12 Rules for Life – Follow-up

Well…I promise I’m not trying to milk this for all it’s worth.  But I realized that after “finishing” the review of 12 Rules for Life, I’d failed to answer my starting questions from Part 1:

  1. What is about [Jordan Peterson] or his message that generates commonality between such disparate groups?
  2. What kind of person, with such a prestigious CV, is so willing to go out on a limb [against political correctness]? Is he really courageous, or is there some other reason?

I think the answer to #1 is pretty simple.  Peterson’s appeal lies in his embrace of core values, like honesty, hard work, integrity, and self-respect.  Any belief systems that value the individual and accountability are going to gravitate towards his message, which puts a big emphasis on you, the individual, taking action – making your life better and making the world better.  So that is what seems to make his following so diverse.

To the second question – my takeaway from reading 12 Rules is that Jordan Peterson is a religious person.  Not necessarily a Christian or even a deist in the traditional sense, he nevertheless holds certain beliefs, and he adheres to them faithfully.  Peterson is the greengrocer in Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless” who has chosen not to display state-mandated slogans in his shop window, because he has decided to “live within the truth.” That’s what drives his courage.

I was telling my mom about the book, and she recommended this interview which just came out last Thursday. Though nearly an hour, it goes by very quickly…  I haven’t seen Peterson so emotional before, and it brings out a different side of him, less of the academic and more of the personal, even self-conscious.  He does cover several of the main points of 12 Rules as well.

In January, Peterson announced he is working on a “better book,” a sequel called Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, scheduled for a January 2020 release. I’m looking forward to reading it, not only to compare with the first book but to see the progression of his ideas and how the past two years of publicity may have changed (or not) his messaging.

12 Rules for Life – Part 3 of 3

I’ve decided to share these quotes in the order they appear in the book, plus occasional commentary. All quotes are from the 2018 hardcover edition.

Key:

  • plaintext – Worthy quotes
  • bold – Favorite quotes
  • italics – Quotes I disliked

12 Rules for Life: Best and Worst Quotes

The dominance hierarchy is not capitalism.  It’s not communism, either, for that matter . . . We (the sovereign we, the we that has been around since the beginning of life) have lived in a dominance hierarchy for a long, long time. (p. 14) – Agreed, seems pretty self-evident.

. . . the familiar Western images of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child and the Pietà both express the female/male dual unity, as does the traditional insistence on the androgyny of Christ.  (p. 42) – “traditional insistence on the androgyny,” what is he talking about?

You should take care of, help and be good to yourself the same way you would take care of, help and be good to someone you loved and valued. (p. 62)

. . . a villain who despairs of his villainy has not become a hero.  A hero is something positive, not just the absence of evil.  (p. 78) – Exactly!

. . . winning at everything might only mean that you’re not doing anything new or difficult.  You might be winning, but you’re not growing, and growing might be the most important form of winning.  (p. 88)

Ask yourself: is there one thing that exists in disarray in your life or your situation that you could, and would, set straight?  Could you, and would you, fix that one thing that announces itself humbly in need of repair?  (p. 94)

What would your life look like, if it were better?  (p. 100)

The Old Testament Israelites and their forebears knew that God was not to be trifled with, and that whatever Hell the angry Deity might allow to be engendered if he was crossed was real.  Having recently passed through a century defined by the bottomless horrors of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, we might realize the same thing.  (p. 105) – This is a terrible example of conflating all evils with “judgment from God.”  It’s not biblical (see Job).  Granted, Peterson here is speaking of the “Old Testament God” as a concept, not necessarily as a real Person.  But this kind of thing is what I meant by “repurposing the Bible” to fit a philosophy.

. . . if  you look close enough, the biggest of lies is composed of smaller lies, and those are composed of still smaller lies – and the smallest of lies is where the big lie starts. (p. 228)

People think they think, but it’s not true.  It’s mostly self-criticism that passes for thinking . . . Thinking is an internal dialogue between two or more different views of the world. (p. 241)

The past is not necessarily what it was, even though it has already been. (p. 267) – On second reading, I’m not exactly sure this makes logical sense, but I get the gist of it, and it’s a hard truth.

Assume ignorance before malevolence. No one has a direct pipeline to your wants and needs – not even you.  (p. 320) – Good advice for managing conflict.

When [boys] told off the teachers, they were pushing against the authority, to see if there was any real authority there – the kind that could be relied on, in principle, in a crisis. (p. 331) – Yeah, I’m not really buying that one.  Backtalk is backtalk, let’s not romanticize it.

Maybe the environmental problem is ultimately spiritual. If we put ourselves in order, perhaps we will do the same for the world. (p. 364)