predicated on power is absolute bloody rubbish, and it’s unbelievably dangerous. It’s an offshoot of a particularly toxic form of resentful Marxism, and it’s time for us to abandon that as a particularly bad theory. Functional hierarchies are predicated on the integrity of the individual, and an individual with integrity is not only reliable for themselves and their extended self across time which is a complicated thing, but they’re capable of bearing many people along with them and maybe the entire community.  You may ask if we are capable of doing that, and well, the basic answer to that is something like…well, what’s the alternative? Perhaps we’re not capable of doing that because it’s a hell of a burden. It’s something to take on voluntarily, but the alternative as far as I can tell is if you abdicate your responsibility then terrible things happen. That’s the burden that’s placed at your feet if you are in fact the sovereign entity upon which the state rests. It’s truly on you. You think, “Well, my life has no meaning…” It’s like, well you’re not looking very hard for the meaning! Maybe you’re avoiding it because of its weight. You say, “Well, we should pursue happiness…” That’s an idea: we should pursue self-esteem or some transient idiocy of that sort. That’s not going to sustain you through the storms of life. There’s no possible act of fate that can be sustained through tragedy and catastrophe by happiness, but you can find deep meaning and responsibility. So you take that responsibility on as much as you possibly can. Then you stumble uphill with it and that stabilizes the hierarchies and keeps them healthy as long as you’re alert, and that keeps the catastrophes at bay and makes everything stack up properly.

From JP’s talk in Slovenia:

By adopting a heroic mode of being meaning will be produced or discovered.

You’re more than you think you are. [What could this mean?]

If you look long enough into an abyss, that abyss will look at you and you’ll discover something at the bottom of it.

What if you subject yourself to the highest possible level of necessity? Maybe then the possibility is that the best there is called forth out of you, and that’s a union with all the great – that’s the union with what’s greatest about Humanity in the past. Because that’s in you but it’s not going to come out without compulsion, and the compulsion that you set upon yourself. So that’s the antidote to the collectivist viewpoint. It’s like, it’s your problem and thank God for that because you need a problem to justify your miserable existence! It has to be a problem of sufficient magnitude so that you could look yourself in the mirror when you wake up in the morning, and you can think, “Well, despite my inadequacy and all the things about me that are insufficient, at least I’m bearing up under this worthwhile load.”

*

Aim high, but compare yourself with who you were yesterday. Incremental movement is unstoppable!

Ask yourself, “How could I conceive of my life, so that if I had that life it would clearly be worth living so I wouldn’t have to be bitter, resentful, deceitful, arrogant, and vengeful?” Because that’s what endless failure does to you. It’s not good, and that’s what life without purpose and the goal does to you as well, because life is very hard.

Consider saying, “I need to adopt a mode of being that would justify my suffering.”  You can ask yourself the question, “What would make this niche worthwhile?” I quote Nietzsche. He said, “He who has a why can bear almost any how.” That’s a lovely line, man, I mean it’s a lovely line and it’s really worth thinking about.

JP on resentment:

Resentment is a key human motivation, and I would say it’s a great teacher to listen to your resentment. It’s one of the best things you can possibly do. You have to admit that it exists, first, and then you have to admit to the fantasies that it’s generating. You have to admit to what you would regard as the way out of it, and that’s all very difficult because it means learning things about yourself that you probably don’t want to learn. Resentment only means one of two things. It means either shut the hell up, grow up, quit whining, and get on with it. That’s one thing it means, or someone is playing the tyrant to you. It might even be you, and you have something to say and do that you should say and do to put it to a stop. So maybe resentment can show you the pathway to doing that. It’s a meditation on resentment. One of the principles that I extracted from that is an outspoken person wants other people to change, and if you’re resentful then your motivations aren’t trustworthy. In fact, they’re very, very dark and that’s why you went to the extreme. So if I could just set it right I could learn, and I could set it right! So, I’ve been thinking about that for a very long time, and I think, if your life isn’t going the way you’d like you can find someone else to blame, which is pretty convenient for you. It’s also relatively easy or you could think, “Okay, I don’t like the way my life is unfolding. Maybe I don’t like life in general because it’s tragic and tainted with evil. How do I know if my judgement is accurate?” The question is, “Have I really done everything I possibly could to set my life straight, because maybe I shouldn’t be judging it?” It’s quality, or the quality of life itself, or being itself for that matter. If I haven’t done everything I possibly could to set my life straight….well, so there’s a task!

The idea that what you should do if you’re feeling resentful about the nature of being, or suffering too much in your own life, let’s say, is straighten the damn thing out. Seriously! Try it for a year even, try it for a week. Try not doing the things you know you shouldn’t do. Try not saying the things you know to be false, and just watch what happens. You might as well give it a shot, right, because you say, “Well, I’m all in for a year, you know, I’m gonna do things right and then I’ll just stand back and watch how things unfold, and maybe I’ll reconsider at the end of that year. Try it, I mean, I would say I’ve had thousands of letters now from people who are saying, “Hey I tried that, you know, and hey it worked!”

*

The winning of an argument is not to be right, but to fix the problem.

If people are not listening to you stop talking to them, and that’s really the best piece of advice that I can give you. What happens is that if you stop talking to people who aren’t listening to you and start watching them instead, they will tell you what they’re up to. So if you have things to say and you find people that will listen, talk to them. The ones who aren’t listening will pull back because you’re devaluing what you have to say by offering it to an audience that does nothing but reject it, and that’s a good guideline to life in general. So pull back.

What you don’t know is more important than what you know, because you just don’t know enough.

You learn things painfully, and when you learn something painfully a part of you has to die. That’s the pain you know when a dream is shattered, for example. A huge part of you that constituted that dream, maybe even the biological substrate of that gene, has to be stripped away and burned. So life is a constant process of death and rebirth, and to participate in that fully is to allow yourself to be redeemed by it. So the good is that process of death and rebirth voluntarily undertaken. You’re not as good as you could be, so you let that part of you die, and if someone comes along and says, “There’s some dead wood here, man.” It needs to be burned off and you think, “Well that other stuff’s still a bit alive.”

You have a hierarchy of values otherwise you can’t act, or you’re painfully confused. So you have a hierarchy of values and whatever is at the top of that hierarchy of values serves the function of God for you now. It may be a god that you don’t believe in, or a god that you can’t name, but it doesn’t matter because it’s God for you and what you think about God has very little impact on how God is acting within you, whatever God it is that you happen to be following.

It’s not that easy to be a good person, and once you don’t trust someone you really don’t trust them. It’s really hard for them to recover. If you don’t trust them you’re not gonna play with them, not if you have any sense and we’re really good at relationship tracking. We’re especially good at tracking behaviour that’s ethically suspect, and we remember it. One mistake will blow your reputation. It’s harsh, but it just shows you how important trust is. If you act in a trustworthy manner, and if you’re someone that can be trusted, then the probability that you’ll at least move towards some degree of success in your domain is radically increased. That’s a good deal, and then the other thing, too, is that what makes you a contender in a hierarchical game is courage, because it’s paradoxical courage which is one of the things I really like about the narrative structure of Christianity…

If you want to straighten out your brain there’s almost nothing you can do that’s better than writing. It really straightens you out to the highest level of your personality, or verbally. So you have to have an account of yourself, you have to have an articulated account of yourself, that’s where you talk to people all the time about what’s going on in your life. And if you’re disorganized at the level of the articulated account you fall into a pit. It’s a bad thing – it’s like you have a map but there are stains everywhere and there are big holes torn in it that’s half drawn in crayon. You’re not getting anywhere good with a map like that, and so you have to be able to articulate yourself. Otherwise you’re not going to move forward with a plan like that.

We know already that human perception is or around aim. Everything about us is organized around it and even the way we use our eyes is organized around aim. We’re aiming creatures, and how do you not hit something if there’s a target there? How do you miss it? Well, if one has not specified the target! So how are you gonna hit something if you don’t specify it? It sounds like, and I know that for most people life is something that happens to them, they’re reacting to things all the time. This means that they’re tangled up in someone else’s story, or they’re pawns in someone else’s aims, or they’re pawns of the aims of their own unconscious processes. You know that’s the case when you find yourself doing something that you can’t believe you did, right? I can’t believe I did that!

Fantasizing about how you’d like to take revenge…the reason is the inescapable brutality of life, but there’s no excuse for it just because things are terrible. It doesn’t mean that you’re justified in making them worse, so you don’t have the right to use your tragedy to make the world a worse place. I don’t say that lightly because I know that people can have brutally difficult lives, and that some people have lives that are so brutally difficult that it’s almost unimaginable.

I think that we confront reality as divine centers of consciousness. I don’t think there’s a better way of saying that, and the reason I’m saying ‘divine’ is because we don’t understand consciousness at all. We don’t understand its relationship to material reality, and we do know that it’s integrally involved with consciousness. No one experiences what is there. Well, you can’t even say there’s a ‘we’ to confront potential consciously. We interact with it. How much potential is there? We’re very finite and constrained like a genie in a bottle. That’s where that idea exists. We’re constrained and there’s a reason for that. It’s a complicated reason, but what we confront seems to be something that’s essentially infinite in its potential. So then you think, well if you have an impossible problem, and you do you have an impossible problem, and so does everybody else, what do you need to solve an impossible problem? You need something infinite. You need it for the potential to solve an impossible problem. Maybe you have that right in front of you, and I actually think this is true. I think that if you conducted your life as if what you had in front of you was infinite potential then you’d find out. If what you had in front of you was infinite potential, you’d find out that was true and I think that in interacting with that you’d also find what you needed to justify the catastrophe of your life because that’s what you need to do.

That’s how we act, I think it’s what we expect. I think it’s what we need to know because you have to say that’s part of standing up straight, right? Accepting the tragedy and catastrophe of existence. This is partly why I think the West got it right, because as the central story we’re a judeo-christian culture and there’s a central story at the bottom. The story is about the radical acceptance of fragility. That’s what the crucifixion represents – the fact that that’s a voluntary act, and it’s about everybody. That’s, well, you’re gonna die. You’re gonna be betrayed. Those things are going to happen, and so you can either shrink from that and maybe envelop yourself with bitterness and hatred, and no wonder! Alternatively you can say, “Bring it on, bring it on!” So I would say, “Well, I’ve looked at dark things as much as I can.” You know what I think? That’s probably hurt me in many ways, but that’s been unbelievably helpful, you know, because the thing about darkness is it makes the light stand out, and as I look deeper and deeper into terrible things I’ve also realized that there’s something amazing about human beings, you know, because our lives are bounded by tragedy and we are capable of deep malevolence more so than you can almost imagine. But I don’t think that’s what defines us, I really don’t! I think what defines us is the ability to transcend. I truly believe that! So I’m not pessimistic. I’m optimistic and no, I do believe that people are embodied miracles!

Jordan Peterson on why people are deeply confused about structures of value…and Price’s Law etc:

You have to do something otherwise the consequences are dire. To do something you have to value something. It’s a definitional issue, because to do something is to act out the proposition that the thing you’re doing, the thing you’re aiming at, let’s say, is preferable to the thing you have. Preferable means you’ll do it, so those things are tied together so tightly you can’t disentangle them. If you say, “I’m aiming at X but I don’t value it.” then there’s something wrong with the way that you’re conceptualizing the statement. Because to aim at something and to work to bring it into existence is the same as valuing it, and if you say, “Well, I don’t value it.” then something’s out of kilter. Either you’re acting out a falsehood or you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s one of those two things, and you meet people like that who are deeply confused. They’re their action patterns, and their verbal self-representation don’t mesh. That doesn’t mean that they’re critics of value, it just means that they’re deeply confused, so you have to act or you suffer in order to act. You have to have a value structure, because to act you have to value one thing more than another which means that you have to inhabit a structure of value. You have to, so you need a structure value because it’s the antidote to catastrophe. Now, if you act out a structure of value socially, which you will because you’re social, you’re not going to pursue your aims in isolation because you’re not a solitary animal. You’re a social animal, a tribal animal, deeply tribal. We live in groups. We live in families, in communities, in large societies. We’re social at every level of analysis, and we’ve been social for as long as we’ve been primates. Maybe that’s at least six million years, and it might be more like sixty million years. It’s really a long time, so it’s not an arbitrary social construction, it’s far deeper than that. Now, what happens when you act out a structure of value in the social environment? You produce a hierarchy, inevitably. Well, let’s think it through why. Let’s say that you say that one thing is more worth doing than another – whatever happens to be – and then you tell a bunch of people about what you’re doing, and they decide that they’re going to come along and help you do this thing that’s valuable because they also think it’s valuable. Maybe you get 20 people together to do this thing, whatever it happens to be, and the first thing you discover is that some of the people are way better at doing whatever it is that they’re doing than other people. Who knows why? That’s because it depends on what you chose to do. If you chose A then it would be a different group of people who were good at it, than if you chose B because people differ in their abilities. So, if you make an organization to do something valuable, the brute fact is that it will be a minority of the people who are good at doing it and there’s actually a law. It’s called Price’s Law, and it’s a real law. It even governs the size of cities, the mass of stars and the heights of plants in the jungle. It doesn’t just govern human interactions. Price’s Law says that the square root of the number of people engaged in an enterprise will do half the work, so if you have ten people doing something three of them will do half the work. But…