This is a series of post on Jordan Peterson’s book ‘12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’. It has become popular and it is important to understand why it is appealing to this generation and how it is different from the Gospel. Each post will be on a specific chapter or section of the book and the hope is that we can engage in conversation over these matters. I hope to represent his thought accurately - but due to being human may not always do so.
The Coda is Peterson’s closing section where he talks about ‘What to do with this pen of light?’ He basically summarizes much of what he has already said and gives some closing thoughts - a few quite profound in terms of understanding how he thinks about topics like God and prayer.
What to do with this pen of light?
The best way to fix the world is to fix yourself. Don’t let death and suffering make you cynical - let them help you appreciate those you love and the beautiful things in life more. Be willing to acknowledge your own faults and quit telling yourself lies - be humble. Be willing to change; to reconcile. When you decide to learn about your faults, so that they can be rectified, you open a line of communication with the source of all revelatory thought. Maybe that’s the same thing as consulting your conscience. Maybe that’s the same thing, in some manner, as a discussion with God.
Why are these ideas appealing?
What do you think? Why do you think people are attracted to these ideas?
Because it is very true that we all need to quit lying to ourselves and to face hard truths in our own lives. And if we are honest, we know that we would benefit from it in the end. Working on yourself is also very doable - we can change ourselves, but we are often completely out of control when it comes to the world around us or the decisions that other people make.
Critique of Coda
I think, though I cannot be certain, that Peterson finally shows us his hand in this chapter in terms of his view God a little more clearly. He says that an honest conversation with our own conscience is, in a way, like conversing with God - like prayer. And I think that from his perspective as an evolutionary psychologist he might say, if we were being completely frank, that the concept of God came into existence partly to enable us to communicate with our conscience and to speak truth into our own Being - individually and corporately.
Clearly the Scriptures teach that God is a Person, or Persons I should say, and His Spirit actively engages with our spirit. That is very different from talking to your own conscience. The Bible does implore us to search our heart and not to violate our own conscience, but in the Scriptures God Himself is a third actor in that process.
Quotes from Coda
Perhaps it’s not reasonable to ask God to break the rules of physics every time we fall by the wayside or make a serious error. Perhaps, in such times, you can’t put the cart before the horse and simply wish for your problem to be solved in some magical manner. Perhaps you could ask, instead, what you might have to do right now to increase your resolve, buttress your character, and find the strength to go on. Perhaps you could instead ask to see the truth.
What had we each done to contribute to the situation we were arguing about? However small, however distant…we had each made some error. Then we would reunite, and share the results of our questioning: Here’s how I was wrong…. The problem with asking yourself such a question is that you must truly want the answer. And the problem with doing that is that you won’t like the answer.
If it’s you that’s wrong and you that must change, then you have to reconsider yourself—your memories of the past, your manner of being in the present, and your plans for the future. Then you must resolve to improve and figure out how to do that. Then you actually have to do it. That’s exhausting.
choose the alternative—to seek peace—you have to decide that you want the answer, more than you want to be right.
When you decide to learn about your faults, so that they can be rectified, you open a line of communication with the source of all revelatory thought. Maybe that’s the same thing as consulting your conscience. Maybe that’s the same thing, in some manner, as a discussion with God.
Intelligent enough to be embittered by a world that did not recognize his gifts, he decided instead to accept with the genuine humility that is the true precursor to wisdom whatever opportunity he could find. Now he lives on his own. That’s better than living at home.
That’s far preferable to waiting, endlessly, for the magical arrival of Godot. That’s far preferable to arrogant, static, unchanging existence, while the demons of rage, resentment and unlived life gather around.
It is better, proverbially, to rule your own spirit than to rule a city. It’s easier to subdue an enemy without than one within. Maybe the environmental problem is ultimately spiritual. If we put ourselves in order, perhaps we will do the same for the world. Of course, what else would a psychologist think?
Exhaustion and impatience are inevitable. There is too much to be done and too little time in which to do it. But we don’t have to strive alone, and there is nothing but good in distributing the responsibilities, cooperating in the efforts, and sharing credit for the productive and meaningful work thereby undertaken.
The heightened knowledge of fragility and mortality produced by death can terrify, embitter and separate. It can also awaken. It can remind those who grieve not to take the people who love them for granted.
is my firm belief that the best way to fix the world—a handyman’s dream, if ever there was one—is to fix yourself, as we discussed in Rule 6. Anything else is presumptuous. Anything else risks harm, stemming from your ignorance and lack of skill. But that’s OK. There’s plenty