12 Rules for Life (Book Review)

jordon-peterson-bookCanadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has gained quite a bit of fame in recent years through his controversial (but not really controversial) stance on some social issues. Many people have been listening to what he has to say and are finding answers to the tough questions about life which they’ve been unable to find from, what should be, the normal sources for such conundrums. All of that has compelled him to write this book: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

This book is kind of like a Christian book written by a non-Christian for Christians and non-Christians. There’s really two types of Christians: 1) The born-again and goes to church every Sunday type; 2) The merely product of western civilization type.

A brief story explaining what I mean by the second type (which I heard someone tell once, but can’t remember when or where)….

A reporter travelled to a middle eastern country for a story. Going through passport control, he noticed the border officer stamp his passport “Christian.” He then said to the officer, “Why did you stamp ‘Christian’? I’m an atheist, not a Christian.” The border officer ignored his complaint and waved him through.

Later, at his hotel, he observed some boys outside the building playing a somewhat gruesome game: They were hitting newly born puppies with a baseball bat, sending them flying against the hotel wall. That in itself is horrifying enough, but what really bothered the reporter is that the mothers of the boys were all sitting around watching and doing nothing, enjoying their day, laughing, and conversing together. The reporter then thought, “Ah, maybe I am a Christian after all.”

The point of the story is that if you are western, your morality is Christian. Whether you like it or not, you are heavily influenced by Christianity.

Jordan Peterson is a type two Christian. His book is full of Biblical quotes. Even though he might not even believe in the God of the Bible, he knows that the values of western Christianity are what shaped the best culture in known world history. He knows that if Christian values are forgotten and abandoned, it will lead to chaos. Indeed, this is already happening.

Peterson has dedicated much of his life to studying totalitarian cultures (the ones in which millions are murdered by their own governments), and he has had many patients in his practice whose lives are a “bloody mess,” as he would put it. Using his studies, his own experience as a psychologist, and his Christian influenced wisdom, he’s put together a fine book designed to help people get their own lives in order.

The 12 Rules are:

Rule 1 Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

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

Rule 3 Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Rule 4 Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today.

Rule 5 Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

Rule 6 Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world.

Rule 7 Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).

Rule 8 Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.

Rule 9 Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

Rule 10 Be precise in your speech.

Rule 11 Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding.

Rule 12 Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

This is a dense book with a lot of information. I imagine the number one complaint by readers is that it is too long, and overly explanatory. But, if I were to give a one or two sentence long explanation of each Rule (which is far from the thorough conclusions put forth by Peterson), it would go like this…

Rule 1: Don’t be passive. Stand up for what you believe in — literally. Stand up straight. It has more effects than you realize.
Rule 2: Take care of yourself as though you were someone you deeply love and care about. Of course! But, many of us are quite negligent in self care.
Rule 3: Don’t hang around with losers, or you will become one too.
Rule 4: We’re all on different paths — some are further along than you, some are behind. Comparing yourself to them will either discourage you, or make you proud.
Rule 5: Of course you love your child, but do you like your child? Do others like your child? Will your child grow to be a likeable adult?
Rule 6: If the world around you is in a chaotic mess, start with the small space directly around you, put that in order and move out from there.
Rule 7: Think long-term.
Rule 8: You might not be able to know the truth about everything, but at least you can know what’s not true. So, don’t lie.
Rule 9: You can learn something from anybody.
Rule 10: Words have power. Use them carefully.
Rule 11: Kids need to gain confidence when they’re young so they can grow to be strong adults. That means doing dangerous things. Leave them alone.
Rule 12: Life is suffering. Take time to enjoy all the small pleasures when you can.

I give the book 4/5 stars, and I recommend you pick it up.

Related articles:
Jordan Peterson on Channel Four News
What are the Most Valuable Things to Know?

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Perplexity of Rats and Dogs

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I, like most people, get frustrated when working in unpredictable situations. I worked many years in construction, and even though I don’t anymore, I still oversee the occasional construction project or some other kinds of projects. Nothing drives me crazy quicker than being told wrong information which causes me to make faulty plans. If the unpredictable conditions persist, it becomes impossible to function and the work stalls.

Following is an excerpt of an essay titled Visual Presentation of Social Matters written by Michael Polanyi…

Perplexity of Rats and Dogs

Even rats and dogs cannot live in perplexity. Take three sets of rats: give one set a meal a day; give the other set the same meal only every second day; and restrict the third group to a meal on every third day. All three groups will thrive (…) But take a fourth set of rats and feed them at periods varying irregularly between one and three days and you will see the rats of this set die. They get more than the [fed only every third day] rats, yet while those prosper on their meager diet [the irregularly fed rats] perish because their organism is thrown into a state of confusion, all their reflexes of digestion are dislocated, they die of perplexity.

Dogs are more human than rats, and so the experiment by which Pavlov drove his dogs mad shows us even more closely what is wrong with ourselves. He trained a dog to expect food when a luminous circle appeared on a screen, and to recognize that no food would come when a flat ellipse with a ratio of semiaxis 2:1 was produced. The dog learned to differentiate precisely between the circle and the ellipse, showing signs of appetite when the former, not when the latter was shown. The shape of the ellipse was then approximated by stages to that of the circle (ratios of the semiaxis 3:2, 4:3 and so on) and the training of discrimination continued through the successive ellipses. The dog found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the ellipses and the circle and finally, when the ellipse was given a ratio of 9:8 he became quite uncertain in his discrimination. But Pavlov tried to educate him to the limit and continued with this experiment for three weeks. The result, however, was no improvement in the dog’s training but a total breakdown of his discriminating power. At the end he could not see the difference even between the at 2:1 ellipse and the circle. The dog’s behaviour also underwent a complete change. It began to squeal in its stand, kept wriggling about, tore off with his teeth the apparatus and bit through various tubes. In short, as Pavlov says, it fell into the condition of an acute neurosis.

This dog broke down when his powers of understanding were overstrained. They were overstrained when it became too difficult for him to distinguish between the symbols signifying food and hunger. His happiness was destroyed, not by need of supplies but by what Pavlov describes as a conflict between excitation and inhibition which its brain found too difficult to resolve.

Notice the last sentence: “His happiness was destroyed, not by need of supplies but by … a conflict between excitation and inhibition.”

pavlovs-dogs-mark-stiversIt reminds me of Proverbs 13:12…

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

Predictability, habit, and routine are good things in life, and the best excitement is the one that comes as a result of hard work and planning. It is a battle though, and can easily be frustrated.

The best things you can do to overcome perplexity are to remove all unpredictable elements in your life as much as possible, focus on always telling the truth, and expecting the same from those around you.

Sweet Jesus Ice-Cream

There is a fairly new ice cream seller in Canada, which is expanding beyond the border, named Sweet Jesus. I’ve never been there myself, so I can’t say if the ice cream is any good; although you can click here for one opinion.

charity picThe name, I’m guessing, is designed to be edgy and cool. “We’re not afraid of offending anyone! But we’re not bad people either. We give to kids’ charities! So if you’re offended, you can f#@k right off! Yeah!”

They state on their website…

Our name was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief. Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems. Our own organization is made up of amazing people that represent a wide range of cultural and religious beliefs.

Clearly they don’t understand the nature of speech when they state: Our aim is not to offer commentary… as is made obvious in some of their ads:

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isis creamAnd I find myself wondering, if they really wanted to be edgy, why didn’t they name their business Magic Muhammad’s Isis-Cream, or something dangerous like that?

I wonder if it’s because they knew if they’d done that, they wouldn’t have had only to put up with a few inconvenient bomb threats from angry Muslims, but also the full-on insanity of the regressive diversity social engineering crew, which is much worse. It’s just easier to target Christians. And hey, not all Christians will get offended at the name; there’s plenty of Progressive Christians who are cool enough to play along.

A petition has been started, by Christians, directed at Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and (for some reason) American President Donald Trump. It states…

We, as Christians are deeply offended by the name of a new Ice Cream chain of stores calling themselves Sweet Jesus. This is a mockery of taking the Lord’s name in vain and also highly offensive to Christians. The imagery used to promote the brand is also anti-Christ and therefore anti-Christian, for example, using upside down crosses on the labels of the ice cream cups.

As a Christian myself, I understand why the name is offensive, and I will not be buying any ice cream from that business. However, if you’re a Christian and you are not just as upset by the Playboy magazine that’s been sitting on the shelf of your local convenience store for the last 40 years as you are by the name Sweet Jesus, then I’d suggest you don’t spend too much time and energy getting upset about this ice cream joint either.

If I were a military commander, I think that, when facing a superior opponent, I would want to force my enemy to engage in constant useless battles. This would distract him from his real goal, it would tire him out and waste away his resources, and it would cause division within his own forces. I think this is what Satan does a lot of the time with Christians. Look! Here is some inconsequential group of people doing something offensive towards Christians — go and get angry at them!  Seethe with soul crushing rage and demand that someone with power do something!

The best things for Christians to do when encountering a business like Sweet Jesus is, first, simply ignore it and don’t go there; second, write a letter to the company and intelligently and forcefully express your opinion; and third, continue on with the primary mission of the Church, which is to expand Christ’s Kingdom to cover the whole world — which Christians do indeed have the resources, authority, and ability to do, as long as we don’t continuously get distracted by pointless engagements.

Men in Charge?! So Patronizing!

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Rachel Held Evans is speaking of this article: Husbands, Get Her Ready for Jesus.

I suppose the article would be a lot less “offensive” if it were titled: Wives, Get Him Ready for Jesus. In fact, no one would be offended at that title, including the most conservative and patriarchal of Christian men. But because the article is calling men to be leaders in their marriages it is “so patronizing”. I wonder if RHE would be equally offended at this Desiring God article: Real Men Love Strong Women.

So what does the Bible have to say on the subject?

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
~Ephesians 5:21-27

Are husbands and wives commanded to submit to each other? Yes. In the same way? No.

The husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the Church. This is called Covenantal Headship, or Federal Headship. Adam was the federal head of the human race. Even though Eve was the first to eat of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, sin poisoned humanity through Adam. Jesus is the federal head of the Church and the New Creation. All who belong to Him have died to Adam and have been recreated in Jesus. Jesus is also a man. That’s how covenants work — the head of the covenant is responsible for the whole.

A man is the federal head of his family. Want to see a happy and healthy family? Find one with a strong man who lovingly takes charge. He is not a tyrant. He listens to his wife. Wisdom is, after all, personified as a woman in the Bible. He submits to his wife’s and childrens’ needs. He is not selfish. He would die for his family — he does die for them a little each day when he puts his own desires aside for them. He does not make decisions democratically as no one has the final word in a 50/50 relationship, but he listens to the counsel of the whole family before deciding. I have never heard a woman complain about a man like this, but I have heard women complain of men who are too timid to be like this.

I imagine RHE would not disagree with the description of a good man I’ve given above, but if she would, then who has the final word in her marriage? If it’s her, is that okay?

Theology is Vanity

hot-sun[4]Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
~King Solomon, Second Wisest Man Who Ever Lived

One thing I’ve learned about myself and other Christians is that our own theologies, as much as we would deny it, are not primarily based on careful biblical study. We think so, but even if you’ve read the Bible backward and forward 100 times, and can read Greek and Hebrew, there is another Christian out there who has studied the Bible just as much as you and rejects your theology.

I’m not talking about the essential beliefs of Christianity; I’m not talking heresy. I’m talking about all the many secondary issues which you will use to determine which church to go to and which other Christians to associate with.

The fact is, our theologies are more so based on personality, worldview, genetics, and IQ than on any biblical knowledge. Take a Charismatic, dancing in the aisle while singing in tongues, and ask him to biblically defend his practice. He might present a convincing case. Then take a Baptist, with his autographed copy of Strange Fire, sitting in the wooden church pew wearing his three piece Sunday suit, and ask the same of him. He will present a strong argument for why he does what he does and why he rejects what the Charismatic does.

According to Jesus, the wisest man who ever lived, the only theology that really matters is this….

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. ~Deuteronomy 6:5

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord. ~Leviticus 19:18

I’m not suggesting that Christians should not debate theology. Good debate leads to truth (usually). But at least admit that the main reason you don’t follow a particular version of Christianity is simply because you don’t want to. There are many different Protestant denominations these days, and some would criticize that and say it is divisive. But, the different denominations are necessary at this point in Church history for the unity of the Church — everyone needs a place where they can worship.

Christians segregate themselves by personality, worldview, and even race. That segregation is not based on theology, although that might be the reason given. The truth is that we like to be around people who are the same as we are. There’s not anything necessarily wrong with that, but it does reveal how immature we are — and I don’t mean that in a negative judgmental way. Immaturity is a natural process in life. As Tim Keller puts it: You look back at yourself ten years ago and think of what a fool you were then. Well, that means you’re a fool now, you just won’t know it for another ten years.

So, the point I’m trying to make here is Theology is Vanity. You may indeed know more, and be closer to the truth, than most other Christians, but in regards to the Leviticus and Deuteronomy passages above, what will you do now?