An Emotional Return & 12 More Rules for Life | Jordan Peterson | POLITICS | Rubin Report
- So that chapter is hard on me. It's sort of traumatic to read it. Because I struggle with it. Because I'm in pain most of the time. But I know that it's not helpful to be resentful. It's better to be grateful.
(dramatic music) - I'm Dave Rubin, and joining me today is a clinical psychologist, a lecturer an author, and perhaps most importantly, a man who truly changed my life for the better Dr. Jordan Peterson. Welcome back to the Rubin Report. - It's really good to see you Dave. - Gosh, well, we connected for about a minute before we started this officially and you said, boy it's been about two years. We've we've texted a little bit. It's been a crazy two years.
It goes without saying. So before I get into any of the meat of this, and I wanna talk obviously about the... About the new book and everything else I think what's on everyone's mind more than anything is how are you. Just, how are you? - Well, I'm at home and I'm working about a third of the time I would say. I'm working hard on my podcasts and YouTube discussions. And I can manage about two hours of work a day.
And so I'm not in the hospital. And I'm sharp again, reasonably sharp, again. Trying to write again. I'm planning a new book. We'll see how that goes. It's nice to be back.
It's nice to be doing these discussions. I've talked to lots of interesting people over the last couple of months. Douglas Murray, Ian Hazili, [indistinct] Ian... I'm gonna forget Ian's last name McGilchrist. He wrote The master and His Emissary. So I'm working a bit and I have this new book coming out, as you mentioned, and that's coming out on the 2nd of March.
So that's interesting and exciting and stressful. All of those things. I hope it's well-received. I can't evaluate it. You know, I'm too close to it to evaluate it. - Yeah, well, I have no doubt that there will be plenty of people evaluating it.
And you've already sort of dove back into dealing with the media. So all that stuff is kind of common. But you know obviously over the last two years so much has happened, and it feels like we're in a different world and everything else.
And you know, so many people, they asked me about you. They asked me about our time together and the tour and everything else. And truly for me when people ask me that, or just when I think back to that year. I mean, we did about 120 stops in almost 20 countries. You did a bunch more that I couldn't attend even after that. It feels like a dream to me.
Like that year it was so intense and wonderful and magical and sometimes stressful, sometimes tiring, whatever it was, but it was just in the summation. It was just wonderful. What do you think back on mostly about that? - Well, it seems like a dream to me too. You know being the last two years have been mostly hospitals for one reason or another. And I suppose it's partly dreamlike because of the vast contrast between 2018 and then 2019 and 2020. I mean, that tour was an amazing experience.
It was so positive, apart from the odd press blast. Which were islands of negativity in a sea of what was positive. It was really something to travel from city to city and to talk to all those people. And yeah, it was an amazing experience.
And I'd certainly like to do it again. If I could gather myself together I know Tammy too had a really... She thought it was a great adventure. And I thought we worked well together.
You and I, it was nice to have some levity associated with all the seriousness. That's a good combination. If you could pull it off.
It was so nice to see all those people who were trying to put their lives together. And such a remarkable range of people. I don't wanna use the word diverse because it's been completely poisoned of course. But there were every sort of person in our audiences and they'd all come together for positive reasons, as far as I could tell.
It sure felt that way. It was so nice to meet people too. And they were always so friendly and welcoming. You know, when you say I've been so fortunate in the response that I've received from people who've watched my YouTube videos or listened to the podcast or read the book. It's really sustained me, kept me going.
- Yeah, it was great. - It was a ridiculous experience. It was unbelievable.
- That's it? - It was a ridiculous experience. People ask me this too and I actually don't have a good answer for this. But beyond just the occasional hit piece and the strange things the New York times, Enforcement [indistinct] and the rest of that, was there anything negative? I mean, there were some emotional stuff that was happening and obviously you found out that Tammy was ill and thank God she's better now. And you were having- - She says hello by the way Dave. - Oh, please send her send her my love. Mine and David's please do.
But beyond some of that... The hit piece stuff and some of the health stuff that you started to deal with and that Tammy was ill. Do you remember anything that was negative? I truly don't. It was like every day that we went somewhere it was more love, more people putting their lives together. And the stories, just the incredible stories that we heard everywhere. - Yeah, well, and we did the meet and greets afterwards and I also really liked that.
I only 10 to 15 seconds with each person or couple or family whatever it was, but that was all extremely positive too. So, no, I mean, I've tried to figure out why I've become so ill. There's a variety of reasons. Some of it's associated with this familial proclivity for depression, no doubt. But I don't believe that it was a consequence of certainly not of that tour. I mean, and I've always liked my whole life since I was 25.
I've gone flat out. I like that. I like to live like that. To work 15 or 16 hours a day flat out.
And I mean, I did learn how to do that. I thought and be able to sustain it. And so, no, my health wasn't 100% on that tour.
That was probably a prodrome drama for everything that happened later. But I really don't think it had anything to do with the tour. Now all the controversy that swirled around me, that's a different thing.
That has been extremely stressful. And I don't really know how to calibrate that. I watch people on Twitter and if they say something and 20 people mob them, that's usually enough to really set them back on their heels. And generally people apologize and well make things worse often by doing that.
But it doesn't take many people to go after you before it has a real pronounced emotional effect. And that happened a lot and it was somewhat... I can't really understand it exactly, why it happened so much. And I'm sure that had some effect on me. Because when it happens now it certainly wallops me. We had a run in with the London Times, the Sunday Times a while back, and it was unbelievably stressful two weeks because of that.
Cause you never know of course how the public is going to respond either. And so far as I said, I've been so fortunate in people's response to me. But I thought, well maybe I've gone to the well of public sympathy one time, too many this time. And it was undoubtedly a mistake perhaps. Oh, Christ, I don't know, to have talked to the Sunday times.
But I thought I had to talk about what happened to me to someone. And we thought, well they're hypothetically stayed and reliable. And it's hurtful to me to see these institutions become corrupted.
That I certainly take no pleasure in seeing that. It's appalling in fact, to watch these once great institutions deteriorate into tabloid style journalism and deceit. But no, the tour was great Dave, I thought.
Jesus, I mean, it's complicated. Because it also, my life got so disrupted. Because I was a professor and I had my clinical practice and my writing and a business that I ran as well. And now I'm not a professor at the moment, I'm on leave still and I don't have my clinical practice. And so I'm still... I'm a drift to some degree because of that.
Because that was so much of my life. And then of course the tour filled that up. And then, well there's prolonged bout of illness.
My wife and then me. I'm just starting to come to terms with whatever my new life looks like. I think about going back to the university, but I'm not sure I can do it. And that's very...
What would you say? I don't know how to think about the fact that maybe I can't do it. I'm certainly not happy about it. It's appalling. - Do you mean because of the physical rigors, or just because you're- - Yeah, yeah. Just, I don't think my...
I don't think I'm reliable enough to take on that responsibility. I don't know for sure, but I'm still very ill. - Yeah, I mean, I don't even know how to ask this, but I mean is there anything else you wanna address with any of that stuff? I actually don't wanna belabor the point, but if there's anything that you wanna get off your chest I know- - We'll see how it goes. No, I don't think so. I mean, if it comes up while we talk that's fine. No, I'm so bored of it.
It's so dull and appalling that we better talk about virtually anything else. - All right, well, fear not, I got a couple of things- - I guess there is one thing I should address Dave really. Well, I've been an advocate for people to put their lives together and of course my life has fallen apart. And so you might ask yourself, well are you aware of the irony of that? And the answer to that is, well, absolutely. You know, it's shameful.
I feel that frequently. And then, so you might say, and people tweet this out fairly regularly, who am I to give advice? And I suppose that's a perfectly relevant question. I guess I've always thought. And I said this too, in the lectures during the tour that I don't really think that what I'm doing is giving advice.
Or if I am I'm also giving it to me. You know, it's not like I believe that I have all the answers. I have answers that I've found useful while attempting to move ahead. With this new book, I can show you this. That's what it looks like.
The black counterpart to the white book, the previous book. - Out today. - I wrote a lot of it while I was extremely ill. And there were some advantages to that. I think in that I only kept that material that I felt was reliable under duress. Now I think probably, perhaps my creativity was somewhat compromised.
And so that may have impacted the book negatively. But it made for more severe editing. For example, the last chapter is Be Grateful in Spite of Your Suffering. And certainly maintaining that gratitude is something I've struggled with.
I think anybody who's in pain chronically, struggles with resentment. But I know that resentment poisons. And I think [indistinct] of courage. And so I stand by what I've written.
- You know, it's funny. I would hear some version of that. People would ask me when they would ask about you. And they would say, "Oh, well he was telling people to get their lives together. And here look what happened to him." And my answer was always the same with people which is, well, first off, he never professed to be Jesus.
He never professed to be perfect. You actually, and this is one of the things that I think really helped me throughout the tour. You would often address if you were struggling with something. From what I saw virtually every night gave a different lecture every night.
And if you were frustrated by something on a given day, you would address it that night. If something happened with the media or something was happening personally. And I think people, they see us in these boxes where people that write books or whatever it is, and they think that we're supposed to be perfect all the time. Probably in your case, certainly more than mine. And it's just not something that I ever saw you say about yourself.
- Well, luckily, luckily... And I'm really stunned by this. You know, I thought the other day I'm gonna make an announcement about the book on Tuesday. I think that's March 2nd.
And I thought, well, what do I wanna say about it? And what I really wanted to say when I thought about it. I thought really what I wanna do is thank people. Because you know, this criticism has come up. And I think it's a valid criticism. It's like, who the hell is he to talk about getting people's act together? I mean, everyone gets ill and you know, and everyone has periods of their life where things are going worse than they might normally go.
But people have been on on the whole unbelievably patient with me. And so I'm not sure why that is. I mean, of course, I'm not sure why any of this is. Another thing I struggle with is just trying to understand what the hell is going on generally speaking.
And why I've become such a target for attention. Both negative and positive. Mostly positive. Thank God.
I don't know how I could tolerate it otherwise. So I still really don't understand it. You know, I've been recently I was reading some material this week.
That's a anti-racist math curricula. And it claims for example, that getting the right answer, insisting that there's a right answer in mathematics is a sign of white supremacy culture. And that this isn't some fringe publication. Like the LA County of Education has put its name behind.
It's funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And I do think that the Gates Foundation does some good work. I've been thinking about that again more. And I think that we're in a war on competence.
It's something like that. We're certainly in a war on the idea of competence. That's why people are criticizing the idea of meritocracy.
But I don't think that it's just a criticism of the idea of meritocracy. I think it's an assault on the idea of merit. And well we can get back to that. I don't think I've come up with a clearer formulation than that. For some reason I'm tangled up in that.
Well, I suppose because I believe that merit exists. - So do you see a direct through line to sort of what put you on the map in the larger sense, meaning Bill C 16 in Canada, and you started talking about that. And you didn't want the government to enforce or restrict your ability to speak freely. This was people pegged you as somehow anti-trans or something like that.
But you didn't want them to be able to just tell you what pronouns you could or could not use. Do you see a through line from that moment? And that's sort of when I first heard about you. This is now four or five years ago.
To where we're at in terms of the assault on STEM and the- - There's some kind of through line. It eludes me that the totality of the motive for the culture wars eludes me. But I do think assault on the idea of competence. It's a replay of the Cane and Abel story. Bitter attacks on... It's motivated by some resentment.
Some deep resentment. And it's easy to be resentful about competence. The thing is though there's lots of different forms of competence. You can allow society to do exist, where there's hierarchies of competence, as long as there's many of them.
And then people can thrive according to their own ability. And that's good. As far as I can tell. Everyone should be able to capitalize on their strengths, and strengths are always relative. And relative strength has merit.
The assault on merit leaves, everyone bereft. If people have relative strengths which they do, and if there is such a thing as strength, which should be something like relative ability to make a contribution in a given domain. That's what you trade on. That's what you capitalize on.
That's what you have to offer the world. And his assault on merit is an assault on everyone's strength. Because where you're relatively strong is where you're relatively meritorious. And there's a hard drive to tear that down.
And it's driven by resentment. And I'm tangled up in it somehow well, so many people are tangled up in it. The whole political situation seems radically unstable.
Far more so than two years ago, I would say. - You know, an awful lot of people would say to me over the last two years, as the politics got crazier and crazier, "Man, if Jordan was around, he'd be fixing some of this stuff" That's an unbelievable burden. And yet I believe it to be true.
That I think when your voice wasn't there there was suddenly this hole that none of us could fill. And a lot of people who I think were sort of veering towards order, I think oddly veered towards chaos. - Well, it's very frustrating not to be able to participate fully. And it's, I have a very difficult time coming to terms with it.
I'm doing what I can. And I don't think this is over by any stretch of the imagination. I really think that the tide that swept through the humanities, and the social sciences is going to sweep through the STEM fields and with far worse repercussions. - Well, you can feel it coming. I mean, you just mentioned math two plus two no longer equals four.
I mean, if we've lost that, what do we got? - And the document itself is a very strange document. I don't understand it. I don't understand it. - So I wanna ask you just one or two more things relative to our past and everything we did. And then I wanna focus on the future and I wanna focus on the new book. But two of the things that you really moved me on, and I wrote about it in my book, both of them.
Well, one of them was the core... The idea of having something to believe in beyond just logic and reason. And this became you had several debates with Sam Harris while in the midst of our tour. I mean, you left to go do these incredible debates. But you completely moved me on this one. I definitely came from the Sam Harris or the Steven Pinker or the Jonathan Haidt school of logic and reason.
Are enough to organize societies. And that's what humans have. And after 100 plus shows with you, hearing it over and over again, you moved me on that. Truly moved me on that. And I wonder if you think- - What's the consequence of that been for you? - Well, A, I would say that it's given me order in the sense that I can't control everything.
Not only can I not control everything, but I think this may sound a little strange. I think I have more respect for the past, than I had before. Where I thought I could sort of figure everything out. And figure out, certainly what was best for me and everyone about me and all those things. I still believe that, but there's a context to it.
I guess that's what it is. More than anything. It gave me a context. And a link to my ancestors. Who I don't think I'm necessarily so much better than.
You know, I think part of the problem now is that everyone seems to think, "Oh, everyone who came before you was racist or backwards or un-evolved." And that the stories, I mean, look you did all the biblical lectures, which I watched separately. And why did you always talk about Pinocchio and wish upon a star. That there is something else that sits beneath our rationale.
And without that, the rational mind is sort of lost. You really moved me on that. - Yeah, and I certainly haven't stopped believing that that's true. In some sense we live inside a story.
We live inside the hero myth for better or worse. And that doesn't mean it's true. Because maybe the human race isn't correct, in some final sense.
But for better or worse that's still our story to forge a path into the unknown. To face the darkness, to gather what's valuable, and to disseminate it among our compatriots. That's us when we're functioning properly. And if the more you do that, the more meaningful your life is. And that seems not to be a trivial matter.
In fact, it's the absolute opposite of trivial. And I don't know what the metaphysical significance of that is. And that's the final question. The religious types. I talked to Jonathan [indistinct] and Orthodox icon carver. I've talked to him quite a few times.
He's very devout, Orthodox Christian. Very very intelligent man. We've discussed the potential metaphysical significance of the hero myth. You know, how does it tie into the ultimate nature of reality? And I don't have an answer for that. The Christians believe that the hero myth, so to speak was manifest in its totality in the figure of Christ. And that's their explanation for how the narrative world and the empirical world touch.
And our whole culture much of our culture is predicated on that idea. And it's a deep idea, and it's not like I know how to cope with the paradoxes that it produces. You know, I read recently, for example many people will know this. That according to current Catholic doctrine the theory of evolution is entirely acceptable. I have no idea how to integrate that with classic Christianity. The timeframes are so radically different.
But I also don't think that the empirical types. The people that you mentioned, this is the constant discussion I had with Sam. They haven't come to terms with the fact that we see the world through a structure of value and we can't get outside of that.
- So is that why- - Even to look at something. - You said to me from the day we started the tour and you said it to me on almost any given night. You didn't wanna know the questions that I was gonna ask. You would always say nothing's off limits.
Well, actually, what you would usually say to me is have fun or have fun tonight, something like that. But I knew that the only question that I sensed and I probably only asked you once or twice once I realized it. The only question that I sensed you didn't wanna do, because it would take up too much time, sort of was this.
Because when we would do the Q&A, and we did it by an app so people in the audience could vote on them. There would often be the, okay. So do you believe in God? What does that mean? And it's sort of what you're talking about here. Once you whittle it all down. We could do this for the next six hours, if not the rest of our lives.
- Well I've said a lot about that. I wouldn't say that my thinking has really progressed. I mean, beyond what I had thought about before. I try to conduct myself as if God exists.
I try to conduct myself as if being is good. That's faith, I suppose. And I think to some degree, that's also a kind of courage. I mean, I'm not claiming that my faith is entirely courageous. Because I waiver, of course, and I've especially wavered.
I would say in the last two years, given everything that's happened. All the catastrophe that's rained down upon my family and I. But I still believe that you become corrupted. If you become resentful about existence. You have to act as if existence is good. And that the truth is good.
Because otherwise things get worse. And so there's a limit. There's limits past which no one can see. And the questions that we're discussing are at the limit. - Yeah, well that's it right there.
The answer is not clean. And I think everyone, or so many of us seem to want the clean answer on that. When you had those debates with Sam, like, "Oh that's the answer, that's the winner, that's the knockout blow." And I think you're acknowledging an uncomfortable truth. - A friend of mine the other day.
And he was raised at communist in Poland and was an atheist. And he went after his family one year for celebrating Christmas, because it was logically inconsistent with their beliefs. Which it was.
But what he told me when we walked was that he came to realize at one point that all that meant was that they would lose Christmas. Yeah, it was logically inconsistent, but what are you gonna replace this with? And it's clearly the case that people need... You need beliefs to organize your actions.
And then I see well what happens when we don't turn to more traditional forms of belief, as we turn to forms of belief that are far more dangerous. Or at least that lurks as a possibility. I also don't think it's that easy for people to defend... Like the rationalist, for example. They're not doing a great job of defending the culture. It doesn't sell well.
- No, they're doing a horrible job, I would say. I would say they're doing almost no job. That woke ism is in many ways the end of the purely rational, and the purely secular order ends with what we're seeing now, in some ways I think.
- Well, let's hope not, but it it doesn't seem to be losing its momentum. I don't think. I mean, it's so hard to get an accurate take on the movement of the culture. It still seems to me that the education systems are being corrupted, from top to bottom. You know, the University of Kansas closed its humanities department a week ago.
Well, that's partly because people aren't enrolling in the humanities anymore. So maybe that's... Maybe the market in some sense will correct some of this. But it's proving very difficult for defenders of enlightenment values to put up an effective fight against this assault on the idea of competence. There's nothing solid enough there for some reason. And well, so here we are.
- That's it. That's what belief sits upon. All right, well, you know what. Yeah, go ahead. Well, let's dive into the book. Because actually so many of the things that we're talking about now are sort of part and parcel to all of the chapters here.
So chapter one, and what I really liked about this also is the way you organized it. The new topics. Because one of the questions we would get often in the Q&A that you would get is, "Oh, was there a 13th rule that you couldn't get in the book? And you actually mentioned this in the book.
That you had... You had what? About 46 other, was it 46? - I had 42? - 42. You had 42.
- Yeah, the same as Douglas Adams Answer to The Universe, life, the universe and everything. 42 rules. Which was actually a coincidence, but I thought it was comical in the aftermath.
There's 42 rules. So now I've written about 20... I've written essays on 24 of them.
- When you got to 42, how long did you give it before you said, okay 42 is enough. Because I know you you're pretty methodical. - Yeah, I just did it in an afternoon. The original list of rules I was playing on Quora. I wrote about 40 answers for Quora, something like that.
And I really haven't partaken in that forum for a long time now. I was investigating it and some kid had asked, what do you need to know in order to lead a good life? Or what's most important to know something like that. And I thought, well, you know I'll take a crack at answering this. And I made this list of 42 rules, and it got very popular on Quora.
Much more popular, typical Pareto Distribution. Like that one answer got more views than all of my other answers put together. And so I thought that was kind of interesting.
I had touched something for some reason. And out of that, when I was asked by an agent who contacted me, Sally Harding. Of Cook Agency.
She asked me if I was interested in writing something more popular. And I knew that those rules had found an audience. So that seemed to me to be a place to dive in.
So anyways, I've only written about 24 of them. In the two books, I have them both here. You can see how they're structured.
- Yeah, it's beautiful. - One's white, and the other is black. They make a match set. You can read each of them independently. And one concentrates.
The first one, An Antidote to Chaos. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos does concentrate on the consequences of excess uncertainty. And the second book concentrates more on an excess of order. Both of those are fundamental existential dangers, as far as I'm concerned. And in this universe of value in the world of value. There are two major domains and one domain is the domain of order.
And you can technically define it. The domain of order is where you find yourself, when what you're doing produces the results you want. And that's a really tight formulation. Because it gives you a particular idea, of what a place in time is. A place in time you occupy at any given moment is the place and time that's defined by your current goal. And you have a map of value that guides you through the actions that are necessary in that domain.
And if the result is what you want, which brings motivation and emotion into the picture, then while you get what you need or want. But you also validate your theory of existence. Because it's good enough to produce the results that you desire. And given that you're fallible and that you don't know everything, you have to use proximal... You have to use proximal truths. And so something it's a pragmatic...
It's a form of philosophical pragmatism. If you make a bridge and it stands up, then you know how to make a bridge. Why? Because the bridge stood up. Now, maybe you overbuilt it. You could have built it more elegantly.
But it's sufficiently true, so that the bridge functions. And we're like that, we're like engineers. We're cobbling together solutions all the time.
And as long as those solutions work, we assume that we're right. Well, that's the domain of order. The domain of chaos emerges when you lay out a plan and into action, and something other than what you wanted emerges. And sometimes that can be a catastrophe.
An absolute catastrophe. And your brain, our psychophysiology is actually adapted to those two domains. When something unexpected happens, all sorts of emotions and motivations break loose. Fight and flight among them.
Anger among them. It gets disinhibited. Because when you don't know what's happening, you have to prepare for everything. So you get anxious and then you hyper prepare, which is extremely stressful. And so the domain of chaos is extremely stressful. In small doses, it's exhilarating.
And that's because, well when you're aware, you don't know what's happening, you have the opportunity to learn and to expand your map. And so there's always an interplay, between the domain of chaos and the domain of order. But they can each pathologize. And the pathologies of uncertainty are more associated, with anxiety and nihilism and depression.
And where's the pathologies of order more totalitarian. And then I would say as well, the liberal types the more left leaning types are quite sensitive to pathologies of order. They don't like them.
That's the patriarchy. The patriarchy is the pathology of order. And it's symbolically masculine. Something I've been taken to task for claiming. But the patriarchy itself.
The idea of the patriarchy itself is a symbol. The patriarchy is a symbol. That's why it has such power.
And it's a symbol that refers to the domain of order. Now the domain of order is protective as well as oppressive. But when it degenerates, it becomes oppressive. And I would say it degenerates when it's based on power rather than competence.
But it can be based on competence. The Marxist critics and the politically correct types, they insist that every element of the patriarchy is only a consequence of the imposition of order. Forceful imposition of order. It's all power.
Well, no. No it's not. When it degenerates, that's true. You can tell that because the thing is the domain of order will be upheld by those who inhabit it if it's functional.
If you have to use force, that's already an indication that it's become pathological. Because people aren't playing voluntarily. - So, would you say we're in a degenerative cycle right now. That the cycle seems more degenerative than say a building cycle. Or you think that that's just the play that's always going on and you have to figure out your role in it? - Well, I think the play is always going on. The antidote to chaos isn't order.
And the antidote to order isn't chaos, the antidote to both is the balancing of them. The act of balancing of them. - You used to do this a lot. You would say the balance, the struggle between liberal, and conservative.
So people see me doing this all the time. I always [indistinct]. Jordan was talking about... He was talking about this. So you think that's it - It's really important to understand that the antidote to chaos in the final analysis can't just be ordered.
Because order itself can degenerate. And so I believe that the antidote is active engagement with the world. Honest active engagement with the world. Truth.
And I think it's also truth motivated by love. Which is a motif that runs through this second book in particular. And love is the desire for all things to flourish. Christ says that you should love your enemies. And what does that mean? And it's really worth thinking about.
It's you shouldn't wish your enemies harm. What I mean by that is that it would be better for everyone if they would conduct themselves so that they would flourish. And that doesn't mean you shouldn't defend yourself. It doesn't mean that soldiers aren't necessary or the police. It doesn't mean any of that. It's not a weak need statement.
It means that if you're... If you have yourself pointed in the right direction, you don't wish an excess of harm on the world. You want it to flourish.
That's love. So you weren't yourself that way. And I do believe that that requires a certain courage.
Because the world is so flawed and so painful. There's so much suffering in it. That it's very difficult to fall in love with it. You keep getting bounced off.
You think this is so terrible that maybe it shouldn't even be. But that takes you down a very bad road. So it's love first. And then truth serves that. And I do think that's the motif that runs through the old and new testaments.
The combination of those two things. Love is the desire, that being flourish. And I do believe that truth serves that. (indistinct chatter) - Please finish your thought.
- Well, I also think that people find meaning in that. And everyone can answer this for them self. It's like you have to watch, and you have to see where it is that you find the meaning that sustains your life. And I would say, it's certainly not been my experience that people find that in deceit or hatred. I mean they may be tempted by that. They may have the reasons for it but everyone is ashamed of that, and wishes it could be otherwise.
Even if they don't know what to do about that. So well, so this book, the first chapter is do not casually denigrate social institutions or creative achievement. And I picked that quite carefully because again, the liberal types are more likely to criticize social institutions. So you don't wanna do that casually because they structure things and protect you in a way that you're likely not even aware of. And the conservative always says, look be careful when you change something. Because you're changing a bunch of things and you don't know what's going to happen.
So be careful. But social institutions can become corrupt even just as a consequence of aging. And so they have to be updated. So they can't stay static. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't respect them. And then creative achievements on the other side and conservatives, for example they have a harder time with open people, creative people.
The best personality predictor of liberalism is high openness. Which is a creativity dimension. Well, it's easy to dismiss art, for example. Especially if it doesn't exactly speak to you. But it's through artistic endeavors, through creative achievement, that the process of update occurs.
And so regardless of your political temperament, you need to see these forces... You need to see the value in these forces and have some respect for them. I think what happens if you get educated, hopefully is that you get educated beyond the confines of your temperament. - So that's why I thought the ordering, it's so interesting that you said you intentionally...
of course intentionally did it. So do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievements. So that's chapter one. And I thought it was interesting because, one of the things that I've been talking about for the last couple of years, but especially in the last year. And our friend Ben Shapiro wrote a whole book about it, is the disintegration of so many of our institutions. And that I think the great debate right now is can some of these institutions survive, or do we need all new institutions? Now, I know you're talking about social institutions, not just academic institutions, or we're talking about cultural institutions.
What do you feel in that argument? Whether can some things just be left to disintegrate and we rebuild, or do we constantly end up in a destruction and a rebirth? Because right now we're watching so many institutions just crumble. - Well, I tend to start local when I'm thinking. Because it simplifies things. Well the first institution is the sovereign individual. We don't wanna let that crumble.
And the more that you're able to live in a relationship with truth, I would say the better job you're doing of protecting your integrity as a sovereign individual, start with that. It would be a shame to lose the family. People derive a tremendous amount of the meaning of their life from their family.
And then those intense relationships. I don't think we can get beyond that. I think you have to knit your family together, to the best of your ability. And I know that people often have terribly fractured families. But we don't have a good substitute for that.
You need to exist in relationship to your culture. You need a job or a career or something like that. We need political institutions.
I think part of the problem of course, is that everything is changing so rapidly, that it's very difficult to... It's very difficult to say what should be kept and what shouldn't be. And we're not in control of it to some degree as well. I mean, there's an all out assault on the integrity of cultural structures, but there's also a technological assault on everything.
And so what do you do in a situation like that? Well, I think my sense is you revert to the individual. You try to make better people. - How much of this do you think has to do with the speed? Because actually I remember on sort of the last maybe quarter of the tour. One of the things that you talked about a lot was how the internet was changing us. How the speed of information was changing us.
How you as a random person, no matter where you are in the world. You might be able to send out a tweet or create a meme that could change the world like that. So how much do you think the speed is all part of this. In ways that were literally unimaginable three decades ago? - I think it's a tremendous part of it. We don't know what to do with any of the new technologies that we've produced.
And by the time we adapt to them, they'll have transformed into something completely different. So my kids are in their late 20s and they're more a part of the internet generation than I am, but they're being supplanted in their knowledge by younger people already. They can both feel it. It's changing unbelievably quickly. So that puts a tremendous amount of stress on everyone. - When you talk about the creative achievement part of this, one of the things I've been thinking about lately is that I don't remember the last time I heard a new musician, that I really loved, or saw a piece of art that was new, that I really loved.
You know, it seems so rare. Because of what's happened with cancel culture, that the people that should be showing us things are not showing them. What do we do about that? How do we make the artists brave again? How do we make the people who will give us the creative achievement? How do we make them see that star again? - Well you do whatever you can, by example. That's the best you've got. So hopefully you try to bring integrity to your endeavors. And hopefully that has a salutary effect.
You don't have a better option than that. - So chapter two is, imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. And for me, after being on tour with you, I think that's something that got into me through osmosis. That I would be on stage.
And even though everyone was there for you, I thought, "Hey I'm part of this, somehow. This thing, somehow I became part of this." And then once I realized that when the PA announcer said my name, that those people knew me, I thought that I'm me. I'm the guy you're talking about. I'm doing it.
And then just that it helped my aim. It helped my aim. And I wonder how many people just don't... They don't know how to aim, because they have no experience like that. Something like that. - Well that's part of what tradition is supposed to teach you by presenting you with examples of great people of the past.
The lesson is not supposed to be exactly bow down and worship these people. It's be like them, be like them. And you could be.
And I mean, that's really the goal of the humanities. When it's the humanities. If it's not, if that's the goal, then students will study the humanities. As soon as that ceases to be the goal, then there's nothing of value there. I mean, great literature tells you... It tells you the great story of good and evil, always.
It's good and evil against a background of chaos and order, always. And the evil characters are there to do to be bad examples. And the good characters are there to be good examples. Or you see the interplay of those forces within a single person. It's a reminder of who you could be. And you can find out who you should be.
And this is something quite mysterious, I believe. - And part of the proof let's say, that we exist in a world of value. Your conscience tells you who you should be. Now that doesn't mean that necessarily that it's infallible, but people wrestle with their conscience.
- You know, there isn't anyone... I've never met anyone who is... Narcissists accepted it, let's say people are generally tormented by their conscience. And the reason for that is that they're not...
They're deviating from the path that is their destiny. And if you don't think that, well then what do you think? What do you think that conscience is? I mean, I've asked my classes repeatedly. Do you have a little voice in your head that tells you when you've done something wrong or you're about to, or a feeling, and they all immediately agree with that. No one finds that a foreign concept.
And so if you don't know who you are, your conscience will remind you when you're... Sorry. If you don't know who you could be your conscience will remind you when you deviate. And then you can start to attend to that. Like well look, I'm actually ashamed when I do this, I should stop. Unless I wanna be ashamed all the time.
It looks like I should stop. And then maybe you stop doing that. And then your conscience objects to something else. And maybe you stopped doing that. And as that happens you start to develop a vision of who could be. And the chapter indicates...
It looks at symbolic representations. It's an examination of a certain symbolic representation of the ideal. And so it's my attempt to assess tradition for what it can tell us about what the ideal human being might be like. And the ideal human being is the person who forthrightly upholds the traditions of the culture and forges a way into the unknown.
We went through that. And pulls new information in and rebuilds himself and the world. And that's who you could be.
And now the difficulty comes in, figuring out how to do that within the confines of your own life. So in some sense, that's how to bring the divine to earth. There's this divine pattern But it's general. See this is one of the mysterious things about Christianity, that's so remarkable about it. Is that there's the Christ that's eternal. The word of God say.
That's a representation of something absolutely transcendent. But it's married to the particulars of one particular time and space.. And obviously critics of Christianity regard that as one of its major flaws. That there's this idea of God who was a carpenter in some out of the way place, in some out of the way time. But you're someone in an out of the way place at a particular time and place.
And for you, what that means is that, for you to make contact with the highest of values, you have to bring that down to your particulars and figure out how you do that. It's gonna be a way that no one else does it. Because you're the only one that's you. But you can aim at something, aim at something. And the point of the chapter is you aim at something and that will shape you as you move towards it.
And then you're aim will change, you'll move. But that doesn't matter. It gets you going. And you'll be molded across time. More and more into the person you could be.
- Can you talk about that just from a personal perspective as someone that I've seen do it. I mean, that's what I saw you do every night. You would take your intellectual curiosity to the end of where it would go.
Sometimes you would get off stage and say to me, "Oh you know, I took that as far as I could tonight." And then the next night you would go a little bit further with it, or a little bit further. And I knew there were moments, because we did so many shows. I knew when you were a little past where you would wanna go, and then I could see you come back. But can you talk about what that was like for you in terms of your life. How you felt, how time felt.
How the relationship with the audience felt. When you're doing it right. Cause I feel like people don't know that. When you're doing it right, what does it feel like? - Well, to begin with, and this happened when I was in graduate school.
I had a lot of bad habits. I smoked like a pack of cigarettes a day, and I drank a lot. I came from this little town in Northern Alberta.
And like many little towns, especially in Northern Canada. Alcohol overuse is [indistinct]. And so I noticed when I was in my early 20s, that the only time I really regretted what I had done was when I was drinking.
Now, it was also interfering with me writing because I couldn't concentrate well enough if I was hung over. But I also couldn't really... I couldn't tolerate the emotional strain of what I was writing about when I was hung over.
I couldn't handle being on the edge because I destabilized my nervous system. In any case, I stopped drinking. The reason for that was, well I decided I didn't want to be ashamed of what I was doing anymore.
It seemed, I thought, well maybe I could not do things that were shameful, and then see what my life was like. So that was on the negative end, the constraint end. I think people get... On the more positive end people get deeply involved in what they're doing, if they're in the right place in the right time. So I would say, you can tell, this is the idea of heaven on earth to some degree.
When time stops, when you're not aware of the duration of time. When you're so engaged with what you're doing. That you're not aware of the duration of time. Then you've got the forces of chaos and order balanced properly.
You're not stultified and board. That's an excessive order. Everything's too predictable.
You're not overwhelmed. You're dealing with... You're playing tennis at the peak of your game. That's partly what people experience when they're great athletes, when they play. - The zone yeah. - And they're always stretching themselves to their limit.
You can tell that if you watch a gymnast, for example. Who has a brilliant performance. They've stretched themselves beyond their domain of competence during the performance. And that's what makes everybody leap to their feet.
That's the incarnation given embodiment. Right there in front of you for some moments. And everyone cheers that on. - Do you think it's weird how it becomes a fleeting moment in a way? I know what you're saying is true. When I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and I'm on my game and my thoughts are right and straight. Time just moves.
And then I go, "Whoa, a month passed a month passed. And I was good that whole time. And I did write that whole time and I was happier.
And my relationship with David or whoever else is is better in that time." But that it becomes fleeting. In that suddenly you could have a great month, and then suddenly something happens, chaos returns.
It's that we almost forget that moment. You can't hold it. - Well, it requires a lot of it requires even to some degree some good fortune to maintain. I certainly haven't been able to do that while I was ill. One of the consequences of my illness, whatever it was or is, was time dilation. Days lasted weeks it seemed like.
Minutes lasted hours. And I mean that literally, and that was terrible. The weight of time, it's the weight of brut mortality.
It's the weight of self-consciousness. And you escape that immersed properly. And that second chapter, it's a pretty practical chapter.
It's like, well, if you're not who you wanna be, then think about how you could better. Take a chance, aim at that, work at it and see what happens. So that's a- - And that's a disciplinary routine I would say. It takes you out of your current order.
- I think that's also, it's a perfect segue to chapter three. Which is do not hide unwanted things in the fog. Which seems to me, we live in a constant state of distraction now. You've mentioned Twitter a couple of times.
It's like is Twitter bringing any of us happiness? Or is it keeping us all in a constant state of fog. The overload and the endless obsession with politics. That all seems like a fog to me. I do my August off the grid and I do that to get out of the fog.
- Yeah, distraction is definitely fog. And you'll distract yourself. I think you distract yourself mostly when your conscience is bothering you. Because you don't want to face what it is in your life that it is uncomfortable.
That chapter is again quite practical. It's a reminder to pay attention often to negative emotion. Resentment, and that sort of thing. Because it can tell you... Well, resentment is very useful. Maybe maybe your partner is talking to someone and they're a little bit more animated than you'd like, and you get jealous.
And that jealousy is associated with a whole set of insecurities. Or maybe they're flirting and they shouldn't be. It's not that easy to determine and maybe you'll have a big fight about that. But you could just as well pretend that didn't happen.
The emotion comes up, I'm jealous, I'm resentful. It's associated with experiences like that in the past. The psychoanalysts would have called that a complex. You could notice that. You could think of, "Well should I be jealous?" Is there something wrong with me? Or there's something wrong with my partner.
There's something wrong with the relationship. And you have to untangle that. And who knows what you'll have to untangle to get that straight, or you can bear the jealousy and see what will happen in the relationship. Or maybe it'll disintegrate because your partner is flirting. You ignore that. It's not like you repress it exactly.
And this chapter is an attempt to distinguish repression from this hiding in the fog. It's that you get a hint that something's wrong. And then you have to unpack that hint to pull the information out. So maybe your partner is flirting. And they shouldn't be. And so then you have to find out why they're dissatisfied with the relationship or what's tempting them.
Or what is crooked in their soul at the moment. or what they're dissatisfied about. Terrible journey of exploration and discovery.
That's always presented as something that's positive. It's often not at all. It's so hard.
It's like doing surgery on a separating wound. It's no wonder people avoid it. But it's not helpful. Because all it does is leave that... Those things grow and multiply in the dark.
And if you ignore them, they just cascade. - Do you think that's just self protection for most people? That most people, they see it, they know that truth behind them. Whether it's about their partner or whatever it might be. But they just...
It's just self protection. Like, oh, I just got to keep moving on, as things are. That we're just creatures of habit or something like that.
- Sometimes it's that. It especially gets to be that. If it's accumulated for a long time. Because if you wouldn't have...
If you wouldn't deal with it when it was a kitten, you're not gonna deal with it when it's a full grown lion. But I think mostly it's... It's something else I return to in the book is it's deceit, resentment, and arrogance.
I already know what I need to know. That's arrogance. Deceit is I don't have to pay attention to that.
And resentment is, well, things can go to hell. And so can he or she. And that's a pretty dark triad. And you don't want the spirit that embodies that to take over your life.
That's for sure. - Well that gets us to four then. I think you got the order right on these. Because chapter four is noticed that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.
Now I think we're seeing an awful lot of that these days. - Well, that's a nice inversion. Because people are often resentful. If they see that responsibility has been abdicated. Why isn't that person doing their job? It's like, well, hey man step in.
At your workplace in your family. When you think, well, I shouldn't have to do that extra work. Well, you shouldn't be a slave.
You shouldn't allow yourself to be tyrannized. But if something bugs you because the responsibility is going unfulfilled, there's a great opportunity for you. And this is something I don't think we teach young people well. And one of the things you may remember this that was so striking about the tour was that I made a case fairly consistently, that most people find the meaning that sustains them through the vicissitudes of life, not in happiness, but in responsibility. And that would bring everyone to a halt.
It would always make the whole theater silent. It's like, oh, I never thought of that connection. Because maybe you wanna avoid responsibility. And you can understand why.
You can understand why. You hide from it. Like Abraham, one of the biblical stories. Abraham, he stays in his father's tent till he's like 80. And then God gets fed up and tells him to get the hell out and grow up. And everything that he encounters is catastrophic.
He encounters tyranny. The Egyptians conspired to steal his wife. He encounters starvation and war. That is what you encounter if you go out in the world. And you think who the hell wants that? I don't want the responsibility. It's like, well, yes you do, as it turns out.
There's nothing better than responsibility. Now I say that with some caution, I think that it's hard to say. The responsibility I've been overwhelmed by my apparent responsibility. But I think it's also kept me alive. And I mean that literally. - Wait, can you go a little deeper with that? I mean, when you were at your darkest moments in the last two years, whatever that might be.
Was it the feeling of- - There's been many times in the last year where it would have been much easier for me just to be dead. That's constant. But no. - But is it but no, because of something in you or is it but no, because of the people. That you would have abdicated that responsibility.
Or is that ultimately the same thing? - Yeah. Well, I do think that the two aren't easily distinguishable but it's definitely that. It's definitely that. One of the chapters, the last chapter is Be Grateful in Spite of Your Suffering. You need a meaning to sustain you through suffering.
And it is the case that you find that in responsibility. Well, and so it's good advice for anyone who's at work. You're resentful about this and that because people aren't pulling their weight. Pull it, see what happens.
You become indispensable, instantly. You'll know everything. And maybe that job won't be for you. Or maybe that relationship won't be for you.
But you'll take your hard acquired wisdom, go elsewhere and flourish there. So, this kid stopped me, I think I wrote about this in this book. Kid stopped me in a restaurant one day when I was walking in and he said...
And he had an undergraduate degree and he was working as a waiter in a chain steak place. And he stopped me and he said, "You know about six months ago, I was watching one of your lectures. And I decided to stop being resentful about my job." And he was resentful because he had a university degree and he's working as a waiter.
Look, I don't have anything against waiters. It's like a waiter can make your evening hooray. He said, "Well, I decided I'd start trying at my job. Like really trying as if it was worthwhile." He said he got three promotions in six months. Like he's just rocketing up the power hierarchy.
Well it's not power it's competence if it's well run. And and places are full of opportunity. Now that doesn't mean social structures aren't sometimes corrupt. But you can discover that too.
If you start to take responsibility and that goes sideways, you're not being credited with that. Well, then that's an indication that you need to restructure the situation something's corrupt about it. Or if you can't do that, you should go somewhere else. Where that is valued. It's a sign that things aren't right. If you bring your best to the table and that isn't appreciated, there's something wrong with the table.
Now that doesn't mean that there's something wrong with tables, always and everywhere, but it is the case. And this is something we should all get straight. When we think about hierarchies, it's an axiom of the left.
That hierarchies are predicated on power. It's like, no. Only when they're corrupt. Well they're always corrupt. Well, yes, that means they're all hierarchies, are contaminated with power. Well, that isn't the essence of the hierarchy.
The essence of the hierarchy is distinction of value. And you need the distinction of value because you can't tell what to do. Otherwise you have to do the first things first. That's a hierarchy of value. That's not power unless you're being compelled. And then it's corrupt and you should resist it.
- I'm reminded of... I don't think I've thought of this probably in two years. But do you remember, we were in one of the Scandinavian countries. I think maybe we were leaving Sweden.
And we were sitting in the first row of the plane. And do you remember the guy. It was a young black man, sort of ran onto the plane.
He was wearing a yellow vest. He was a worker working the bridge or something. And he came up to you and he said, "I'm not supposed to be on the plane right now. I'm not supposed to say anything. But you helped me turn my life around. I got this job because of you."
And what I remember more than anything else is he had this huge smile on his face. But it wasn't because you told him to go out there and be happy. It was because you told him to go out there and fix some stuff. And I think that's exactly what you're talking about right now. - Those experiences are so life sustaining. It's so remarkable to have that happen.
And that's something I've had... I've been immensely privileged to constantly experience. Although there's also something about it.
That's extremely painful. You know, the magnitude of that joy is sort of proportional to the obstacles it had to overcome while it was attempting to manifest itself. You know, and one of the things I'm sure you saw on the tour and I don't know how this affected you. Was the depth of hunger for encouragement that exists everywhere as far as I can tell.
And everyone wants to be appreciated. When they bring their best to the table. That's why the assault, the current assault on merit is so unbelievably brutal. Because it will deny everyone the right to be appreciated for being their best. And well, you might ask, well when does the best become your enemy? And that's easy.
It's when you flee from it. Because the best then tortures and tremendous you. It's your conscience or the judge. And it's easy to see that as a tyrant. - I know that this one was definitely in Sweden. For our first show in Sweden.
I went to H&M to get a hat, cause it was a windy day. And I'm standing in line and there's a young guy standing in front of me. And he tell...
I know I told you this way back when, but he told the cashier, he said, "I'm buying my first suit. This is my first suit. I'm going to see Jordan Peterson tonight." And then the cashier said, "I'm going to see Jordan Peterson tonight." And then I tapped the kid on the shoulder that he saw me, Oh my God, it's you. And then that night at the show I made a point of calling him out.
I can't remember his name, but he told me his name. And I said in somewhere here is Ben. And he was at H&M and he's in his first suit tonight.
And the entire audience stood up and applauded. And he was just a kid. He was a kid. And I thought, this is magical.
This is truly magical. - Yes, well, it was such fun to see people dressing up for that. People don't dress up for anything anymore and it's too bad. - Well, now nobody dresses up for anything. No one goes anywhere. But we actually let's just talk...
Let's just talk about that for a moment. Just that. I mean, beyond all of the misinformation about what they would say about the audience. It's 90% straight white men.
And it was usually 60, 40 maybe male to female, but there were trans people there, there were black people and gay people, and all of that stuff, it's not even worth going into. But you always, I thought were sort of fascinated by that concept, that people were dressing up to go there. That that adds some extra meaning to you I think -