My Experience With Jordan Peterson
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson has become an international sensation since the January publication of his bestselling book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. This work draws on Peterson’s experience as a clinical psychologist, as well as his interests in Jungian archetypes, mythology, and history to develop guidelines for the individual to improve their lives and the world. In the months since the book’s publication Peterson has sold out theaters all over the world as he further explores the ideas in his book through a series of lectures.
This week I was fortunate enough to attend Dr. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life Tour lecture in Rochester, New York. Much to my pleasure, this was one of the events featuring Dave Rubin. It was a three-hour drive from Pennsylvania to get to the theater, however, mine was not the longest journey as there were attendees from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Ontario as well. Despite media portrayals of Peterson’s listeners as being primarily composed of young white men, I found my fellow audience members to be drawn from many ethnicities, ages, and both genders.
Before the show, many attendees joked about the media’s habit of misconstruing Peterson’s words, one fellow audience member stating, “I’m going to make up whatever I think he’s saying like everybody else.” The frustration of the audience with Peterson’s detractors was further demonstrated by the round of applause given to the announcement that “the Kodak Theater has a zero-tolerance policy for hecklers and disruptions.” According to Dave Rubin, our's was the first audience to applaud that announcement, saying, “You must be the top lobsters. You aren’t taking that shit.”
Following Rubin’s introduction, which included bits of stand-up comedy, the theater erupted into an extended standing ovation at the appearance of Jordan Peterson. Dr. Peterson began the lecture with some updates on the progress of his online university as well as his next book. Then he launched into the theme of the night’s lecture, a weaving together of Rule 1 (“Stand up Straight With Your Shoulders Back”) and Rule 10 (“Be Precise in Your Speech”) to develop the concept of “Aim.” Peterson argued that reality is constructed for the individual based on their aims and that having a well-defined and proper aim is essential towards the attainment of a meaningful life.
In common with all his speaking appearances, Dr. Peterson relayed a wealth of information both interesting and profound. Much of the lecture was focused on the role of hunting in human evolution, and thus the importance of aim, in a literal sense, in human development. In ancient hunting-based societies, hunting became as much about attaining social credit as about attaining meat, contributing to the development of competence hierarchies.
Additionally, Dr. Peterson was very excited to have discovered the meaning of Pinocchio rescuing his father from the belly of a whale in that famous fairy tale. According to Peterson, the Whale represents the darkest elements of human nature, that one must confront to fulfill their true potential. It is the descent into darkness that allows the individual to find meaning, to rise, and to save their metaphorical father.
The night concluded with a question and answer session hosted by Dave Rubin. Some of the questions were of a light nature, including “When did [Peterson] become a male fashion icon?” Others were much more serious, “As a 13-year-old, what advice can you give me to lead a proper and meaningful life.” To this Peterson replied that the one most important piece of advice he can give is, to tell the truth.
Far from the boogeyman portrayed by his detractors, Jordan Peterson is a profound thinker whose message of meaning and responsibility is one the world desperately needs to hear. With his writings, lectures, and the plethora of his videos available for free online, Dr. Peterson is helping countless individuals all over the world to find meaning and improve their lives. For someone who greatly respects and has learned a great deal from both Dave Rubin and Jordan Peterson, the chance to see them both live, on stage, was a dream come true. If you have not yet read 12 Rules for Life, read it. If you have not yet listened to any of Dr. Peterson’s lectures, start now. If you have not yet found meaning in life, seek it.
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