I have just finished reading Jordan Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, and I feel like I have been in a fight.
But it’s a good fight. The very kind of fight we long for if we are brave; if we are at our best. It’s the kind of fight that pushes you to your limits; tests every fiber of muscle and every mental reaction and leaves you exhausted, breathing deeply, relaxed and loose and, well . . . happy.
Jordan Peterson fights hard, but he doesn’t fight dirty. I don’t feel like I won this battle, but I didn’t lose, either.
It’s a 12-round bout and each round deals with something right there in the middle of these lives we lead. He forces us to face, head-on, so many of those monsters that plague our lives and that we in our laziness and fear do our level best to ignore. In fact, that tendency to ignore the elephants in the room is the subject of one of his twelve essays.
Is it possible that the overall theme of the book is “engage and fight?” As I write, considering each of the very different chapters of the book, one overriding idea that does seem to emerge is that of willingness to fight.
One way we tend to back away from the battle of life is by lying. So often, it seems, a little lie here and there will make life simpler and easier and some inflation and manipulation of the truth might actually serve to put us ahead of the game. But Peterson argues that these lies, the little and big ones, the ones born of laziness and fear and the ones born of pride and greed, are pure poison. Not only do we hurt others through our deceit; we cripple ourselves, we paint ourselves into corners. Indeed, the whole structure of our world is affected by our willingness to tell the truth, even when it may cost us something. Peterson points to the Biblical truth that this universe was spoken into being by God. Speech is creative. It is the ultimate creative force. And our speech, every bit of it, does its part in creating the mentality and the society in which we live. Addicts remain addicts because they cannot tell themselves – or anyone else – the truth. The first step away from the prison of addiction is that of telling the truth.
Peterson also cites Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian dissident whose writings served as a catalyst for the downfall of the murderous, paranoid, and insane Communist regime that controlled the Soviet Union for most of the 20th century. Writing from gulag, Solzhenitsyn said that the system that repressed and impoverished millions and murdered millions more was allowed to persist in the face of all evidence because men and women allowed themselves to lie about it every day. “If everyone woke up in the morning with the resolution to tell nothing but the truth, this system would fall by noon. . .”