Disagreeing with Jordan Peterson–Is the unknown order, or chaos?

Disagreeing/Agreeing with Jordan Peterson–Introducing a New Series

In my first post I have credited Jordan Peterson. He is a psychologist, and a professor on Youtube who connects psychology to philosophy and theology. He approaches issues in ways that I have never seen before, and as I’ve also mentioned, listening to him helps me to put my thoughts into words. One thing that I respect about him is what he says when he doesn’t know something, or he has an idea, but doesn’t know how to say it. He will calmly, and honestly say ‘I don’t know’. But even then, he knows that just like anyone else he doesn’t always realize when he doesn’t know something. The unknown goes deeper then our human perspectives can grasp; I’ve already touched a little bit on this at the end of my post “Personality and Pacing”.

Jordan Peterson

Even though people try to deny this about him, and also dehumanize him for his controversy, he welcomes agreement, and disagreement equally as long as people are respectable. This is why I plan to dissect more of his ideas on this blog through a series of posts about the things he says, and pinpoint where I don’t agree with him. I could write blog posts about the things I do agree with, but I can’t see myself doing that too often. I’d be repeating things that were already said by him. For these things, a simple ‘yes’ with a nod of the head is probably all that’s needed because nothing more needs to be said.

We all have thoughts that contradict the other thoughts we have. We don’t always notice this in ourselves, but sometimes other people will. Noticing these contradictions in our mind can help us to shed a light on a problem that needs to be solved. We should never treat revealing these problems as ‘exposing’ someone as a ‘fraud’ for being a double-thinker. We should treat this as the process of trial and error.

Is the unknown order, or chaos?

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Although Jordan Peterson has studied the Bible and theology, and is fascinated with the Biblical stories, he presents the things he says in a humanistic/agnostic way. He will talk with other people about the absoluteness of morality, and the inner compass that lets us know what we should or shouldn’t do. He will talk about the character archetypes in stories that can be used as frameworks to help us understand why we are the way we are, and why we navigate the world the way we do. He believes that there are patterns that point to the absolute truth not only in archetypal stories, but in true stories, and the real world–I can definitely get on board with this. After he says these things, however, I believe that he wavers this point of view when he calls the unknown chaos. He will say something along these lines—God created the world out of chaos, and the Bible says that He created us in His image. So when we create something, we are taking chaos and turning it into order. By doing this we are taking part in creation.

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He seems to have unintentionally skimmed over the possibility that chaos might not even exist—By listening to his lectures, this got me thinking about the unknown, and made me wonder about this possibility that he didn’t address. I know what you’re probably thinking—We see chaos all the time. How could anyone believe that all the problems we experience, all the cruelty, all the pain, all the suffering, all the clutter, and hustle-and-bustle isn’t chaos? We do perceive these things, but just because these things can be terrible and hard to cope with doesn’t mean that they aren’t part of an order that’s bigger then ourselves.

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I believe that a great example of this is the story of Joseph. Out of jealousy over the dreams he was telling them about, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. If he had never became a slave in Egypt in the first place, and wasn’t serving God through all the hardship he had to endure even while doing nothing wrong, no one would have known about the large famine that was going to take place in the future–no one would have been prepared.

His brothers went to Egypt in desperate need of food not knowing who they were going to see. They encountered their very own brother, Joseph, who they sold years ago. Joseph provided them with food. After this he assured them of this: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

Even when our intentions seem chaotic or bad, this doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things. I love this message as someone who finds the concept of intentions, and what makes them good or bad extremely confusing—this was especially true after I discovered that we can have bad intentions without even knowing it. We have no control over our perspectives that always seem to flip-flop from one assumption to the next without even asking for this to happen, but all-in-all, this doesn’t even matter. God has everything under control, and He has given us the Holy Spirit so that whenever we fall out of line everything’s going to fall into place, and we will become more real than we have ever been before.

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And yes—if chaos doesn’t exist, this means that every gust of the wind; every small ripple or roaring wave, every tornado or hurricane isn’t chaos. If chaos doesn’t exist, this means that God had a reason to give the devil permission to torture Job, a man who truly loved God. We don’t know how to see these things as anything else but chaos.

In my post ‘Personality and Pacing’, I said “…we are trying to order the world according to our own chaotic human lenses…”, and I truly do believe this. It’s almost like the older I get, the more aware I become that the lens I see the world through can twist reality around me like a fun house mirror, but also reveal reality where other people can or cannot see it. Whenever I enter a grocery store, and my family encourages me to explore the place by myself, that building sure doesn’t seem ordered to me. It feels like I’m surrounded by whirlpools that are going in different directions, and throwing me off balance just because of the people walking opposite, across, or in the same direction as me at varying speeds. I never know when another person is going into the same aisle as me or not. Nothing about this is their fault, and nothing about this is my fault. This all comes down to the temporary lenses that are made to see the world how God wants us to see it in the meantime, and later we will be given new eyes in heaven to see goodness for what it truly is.

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There are a lot of problems that come without fault, but the fault comes down to how we react to these problems. Plenty of conflicts have two or more sides—it’s one twisted funhouse eye against another. These problems come with guilt when two or more individuals or groups believe that they themselves are the ones who are right, and the other people are wrong—they believe that they don’t have to be flexible because the others have a speck in their eye, and they certainly don’t have a log in their own; they will assure you of this. Can you think about any situations where this is happening? Have you ever been guilty of this? If these two questions resonate with you, I want you to stop and think about them before you read the last two paragraphs.

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I can’t end this without mentioning something that happened while these thoughts were cooking in my mind. I was working as a helper in a kindergarten classroom, and I was given the opportunity to read a book called “Seven Blind Mice” by an author named Ed Young to the kids. One of the first pictures in the book showed what the object was that the mice were encountering (I’m not going to give it away here), but the teacher told the kids not to say what is was because the mice had to figure it out for themselves. At the beginning of the book, all of the blind mice were scared of the unknown object, and then they went exploring one-by-one once every day. The red mouse thought that it’s leg was a pillar, the orange one thought that it’s ear was a fan, and every one of them explored different parts of the massive monster by climbing and feeling without sight. They weren’t correct, but they got a general idea of the shape and feeling of specific areas. They didn’t get the full picture until the white mouse explored the whole monster, and took the things that the other mice said into consideration.

With all these things that were on my mind I found myself getting really exited as I read this book. After I finished, I was glad that the teacher spoke about it’s theme because I couldn’t talk about it in a way that five, and six-year-olds could understand. These rules of perception even apply to how you perceive this book according to your age—a story about getting along to children can be extremely philosophical to adults. But who knows? Maybe some of the philosophy from this book resonated with the kids. I also found the use of the number seven very interesting. It was like the mice were discovering parts of creation in the number of days that God created the world, and this got me wondering about something else—whenever we are creating something, are we making order, or discovering the order that’s been here since the beginning of time? I believe that this all depends on how willing we are to step out of our comfort zones with hearts that are eager for the truth.

Are we willing?

The Right to say ‘Um’

As a kid in school you probably experienced this. You are trying to share a presentation, and the teacher says “don’t say ‘um’”. Suddenly, your mind goes blank. The words aren’t flowing. You were talking about a complicated subject that you’ve worked hard to try to understand. Mistakes are bound to happen. If you start talking now, it’s most likely going to be gibberish.

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You’ve probably experienced this, unless it was just me. I must not to be the only one who sees this as a social block. I don’t think that anyone has to have a communication disorder and autism like myself to want conversations to flow peacefully—even if this means the occasional hiccup that’s given time to be corrected in a smooth, flowing way, and allow for the use of tools to help everyone think. I believe that if you’re human, talking comes with thinking. You can’t stop thinking while your talking–this is unreasonable unless you’re a super person. However, even if we are saying ‘um’ in the moment, I believe that this habit can taper in the future simply because we were allowed to hesitate right now in order to later be truly grounded in a subject, and hold a firm stance.

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This is um… super guy?

Although I have struggled with communication, I have never loved language more than I do now. But even now, like I also was in the past, I’m afraid of it. Words can be used in poetry and music as expressions of deep emotion. They can also be used to tell stories through the process of cause and effect that we see all around us in the world. When done right, a story can show us the consequences of a wrong, the benefits of mercy, and the reward of victory and adventure without straight-up telling us what we should or shouldn’t do. However, language is not a toy. Even when a story doesn’t state a message, it can stray too far towards emotion, or too far towards morality. As I’ve been writing my stories I have found myself straying both ways. I think it’s inevitable that this is going to happen, but it’s good to be convicted enough about what you’re saying to not go with the crowd, and find the middle ground through the internal, and external process of trial and error. This also goes with speaking. If you were a kid who was told to prepare a PowerPoint presentation about everything that lead up to World War Two, then present it after a week, or as an adult, a friend opened up a controversial subject that you don’t hold a firm stance on yet, the right to hesitate and say ‘um’ seems about right to me.

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Confidence is good, but it seems like in this world expressing a lack of confidence is frowned upon. We are often forced to look and sound confident. What happens when we pretend to be confident when we’re really not? We experience a social crash. Sometimes this crash can be the worst thing that can ever happen to us. It can cause us to confuse or hurt the people around us, including the ones we love. It deeply hurts when this happens, but there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. I know from experience that this crash can lead to true honesty in the future. Even if in the moment honesty means saying ‘um’ without regrets, and allowing yourself to express uncertainty about what you are inclined to say, and what another person is saying.

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Not a lot of people will tell you that it’s okay to express self-doubt. The world seems to think that doubting ourselves is the same thing as low self-esteem, or even self-betrayal. I believe that we need to change our perspective on this somehow. If we truly care about our own well-being socially, we should be allowed to hesitate, and express doubt before we can be moved to grow, and learn the truth about anything.  We can’t grow until we know we’re small.

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Some people will say that ‘um’ is a useless filler in spoken word that can waste people’s time, but I beg to differ. I believe that ‘um’ is a lull that allows the listeners to think, and the speaker to gather the very next words. ‘Um’ is like the hum of a cotton candy machine as it’s shooting out the sweet fibers that attach to each other to create one thing, then get twisted up onto the stick that anchors it all together so that it all makes sense. We can know the individual details about something, and we can also know a broad statement. But it’s not always easy to figure out how the small details connect to either confirm or disconfirm a broad statement as the actual big picture. I believe that if we’re sensitive to this we will be able to express ourselves freely.

Personality and Pacing

Even if you aren’t a fan of them, you have most likely enjoyed a cartoon like Bugs Bunny, or Tom and Jerry at least a few times in your life. People like to watch them on Saturday mornings with breakfast, and coffee (if the people watching are old enough) to perk them up for the weekend.

That's All FolksHere’s a question I’ve asked myself: if I was in one of these cartoons, would I enjoy being part of it? I am tempted to say ‘yes’.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to not get seriously injured by a piano falling on your head?  Who wouldn’t love to live as a drawing among other drawings, and do a whole bunch of crazy things according to his or her two-dimensional stereotypical personality? Maybe I’m alone with the two-dimensional stereotypical part of this scenario, but still. There must be a part of us that wants to think that the chaos we perceive in life could be contained in the framework of a cartoon if we lived it. But would we really enjoy this life, or is this another case where the grass is always greener on the other side? Is there a reason that there’s a barrier between us and these characters? Even if we couldn’t handle this kind of existence, if the pacing of ourselves and others would exhaust or confuse us in the cartoon world, why do we still identify with them on the television screen? Ironically enough, I believe that in a case like this, distance between the cartoon and real world is what we need to truly connect to the 2D one. This distance might also help us to learn about how to understand different personalities in real life.

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Even in the real world, some personalities confuse and overwhelm us when we’re in close quarters to them, but we can see the good from a safe distance. We still have our personality differences that we need to work out, and I believe that the social barriers come from different speeds of mental pacing in different areas. To every Rabbit or Eeyore, there’s a Tigger. To every SpongeBob and Patrick, there’s a Squidward. We want, and need to make sense of the reality that we function at different speeds. Not being able to understand the different life paces we live around can create devastating social barriers, and heartache.

Something that I’ve noticed about myself is a tendency to feel rushed around certain people. In many cases this is probably a false sense. I hate false senses because they cause me to misjudge people, especially when I hate being misjudged myself. Otherwise, whether this sense is real or not, there’s a shaky feeling that wells up in my stomach when I feel like I’m living under a social deadline. Certain people seem to get cold when I miscommunicate what I’m thinking because my own thoughts don’t translate into words as fast as most people’s. I also believe that I can offend for not talking. If these two problems simultaneously happen at the same time, I feel like I’m being split in two, and I fail to function peacefully outside of myself. This has lead me to believe that intentions matter more then words, but this brings me to another problem—how can I know a person’s intentions, especially when they move fast? This is where my bias kicks in. If somebody is fast to move and speak, and I sense that they are expecting the same thing from me, in my mind I interpret this as impatience and unforgiveness. I see patience and forgiveness as the same thing, so I don’t know how to separate the two. I am always hoping to see these two traits in people when I encounter them—otherwise, tension causes me to feel like I’m trapped in a robot, and I can’t get out. Whenever I can’t see patience in someone, two problems that are similar in some ways, yet different in others, collide.

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I’ve discovered that people need patience and forgiveness for impatience and unforgiveness because they are trying to grow in these areas—this is where I struggle. I understand the need to get better, but this paradox backfired on me. This is because I can understand my own struggles to keep up. In cases where I feel rushed I think that my best effort isn’t enough for the other person, and I’ve often assumed that slowing down doesn’t take this kind of effort. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe for some people, slowing down is like trying to slow down while running down a hill—this would be really hard. And also, come to think of it, there have been times when I’ve found myself getting impatient to get out of social situations. Whenever I try to look at the big picture, there seems to be more similarities than differences, but it’s still hard to mesh these similarities together because they are different kinds of similarities.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I believe that if we dismiss how little we know about the complexities of humanity, we attempt to order the world according to our own chaotic human lenses, and this is bound to deceive us because we simply can’t grasp the ultimate order of the unknown as a whole.  We don’t live as archetypical characters who are easy to read. We live in a three-dimensional world, so that means that we’re layered, and we don’t always know where the mirrors are.  I find this reality truly amazing, and terribly frightening at the same time.

My Round Earth Theory

Before we get started, I want to mention that Listening to Dr. Jordan Peterson’s lectures has helped me to put the thoughts expressed here, and the short stories I’ve been working on, into words. As someone who has often struggled with face-to-face communication, I am very thankful that he has been helping me to express myself through writing without even knowing that he is. He’s Canadian just like me, and I’m proud to call him that.

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You were probably taught this in elementary school:
“In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” What he did scared people because they thought that the earth was flat, and if he went too far he was going to fall off the edge. He proved to the world that the earth is round when he made it safely to the new world. He proved that there is no edge.

As you got older you probably learned that very little of this is true. This Italian explorer was just one person out of many who helped in discovering North America, but people already knew that the earth was round from the time of Aristotle. It even says in the book of Isaiah verse 40:22 “He sat enthroned above the circle of the earth…” So what you learned about Christopher Columbus when you were little was most likely a myth. But even so, should we completely drop this fairy-tale version of the truth, and say that it’s meaningless? What if this quirky little addition to a historical story was never meant to be used as a lie to replace the truth? What if it can to be used as a metaphor for how true progress works?

After I came up with this theory, and wrote down some notes to start my first post here, I tried to do some research about Christopher Columbus on the internet. (Yes, I should have done this before I started by memory). It wasn’t until then that I realized how much controversy and confusion there is around trying to find the truth about him. Some people say he was a good man with people who worked under him doing terrible things, and twisting his good name, while others say that he actually did these terrible things himself. This problem itself is connected with my theory. It’s important to know that nowadays we can’t tell when historical information is tweaked to suit a goal, or actually true. It isn’t until we realize that we don’t know something that we’ll be willing to figuratively go back in time in order to find the objective truth.

This is why I don’t only believe that the earth is round literally, but figuratively as well. There are people today who believe that the earth is flat – and no, I’m not talking about the flat earth conspiracy theorists. I’m talking about people who believe that they can move forward from where they already are because time is a straight slope up. They believe that everything gets better as time passes, and a slope down is a drop down into the depths of space. What do they do when they reach the north pole on the globe? They wonder why they can’t climb the world any higher. This way of thinking is presented as freedom from laws that restrict us, when in fact it’s evident to me that this is even more restrictive than just allowing ourselves to slide down to the origin, whether that be our childhood families, our natural ways of being, than go back to the top again.

The best example that I can think of where people are trying to climb up higher from the north is in the writer’s community. Something I’d love to be part of is a community of writers that is a healthy mix of people who hold a variety of non-polarized traditional and non-traditional views. A community that isn’t leading anyone to believe that it’s a sin to launch an idea from the traditional story arcs such as the one about a strong male character who rescues a girl, and make it something new. A community where no one has to worry whenever a strong female character is written into a story about if the motivation behind her creation came from social pressure, or if it’s written by a man, male guilt. The very people who claim that they are fighting against legalistic views are creating their own laws. I have seen the new restrictions being pushed in a workshop when the only man there was told that he had to be more careful than us female authors not to offend through his writing. I don’t know what the exact ratio between male and female authors is in general, but the fact that he was the only guy in the group makes me wonder if stories told though the masculine perspective is a rare gem, so enforcing social rules on a male author makes it even more rare.

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Although there are certain aspects of my own life where I wouldn’t count myself as ‘privileged’ (I don’t believe that we can measure privilege) I know for a fact that the reason I’m receiving encouragement to write a book of short stories, and sometime in the future I can try to push it through the tough competition of traditional publication in my own name, is because of female authors who paved the way up closer to the north.

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But now, in many ways we seem to have reached the top of the world. Is this a good thing? I think we are becoming polarized up north because we are choosing to stay there. We can’t find any more world that slopes up, so just as the Europeans of the 1490’s were afraid of leaving the place where they already flourished, now with our need to work towards something we are building the tower of Babel. As we keep building we are splitting into groups who speak different languages. Sometimes we are even singing the same song to a different tune, but either we can’t understand, or our pride is keeping us from patiently listening.