Corona Lockdown Book #8
Peterson is a divisive figure, and one that has been made out to be a bad guy by many. There’s no evidence to suggest he’s anything other than a well meaning clinical psychologist and public figure. I was therefore curious to read his widely popular 12 Rules for Life.
With varying levels of success Peterson attempts to outline and articulate 12 Rules for Life - better understood as rules to navigate the path between order and chaos (a big theme in this book) and instil meaning into life and contend with the existence of Being (another continued theme). Drawing on his psychological analysis of religion (see Maps of Meaning) and the seminal works of great minds throughout history (Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Freud, Jung, Nietzsche... to name a few), Peterson really sinks his teeth into big questions of life. How do we conduct ourselves best, in the face of adversity? What can be do to stay clear of the temptations of nihilism? How can we give our lives meaning, and do right by ourselves and others?
As I read through each rule (broken into single chapters per rule) I found myself (naturally) applying his rules, logic and examples to my own life. This is, after all, often referred to as a “self-help” book, for lack of a better term. Rule 1 - Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back - easy enough to understand, the back interactions in life are often when you present yourself with confidence, naturally good can and surely will come of this. Rule 2 - Treat Yourself Like You Are Someone Responsible For Helping - Look after yourself of course, this seem simple but to truly look after yourself you need to grant yourself the knowledge of Being. Chaos and struggle give life a purpose, if everything was orderly life would have no meaning. To come to terms with this, Peterson argues, this is no small thing. Look after yourself and give credit where it is due.. this similarly flows into Rule 6 - Set Your House In Perfect Order Before You Criticise The World - look inward to solve your own problems before taking on the world, perhaps if everyone heeded this advice the world would see a vast collective improvement.
I’m not going to write a point about every rule, but I feel like I took something positive from each one. Some are better than others. Some get bogged down for too long in looping verbiage and excessive religious (largely Christian) analysis. I much preferred the contemporary examples drawn by Peterson, especially those drawn from his own life experience both professional (clinical psychologist) and personal (a fascinating collection of anecdotal tales are present in this book, but all serve a meaningful point).
I think I will find myself living (or at least trying) to live by these rules. As Peterson states, he is not trying anything revolutionary here, he is simply (but effectively) teaching us what we already knew deep down.
Unfortunately his I found on a few occasions seeing Peterson split his teachings into very black and white distinctions. Often the grey was obscured or omitted from his consideration. Chaos and Order, Masculine and Feminine, Good and Evil, Heaven and Hell, Being and Nonbeing. While Peterson avoids over-categorisation and cultural-Marxism at an absolute, it would have been nice to at least see some deeper thought offered on outliers to his explanations.
Nevertheless, this is worth checking out. I was surprised considering how politically divisive this man is, how apolitical this books was (perhaps more an indicator of how tribal such spheres have become). This is a fantastic read. Not life changing for all, but I can certainly see how it would be for some.