Strengthen the Individual

Smash every idea with as much intellectual strength as you can muster.

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Jordan Peterson has been taking the internet by storm lately. Yes, he has had a long career as a professor and he’s spent a lot of time reading, thinking and developing his ideas, but it just seems like only lately he’s inserted himself into the limelight, and the internet is just EATING HIM UP–myself included. I find myself utter fascinated by his insights, but they’re so new and far from my usual thoughts, that I find it hard to internalize and summarize his ideas when telling other people about them.

And what do I do when I’m having a hard time figuring things out? Why, write it all down of course. In fact, Peterson even says this exact thing in the lecture that I took notes on below. Paraphrasing Peterson: “Writing is a good way of figuring things out. I wasn’t trying to write a book, I was trying to piece it all together while making it as clear as I could.” Which is precisely what this blog is all about.

Lecture: Strengthen the Individual

Minute 0 – 9

  • Writing an essay on Auschwitz at 13 years old.
  • Trying to understand “How could human beings do such a thing?” knowing that I was a human too.
  • Humans tend to think “Well it’s other people doing it.” Big mistake.
  • If other humans have done it, then you can be sure that you’re capable of it.
  • Many people agree that we ought not forget WWII–Jordan says we can’t remember something we don’t understand.
  • If you had been in Nazi Germany, the probability that you had played a role that wasn’t a positive one, is extraordinarily high.
  • People have the proclivity to cast themselves in the heroic role.
  • WW III dreams; nuclear bombs. Fallout. Humans fight.
  • Study of political science. Motivations of human conflict. The lower years of study were helpful, upper years: professor conflict. Human conflict happens for economic reasons? Ehh not a satisfying answer. Not the core of the issue. People value these things, well why do they value these things?
  • Questions on human conflict led to his degree in trying to understand human psychology. Thus, his choice in study. Freud. Classic thinkers. Nietzsche. Dostoyevsky.

Minute 10-19

  •  Dostoyevsky focused on the most difficult questions that can be presented to humanity. Crime and punishment.Nietzsche followed Dostoyevsky. When N went mad he re-enacted a scene from D’s book. Strong parallels.
  • P’s investigation on alcoholism and its effect on the brain. Obsessed.
  • Volume 9 of Jung’s Collective Archetypes. 1) didn’t understand a WORD of what he was saying. When you first encounter Jung you “bounce off”. Then the next thing is you are very frightened and leave it the hell alone.
  • Jung was a “student” of Nietzsche. Freud too, but Freud did the initial work of outlining that there was more in the human psyche that met the eye. Freud did an archeology of the symbolic unconscious.
  • Nietzsche = death of god. Because god was dead, and the value structure with god at its foundation is crumbling, people would essentially have to create their own values–make themselves a diety. Descend into nihilism and totalitarianism. Book “Will to Power”.
  • Jung wanted to solve the question of where values would come from now that god was “dead”. How would we ground them in reality?
  • Humans can’t create their own values. You can make revolutions and try to act a certain way. “You can’t boss yourself around … people make new years resolutions, and they give up a week later.” You have a nature. You can’t arbitrarily mold that nature. We need to dig deep and rediscover what we have lost. “Journey to the chaotic depths and rescue  your father from the belly of the beast” (movie that explores this concept: Pinocchio)

Minute 20-29

  • Writing is a good way of figuring things out. I wasn’t trying to write a book, I was trying to piece it all together while making it as clear as I could. Overworked piece of art. Purify and refine in order to discuss it.
  • Why were in the situation we’re in, and what to do about it. If you actually understand a problem, you can solve it. If you haven’t solved it you don’t understand it.
  • Humans are fundamentally flawed (Original Sin). Emerged at the birth of our species. Almost everyone has a sense of “imperfectness” unless they are narcissistic. It’s built right into us.
  • We have a catastrophic destiny waiting for us.
  • He speaks about christianity because in many ways its at the foundation of western society.
  • While he was working to figure things out, he began to realize why we have belief systems. We have to deal with an infinitely complex world and we have to simplify it so that we can manage it. We’re bounded creatures living in and unbounded world. PTSD for example–it’s not merely psychological, it actually can damage your brain. People need simplification. And when we run into people that simplify differently that YOU do, then the probability of conflict is extraordinarily high. We can’t negotiate things so we have to fight.
  • Everyone encounters catastrophic crises in their life. It’s part of the human condition.
  • Nietzschean conundrum. Critic of Judeo-Christian tradition. Philosophized with a hammer. He smashed every idea with as much intellectual strength as he could muster. He wasn’t nihilistic, he was very kind. He was looking for something he couldn’t destroy (because after all that’s how you find out what’s real). Your kids do this all the time. They push against you to see where you wont yield, and they think “ah, there’s reality there.”
  • The pursuit of truth was the highest moral value. Part of the consequence of that was the west developed science. Then the tools of science were then turned against the dogmatic structure of the church. Our symbolic culture took blows from darwin, freud, copernicus. (1)

Minute 30-39

  • People are usually faithful enough in “systems” to adhere to one or the other, but sometimes they can jump from one system too many and lose faith in systems altogether = nihilism. (However there are other reasons to be nihilistic besides a collapse of a belief system.
  • (back to 1) was this inevitable, and was it correct to demolish our symbols?
  • Jung: the conflict between science and religion is a consequence of the immature state of both of those domains of thinking. We aren’t good enough at being religious or good enough at being scientists in order to see how they might be reconciled.
  • Nihilistic = nothing you do has any meaning. However you are still not immune from your own pain, anxiety, tragedy. You can’t numb yourself to the chaos of the world by being nihilistic.
  • Choose one: nothing you do matters or has any meaning. Everything you do matters and has meaning. Which would you pick? Most people might think that the second choice is obvious, but the thing is–if everything you do actually MATTERS then you are responsible for them, for better or for worse. Nihilism enables you to be totally irresponsible. So much for the intellectual purity of nihilism.
  • Does analyzing religion symbolical reduce it to nothing but psychology? However as you reduce the symbolism, you elevate the psyche.
  • Christ was a symbol of the self. The self is your full totality. Everything you could conceivably be if you were everything you could be. Everyone knows we could be better. We sometimes take other people to task saying “You’re not living up to your potential”. Well what the hell is that? It’s not real, by definition it’s VIRTUAL. Its not defined exactly and is always in the future. We always treat the world like it’s made out of potential and I believe that is the correct view of the world.

Minute 40-49

  • According the stories in the bible, the world is roughly 6,000 years old. And in a sense it is right, but it is narrow (it ignores the 15 billion year old cosmos with it’s magnificent scale). It’s true in a sense because of it’s relationship to the origin of civilization. Complex civilization is about 6,000 years old.
  • What does the creation story in genesis actually mean? It’s important to understand what it means because back then we just didn’t really know that the hell we were doing. (like why do we put up Christmas trees at Xmas? life, light, our ancestral home, midwinter-return of sun/light. associate that with birth of savior.) We’re smarter that we know but the problem is WE DON’T KNOW OURSELVES. We reveal our true self in the symbols constantly, but then have to reflect on that to understand what it is that we’re up to. (lol)
  • Three elements on the creation of habitable order from chaos. God, the chaos before creation, and god’s word (the logos). The redeeming savior of humanity was also the thing that god used to make habitable order out of chaos. It means something utterly profound. we forget it at our peril. The meaning: Structure (the father/god) extracts habitable order out of chaos through speech! Humans are made in the image of god, so there’s something that was given to us (our consciousness of reality) that gives us the ability to extract order from the chaos in which we live). There’s something divine about that.
  • We all have something to offer each other, and you know this if you have the opportunity to engage in a real meaningful conversation, that suspends your sense of fragile mortality for a moment. You understand that in that moment, something of value emerges that you have to pursue. And you LIVE for that. You live for that relationship with yourself, with others, with your art form. You’re discovering that relationship in artistic pursuit, it’s the core of the meaning of life. It’s a manifestation of your highest nervous system and you can get better at it if you practice.
  • Circling back, that this highest order–creating art–is the same idea of the creation story.
  • Christians insist the same thing that saves mankind is the same thing that drew order from chaos at the beginning of time.
  • Habitable order that was first created, paradise. The walled garden. Another kind of archetype it’s the “eternal landscape” Walls are structure and culture, and the garden is nature. If it’s properly balanced, well that’s paradise. But there’s always something lurking in it that can turn it all upside down–the snake. It represents the unknown.
  • Partaking in the logos. Respect for logos and respect for free speech are the same thing. We use our free speech to confront the horrors of the world and give it structure & understand it. Communicate and reach consensus.
  • (Pinocchio) Going down to the chaotic depths and rescuing your father from the belly of the whale. An ancient idea. The reason why we haven’t forgotten it is because everyone who forgot it died.

Minute 50-59

  • Nationalism I understand because you need an identity. It’s the reason why all of us are able to sit peacefully in this room.

Image Source: “Sermon on the Mount” By Henrik Olrik

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