12 Rules for Life — an Anecdote to Chaos?

A middle aged woman’s view of 12 Rules.

My son over the last year had been urging me to read more. Telling me of all the books that he has read, mostly self help books, and how I might benefit from reading them too. Very subtle! He had also been going about lobsters, I wasn’t quite sure why, but that became clearer later on.
One of his many recommendations was Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and he suggested I watched a few of his videos. So, reluctantly, I did.

I think the first video I watched was the BBC interview with Dr. Peterson and Kathy Newman on the gender pay gap. I was fascinated by his eloquence, intelligence, his childlike laugh and his composure throughout the whole interview. I couldn’t figure out if Kathy’s responses, which often seemed totally out of context to what he was saying, (or trying to say) were designed to make him uncomfortable or she just didn't grasp what it was he was saying. Many times during a ‘heated debate’ people are so eager to get their opinion across that they fail to hear what the other person has to say. Was this the case here?

It was quite an interview.

The more videos I watched the more I liked this man. Such a profound sense of humor, charm and intelligence.

I bought the book a few days later.

It took me a few days to open it and actually get around to reading it, this was big step for me as I am not much of a reader. (Note to self: read more!)After forcing myself to read the foreword and the overture, I felt that I had at least learnt a little about the man and that was important, as he had been immersed in so much controversy. I was glad I had read it, it helped me gain more insight. I think it was the fact that he uses smileys that made me read on. :) His knowledge as a psychologist, coupled with his vast comprehension in various other fields does not lead the reader down a path of confusion, but rather, it gives them a better understanding of what they already know. Well it did in my case.

“Dreams shed light on the dim places where reason has yet to voyage”.

The first chapter of the book and the first rule is:

It soon became clear why my son had been going on about lobsters. In this chapter Dr. Peterson talks about lobsters and explains how they are not unlike us with regard to hierarchy, dating and depression he also stresses how appearances and first impressions matter. Sounds insane I know, but he delivers his idea quite ingeniously and you will never think of lobsters in the same way again. In fact you will never think of people in the same way again. After this chapter I saw lobsters sitting in the café, driving to work and strolling down the street with their baby lobsters skipping along beside them.

No spoilers here. You have to read it for yourself. :)

The second chapter:

2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

In this chapter he says how we neglect ourselves far too frequently and he takes it way back to the story of Adam and Eve and how their (symbolic) stumbling into transgression basically set mankind on a self-loathing road to self-destruction. Okay, maybe he wasn’t quite that dramatic. He explains how becoming aware of good and evil made us conscious of death, our own mortality and chaos. When there’s too much order, or too much chaos, components of your personality can manifest into self destructive harmful outcomes. He has a remedy for that.

I found this chapter of particular interest, for personal reasons. About 28 years ago I started, casually, reading the bible and gained an certain understanding of it that nobody else seemed to share with me and that I couldn’t seem to share with others. (that is another article in the making) Dr. Peterson’s ‘interpretation’ of this particular section of Genesis was quite captivating because it was not unlike my own. The Bible, as I am sure you all know, is a collection of 66 books containing, meaningful advice that extends into modern day living. Maybe you didn’t know the latter, which would be of no surprise as, ironically, the most sold book of all time is the least read.
Whenever I mention to people that I have read the Bible or when I have attempted to extract a gem of worldly wisdom from it to impart some advice, I normally get that look, (you know, the one you have on your face right now?) then I am quickly placed into little box, with varying labels, depending on who is doing that packaging. :)
This chapter is also a good read.

Here is my take on Adam and Eve. (in part, I might write out the full winded version at some point.)

According to Genesis, when God created Adam he told him to go and name all the animals. Adam never told him to go and do it himself. He didn’t say he was busy and couldn’t do it. No. He did as he was told, but when he was tempted by Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, well that was a different story. (Interesting how when he was alone he was obedient.) After they ate the fruit, they became aware of their nakedness, their mortality, and more importantly, the knowledge of both Good and Evil. It must have been a huge shock for them. Not unlike the Buddha when he saw the world outside the walls of the Palace for the first time.

Not only did Adam and Eve become aware, they blamed somebody else for their own transgression. Adam, in so many words, actually blamed God.

He said: “The woman that you gave me made me eat it.”
Eve said: “The snake made me eat it”

Neither of them said; “ I behaved badly” or “I shouldn’t have done it”.

They received, or rather took, the knowledge, but it wasn’t the kind of knowledge they needed. Knowledge is not a synonym of wisdom. They are two different things. You can know something is wrong and still do it, if you are wise you won’t, you will think of the consequences and the affect that will have. They had knowledge of good and evil, so they blamed somebody else. It didn’t get off to a good start.

In 2012 I did a rather funny 5 minute Ignite Talk called Adam and Eve and the Human Condition. There was no way I could say all I wanted to say about the subject, but I tried. it is in Portuguese but has subtitles(click here to see video). In that talk I go onto say that this lead to man’s quest for knowledge, no matter what the price. I finished off with a quote by T.S.Eliot;

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

Imagine my surprise when towards the end of the chapter, Dr. Peterson quoted the same poem. I know it is just a coincidence, but never-the-less it is an interesting one. I got very excited about it and told my son. He assured me there is nothing remarkable about it; I like to think there is :)

Next two chapters coming soon!

Artist, Portuguese teacher, Singer / Songwriter, Writer and Philosopher…kinda…