When I was in college I wrote reviews for local bands for MTV. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever be writing a review for a university lecturer. But this is the upside down world in which we live today. We have a reality TV star as president; feminists are defending men winning in women’s sports competitions, and an intellectual psychologist is the hottest show in town.
Capitalizing on the stunning success of 12 Rules for Life, Jordan B. Peterson is touring the world and generating the largest crowds this side of Taylor Swift. But he’s not bringing dazzling light shows and multimedia experiences with gyrating background dancers. He’s just talking. And he’s talking about some fairly heady stuff.
The night I saw this modern phenom, he spoke about the so-called 13th rule for life: Opportunity opens up when there’s a lack of responsibility (or something along those lines—I’m paraphrasing).
Peterson is evidently a big fan of The Simpsons (the first 13 years at least) and he referenced one scene in which Homer was mixing in equal parts vodka and mayonnaise, preparing to gulp it down. His wife Marge asked if that was a good idea, to which he replied, “That’s a problem for future Homer!” And he downed the ridiculous concoction.
That’s funny, of course, because “future Homer” is the same person as present Homer. But it raises the serious issue of responsibility, as Peterson puts it, as the optimization of behavior for the benefit of all “future Homers”. This is an interesting perspective and a fascinating way to quantify morality because you can apply it to others as well: Morality is the optimized behavior to the benefit of all the “future Homers” of everyone surrounding you.
And it’s evident that Dr. Peterson practices what he preaches. He is constantly working on ideas that will benefit himself and the world.
When I met Jordan Peterson briefly after the talk I just told him, “Thanks for doing what you’re doing.” In retrospect that was a silly thing to say. Not because his actions aren’t commendable, but because Dr. Peterson has no choice to not do what he’s doing.
When someone from the audience that night asked him what he would be doing if he wasn’t there at the talk, he replied that he would be doing pretty much the same thing—that is working on and fleshing out philosophical ideas. He has been doing it for since the ’90s rocking that Seinfeld look in his university classroom and he’s been perfecting his craft ever since. That’s why he’s so good at it.
But, as he explained, it doesn’t suffice to simply be good at something. You have to produce your product at the time that the market is ready for it. Timing in opportunity is crucial.
Of course, you can minimize the importance of timing by working as hard as you can immediately so when an opportunity does arise, you are prepared.
Peterson took the responsibility of sorting out these ideas and becoming an expert at articulating them for decades and when the stars aligned during the C-16 gender legislation debate in Canada. He was able to capitalize on that opportunity and the rest is history.
The talk I saw was excellent and there’s something more to it than what you get on the Youtube content, especially when you’re in the front row as I was.
Peterson has lost favor recently in some circles by expressing views not in line with theirs which is ironic because he rose to prominence by fighting the totalitarian group-think of the modern age.
This may be more of a reason to go see him now. If nothing else it’s an opportunity to be a part of a free-thinking counterculture that is the only hope in a growingly bleak societal landscape.