Jordan B. Peterson
Incredible Humans, A Series (part 3)
I first found Dr. Jordan Peterson last May while I was working on my third installment of this “Incredible Humans” series. Graduation and the chaos that it routinely spawns in my life prevented me from sharing it then. After that, I immersed myself into publishing my book JACK. Then school started up again which delayed it further. I am sorry that it has taken me so long to recommence this series. However, before introducing my newest subject, I’ll briefly explain my reasons for this series and why I believe that it’s important.
When I started this project last April, I was feeling underwhelmed by the numbing din of insignificance which I encountered on social media, in music, in literature, in church, and in daily conversations. Indeed, I felt that people actually shunned topics of importance. I wasn’t sure whether it was due to mental laziness or fear of expressing an unpopular opinion. Moreover, in my religiously dominated scrap of the earth, I’ve observed a tendency in many to deny that there is much good in the world (“Babylon”) to even speak of. That is simply not true. I decided that I wanted to change the landscape, to search out feats of enduring value, to find people who were engaged in pushing the boundaries of human achievement, and to share their accomplishments on Facebook instead of the mindless dribble all around. It’s a noble endeavor after all, for, when we look through the eyes of another human, we peer into the face of God.
I hope that you all will help me to improve the conversation, even if by small degrees, by sharing some of the awesome things that people are doing out there everyday. Furthermore, if any of you think of candidates for this series, I’d love to receive your recommendations.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Canada. He has authored two books (Maps of Meaning and 12 Rules for Life), given countless lectures to spellbound audiences, and practiced clinical psychology. His broad experiences have given him stunning insight into the human condition. His remarkable intellect demands attention. He has held me spellbound on YouTube although I typically dislike watching videos. Furthermore, unlike many commentators out there, he dwells on subjects with universal and enduring significance to human life. One of my favorite YouTube clips depicts him discussing human suffering and enduring it nobly. We need to hear more of this. These days, it seems that victims are more plentiful than abuses. I don’t mean to downplay the suffering of authentic victims. I know that there is some severe pain in the world, but taking up permanent residence there doesn’t make the world a better place. As Peterson suggests, “Transcend your suffering. See if you can be some kind of hero. Make the suffering in the world less.”
I love Dr. Peterson’s focus on what he calls the “noble aim.” I’m still learning more about it, but it’s inspiring. With over two hundred videos and two books, I’ll be learning for quite some time. From what I have learned so far, the noble aim involves delving deeply into the consciousness, into what makes us human, into our roots in the universe. He was asked once if he believed in God. He looked at the interviewer almost irritated, like “what kind of an absurd question is that?” He then said that he didn’t like the question, but he replied that, “I act as if God exists… so that’s a good enough answer for that.” I can really relate to his response. All too often when people ask that question, they are not seeking wisdom, they are asking in order to assess worthiness. Belief in God is not about pleasing the inquisition, it’s about seeking greater personal understanding into our own existence. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Dr. Peterson asks deep, meaningful questions. For instance, he gave a twelve part lecture series, each lasting about two and a half hours, on the Psychological Significance of the Bible Stories. He stated that his reason for doing so was not to tell what he knew, but to learn. He said that he hoped to know more about the Bible after he finished the lecture series than he did before. I profoundly respect that. It is such a refreshing perspective. I am more accustomed to someone or other claiming an infallible interpretation of the Bible, all packaged and ready for delivery.
Dr. Jordan Peterson is an articulate advocate for freedom of speech. It is sad that it was actually an interview about his refusal to follow the University’s policy requiring him to use students’ preferred pronouns that brought him to my attention. The policy was based on a gender identity law enacted in Canada. I do not view this issue as one of those topics of enduring value that I mentioned earlier. I do not particularly care which bathroom you use or what pronoun you prefer to be known by. I care about freedom! Your preferences should not dictate my speech. Therefore, I say that it was sad that this silly issue brought Dr. Peterson to my attention because he wasn’t fighting for or against pronouns; he was fighting for something so much more fundamental to humanity–the freedom to express our ideas regardless of whether or not they are deemed offensive to others. How is it that we live in a time when using an assumed pronoun is deemed a greater abuse than the abuse of the power of the state and the suppression of free speech? Well, I don’t really understand it, but Dr. Peterson dazzled me with parallels from history, literature, and psychology which convinced me that fighting this prescribed speech movement had its merit.
Then again, not fully understanding Dr. Peterson’s reasons impresses me most about him. There seems to be an unending supply of wisdom in him. I have listened to him for hours and I will continue to listen for hours to come. I will read the books which he mentions. I will ponder the questions which he ponders. His mind awakens me to the fact that I have squandered too much time on trivial things. He demonstrates the indescribable power that that the human mind possesses when it launches in search of truth and answers.
Author of JACK
Photo of Peterson take from here.