12 Rules for Life - An Antidote to Chaos
Rules to consider living by when our life is inherently full of chaos.
May 30, 2021
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- Gives you some guidelines in life that fundamentally draw you away from suffering.
- Articulates the inevitable facts in life where most people don't seem to comprehend or acknowledge their presence.
- Encourages you to take responsibility in life and make the best of it.
This is easily one of my top favourite books of all time. I'm a big fan of Dr. Jordan Peterson (JP). I have already been deeply inspired by his video lectures before getting this book. I have found my inner peace and how to live just by listening to him. Every rule is titled metaphorically and has deep insights. He used Biblical stories along with psychology and philosophy to illustrate his ideas. I never thought religions have such profound knowledge that could help us make sense in the physical world.
YouTube recommended me some of JP's lectures and videos. I was captivated by his teachings and found out he had published this book. Interestingly, I soon realized he's the author of the book I saw in the top selling racks in bookstores a few years ago. He only had 2 books published at the time, so it's quite easy to notice it.
If you are miserable, whiney, resentful, lost, hopeless and yet wanted a way out of all the mess, then you should definitely read this. These rules would at least give you a starting point to get back on your feet. It would give a new way of interpreting the world. And set your path to live a meaningful life.
Even if you are some of the lucky ones who live a peaceful life, I still encourage you to have a glimpse on the rules and see how are you holding up. Maybe you have been practicing some of them unconsciously. You will be able to articulate your being and potentially show others the impact of these rules. And it can get you prepared for any possible chaos you might encounter in the future. This stops you from becoming an ignorant person.
- Acknowledge life is never going to be perfect and won't change suddenly because we demand it.
- Be humble and keep seeking improvement because the journey gives us meaning.
- Happiness comes from the process not the goal.
- Confront difficulties willfully.
- Admit things I don't know and learn.
- Compare mostly to myself for improvement.
- More willing to look at high standard people to learn from them instead of shying away.
- Be grateful for all the little achievements I've made.
- Focus more on myself and be a role model.
- Stop caring about things I cannot change like people's perception, thoughts etc. (You can try but don't have to go too far.)
- Do what you say and don't be a hypocrite!
- Have a basic idea on how to teach my kids in the future
- Won't blame others or the world if I have not done everything I could to set things right.
- Stop whining, stop coming up with excuses and start working.
- Create small and implementable steps to build good habits.
- Read at least 30 minutes a day and I find commuting the best time to read while everyone is just scrolling on their phones.
- Bought workout equipments at home so I won't have any excuse to not exercise.
- Amazed and appreciate how religion and its underlying meaning can be helpful for our well-being.
- The concept of "meta-goal" made me less anxious of having multiple pursuits in life.
- It's ok to change our goal from time to time.
- Be honest and tell the truth.
- Telling people who I care how I truly feel.
- Feel reliving and stop myself from being resentful.
- Talk to myself retrospectively.
- Spend time and connect more with good friends who I didn't try diligently to stay in touch because I was once a selfish stubborn person.
- Advocate what I've learnt and hopefully help others who are struggling.
- Listen to them and learn from them as well.
- Started to write blog to reflect on myself and share learnings with others.
- Perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak.
- Faith is not the childish belief in magic. That is ignorance or even willful blindness. It is instead the realization that the tragic irrationalities of life must be counterbalanced by an equally irrational commitment to the essential goodness of Being.
- Say what you mean, so that you can find out what you mean. Act out what you say, so you can find out what happens. Then pay attention. Note your errors. Articulate them. Strive to correct them. That is how you discover the meaning of your life.
I'll be going over each rule with some personal thoughts. I have mixed some of the content with videos of JP talking about his book. There would be more than what the book has to offer. I encourage you to read the book yourself if there's any doubts. Maybe you would have some alternative insights.
This is the chapter where the famous lobster association with JP came from. Lobsters have been around for millions of years and they demonstrated the Competence Hierarchy is an ancient nature phenomenon rather than a sociocultural construct.
Neurological studies have shown that battle-winning lobsters maintain a fierce upfront posture while the loser shrinks into a curled-up defeated posture and shies away from conflicts. The former was found with high serotonin (low octopamine) while the latter has low serotonin (high octopamine). Serotonin governs our mood, cognition, and in general the feeling of well-being. It's associated with our confidence in reaching or maintaining our top hierarchical position. By moderating the serotonin level, you can move a lobster up or down the hierarchy levels. Dominant lobsters have the easiest access to the best of everything (hunting grounds, food, partners) while the defeated would get less. This is also known as the Matthew Principle derived from the Bible.
To those who have everything, more will be given; from those who have nothing, everything will be taken.
We, humans, like any other creatures, tend to keep track of where we stand in the hierarchy. In other words, evaluating our competence in society. It dictates our perception, values, emotions, actions, and thoughts. When you're competent and doing incredibly well in anything, it could be your job, your hobby, your wealth gains, or your love life, you are placed on a higher level in the hierarchy. You would be on the lower end when you're not meeting expectations compared to others.
There's a close relationship between the competence hierarchy and your belief system. For example, your colleagues disapprove your work and question your validity in the company. They disrupt your belief system when you do see yourself as a competent person producing undeniable values to the company. They look you down in the hierarchy which messes up your neuro-chemical reaction (dampens our serotonin) and triggers your emotion. This is why when people challenge your worthiness you would feel unease. And we are likely to defend our position in the hierarchy in order to regulate our beliefs as well as our emotions.
We are very much like lobsters, especially when we lose battles in life and ended up being dreadful. The way you present yourself can cause a feedback loop. The more you present yourself as defeated with drooping, scrunched-up posture and acts, the more people will see you as a loser. On the bright side, when you straighten up yourself more, people are more likely to treat you with respect.
It is inevitable to face chaos in life. Billions of things can go wrong and bring you down. But does that mean you should allow them to devour you? Do you want to allow yourself to become a bottom-level lobster where everything is taken away from you? Do you want to be grief-stricken for the rest of your life? I surely do not and I hope you are too. You are responsible for your own well-being.
The metaphoric meaning of the chapter is to accept the terrible responsibility in life and face them with courage. Especially as grown-ups, we must forfeit the sweet paradise of childhood. No one will be there to guide your every move and shield you away from danger anymore. We have to be self-conscious about our flaws and vulnerability. And understand them thoroughly to transform those chaos into habitable order. We have to willingly make sacrifices in order to reach a meaningful reality.
Stand up straight and quit hunching around. Walk tall and let the serotonin flow through which brings you the courage to become someone dangerous and competent.
It started with pointing out the fact we treat pets better than ourselves. The reason is that somehow we don't like ourselves as much as others. Why's that?
The Garden of Eden story from the Bible is used in an attempt to give an explanation. Adam and Eve - the original parents are placed in the Garden of Eden by God. It is a paradise that symbolizes habitable order. They were naked but unconscious about it much like infants. A serpent appeared in the garden even God himself cannot completely shield off. This symbolizes chaos is inevitable and there's no safe space where it cannot sneak in. The fact that the story didn't mention whether the serpent is from the outside means it can manifest itself within our personal space. We are capable of producing the worst possible snake psychologically, spiritually, personally, and internally. There's no perfect paradise that will keep it out.
The serpent lured Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She shared the fruit with Adam and eventually, they became self-conscious. An implication was women have been making men self-conscious since the beginning. Women are picky maters and have the proclivity to say NO. Rejections made men conscious of their self-inadequacy (though it can be subjective). It drove their competitive nature. Men are battling in the hierarchy to get what's best for them.
Adam and Eve noticed they are naked. They are ashamed because they are now subjected to judgment. The ideal of beauty, strength, brilliance shames us all. When God called upon Adam, Adam was unsettled by his nakedness and hid himself. He was afraid to walk with God since He is a judgemental father with high standards.
Adam blamed Eve for giving him the fruit and God for making him weak and women deceitful. The first man feels resentment for the first time. What a familiar circumstance - the Blame Game! In all seriousness, they both have no idea what were the consequences because they were unconscious. No one should have been blamed. Eventually, they were banished from the garden and their descendants (us) will carry the Original Sin.
The story resonates with the idea that life to its core, consists of 3 things - Order, Chaos and the process of mediating between them which is Consciousness.
There will forever be Chaos that's lurking around waiting to manifest itself;
There will forever be a path for redemption and transformation so Order can emerge from catastrophes. Like the Taoist Yin Yang symbol.
Adam and Eve see Good and Evil only when they are finally conscious. Consciousness is like having a godlike vision to see far to the future and what troubles are coming. Therefore we have to prepare for all possibilities and sacrifice the present for the future. God warned Adam that living would be difficult and in fact, it always has been.
We need both Order and Chaos in order to live a meaningful life. Consciousness helps us stay ideally in the center. One foot in a place where you feel secure and comfortable with things that you've mastered. And one foot in the unknown exploration territory. Taoists suggest meaning is to be found in the center. To walk along the center is the divine way that exceeds happiness.
We eternally inhabit order, surrounded by chaos. We are made in the image of God. We share the power of making order from chaos like how God created the world. The underlying meaning is that we have the capacity to expand our potential by mastering the unknown. A transformation is an act of improvement and the journey is what gives us meaning to live.
Back to answering the question: We don't like ourselves because we are conscious of our fragility and imperfection. We realize our proclivity towards treacherous temptations and malevolence. So we tend to doubt why should we take care of such a pathetic weakling?
Biblical stories are not pure nonsense. They encoded thousands of years old of human behaviors and experiences in metaphorical myths. Indeed we are flawed beings and there are times when we feel naked, ashamed, insecure, and resentful. This is an existential problem where every being must and always will encounter. You are not the only one that's suffering. As worthless as we seem, this still doesn't justify the mistreatment of ourselves.
What makes us superior than other animals is our consciousness. The ability to think comprehensively and understand our fundamental weaknesses. We know exactly how to inflict pain and what makes us suffer. Or else our human ancestors would have been extinct millions of years ago. No one understands our darkness better than ourselves. We are in the best position to care for ourselves and that's why we have the highest responsibility to do so.
You can argue that your life or the world is inferior. But we would make it even worse if we don't take care of ourselves. This means allowing us to become a puppet of Satan and let the worst form of ourselves takeover. We would make the world a dimmer place much like unleashing Hell. It's best to believe that you have a light to bring to the world. We have the potential to make things better.
If you're helping others but allowing yourself to deteriorate, it would basically be a zero-sum game. Why would you help others thrive in the first place if you don't believe all people can be virtuous? Why wouldn't you set an example for others? Why should someone listen to you if you're not doing what you preached? Our light would be even brighter together.
Ask yourself "What might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly?". We can all become better people and help directing the world towards Heaven and away from Hell. Define yourself, articulate your principles, defend yourself, discipline yourself, fulfill promises to yourself, trust yourself, motivate yourself. Seriously, think about what can you become if you do all these?
JP shared about his youth which is quite relatable for some of us. He was not doing much, drank, partied and smoked a lot. It's common in our teenage life that's full of aimless events. He had friends with him along his reckless years. But he realized he didn't like what he was doing with his life.
Some of his friends dropped out of school and he met some new ones who were aspiring. They bolstered him to aim upwards in life. He then had a meaningful life in college pursuing academically and running the Student Union with incredible success. He had great teachers to help him build a better life.
He met his old friends in a later stage to see how they were doing. Life wasn't so kind to them unfortunately and overdosing marijuana took them no where. One of them even commit suicided for mental breakdown.
We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.
Humans are social animals and are greatly influenced by others. People can affect how we think, how we act and how we feel about ourselves. The famous social psychology Conformity Experiment had shown us how the majority can change people's decisions.
Going down is easier than up. Getting addicted to drugs, alcohol, smoking is so easy. Sitting there doing nothing is so easy. Conversely, getting rid of bad habits and work diligently require intensive will and persistency. Resentful people like to prove life is terrible and there's no salvation. They are nihilistic and would try to bring you down. They are unwilling to take up responsibility to face the ugly truth and take necessary steps to be better.
If you consider helping these lost souls, we should find out why they are in misery. Don't buy the story that they are mere victims of unjust circumstances with no personal responsibility. You would deny their power to act and change. It's extremely difficult to convince someone to change for the better. Some of them just don't want any help. In that case, we should primary focus on ourselves and live by example to hopefully inspire them someday.
Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
We should choose people who want things to be better. Make friends with people that truly congratulate you when you achieved something good and stops you from doing something bad. A rule of thumb is to consider if you would recommend this friend of yours to your family members. Who would like to be around cynical people who would be jealous of your success and never show support? Your improvement foreshadows their inadequacy and they don't want to acknowledge the fact.
Being around aspiring people is never easy. They are ideal beings much like Adam facing God. It requires humility and courage to stand beside them. If you truly wish for betterment, then these people would help you manifest the greatness in you.
Laid out the fact that there will always be someone better than you who makes you feel incompetent. JP uses the Pareto Distribution (aka 80-20 Rule) to explain that the more successful you are, the more opportunities you would have. It measures human productivity against generated outcomes. It's a natural law which proves, statistically, that you are likely to find someone better than you and has taken most of the opportunity. Competent people will get more because of their skills and the value they can generate. Mediocre people would gain much less.
This is an inevitable inequality that we don't know how to solve it. And should we solve it? Society like the Soviet Union or Maoist China tried, but history has told us they failed miserably. Looking at successful people makes you hopeless. But this doesn't mean we should think nihilistically that everything is meaningless.
We live in a world where the present is seemingly never enough and the future is eternally better. Why should we pursuit goals if there's no end? It's like asking why do you eat when you're hungry. Other animals live by natural instinct, they hunt, they drink, they mate, they rest and they die. Humans are similar in a sense that we also live to survive but we are given an almighty power which is consciousness to think beyond hardwired instincts. We need something to aim at to live more than just surviving. Pursuing something is at least better than staying in your present torment and deny all the possibilities.
Again, we need an aim in life and that's undeniable unless you are desperate to end your life. Having an aim also means having an ideal. There's an ideal being you wish to become. An ideal is a judge who would regard you as competent or not. Sometimes we are crushed by the ideal because we are looking too far away in hopes of getting there in a single step.
The practical way is to set a high aim but differentiate it down into implementable parts that you are likely to achieve them one at a time. We need to make it difficult enough yet achievable with effort. It would help us grow and reach our aim step by step without feeling overwhelmed. Moreover, our aim doesn't have to be exceptionally high. We can always aim lower and find something that bothers you that you could fix.
Myself as an example, I like psychology and philosophy related knowledge. It bothers me if I have not learn them to enrich myself and prove my words. And I like sharing with others and hopefully shed some light on people's thoughts. But I know I'm not competent enough to turn it into my profession like a psychologist or a teacher. That's why I chose to be a friendly neighbourhood wise guy who is known for having intellectual conversations. I have my aim then I need to figure out the steps I need to take. I chose reading book, watching videos and making notes, then blogging my learnings to solidify my understandings as my means. Wisdom is an endless yet meaningful pursuit to me.
Consistency is the key to embark towards your goals. Be proud and reward yourself even if it's just a small accomplishment. Give yourself a pad on the back. You did one hell of a job even you did it badly. Do the same thing over and over again but set the bar a little higher each day, week or month. You are beating your past self each time. That's progress and it's not linear but compounded exponentially. This sets you up for success.
He who has a Why can bare almost any How.
If you truly want your life to be better, have some faith. If you see the world as unexplainably cruel and irrational, wouldn't it be possible to also irrationally make it better? The future is not fixed and we have nothing better to do but try to shape it to our imagination. Starting asking "What could I do, that I would do, to make life a little better?".
This chapter brings vital suggestions to people who have kids or planning to have one. We are sometimes too optimistic or see ourselves as highly moral caring adults who will never mistreat children. In other words, we don't acknowledge the innate darkness that could render us monstrous towards others. Carl Jung referred to it as the Shadow which is the dark side of humanity that reaches all the way to Hell. Parents who don't understand this usually produce the worst children.
Young kids can be little monsters who will definitely trigger you at some point in your life. 2-year-olds are statistically the most violent group of people. Kids express outrage and frustrations impulsively. Aggression is innate like a beast doesn't need to learn how to strike. They kick, slap, and bite their parents in an attempt to assert dominance. This is a phase where they are trying to explore where the boundaries are. Hence, it's important for parents to understand what they are doing and correct them. This helps kids to regulate their impulses socially. Like adults, we did something and turned out to be some mistakes. Then we learnt what we did wrong and consciously control ourselves in the future.
JP gave some heartfelt examples of dealing with his kids and others. A kid who's constantly not getting fed well by his parent. His parents somehow think it's acceptable to let the kid starve just because he misbehaved by not eating. JP's wife encouraged the kid to eat and he finally did. "Good boy," she said and it put a smile on the kid's face and ate more. His son who also didn't want to eat at times started to eat after some tickling and a compliment. There's another kid who didn't want to sleep but after some minimum restraining force and a compliment, the kid slept peacefully.
Kids can be a pain in the butt but patience is the key. Don't hate or ignore them because of their misbehavior. Welcome them back to your loving arms once they have controlled their impulses. Moreover, we need to treat them once they finally did something you liked. This is positive reinforcement in psychology. You observe what others do, no matter they are kids or adults, and compliment them straight away once they did something good. This would encourage them to do more.
I suppose no parents want their kids to be hated by others. So if you dislike them, then is very likely that others would too. Research suggested if parents can make their children (0-4 years old) eminently desirable socially, it would be a maker of successful parenting. This means other children would want to play with your kids. Play is important for children. They explore and learn from each other. If they become an outcast at such an early stage, the probability of fixing it would be extremely low. This is all parents' sacred duty.
Resentment is a bi-directional motivation since we have experienced evil.
- A reminder that we should work our way out of suffering and towards a better reality.
- Also a reminder but fuels our vengefulness towards the extreme.
We have to acknowledge the resentment within us when things go astray. This is the first step to figure a way out of misery. Resentment usually means 2 things:
- You need to grow up and get on with it.
- Someone is playing a tyrant to you (could be yourself) and you should do something about it.
Don't underestimated how far resentment can misguide you towards vengeance. We could reach to a point where we only point our fingers outwards. We would want others to change instead of realizing the possible self-responsibility which might have contributed to the unwanted consequences. There are times that going to the extreme is somewhat understandable (still not acceptable). Carl Panzram - a serial killer who had a terrible youth being raped, brutalized and betrayed is one of the example. Those unfortunate incidents broke him and turned him into a destructive being. He wanted to revenge on people who did him wrong. This is not to justify his actions but demonstrate how resentment can do to a person. This is a testament to the good over evil in our heart.
There are people who are capable of channelling all the resentment into willful power and transform themselves into greater beings. Tiger Woods had an abusive childhood but it didn't bring him down like Carl Panzram. He, instead, worked his way through and became one of the best golfer in history. The good in humanity can persevere over evil after all.
Beware that there are people who consciously choose the wrong path. They lie to themselves in order to justify their falsy actions. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - the author of The Gulag Archipelago wrote about his life in the Soviet Union. He was betrayed by his own people and imprisoned in a labour camp. He reviewed his contribution to his suffering. His undoubted support of the Communist Party, conscious engagement in actions he knew to be wrong and lying to his dignity brought him to the gulag hellhole. He asked himself what could have happened if he had chosen the correct path. This motivated him to reflect and wrote the book which exposed credibility of communism as an ideology. "One man who stopped lying can bring down any tyranny." he once said. And indeed the USSR ended as we knew.
Solzhenitsyn showed us that we can take ourselves apart bit by bit. Realizing what's unnecessary and toxic in ourselves and let those parts of us die. And then resurrect with better motives of being.
We should ask ourselves "Have I done everything I could to set my life straight?" before questioning the world.
Solzhenitsyn had war and tyrants like Stalin and Hitler to blame if he wished. Instead, he chose to reflect on his own actions first. It's easy to blame the outside since dissecting our mind is effortful. We need humility to reflect and realize our wrongdoings. Everything starts from the individual. If you cannot do what you said or think is right, how shameless can you be to demand people to follow?
Start today. Think about what are you doing that you clearly know it's wrong? What is making you feel resentful, irritated and unease? Stop wasting time and clean the mess up. Stop making our lives unnecessarily difficult. Become a force of good with honest speech and actions. Perhaps you would soon find the world a less tragic place.
The quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral; convenience.
This is said to be the core chapter of the entire book. It started off to remind us again life is unquestionably hard and suffering. It begged the question why don't we just follow our impulses and do whatever is immediately pleasurable. There's so much pain why shouldn't we just pursuing quick doses of joy?
It's obvious that there are people who are pursuing expediency in our lives. Did it take them anywhere? Did their the root cause of suffering being permanently dealt with (or at least largely which cause less suffering)? Do you respect their mode of being? It's sensible for some of us that it's a clear No.
The alternative of not pursuing expediency is somehow favourable implicitly that we have yet to articulate the reason behind. It's distilled from thousands of years of human behaviour and we act them out naturally. Action came first because we were once animals that could act but not think. Actions embodied values and we encode them into stories, myth and rituals. Biblical stories brought the idea of sacrifice into the picture.
Our ancestors sacrifice or work to please God. We believe the sacrifice of the now to gain benefits later. It's the practice of delay gratification. We've seen people succeeded and failed eternally. And the conclusion drawn was the successful ones delay gratification. They realized the reality is structured as if it could be bargained with. The successful ones sacrifice while others live in the moment. They believe today's effort is the quality of tomorrow.
We have been practicing relatively less-demanding sacrifice daily. We save and invest our money when we could spend all it. We shop groceries to prepare household needs for the coming days when we could do it day by day. We exercise with sweat and tears to gain a stronger body when we could leave our body to rot.
There are more comprehensive sacrifices to solve complex problems. And these sacrifices are relatively demanding and hard. If you are planning to have kids, you would have to sacrifice most of your personal time and dedicate them to your kids. As a responsible parent, you would take up the larger burden and do whatever it takes for your kids' well-being.
Not all sacrifices are of equal quality and even a high quality sacrifice doesn't necessarily yield a better future. I don't quite understand how the book addressed this. It sounds discouraging for the fact that we don't always get what we want even we sacrificed a lot. I would personally think that even we don't get what exactly we want, hopefully our sacrifices at least made us better in some area. Be appreciative. But before we think about sacrifices, we must understand that only when civilization has stabilized enough to guarantee sacrifices would yield some sort of delayed reward. Or else there's no point in saving if everything would be destroyed.
How do stabilize our society into the future? It would be by establishing the social contract which means building reliable trust-worthy trading relationships with one another through sharing. In an abstract sense, we learnt the importance of saving for the future through food leftovers. We saved food that solves our future hunger. We even share them with others and gain trust and trading opportunity from them. We established a contract where we can sacrifice something to gain something.
Sharing is not giving up all our valuables with nothing in return. It's a process of initiating a trade. Having friends is also a form of trade. We share stuff physically and mentally. Through sharing we built trust and became more willing to exchange needs in return. So we should be practicing sharing first in order to have some chance of getting the delayed reward we want.
What would be the ultimate sacrifice to gain the ultimate prize in our lives? It's the child and the self. Mary gave birth to his Son Christ knowing full well the horrific world she has brought to his child. This is the sacrifice of the child which symbolizes parents are voluntarily taking up the tremendous responsibility of taking care of their child. Then Christ's crucifixion has shown us the sacrifice of the self to gain the advancement of Being. This symbolizes that we should allow the current self die and resurrect to become someone better. We might need to sacrifice what we love best now, so to become what you could be. We would forego expediency and pursuit the ultimate meaning. Socrates willingly accepted his death sentence also demonstrated when a man abide truthfully to the highest ideal, he has no regret or even the fear of death.
We sacrifice to diminish the suffering that could extend to our future self. It also suppresses our evil which desires for expediency. With the seemingly enlightening intention of Christianity, why do we not embrace the Good and sacrifice everything to that ambition? This part is more of how Christianity has lost it's ground the modern world and implicitly encouraged the value of Christianity. Christianity's sense of truth consequentially made us doubt faith itself. And it had also given birth to science which is the study of the objective truth. Hence, we thought if science couldn't explain something, that thing is deemed invaluable. Modern Christianity has put more emphasis on the notion which Christ's sacrifice had redeemed us all, so there's no moral responsibility needed from us. They watered down the idea of imitation of Christ / God and let the spirit of the Saviour manifest in ourselves.
Coming from a non-religious background, I do see the dogma of Christianity still has its place in our world. We don't have to believe all the Biblical stories literally. The values embodied in them are what we should be focusing on. They help shape us to a Being who acts towards the Good and away from the Evil. Like parents teaching their children to be socially acceptable as oppose to the alternative.
We will forever be suffering and we clearly understand what is not good. As self-conscious being we know how to inflict suffering on ourselves and others. We may not know what's good but anything opposed from not good is good. The good is whatever stop bad things from happening.
No tree can grow to Heaven unless its roots reach down to Hell.
Expediency works only for the moment. We wouldn't even think about greater problems if those prominent ones are not fully addressed. They limit you from advancing further.
Ask yourself "How could I use my time to make things better, instead of worse?". This is the more explicit version of "What should I do today?".
Again, it's not making things better just for now. We should aim up and pay attention to what we can fix. Make the necessary sacrifices to gain a better future that's less-suffering. It's a life-long mission to keep moving from a state of not good to better. That's the pursuit of meaning.
JP realized he was a fake in his early days of saying things his inner voice would object. And he learnt that speaking the truth had helped him a lot in some awkward situations. Telling the truth and lying to take the easy out are two different pathways through life.
Words can manipulate the world. Salespersons, marketers, advertisers, politicians and psychopaths are all around us influencing people with their tempting words. Sometimes we create life-lies like ensuring everyone likes us, imposing ideologies, justifying cynicisms or capitalizing on our vulnerability to avoid conflict or responsibility. We try to bend reality into those narrowly desired outcome.
I suppose "life-lies" can be considered as goals. We would undoubtedly attempt to make our goals into reality. From my understanding, JP is condemning those poorly formulated goals created by people who are ignorant to think all they know it's what needs to be known. For example, he had a clinical client who's goal is to retired and enjoy his time on a beach drinking margaritas. This is not a thoughtful plan in any sense. The goal is not sustaining and it's expedient. This relates closely with Rule 7. We should not be oversimplifying and falsifying an ideology and believe it single-mindedly.
Life-lies are usually associated with avoidance. Such people like to stay invisible and avoid conflict. They don't speak up for themselves when they clearly know something is wrong. They know there's a monster in their closet but they choose to close the door rather than slaying it. And life is suffering from the outside and the inner monster lurks out from time to time. They get crushed eventually because of their willful blindness. They betray themselves and act out lies to justify their ignorance. This is how corruption of Being starts to manifest.
There's another famous psychology experiment - The Invisible Gorilla which demonstrated how blind we can be when we focus solely on what we think it's important. It showed how our mind can deceive us when something is apparently obvious.
We need an ambition, a purpose, a concrete goal. It provides structure necessary for action. It provides of a point of contrast for us to evaluate our progress. If there's no aim, then everything we do can mean anything or nothing. If there's no focal point, our vision wanders and feel anxious about the blurry uncertainty.
We should be aware that our concrete goal is never certain. It should be a subordinate to a meta-goal which helps formulating goals themselves. Meta-goal is an abstract goal and perhaps more resilient such as live in truth, be creative or inspire others. Immerse in the world while it unfold itself and reveal meanings that resonate with your meta-goal. What's inspiring here is that this means it's normal to have multiple pursuits in life. Someday you like music, someday you like painting, someday you like teaching, someday you like acting. I think we've all grown up in thinking goal has to be concrete and single-purposed. There's no shame in switching between different interests as long as they connect to your meta-goal.
We have to pick a game to play in life. We'd pick one that's important and meaningful. We make moves in the game and validate them. If the moves didn't help, that's a bad move. And we should evaluate and find better moves to continue. Retrying with the same bad moves wouldn't magically become useful. If we are lucky, small adjustments would be enough to move ahead. However, there could be times when the entire game contain faulty values, then we have to change the whole game. Corrections means we have to sacrifice what we once valued highly as right. It's a revolution that requires courage and humility to accept the truth and correct our moves.
Telling the truth is to hear your inner voice calling out on your betrayal of yourself. Answer honestly to your calling and have some humility that what you valued most now might be holding you back. Aim at something while keeping your awareness high. Stop lying to yourself that everything is alright.
Psychotherapy is never merely about giving advice. It is having a genuine conversation through articulation and mostly listening. By listening, people would open up far more than you expected. JP had encountered various type of people telling him unbelievable stories.
Psychotherapy works because usually people is seeking a system of interpretation to make sense of their lives. It's similar to what religion offers people a way to interpret living. People reinterpret their past memory to make them better or worse. Like movies with harsh scenes but a joyful ending, everything bad happened became less-significant. By contrast, exciting scenes with saddening ending kills off all the enjoyment. The purpose of memory is a guide to the future. We use it avoid bad things from happening again. Therapy would hopefully help to make memories better.
We think by talking. We simulate the world and plan how to act in it. If it's done well, we can see what actions should be done to produce the best consequences. It can be through the lens of past memory, we shall see what could have been done to stop the suffering.
True thinking requires us to be an articulate speaker and a cautious listener. The Freudian method encourages people to speak and listen to themselves. This wouldn't work on all people as some desire for more personal conversation. JP is more keen to having a honest conversation with his clients.
JP doesn't like to impose his ideology in his clinical sessions. He listens more and often a small facial expression will suffice as a response. "I hate my wife." a client of his once said ended his session realizing his wife is pretty good overall by recalling his true impressions. It was a relief for the client even the response from JP was just staring and nodding. After all, psychotherapy is about telling each other the truth and both listen. What the therapist said is not necessarily the objective truth but it's still an honest opinion to consider.
The great majority of us cannot listen; we find ourselves compelled to evaluate, because listening is too dangerous. The first requirement is courage, and we do not always have it.
To check if we are really listening, try rephrasing and summarizing what people have just said and make sure the other person agrees. This would be difficult but we can genuinely understand what people are saying. You might see the world in their perspective and realize something to learn. This is where courage is needed like Carl Rogers said because you might get influenced and prompt you to change. Change is demanding and potentially terrifying. It requires you to step into the unknown but it's where you grow.
Sometimes people's thoughts aren't crystallized because it might be their first attempt to think concisely. Summarizing also helps people consolidate and make good use of their memory. It's like a history class where we extract the moral story from the past. We understand what happened, why it happened and most importantly how to encourage or avoid such things from now on. It's also a courtesy of respect towards the person's position. Your summary should accurately represent rather than distorting the person's view. If you agree and find value in their view, then you would learn something new and improve. If you disagree, you can strengthen your argument based on the summary you both agreed on.
A healthy conversation should be people talking (thinking) and listening to each other without any premature judgement. It's an act of mutual exploration to perhaps solving a problem instead of insisting one's position. You and the speaker moves towards somewhere newer and broader. There's also a meaningful sensation when we truly connect with one another.
We should have humility to accept there's always things we don't know and to be learnt. What you know now is the stability of order. Then, there are new information of chaos which can potentially destabilize your order. That's when we start to improve and expand our domain. Wisdom comes from continual search of knowledge.
Practically everything we see belongs to an enormous tree with extraordinary complexity. Like a laptop runs on an operating system that relies on electronic hardware, which requires science and manufacturing. And then the social contract of trust in the political and economic systems that allow factories, laboratories, and electricity to exist and help build computers. The interconnected multi-level complex made everything possible. What we mostly interact with are the leaves on the boundary of the tree with narrow purposes.
Our evolved perceptual systems help us reduce the complexity of the world. It makes us see meaningful things, things that are useful or annoying, specifically tools and obstacles. We don't merely see valueless objects and give them meaning afterward. It's the precision that makes the world sensible to us.
When everything is in order, the world seems to be a simple place. But when things break down, what's been ignored rushes in. Like marriage, couples might be having a happy life assuming each other are reliable and loving. If someday, for example, the wife starts to be less attentive, gets irritated easily, or even found out to be cheating, everything great about the family the husband has thought of suddenly collapsed. The reality of chaos stomps in and brings him to his knees. Our body acts faster than our mind, we freeze and adrenaline rushes in, emotions piles up painfully. We cry we scream, we yell under the abyss of emptiness. Then we start to dig out how did the chaos manifest.
Maybe they have an unsatisfied sex life. Maybe there have been some arguments across the family about their marriage. Maybe it's the disagreement on how to raise the kids. Maybe it's the cooking that disgusted them every day. Maybe they didn't love each other that much at the very beginning. They don't react, don't discuss, don't consider, and don't take responsibility. All the voluntary ignorance compounded and plagued the marriage. It's doomed undoubtedly for this reason.
Specifying a problem enables its solution. We avoid it because it requires us to admit the problem exists. We are giving up a chance to learn. It will definitely hurt but a single sharp pain is way better than a continuous numbing ache. Sometimes we are afraid of confronting the chaos, sometimes we just failed to define our failure. We don't even notice we walking on thin ice. We carry the burden and pep-talk ourselves to accept the negative feelings. We don't speak the truth. We can't fool ourselves that long with the ever-growing hatred that's accumulating within us.
A precise speech articulating what's the problem, how did it happen, what do we want, what can be the solution helps us simplifying the problem and detached it from the complex tree. The problem becomes more manageable with less uncertainty and anxiety. We can start to negotiate with ourselves to re-establish order. If our destination is unclear, there are no meaningful places to reach. There's no point in changing our state if we don't know precisely where we are and where we want to go. We will be wandering randomly in frustration which leads to resentment and hates towards life.
Words, languages, communication are powerful tools that help us narrow down what a thing is. We organize the world by communicating. Imagine everything before you it's non-specifiable. How could we differentiate one thing from another? Everything is too much and could mean anything with infinite inter-connectivity. A book in such perspective is a pile of thin sheets with some gibberish written on it and they can mean anything. With words, we can specify this is an English book about philosophy which it's for us to read and understand about life.
Everything is happening everywhere and we cannot discuss everything. We have to be precise in defining the topic. It's precisely this thing that's bugging me. It's precisely this thing that I can do. Say what you mean and see what happens. Tell the truth and be precise. You don't get what you don't aim at. You might get what you do aim at. So take aim courageously against the tides. This is how we progress step by step as being.
Skateboarding is a thrilling sport especially when it comes to doing airborne and sliding tricks. A slip could cause great injuries and pain. It's dangerous and it is the point. Skaters are courageous beings who are willing to overcome danger, fear, the risk. It's an act of confronting the chaos which develops their competence. The reward and joy of landing a trick are beyond compare.
We've become better each time we beat something challenging. It's something that's slightly beyond our grasp but achievable with persistent trials and iterations. We stood tall and beat ourselves from yesterday. Overprotection would limit one's potential of achieving greatness. It creates an illusion of safety that there's nothing to worry about. It gives a sense that we don't have to do anything extra or new to alleviate difficulties. But chaos will always find its way to us. There's no place safe even under God's creation.
Being brave and courageous is a trait associated with masculinity. This chapter also discussed the attack on masculinity and the decline of men in the current society. Masculinity doesn't directly mean men. Women have it too but men more often embody masculinity traits. The modern world tends to belittle men since women now are climbing up the ladders. University has more women than men in more than 2/3 of all disciplines. Somehow this is being interpreted as men growing weak. Men are almost automatically the suspect of rape or fights. When girls play boys' games, it's considered admirable to compete against boys, win or lose. But ironically for boys, beating or even losing to girls is considered pathetic and his life might as well be over.
Men can only win by winning in the men's hierarchy while women can win across both. It's not a must but women are usually attracted to men with status by competing with other men. If boys compete in girls' hierarchy, they lose status among girls and boys. Girls would appreciate the femininity in boys but these boys are just friends. Boys like competition but they cannot play truly competitive games with girls. They don't see how they can win. This is why when things become a girl's game, boys leave immediately.
Women crave men up or across the competence hierarchy while men are willing to go down or across. Women need someone competent to support them and the child when it's necessary. With such preference in the desired partner, men are competing even more if they wish to start a family. These men are willing to take up the responsibility of constructing and supporting their future. It's by no means an easy task to achieve. Yet there are people who accuse such masculine competitive spirit as an oppressive structure to dominate and exclude women. They assume top hierarchical men misuse their power to get there. And people who have ambitions are just developing tyrants.
Women, especially top-rated ones tend to leave their jobs in order to start a family or have a life. They leave high-pressure careers. Masculinity in men renders them more stress-tolerant, competitive, and aggressive to work up the ladder. Women are more willing to stay home (or work less) for the kids because of their agreeableness and tenderness. From the graph below, men and women are mostly the same. But when we look at the two ends, most aggressive people are men and most agreeable people are women. It's by no accident or oppression that top hierarchical positions are usually men. 80-20 rule has already told us people who are at the top will get more naturally.
Culture made us who we are today. We inherited the culture from our ancestors. They spent lifetimes consolidating the mode of living and passed it down. Like how Asian culture values boys over girls because traditionally boys can do a lot more physical work like farming or smithing which generates the most value efficiently. Culture gives more to some while others get less. Even though under such circumstances, we aren't inferring that we should willfully accept the culture from the past. The main point is that we should not see it as a wickedly crafted structure that aims to tyrannize the less-advantageous side.
Any hierarchy creates winners and losers. And it's obvious that winners would support the hierarchy while losers are more likely to criticize it. When we all collectively see something as a valued goal, the pursuit will inevitably create a hierarchy. We deem people who attain the goal successful while those who can't as failures. If everyone is winning, then there would be nothing valuable for any of us to pursue. There would be nothing meaningful to live for.
It's a destructive way of thinking that there are no other facts than people exerting power to exclude others to benefit personally and selfishly. Everything is just interpretation in such thinking. The biological distinctions between men and women, the science behind are just a game of power. They like to believe all definitions of skill and competence are made up by beneficiaries of the hierarchy. Power is a motivation but it's not the only one. Inequality is a complicated issue that we cannot draw a single cause conclusion.
A well-functioning society, competence, not power, is a prime indicator of status. It's the ability and skill that propel people up. For example, we look for the best surgeon with the best education and reputation to aid our body. Based on what radicals think, if somehow the best surgeon is an Asian male, then there must be an oppression of women, black or white people in the structure. Having poor ability is the result of the top-performing people exercising their power to strip away the growth of others.
Shitty people do shitty things. Indeed there could be tyrants out there selfishly wielding their power and crave for more. But this doesn't mean people who have status would only be like this. Radicals believe society must be altered and eliminate bias until all outcomes are equitable. Most people would just focus on equalizing the outcome. People don't necessarily hate capitalism or favour socialism or care about genuine equality, they just believe that all the money would be better on their hands.
Outcomes should be measured and it cannot be equalized. Who decides what is work is equal? I agree women should make as much as men. I agree black people should make as much as whatever coloured people. But we shouldn't adjust the parameter through the lens of group identity. What about disabled people? What about people with lower IQ or less attractive? Someone obese? Should we equalize their outcome too? Group identity can be differentiated down to the level of the individual. We all are unique beings. It's impossible to capture the variability as a group.
Scandinavia has tried to generate a gender-equal society. Ironically, the result has shown they have made the gender difference even larger. Men and women acted voluntarily and produced gender-unequal outcomes under their free will. Radicals would suggest there's a cultural bias that everyone is just victims of having to make such choices. They feel obligated to set it "right". This means Scandinavian males who didn't choose nursing schools require more forceful training. The same goes for Scandinavian females who didn't choose STEM fields. How far should we push such training? Shouldn't equality be providing equal opportunity and let people choose freely? Expecting an equal outcome usually means limiting or even forcing the options. It's a controlled result, is this what we truly value? Remember the re-education camps, the gulags, and how they tried to "teach" people what's right and wrong? Do we want the horrific history to happen again?
The aggression, the bravery, the competitiveness in masculinity have their utility. At least, they serve as self-protection. The tenderness, the compassion, the agreeableness in femininity are traditionally positive traits but could be subjugated to aggressive beings. We need them both in order to be complete. Like Yin Yang, they compensate one another. Generally, women need to form a relationship with masculine consciousness and face the terrible world voluntarily. Men can help but it's better if we are independent.
Men toughen up by pushing themselves and each other. Skateboarding is one of the ways. Women don't want boys. They want men to contend with. They want someone who brings more to the table. Whoever interferes when boys or girls are trying to become strong, is a jealous, resentful and destructive person. These people stop us from aiming upwards. How discouraging that is? If tough men are dangerous, then we have no idea what weak men are capable of. They are not the friends you want according to Rule 3. Let children explore the unknown, sheltering them is doing more harm than good.
This is a personal chapter for JP. It's about how his daughter Mikhaila suffered from rheumatoid arthritis - an autoimmune disorder that primarily affected joints when she was young. She had to take various medications and injections to ease her pain. She had to undergo hip replacement surgery. For parents to watch their child suffer such complicated illness at an early age is heartbreaking. It could mean that his child is going to suffer physically for the rest of her life. With God's grace, she did recover. She got married and had a daughter.
JP had tough times in recent years with media labelling as an alt-rightist, trying to attack him and his ideas. He also had a long term battle with depression. His wife also got ill not long ago. It was a life or death situation. Knowing that your loved one might pass away is never an easy thing to take in. He also got ill afterwards and had to travel around to find the right doctor. Perhaps it's his truthful dedication in understanding God that He mercifully brought JP and his wife back on their feet. JP made a comeback recently and all the people he had inspired, including myself, are glad to see his return. It was quite some ride.
Through his suffering, he mentioned we should set up some time to talk and think about life crises and how they should be managed every day. We shouldn't talk or about it otherwise. It would be exhausting and drain all our strength. It's like a war with many battles. We aren't fighting one single battle. We have to stay functional in order to go through them.
Why pet a cat (dogs work too)? Dogs obviously are friends of human beings. They are loyal and loving. Cat is one of kind though. They are friendly on their own terms. We can only interact with cats if they approve of us. Cats have that indescribable charisma that draws you in. They are fluffy, cute, independent, elegant. You would want their attention and sometimes so do cats. If a cat suddenly approaches you, sticking its head against you, that's some achievement. It likes you for some reason, you are valuable.
The interaction with pets is one of those moments when you feel light. You feel relaxed while playing with them. Whenever we are on a bad day, try paying attention to the world around us. Seeing a little girl dancing to street musicians' captivating performance, having a nice cup of coffee, seeing a baby waving and smiling at you, hiking up a mountain looking up to the clear blue sky and down to the mother nature, being around true friends. There are things that could remind us of the wonder of Being. There are sweet moments that might make up for our suffering. Maybe you would realize life isn't so bad after all.