Postulating with Peterson re 12 Rules for Life

Notes from Jordan B Peterson: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote To Chaos, London, Allen Lane/Penguin, 2018, Forward by Norman Doidge.

Clinical psychologist and public intellectual Jordan Peterson has made an extraordinary impact with his online lectures and video presentations which have achieved over 100 million YouTube hits in the last four years. Not bad for a man whom Greg Callaghan, Associate Editor of The Age’s Good Weekend has dismissed on February 3 2019 as a writer of obfuscating drivel!  Somehow I think Jordan Peterson will be making an impact for a long time yet, and well beyond the appearance of both Greg Callaghan in print and indeed The Age itself. I notice in passing that Greg Callaghan has 1059 followers….only a little less than 100 million to catch up to Peterson! Of Course Peterson’s opponents are busy accusing him of being a Nazi for daring to be intelligent about the current philosophical and politically correct narrative; and some conservative Christians think he has no right to quote from and use the Bible because he doesn’t see God the way they do but I am sure he will cope with both of these criticisms.

Norman Doidge’s challenging Foreward is engaging in itself. Doidge suggests that this is not a good age for a book of rules for life but reminds readers that the 10 “rules” in the Bible were indeed accompanied by stories and Peterson’s 12 rules are similarly accompanied by many stories.

Doidge describes Peterson as a former Harvard professor, a successful psycho-therapist, a Mid-West cowboy, someone who thinks at a meteoric rate, someone who  is constantly communicating and who loves to dialogue and be challenged, who makes his own furniture, designs his own house, is strongly committed to helping disadvantaged students, someone “tormented by”  simplistic ideologies of the right or the left as “substitutes for true knowledge” and which inevitably support the idea that a nation could kill its own people for an idea, the author of Maps of Meaning, a “highly complex work”, a brilliant and popular lecturer, one who respects both scientific method and publication but also the profound psychological appeal and wisdom of many ancient stories, one who has read deeply in Nietzsche, Jung, Freud, Dostoyevski, Solzhenitsyn, Eliade, Erich Neumann, Piaget, Frye and Frankl, one who accepts the Buddhist notion that life is suffering, that happiness is a pointless goal that should be replaced by a search for meaning not for its own sake but as a defence against suffering that is intrinsic to our existence,  one who has read deeply in classical psychological theory, who likes hero myths in which the hero must die to overcome the challenge,  one who is controversially opposed to “forced speech’, who dislikes over-protective parents, who dislikes ideologues who pretend they know how to make the world a better place before they’ve taken care of their own chaos,  and all this just for starters.  Doidge notes in particular that when Jordan Edwards would take a liberal stand for free speech, he would be accused by left-wing extremists as being a right-wing bigot.

Doidge himself presents a useful introductory argument regarding Millennials who have, in his view,  been thoroughly taught two seemingly contradictory ideas about morality, simultaneously:

  1. that morality is relative, at best a ‘personal judgment’;  that there is no absolute right or wrong; that moral rules are personal opinion or happenstance or accidents of birth, culture, ethnicity, upbringing or history. Additionally the post-modern left makes the additional claim that one group’s morality is nothing but its attempt to exercise power over another group. So, the decent thing to do is to show tolerance and …just about the most inappropriate thing an adult can do is give a young person advice about how to live.

And so a generation has been raised untutored in what was once called, aptly, “practical wisdom.” which guided previous generations…choosing to devalue thousands of years of human knowledge about how to acquire virtue, dismissing it as passé, “not relevant’ or even “oppressive.” They were so successful that the very word “virtue” sounds out of date, and someone using it appears anachronistically moralistic and self-righteous.  Doidge notes that Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics defined virtues simply as the ways of believing most conducive to happiness in life and vice was defined as the least conducive to happiness….the virtues always aIm for balance and avoid the extremes….By contrast, our modern relativism begins by asserting that making judgments about how to live is impossible, because there is no real good, and no true virtue (as these two are only relative). Thus relativism’s closest approximation to “virtue” is “tolerance”….But it turns out that many people cannot tolerate the vacuum—the chaos—which is inherent in life, but made worse by this moral relativism…so right alongside relativism, we find the spread of nihilism and despair, also the opposite of moral relativism, the blind certainty offered by ideologies that claim to have an answer for everything.

2.   The second teaching that millennials have been bombarded with …they sign up for a humanities course, to study the greatest books ever written. But they’re not assigned the books; instead they are given ideological attacks on them, based on some appalling simplification

Because we do not yet have an ethics based on modern science, Jordan is not trying to develop his rules by wiping the slate clean—by dismissing thousands of years of wisdom as mere supertition and ignoring our greatest moral achievements. Far better to integrate the best of what are now learning with books human beings saw fit to preserve over millennia…If our ideals are unattainable, why do we bother reaching in the first place? Because if you don’t reach for them, it is certain you will never feel that your life has meaning. And perhaps because, as unfamiliar and strange as it sounds. in the deepest part of our psyche, we all want to be judged.  

Jordan Peterson:

p. xxxiii  Overture: How could the world be freed from the terrible dilemma of conflict, on the one hand, and psychological and social dissolution, on the other?  The answer was this: through the elevation and development of the individual, and through the willingness of everyone to shoulder the burden of Being and to take the heroic path. We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world. We must each tell the truth and repair what is in disrepair and break down and recreate what is old and outdated. It is in this manner that we can and must reduce the suffering that poisons the world. It’s asking a lot. It’s asking for everything. But the alternative—the chaos of the collapsed state, the tragic catastrophe of the unbridled natural world, the existential angst and weakness of the purposeless individual—is clearly worse.

p. xxxiv -v  “There”  [“getting there”] is the dividing line between order and chaos…the soul of the individual eternally hungers for the heroism of genuine Being, and that the willingness to take on that responsibility is identical to the decision to live a meaningful life. 

p.1         Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back. This rule is copiously explained using the analogy of the establishment of dominance by lobsters and their mating rituals. The victor assumes total dominance. The defeated lobster retreats and retires and fades away into weakness and oblivion. Peterson encourages us to face up to life directly and strongly. (p28 Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.)

p.12    Peterson quotes Mark Twain: It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. It’s what we know for sure just ain’t so!  Peterson notes that nature is not static at least not in any simple sense. It’s static and dynamic at the same time. Yin and Yang…chaos and order.

p13- 14  It is also a mistake to conceptualise nature romantically. …We rhapsodise about the beauty of nature but we don’t fantasize about elephantiasis and guinea worms (don’t ask), anopheles mosquitoes and malaria, starvation-level droughts, AIDS and the Black Plague…If Mother Nature wasn’t so hell bent on our destruction it would be easier for us to exist in simple harmony with her.

pp14-15     Dominance hierarchy is built into evolutionary change…. This is why, when we are defeated, we act like lobsters who have lost a fight. Our posture droops, we face the ground. We feel threatened, hurt, anxious and weak. If things do not improve, we become chronically depressed.

p.31  Rule 2:  Treat Yourself like Someone You are Responsible for Helping. 

p33. People are better at filling and properly administering prescription medication to their pets than to themselves. What could it be about people that makes them prefer their pets to themselves?

p.34  Scientific truths were made explicit a mere five hundred years ago, with the work of Francis Bacon, René Descartes and isaac Newton [and Gottfried Leibniz]. In whatever manner our forebears viewed the world prior to that, it was not through a scientific lens…Because we are so scientific now—and so determinedly materialistic—it s very difficult for us even to understand that other ways of seeing can and do exist. 

p.35  The scientific world of matter can be reduced, in some sense, to its fundamental constituent elements: molecules, atoms, even quarks. However, the world of experience has primal constituents, as well. The domain , not of matter, but of what matters!  These are the necessary elements whose interactions define drama and fiction. One of these is chaos. Another is order. The third (as there are three) is the process that mediates between the two, which appears identical to what modern people call consciousness. It is our eternal subjugation to the first two that makes us doubt the validity of existence—that makes us throw up our hands in despair, and fail to care for ourselves properly.

Chaos is the domain of ignorance itself. It’s unexplored territory….it’s the place you end up when things fall apart; when your dreams die, your career collapses, or your marriage ends. 

p36. Order, by contrast, is explored territory..order is tribe, religion, hearth, home and country..the floor beneath your feet, and your plan for the day ..the public façade we’re called upon to wear, the politeness of a gathering of civilised strangers, and the thin ice on which we all skate. …But order is sometimes tyranny and stultification, as well, when the demand for certainty and uniformity and purity becomes too one-sided.

p.41 In its positive guise, chaos is possibility itself, the source of ideas, the mysterious realm of gestation and birth . As a negative force, it’s the impenetrable darkness of a cave and the accident by the side of the road…Chaos, the eternal feminine, is also the crushing force of sexual selection. Women are choosy maters ..most men do not meet female human standards. It is for this reason that women on dating sites rate 85 percent of men as below average in attractiveness. 

p.43  We eternally inhabit order, surrounded by chaos. We eternally occupy known territory, surrounded by the unknown. straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced.

p.44  Order is not enough.  You can’t just be stable, and secure, and unchanging, because there are still vital and important new things to be learned. Nonetheless, chaos can be too much. You can’t long tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to cope while you are learning what you need to know. Thus, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered  and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. Then you have positioned yourself where the terror of existence is under control and you are secure, but where you are also alert and engaged.

p.46  Re nakedness in the garden of Eden…a common nightmare involves the sudden appearance of the dreamer, naked, on a stage in front of a packed house…..It just not appear possible, even for God himself, to make a bounded space completely protected from the outside—not in the real world, with its necessary limitations, surrounded by the transcendant. 

p. 47  The worst of all possible snakes is the eternal human proclivity for evil. The worst of all possible snakes is psychological, spiritual, personal, internal. No walls, however tall, will keep that out. …Solzhenitsyn..the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being….Even the most assiduous of parents cannot fully protect their children…It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them….Question for parents: do you want to make your children safe or strong?

p.48   ..the capacity for women to shame men and render them self-conscious is still a primal force of nature. 

p.49  ..the snake features in the Garden of Paradise as the creature who gave us the vision of God (in addition to serving as the primordial and eternal enemy of mankind.)

p.50    In their vulnerability, now fully realised , [Adam and Eve] felt unworthy to stand before God.  If you can’t identify with that sentiment, you’re just not thinking. Beauty shames the ugly. Strength shames the weak. Death shames the living—and the Ideal shames us all. Thus we fear it, resent it—even hate it cf Cain …what are we to do about that? Abandon all ideals of beauty, health, brilliance and strength? That’s not a good solution. That would merely ensure that we would feel ashamed, all the time. 

p.51  Adam hid from God…they are afraid to walk with God. That’s not particularly admirable, perhaps, but it’s certainly understandable. God’s a judgmental father. His standards are high. He’s hard to please …people, unsettled by their vulnerability, eternally fear to tell the truth, to mediate between chaos and order, and to manifest their destiny…we can understand Eve’s error. She was deceived by the best. But Adam! No one forced his words from his mouth.

p.53  Perhaps Heaven [at this point cut off from Adam and Eve]  is something you must build, and immortality something you must earn.

p.54-5  Animals can’t manage [evil] but humans, with their excruciating, semi-divine capacities, certainly can. And with this realisation we have well nigh full legitimisation of the idea, very unpopular in modern intellectual circles, of Original Sin. …Our ancestors chose their sexual partners, and they selected for —consciousness? And self-consciousness? and moral knowledge?   And who can deny the sense of existential guilt that pervades human experience? And who could avoid noting that without that guilt—that sense of inbuilt corruption and capacity for wrongdoing—a man is one step from psychopathy?  …Human beings have a great capacity for wrongdoing. It’s an attribute that is unique in the world of life. ….What then is to be done?…we seek the healing medicament..Perhaps Man is something that should never have been. [cf Peter Singer..the earth would be better of without homo sapiens]. What then is to be done?

p.56  God creates the world with the divine, truthful Word, generating habitable, paradisal order from the precosmogonic chaos. He then creates Man and Woman in His image, imbuing them with the capacity to do the same—to create order from chaos, and continue His work….The moral of Genesis 1 is that Being broth into existence through true speech is Good…we retain an intimation of the prelapsarian state. We remember so to speak. We remain eternally nostalgic for the innocence of childhood, the divine, unconscious Being…[cf C S Lewis: The Weight of Glory: “these things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited..”]   in their perfection [man and woman] were also less, not more, than their post-Fall counterparts. Their goodness was something bestowed, rather than deserved or earned. They exercised no choice. God knows, that’s easier. But maybe it’s not better than, for example, goodness genuinely earned…free choice matters.

p.57 …perhaps it is not simply the emergence of self-consciousness and the rise of our moral knowledge of Death and the Fall that besets us and makes us doubt our own worth. Perhaps it is instead our unwillingness —reflected in Adam’s shamed hiding—to walk with God, despite our fragility and propensity for evil….Could man reach his potential without the challenge and danger?

p.57-8 The entire Bible is structured so that everything after the Fall—the history of Israel, the prophets, the coming of Christ—is presented as a remedy for that Fall, a way out of evil. The beginning of conscious history, the rise of the state and all its pathologies of pride and rigidity, the emergence of great moral figures who try to set things right,  culminating in the Messiah Himself—that is all part of humanity’s attempt, God willing, to set itself right. And what would that mean?…to embody the Image of God—but to do so consciously, of our own free will..back as awake beings…

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring 

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time…

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree…

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of things shall be well

When the tongues of flames are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one. 

(“Little Gidding.” Four Quartets, T S Eliot)

p.58-9      In the latter half of the C20th and into the C21st mass violence has declined but another problem has arisen. Many folk are arrogant , and egotistical, and always looking out for themselves,  but many others have the opposite problem: they shoulder intolerable burdens of self-disgust, self-contempt, shame and self-consciousness. Thus, instead of narcissistically inflating their own importance, they don’t value themselves at all…they believe that other people shouldn’t suffer, and they will work diligently and altruistically to help them alleviate it. They extend the same courtesy to animals they are acquainted with—but not so easily to themselves.

p.59-10   ..”loving your neighbour as yourself” …has nothing to do with being nice …it has more to do with being strong. Becoming a slave to your neighbour or the person in need helps no-one in the long run. 

p.60  …your mistreatment of yourself can have catastrophic consequences for others. This is most clearly evident, perhaps, in the aftermath of suicide, when those left behind are often both bereft and traumatized.

p.61  ..Yet people prevail and continue to do difficult and effortful tasks to hold themselves and their families and society together. To me this is miraculous —so much so that a dumbfounded gratitude is the only response….it is always the wounded people who are holding it together.

p.62   ..You need to consider the future and think,   “What might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly.?”…

p.63   Peterson quotes Nietzsche:  “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how”.

p.67 Rule 3: Make Friends with People  Who Want the Best for You.  Basically surrounding yourself with the wrong company can only drag you down to their level. (A summary of Peterson’s early life in the Canadian backwoods.)


85  Rule 4: Compare Yourself to Who You were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today. 

p.87  If the internal voice makes you doubt the value of your endeavours—or your life, or life itself—perhaps you should stop listening. If the critical voice says the same denigrating things about everyone, no matter how successful, how reliable can it be? Maybe its comments are chatter, not wisdom. “There will always be people better than you”— that’s a cliché of nihilism…talking yourself into irrelevance is not a profound critique of Being. 

p.92  Be careful when you’re comparing yourself to others. You’re a singular being, once you’re an adult… We must see, but to see, we must aim, so we are always aiming…We succeed when we score a goal or hit a target. We fail, or sin, when we do not (as the word “sin” means to miss a mark. [from Greek ῾αμαρτανειν].

p.94  ..where you start your renovations might not be as important as the direction you are heading…much of happiness is hope, no matter how deep the underworld in which that hope was conceived. 

p.96  ..what you aim at determines what you see…contrasted with sustained intentional blindness. [Dr Daniel Simons’ famous video of a ball game in which viewers were to count the number of times the white shirts threw the ball to each other; but there was also a gorilla walking across…few saw it until they looked again but not counting… ]

p.98  The Hindu Vedic texts: the world as perceived is maya—appearance or illusion. This means,  in part, that people are blinded by their desires (as well as merely incapable of seeing things as they truly are). This doesn’t matter so much when things are going well, and we are getting what we want (although it can be a problem, even then, because getting what we want currently can blind us to higher callings). But all that ignored world presents a terrible problem when we’re in crisis, and nothing whatsoever is turning out the way we want it to. Then there can be far too much to deal with. 

p.99  …it’s not that ‘life sucks, and then you die’… Life doesn’t have the problem. You do. 

p.102-3  The philosophical study of morality—of right and wrong—is Ethics….Religion concerns itself with the domain of value, ultimate value….it is about proper behaviour…what Plato called “The Good”….You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored.  You will not know what to target, and you won’t fly straight, even if somehow you get your aim right. And then you will conclude, “There is nothing to aim for.” And then you will be lost…It is therefore necessary and desirable for religions to have a dogmatic element. What good is a value system that does not point the way to a higher order? And what good can you possibly be if you cannot or do not internalise that structure, or accept that order—not as a final destination, necessarily, but at least as a starting point? …this is not to say ..that obedience is sufficient..there must be vision beyond discipline, beyond dogma…it is for such reasons that Christ said, in the Gospel of Thomas, “The Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, but men do not see it.”

p.103  Does that mean that what we see is dependent on our religious beliefs? Yes! And what we don’t see as well! You might object, “But I’m an atheist.” No, you’re not (and if you want to understand this, you could read Dostoyekski’s Crime and which the main character, Raskolnikov , decides to take his atheism with true seriousness, commits what he has rationalised as a benevolent murder, and pays the price).  You’re simply not an atheist in your actions, and it is your actions that most accurately reflect your deepest beliefs…. You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act… You are too complex to understand yourself.

p.103-4  Some of our knowledge of our beliefs has been documented. We have been watching ourselves act, reflecting on that watching, and telling stories distilled through that reflection, for tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. ..Part of the knowledge so generated is what is encapsulated in the fundamental teachings of our cultures, in ancient writings  such as the Tao te Ching, or the Vedic Sciptures or the Biblical stories. The Bible is, for better or for worse, the foundational document of Western civilisation (of Western values, Western morality, and Western conceptions of good and evil)….its careful, respectful study can reveal things to us about what we believe and how we do and should act that can be discovered in almost no other manner.

p.104 ..Old Testament God doesn’t much care what modern people think. He often didn’t care what Old Testament people thought either…Nonetheless when His people strayed from the path—trouble was certain to follow. 

p.105 The Old Testament Israelites and their forebears knew that God was not to be trifled with, and that whatever Hell the angry Deity might allow to be engendered if he was crossed was real. Having recently passed through a century defined by the bottomless horrors of Hitler, Stalin and Mao, we might realise the same thing….

p.104-5…New Testament God is often presented as a different character (although the Book of Revelation, with its Final Judgment, warns against andy excessively naïve complacency).  He is all-loving and forgiving…In a world such as this—this hothouse of doom—who could buy such a story? The all-good God in a post-Auschwitz world?….  Nietzsche considered New Testament God the worst literature crime in Western history. In Beyond Good and Evil he wrote:…To have bound up this New Testament (a kind of ROCOCO of taste in every respect) along with the Old Testament into one book, as the “Bible,” as “The Book in Itself” is perhaps the greatest audacity and “sin against the spirit” which literary Europe has on its conscience.

p.107  aim at the improvement of Being….in other words, you decide to act as if existence might be justified  by its goodness—if only you behaved properly. And it is that decision, that declaration of existential faith, that allows you to overcome nihilism, and resentment, and arrogance…..It is that decision, that declaration of faith that keeps hatred of Being, with all its attendant evils,  at bay. And, as for such faith: it is not at all the will to believe things that you know perfectly well to be false. Faith is not the childish belief in magic.  That is ignorance or wilful blindness. It is instead he realisation that the tragic irrationalities of life must be counterbalanced by an equally irrational commitment to the essential goodness of Being. it is simultaneously the will to dare set your sights at the unachievable, and to sacrifice everything, including (and most importantly) your life.   But how?…

p.107 You might start by not thinking—or, more accurately, but less trenchantly, by refusing to subjugate your faith to your current rationality, and its narrowness of view….it means you must pay attention.

p.110 …concentrate on the day, so that you can live in the present, and attend completely and properly to what is right in front of you..but do that only after you have decided to let what is within shine forth, so that it can justify Being and illuminate the world. Do that only after you have determined to sacrifice whatever it is that must be sacrificed sot that you can pursue the highest good. ..Consider the lilies of the field…..(Luke 12:22-34).

p.113  Rule 5.  Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything that Makes You Dislike Them.

p.118  Our society faces the increasing call to deconstruct its stabilising traditions to include smaller and smaller numbers of people  who do not or will not fit into the categories upon which even our perceptions are based. This is not a good thing. Each person’s private trouble cannot be solved by a social revolution, because revolutions are destabilising and dangerous. We have learned to live together and organise our complex societies slowly and incrementally, over vast stretches of time, and we do not understand with sufficient exactitude why what we are doing works. Thus, altering our ways of social being carelessly in the name of some ideological shibboleth (diversity springs to mind) is likely to produce far more trouble than good, given the suffering that even small revolutions generally produce.

p.119  Was it really a good thing, for example, to so dramatically liberalise the divorce laws in the 1960s?  …I see today’s parents as terrified by their children, not least because they have been deemed the proximal agents of this hypothetical social tyranny, and simultaneously denied credit for their role as benevolent and necessary agents of discipline, order and conventionality.  They dwell uncomfortably and self-consciously in the all-too-powerful shadow of the adolescent ethos of the 1960s, a decade whose excesses led to a general denigration of adulthood, an unthinking belief in the existence of competent power, and the inability t distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom….there are catastrophes lurking at the extremes of every moral continuum.

p.119-120  The belief that children have an intrinsically unsullied spirit, damaged only by culture and society, is derived in no small part from the eighteenth-century Genevan French philosopher Jean-Jacques. Rousseau was a fervent believer in the corrupting influence of human society and private ownership alike. He claimed that nothing was so gentle and wonderful as man in his pre-civilized state. At precisely the same time, noting his inability as a father, he abandoned five of his children to the tender and fatal mercies of the orphanages of the time. 

p.120 …human beings are evil, as well as good, and the darkness that dwells forever in our souls is also there in no small part in our younger selves. In general, people improve with age, rather than worsening, becoming kinder, more conscientious, and more emotionally stable as they mature. Bullying at the sheer and often terrible intensity of the schoolyard rarely manifests itself in grown-up society. William Golding’s dark and anarchistic Lord of the Flies is a classic for a reason.

p.120 …bluntly put: chimpanzees conduct inter-tribal warfare. Furthermore they do it with unimagined brutality..

p.124 We assume that rules will irremediably inhibit what would otherwise be the boundless and intrinsic creativity of our children, even though the scientific literature clearly indicates, first, tat creativity beyond the trivial is shockingly rare and, second, that strict limitations facilitate rather than inhibit creative achievement. Belief in the purely destructive element of rules and and structure is frequently conjoined with the idea that children will make good choices about when to sleep and what to eat, if their perfect natures are merely allowed to manifest themselves.  These are equally ungrounded assumptions.

p. 125  People often get basic psychological questions backward. Why do people take drugs? Not a mystery. It’s why they don’t take them all the time that’s the mystery. Why do people suffer from anxiety? That’s not a mystery.  How is it that people can ever be calm? There’s the mystery. 

p.129f  Discipline and punish must be handled with care. The fear is unsurprising. But both are necessary. They can be applied unconsciously or consciously, badly or well, but there is no escaping their use.

p.130 It’s not that it is impossible to discipline with reward. In fact, rewarding good behaviour can be very effective. B. F. Skinner was a great advocate of this approach with significant success. 

p. 136f Rules should not be multiplied beyond necessity. Alternatively stated, bad laws drive out respect for good laws. This is the ethical—even legal—equivalent of Occam’s razor, the scientist’s conceptual guillotine,  which states that the simplest possible hypothesis is preferable. So, don’t encumber children—or their disciplinarians —with too many rules. That path leads to frustration.  Limit the rules. Then figure out what to do when one of them gets broken. The second principle: Use the least force necessary to enforce those rules.

p.141  Every gingerbread house has a witch inside it which devours children

P.141…time out can be an extremely effective form of punishment, particularly if the misbehaving child is welcome as soon as he controls his temper.

p.142  Parents should come in pairs. Raising young children is demanding and exhausting…Parents should understand their own capacity to be harsh, vengeful, arrogant, resentful, angry and deceitful. 

p.143 Parents have a duty to act as proxies for the real world—merciful proxies, caring proxies—but proxies nevertheless. This obligation supersedes any responsibility to ensure happiness, foster creativity, or boost self-esteem. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

p.147 Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world. 

p.147f Murderous individuals …appoint themselves supreme adjudicators of reality and find it wanting. They are the ultimate critics. For such individuals, the world of experience is insufficient and evil—so to hell with everything! …..Goethe’s Faust made a pact with Mephistopheles, the devil…in return he receives whatever he desires while still on earth. Mephistopheles is the eternal adversary of Being.  

I am the spirit who negates

and rightly so, for all that comes to be

deserves to perish, wretchedly.

It were better nothing would begin!

Thus everything that your terms sin,

destruction, evil represent—

that is my proper element. 

p.149f  It’s not only the obviously suffering  who are tormented by the need to blame someone or something for the intolerable state of their Being. At the height of his fame, influence and creative power, for example, the towering Leo Tolstoy himself began to question the value of human existence. Tolstoy began to develop thoughts that life is meaningless and evil…Tolstoy could identify only four means of escaping from such thoughts..retreating into childlike ignorance of the problem…pursuing mindless pleasure; continuing to drag our a life that is evil and meaningless, knowing beforehand that nothing can come of it.. the strength to act rationally and quickly put an end to the delusion by killing themselves…. For years he hid his guns from himself and would not walk with a rope in hand, in case he hanged himself.

p.150  Tolstoy wasn’t pessimistic enough . The stupidity of the joke being played on us does not merely motivate suicide.  It motivates murder—mass murder, often followed by suicide. That is a far more existential protest. By June of 2016, unbelievable as it may seem, there has been one thousand mass killings  (defined as four or more  people shot in a single incident, excluding the shooter) in the US in twelve hundred and sixty days. That’s one such event of five of every six days for more than three years. 

…the biblical story of Cain and Abel …described murder as the first act of post-Edenic history…and not just murder, but fratricidal murder—murder not only of someone innocent but of someone ideal and good, and murder done consciously to spite the creator of the universe. Today’s killers tells us the same thing, in their own words.

p.151   A religious man might shake his fist in desperation at the apparent injustice and blindness of God. Even Christ Himself felt abandoned before the cross, as the story goes. Other alternatives include fate,…the brutality of chance…a character flaw in the murderer…why is there so much suffering and cruelty?

p.153  Nietzsche wrote these words: “Distress, whether psychic, physical, or intellectual, need not at all produce nihilism (that is, the radical rejection of value, meaning and desirability). Such distress always permits a variety of interpretations….it is also possible to learn good by experiencing evil…Many, perhaps even most, of the adults who abuse children were abused t themselves as children. However, the majority of people who were abused as children do not abuse their own children.

p.155 One man’s decision to change his life, instead of cursing fate, shook the whole pathological system of communist tyranny to its core. It crumbled entirely, not so many years later, and Solzenhitsyn’s courage was not the least of the reasons why. He was not the only such person to perform such a miracle.  Václav Havel, the persecuted writer who later, impossibly, became the president of Czechoslovakia, then of the new Czech Republic, comes to mind, as does Mahatma Gandhi. 

p.157 Responses to suffering other than corruption and anger can include: clean up your life; work hard on your career/job; have you made peace with your brother/family? are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity? do you have destroying habits? start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. 

p.158 …say only those things that make you strong. Do only those things that you could speak of with honour….don’t blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your enemies. Have some humility….start to work on the subtle things you know to be wrong…maybe then tragedies will remain tragic instead of Hellish. If enough people did this the world might not be evil.

p.161  Rule 7: Pursue What is Meaningful (Not what is Expedient).

p. 166..  Here’s a productive symbolic idea: the future is a judgmental father.  Another productive idea is sacrifice now, to gain later  as well as sacrifice will improve the future.

Cain and Abel are really the first humans, since their parents were made directly by God, and not born in the standard manner.  Cain and Abel live in history, not in Eden.  They must work. They must make sacrifices to please God, and they do so, with altar and proper ritual. But things get complicated. Abel’s offerings please God, but Cain’s do not.

p.171 The sacrifice of the mother, offering her child to the world, is exemplified profoundly by Michelangelo’s great sculpture, the Pietà, …Michelangelo crafted Mary contemplating her Son, crucified and ruined. It’s her fault. It was through her that He entered the world and its great drama of Being.  Is it right to bring a baby into this terrible world? Every woman asks herself that question. …It’s an act of supreme courage, when undertaken voluntarily.

p.171-2  In turn, Mary’s son, Christ, offers Himself to God and the world, to betrayal, torture and death—to the very point of despair on the cross, where he cries out those terrible words: my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew27:46). That is the archetypal story of the man who gives all for the sake of the better—who allows God’s will to become manifest fully within the confines of a single, mortal life. That is the model for the honourable man.  In Christ’s case, however—as He sacrifices himself—God, HIs Father, is simultaneously sacrificing His son. It is for this reason that the Christian sacrificial drama of Son and Self is archetypal. It’s a story at the limit, where nothing more extreme—nothing greater—can be imagined. That’s the very definition of “archetypal”. That’s the core of what constitutes “religious”.

p.174-5   There is also the problem of evil to consider….Not the least of this is what Goethe called “our creative, endless toil.” [Faust, Part 2 ]…We therefore sacrifice the pleasures of today for the sake of a better tomorrow….[Mankind] was also granted (or cursed by) the knowledge of Good and Evil…once you become consciously aware that you, yourself, are vulnerable. You understand the nature of human vulnerability, in general.  You understand what it’s like to be fearful, and angry, and resentful, and bitter. You understand what pain means.  And once you truly understand such feelings in yourself, and how they’re produced, you understand how to produce them in others.

p.176  Evil enters the world with self-consciousness.

p.177  Life is indeed “nasty, brutish and short,” as the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes so memorably remarked. But man’s capacity for evil makes it worse. 

p.178-9 Things do not progress well for Cain….Cain encounters Satan in the wilderness, for all intents and purposes, and falls prey to his temptations. And he does what he can to make things as bad as possible, motivated by (in John Milton’s imperishable words): 

So deep a malice, to confound the Race

Of Mankind in one Root, and Earth with Hell

to mingle and involve—done all to spite

the Great Creator.  [Paradise Lost, Book 2].

p.179-180  “After Auschwitz,” said Theodore Adorno, student of authoritarianism, “there should be no poetry,”  He was wrong. But the poetry should be about Auschwitz. In the grim wake of the last ten decades of the previous millennium, the terrible destructiveness of man has become a problem whose seriousness  self-evidently dwarfs even the problem of unredeemed suffering. And neither one of those problems is going to be solved in the absence of a solution to the other.  This is where the idea of Christ’s taking on the sins of mankind as if they were His own becomes key, opening the door to deep understanding of the desert encounter with the devil himself. “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto,” said the Roman playwright Terence:  nothing human is alien to me.”

p.180  “No tree can grow to Heaven,” adds the ever-terrifying Carl Gustav Jung, psychoanalyst extraordinaire, “unless its roots reach down to Hell.” 

In the desert, Christ encounters Satan (see Luke 4:1-13 and Matthew 4:1-11). …It means that Christ is forever He who determines to take personal responsibility for the full depth of human depravity…This is nothing merely abstract (although it is abstract); nothing to be brushed over. It’s no merely intellectual matter.  

p.181 In the great and fundamental myths of ancient Egypt, the god Horus—often regarded as a precursor to Christ, historically and conceptually speaking—experienced the same thing, when he confronted his evil uncle Set (fn8 ..the word Set is an etymological precursor to the word Satan), usurper of the throne of Osiris, Horus’s father. Horus, the all-seeing Egyptian falcon god, the Egyptian eye of supreme, eternal attention to itself, has the courage to contend with Set’s true nature, meeting him in direct combat. In his struggle with his dread uncle, however, his consiousness is damaged. He loses an eye. ..

p.183-4 Christ’s third temptation is the most compelling of all ..the kingdoms of the world laid before Him for the taking. That’s the siren call of earthly power: the opportunity to control and order everyone and everything. Christ is offered the pinnacle of the dominance hierarchy …Power also means the capacity to take vengeance, ensure submission, and crush enemies. But, there’s something above even the pinnacle of the highest of dominance the Tao te Ching has it: 

He who contrives, defeats his purpose;

and he who is grasping, loses.

The sage does not contrive to win,

and therefore is not defeated; 

he is not grasping, so does not lose.  [verse 64]

p.186- 7  Christianity’s achievements in the early centuries of its existence were substantial including its critique of slave owning and the rights of the lowest order of society; its courage in the face of the barbaric cruelty of the Romans; its opposition to infanticide, to prostitution, and to the principle that might means right; its support of the rights of women; mercy to enemies; the separation of church from state. 

p.188 -192    Nietzsche’s devastating C19th  attack on Christianity centred on the twin poles of (i) the enlightenment scientific assault  of the fundamental Christian stories eg the creation account…the idea of God is dead!  and (ii) that Paul and later Protestantism had watered down the idea of the imitation of Christ and the importance of “works” and replaced it with a too easy solution of “justification by faith alone, ” as well as the devaluation of earthly life by its emphasis on the hereafter resulting in a passive acceptance of the status quo on earth and an excuse for Christian’s not to take on the earth’s moral burdens.  Nietzsche’s call was to the “Will to Power” and Dostoyevski’s  story of the “Grand Inquisitor” told by his “atheist superman”  Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov exerted a powerful impact on Nietzsche. Nietzsche called his fellow humanity to achievement, ambition and the will to achieve the highest possible position in life.  Peterson argues that the Grand Inquisitor spoke truthfully about a childish, sanctimonious, patriarchal, servant of the state church..a corrupt edifice of Christianity but also argues that the spirit of Christ, the world -engendering Logos, had historically and might still find its resting place —even its sovereignty —within the dogmatic structure [of the church.]

p. 193  Peterson agrees that the dogma is dead, at least to the modern Western mind. It perished along with God. What has emerged from behind its corpse, however, and this is an issue of central important —is something even more dead; something that was never alive, even in the past: nihilism, as well as an equally dangerous susceptibility to new, totalizing, utopian ideas. It was in the aftermath of God’s death that the great collective horrors of Communism and Fascism sprang forth (as both Dostoyevski and Nietzsche predicted they would). Nietzsche, for his part, posited that individual human beings would have to invent their own values in the aftermath of God’s death. But this is the element of his thinking that appears weakest, psychologically: we cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls. This was Carl Jung’s great discovery—made in no little part because of his intense study of the problems posed by Nietzsche. We rebel against our own totalitarianism, as much as that of others…

p.193-4 Peterson takes us back behind Nietzsche to Descartes and his doubt. see if he could establish, or discover, a single proposition impervious to his skepticism….He was teaching for the foundation stone on which proper Being could be established. He found it, as far as he was concerned, in the “i” who was aware. …cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).

p.194-5  The philosopher Karl Popper, certainly no mystic, regarded thinking itself as a logical extension of the Darwinian process. A creature that cannot think must solely embody its Being. It can merely act out its nature, concretely, in the here-and-now…But that is not true of human beings. We can produce abstracted representations of potential modes of Being. We can produce an idea in the theatre of the imagination. We can test it our against other ideas, the ideas of others, or of the world itself. If it falls short, we can let it go. We can, in Popper’s formulation, let our ideas die in our stead. [1977 lecture at Darwin College, Cambridge]…..Now, an idea is not the same thing as a fact. A fact is something that is dead, in and of itself. It has no consciousness, no will to  power, no motivation, no action.  There are billions of dead facts. The internet is a graveyard of dead facts. But an idea that grips a person is alive. It wants to express itself, to live in the world.

p.196-7  In 1984 , I started down the same road as Descartes… just exactly what happened in the C20th anyway? how was it that to many tens of millions had to die, sacrificed to the new dogmas and ideologies? How was it that we discovered something worse, much worse, than the aristocracy and corrupt religious beliefs that communism and fascism sought so rationally to supplant? No one had answered those questions, as far as I could tell.. Solzhenitsyn wrote , definitively and profoundly , in his Gulag Archipelago..about the Nuremberg trials, which he considered were the most significant event of the C20th. The conclusion of those trials? There are some actions that are so intrinsically terrible that they run counter to the proper nature of human Being….These are evil actions. No excuses are available for engaging in them.

What can I not doubt? The reality of suffering. It brooks no argument. Nihilists cannot undermine it with skepticism. Totalitarians cannot banish it. Cynics cannot escape from its reality. Suffering is real, and the artful infliction of suffering on another, for its own sake, is wrong. That became the cornerstone of my belief…. 

p.197-8 Each human being has an immense capacity for evil. Each human being understands, a priori, perhaps not what is good, but certainly what is not. And if there is something that is not good, then there is something that is good. 

p.200 To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want.

p.201 Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient. 

p.203 Rule 8: Tell the Truth—Or, At Least, Don’t Lie. 

p.209 Taking the easy way out or telling the truth—those are not merely two different choices. They are different pathways through life They are utterly different ways of existing.

p.212 If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself.

p.214  The prideful, rational mind, comfortable with its certainty, enamoured of its own brilliance, is easily tempted to ignore error, and to sweep dirt under the rug. Literary, existential philosophers, beginning with Søren Kierkegaard, conceived of this mode of Being  as “inauthentic.” An inauthentic person continues to perceive and act in ways his own experience has demonstrated false. He does not speak with his own voice.

p.217-8 ..rationality is subject to the single worst temptation—to raise what it knows now to the status of an absolute.  cf John Milton Paradise Lost, on Satan…

He trusted to have equaled the most High, 

If he opposed; and with ambitious aim

Against the Throne and Monarchy of God

Raised impious War in Heaven and Battel proud

With vain attempt.  Him the Almighty Power

Hurled headlong flaming from the Ethereal Sky

With hideous ruin and combustion down

To bottomless perdition, there to dwell

In Adamantine Chains and penal fire…..

…. reason falls in love with itself, and worse. It falls in love with its own productions. It elevates them, and worships them as absolutes. Lucifer is, therefore, the spirit of Totalitarianism…such elevation, such rebellion against the Highest an Incomprehensible, inevitably produces Hell. is the greatest temptation of the rational faculty to glorify its own capacity and its own productions and to claim that in the face of its theories nothing transcendent or outside its domain need exist. 

p.220  Milton, Paradise Lost again: 

The mind is its own place, and in itself,

Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

Here we may reign secure, and in my choice

To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.

Those who have lied enough, in word and action, live there, in hell—now. 

p.222-3 Culture is always in a near-dead state, even though it was established by the spirit of great people in the past. But the present is not the past. The wisdom of the past thus deteriorates, or becomes outdated, in proportion to the genuine difference between the conditions of the present and the past . That is a mere consequence of the passage of time, and the change that passage inevitably brings. But it is also the case that culture and its wisdom is additionally vulnerable to corruption—to voluntary, wilful blindness and Mephistophelian intrigue. Thus, the inevitable functional decline of the institutions granted to us by our ancestors is sped along by our misbehaviour—our missing the mark- in the present. 

p.225-6  A totalitarian never asks, “What if my current ambition is in error?” He treats it, instead, as the Absolute: It becomes his God, for all intents and purposes. It constitutes his highest value. …All people serve their ambition. In that matter, there are no atheists. There are only people who know, and don’t know, what God they serve. [cf Bob Dylan: “you gotta serve somebody”!]

p.233  Rule 9: Assume that the Person You are Listening to Might Know Something You Don’t.

p.237 The past appears fixed, but it’s not—not in an important psychological sense. There is an awful lot to the past, after all, and the way we organise it can be subject to drastic revision…when you are remembering the past, as well, you remember some parts of it and forget others. You have clear memories of some things  that happened, but not others, of potentially equal import— just as in the present you are aware dog some aspects of your surroundings and unconscious of others…You’re not objective, either. You’re alive. You’re subjective.  You have vested interests.

p.242   A listening person tests your talking (and your thinking) without having to say anything.  A listening person is a representative of common humanity.  He stands for the crowd.  Now the crowd is by no means always right, but it’s commonly right. It’s typically right. If you say something that takes everyone aback, therefore, you should reconsider what you said. I say that, knowing full well that controversial opinions are sometimes correct—sometimes so much so that the crowd will perish if it refuses to listen. It is for this reason, among others. that the individual is morally obliged  to stand up and tell the truth of his or her own experience. But something new and radical is still almost always wrong. You need good, even great, reasons to ignore or defy general, public opinion.  That’s your culture. …If you’re reading this book there’s a strong probability that you’re a privileged person. You can read. You have time to read. YOu’re perched high in the clouds. It took untold generations to get you where you are. A little gratitude might be in order. If you’re going to insist on bending the world to your way, you better have your reasons.

p.243 Carl Rogers, one of the twentieth century’s great psychotherapists, knew something about listening. He wrote,”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.” [Journal article]

p.259   Rule 10: Be Precise in your Speech.

p.271 Don’t ever underestimate the destructive power of sins of omission. 

p. 275  Why avoid, when avoidance necessarily and inevitably poisons the future?…why remain vague, when it renders life stagnant and murky?…why refuse to investigate, when knowledge of reality enables mastery of reality?  If you wait instead until what you are refusing to investigate comes a-knocking at your door, things will certainly not go so well for you.

William Butler Yeats: “The Second Coming”.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

p.280  Precision specifies. ….What you hear in the forest but cannot see might be a tiger. …but it might not be, too. If you turn and look, perhaps  you will see it’s just a squirrel.

p.281 Don’t hide baby monsters under the carpet. They will flourish. 

p.282  You must determine where you are going in your life, because you cannot get there unless you move in that direction. Random wandering will not move you forward. It will instead disappoint and frustrate you and make you anxious and unhappy and hart to get along with (and then resentful, and then vengeful, and then worse).   Be precise in your speech.

p.285 Rule 11: Do Not Bother Children when they are Skateboarding.

p.306  Peterson identifies two architects of the assault on the values of Western civilisation: 

Max Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School ..1930s. He believed that Western principles of individual freedom or the free market were merely masks that served to disguise the true conditions of the West: inequalilty, domination and exploitation. He believed that intellectual activity should be devoted to social change, instead of mere understanding and hoped to emancipate humanity from its enslavement. 

Jacques Derrida, leader of the postmodernists, who came into vogue in the 1970s  Derrida described his own ideas as a radicalised form of Marxism. When Marxism was put into practice in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere, economic resources were brutally redistributed. Private property was eliminated, and rural people forcibly collectivised. The result? Tens of millions of people died. Hundreds of millions more were subject to oppression rivalling that still operating in North Korea, the last classic communist holdout. The resulting economic systems were corrupt and unsustainable. The world entered a prolonged and extremely dangerous cold war. The citizens of those societies lived the life of the lie, betraying their families, informing on their neighbours—existing in misery, without complaint (or else). Marxist ideas were very attractive to intellectual utopians. …Sartres supported Marxism until 1968 (the Czech Spring; then Solzenhitzen).

p.311  Derrida famously said (althoughhe denied it, later):”Il n’y a pas de hors-texte”—often translated as “there is nothing outside the text”. His supporters say that is a mistranslation, and that the English equivalent should have been “there is no outside-text”. It remains difficult, either way, to read the statement as saying anything other than “everything is interpretation,” and that is how Derrida’s work has generally been interpreted.  It is almost impossible to over-estimate the nihilistic and destructive nature of this philosophy. It puts the act of categorisation in doubt.  It negates the idea that distinctions might be drawn between things for any reasons other than that of raw power. Biological distinctions between men and women? Despite the existence of an overwhelming, multi-disciplinary scientific literature indicating that sex differences are powerfully influenced by biological factors, science is just another game of power, for Derrida and his post-modern Marxist acolytes, making claims to benefit those at the pinnacle of the scientific world. There are no facts. …all definitions of skill and of competence are merely made up by those who benefit from them, to exclude others, and to benefit personally and selfishly. 

There is sufficient truth to Derrida’s claims to account, in part, for their insidious nature. Power is a fundamental motivational force  (“a” not “the”) . People compete to rise to the top, and they care where they are in dominance hierarchies. But (and this is where you separate the metaphorical boys from the men, philosophically) the fact that power plays a role in human motivation does not mean that it plays the only role, or even the primary role. 

p.313  If radical right-wingers were receiving state funding for political operations disguised as university courses, as the radical left-left-wingers clearly are, the uproar from progressives across North America would be deafening.

p.335  Rule 12: Pet a Cat When you Encounter One on the Street. 

p.343  What is the link between vulnerability and Being? An old Jewish story, part of the Commentary on the Torah begins with a question, structured like a Zen koan. Imagine a Being who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. What does such a Being lack? The answer? Limitation. …and it is for this reason, so the story goes, that God created man. No limitation, no story. No story, no Being. That idea has helped me deal with the terrible fragility of Being.  I don’t want to claim that this somehow makes it all [ie intense suffering] all OK…but there’s something to be said for recognising that existence and limitation are inextricable linked. 

Though thirty spokes may form the wheel,

it is the hole within the hub

which gives the wheel utility.

It is not the clay the potter throws,

which gives the pot its usefulness,

but the space within its shape,

from which the pot is made.

Without a door, the room cannot be entered,

and without its windows it is dark

Such is the utility of non-existence. [Lao-Tse: The tao te ching:  verse 11:The Utility of Non-Existence.]

p.345  Being of any reasonable sort appears to require limitation. Perhaps this is because Being requires Becoming, as well as mere static existence—and to become is to become something more, or at least something different. That is only possible for something limited. 

p. 345f  But then what about the suffering? Dostoyevski: It cannot be said that world history is reasonable. The word sticks in one’s throat. [Notes from Underground].  cf Goethe’s Faust Part 11:

Gone, to sheer Nothing, past with null made one!

What matters our creative endless toil,

When, at a snatch, oblivion ends the coil?

“It is by-gone”—how shall this riddle run?

As good as if things never had begun,

Yet circle back, existence to possess;

I’d rather have Eternal Emptiness. 

p.346  Clearly the answer is not to create more suffering ..that only makes a bad situation even worse. And I also don’t think it is possible to answer the question by thinking. Thinking leads inexorably to the abyss. It did not work for Tolstoy. It might not even have worked for Nietzsche, who arguably thought more clearly about such things than anyone in history…it ’s noticing, not thinking that does the trick.  Perhaps you might start by noticing this: when you love someone, it’s not despite their limitations. It’s because of their limitations…there appear to be limits on the path to improvement beyond which we might not want to go, lest we sacrifice our humanity itself.

p.355 Coda. 

Ask, and it shall be given to you; Seek, and ye shall find; Knock, and it shall be open unto you; For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7&8).

p.357 Re arguments: You must decide whether you want to be right or you want to have peace…

p.357  you must be receptive to that which you don’t want to hear.

p.361 Re the world: ..act so that you are not made bitter and corrupt by the tragedy of existence. 

p.365  Re ageing: Replace the potential of my youth with the accomplishments of my maturity….A life lived thoroughly justifies its own limitations…The young man with nothing has his possibilities to be set against the accomplishments of his elders..

Yeats: Sailing to Byzantium

“An aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick, unless /Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing /For every tatter in its mortal dress.

p.367  …nothing is going so badly that it can’t be made worse…..The King of the damned is a poor judge of Being.

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