This is the fourth of a 12-part series remixing Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules For Life, one chapter a week to coincide with the 12 weeks remaining for my one year celibacy vow.
“When we are very young, we are neither individual nor informed. We have not had the time nor gained the wisdom to develop our own standards. In consequence, we must compare ourselves to others, because standards are necessary. Without them, there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. As we mature we become, by contrast, increasingly individual and unique. The conditions of our lives become more and more personal and less and less comparable with those of others.
…Symbolically speaking, this means we must leave the house ruled by our father, and confront the chaos of our individual Being. We must take note of our disarray, without completely abandoning that father in the process. We must then rediscover the values of our culture–veiled from us by our ignorance, hidden in the dusty treasure-trove of the past–rescue them, and integrate them into our own lives. This is what gives existence its full and necessary meaning.”p. 89
Let me be the first one to tell you this: The past is dead and gone.
The second half of the quote is fully expected from a religious traditional conservative.
Jordan Peterson had a lot to say on nihilism in this chapter, and surprisingly plenty I agreed with, but when push comes to shove, he will still cling onto the simple social mechanisms of culture rather than the great expanse and freedom that is true nihilism.
I appreciate the tenet of deconstruction for reconstruction, but an individual self-actualizing from his current cultural paradigm just to embrace the traits of it that have decayed is not turning lead into gold; it’s just being lead back into the old. What use is it to break away from your current culture, to become individual and unique, only to conform to some arbitrary perspective of the past which you have now assigned existential authority?
If the full meaning of existence was to recover our past, then we would continuously live in some groundhog day sort of existence until we got it right. But that doesn’t really happen. The past, whether good or bad, gets left behind, eternally, as we unceasingly advance forward into the future.
Yes, without the past we would not have standards to aim for, but in this sense the past is merely a springboard.
There is just absolutely no guarantee that the individuals who lived in the past we idolize did not have the same dissatisfaction with its own standards at it’s time. It’s highly unlikely that we, as a culture, ever achieved perfection in our past, and then became complacent, resulting in our current circumstances.
Something was always wrong. Something could always have been improved. It is simply retrospection that is allowing the cream to rise to the top, and our narrow view of things that is selecting the one criteria our past was more successful at to declare the present’s deficiency.
So, returning to this Father analogy, we can leave the house of our Fathers by becoming Fathers ourselves. When we do so, our Father is neither abandoned, nor is some greater force rescued. A whole new category is created; The Child.
The Father, before he was a father, was an end within himself, and now has become a means to serve a new end, The Child. To Father a child is to extend yourself into a separate physical manifestation that will persist or surpass you in the future.
It is always about the future, and we are always creating new culture.
“It takes careful observation, and education, and reflection, and communication with others, just to scratch the surface of your beliefs. Everything you value is a product of unimaginably lengthy developmental processes, personal, cultural and biological. You don’t understand how what you want–and, therefore, what you see–is conditioned by the immense, abysmal, profound past.
You simply don’t understand how every neural circuit through which you peer at the world has been shaped (and painfully) by the ethical aims of millions of years of human ancestors and all of the life that was lived for the billions of years before that.
You don’t understand anything. You didn’t even know that you were blind.”p. 103
With this quote, there is now even less of a reason to travel into the past, as you are already quite clearly a product of the past, all of it, actually, considering indirect ways.
Your Father is already within you, (and you even have his Father, and his Father’s Father too). They did not move backwards to create you, therefore you can not move backwards to create anything new.
Peterson puts a premium on the past because without values, there is no meaning, and since our values come from the past, the past must hold our meaning. However, if our past values must be re-discovered (in other words, they are also separate from our current values), then this must mean that values are subject to change.
Peterson looks at the past as an immense abyss, and chooses not to contend with it, and accepts it as authority. But we can take a snapshot of any point in the past and see how it snowballed to where we are now. So therefore, where we are right now is also an equivalent snapshot with the same snowball potential towards the future.
“You might object: I should be winning at everything! But winning at everything might only mean that you’re not doing anything new or difficult. You might be winning but you’re not growing, and growing might be the most important form of winning. Should victory in the present always take precedence over trajectory across time?”p. 88
To recover the past is to admit that we had won everything previously, and are merely returning to form. Therefore, winning in the present in this context is simply preservation. A task like this could be difficult, but it’s result is certainly not new. It is merely taking a snapshot of our favorite moment in time, photo-shopping ourselves into it, and then framing the picture.
The problem with Conservatism is that it wants to maintain standards, but ice eventually melts.
In fact, cool and orderly ice is actually used to chill warm, disorderly water. Of course, traditional men are the ice, and would love society to freeze again, but their rigidity, along with their utility and dependability, will be exploited in a much warmer society.
Like ice cubes in a cup on a humid summer day.
Seeing into the future, in this context, is to realize that the water is not going to freeze again, not yet, at least. Society will get warmer first, turning the water into vapor, and then the vapor will finally return back to solid form as hail or snow.
So if we really want to respect the past as this immense abyss, and try to recover something from it, maybe we should first recognize the more vaporous nature that came before the solid form of culture that we now depend on.
To avoid confronting this true abyss, we narrowly cling to what can resonate with us from the past, and we call this culture. However, we must also understand that the future, far future, is just as vaporous and abyssal as the past. The recognition, and the ensuing lethargy, of this eventual end point is what is commonly classified as nihilism.
“A cliche of nihilism, like the phrase, In a million years, who’s going to know the difference? The proper response to that statement is not, Well, then everything is meaningless. It’s, Any idiot can choose a frame of time within which nothing matters.
Talking yourself into irrelevance is not a profound critique of Being. It’s a cheap trick of the rational mind.p. 87
They may oppose nihilism, but they can not help but admit it is the most rational perspective. If Nihilism is the most rational, then it is the only way to arrive at fundamental truths.
But the problem with fundamental truths is that they don’t readily bolster the ego, or provide foundations for society. They are just eternally still, incorruptible, virgin truths. Therefore we reject this path, for it is an end within itself, and not a useful means to satisfy our immediate goals.
“Worthlessness is the default condition. What but willful blindness could possibly shelter people from such withering criticism? It is for such reasons that a whole generation of social psychologists recommended “positive illusions” as the only reliable route to mental health.
…If the internal voice makes you doubt the value of your endeavors–or your life, or life itself–perhaps you should stop listening. If the critical voice within says the same denigrating things about everyone, no matter how successful, how reliable can it be?”pp. 86-87
Peterson, if that voice has managed to be prevalent in every person, then it has a 100% success rate, and is therefore extremely reliable. It is absolute truth.
That voice is the true voice of God; a calling to enter the doorway to discovering the nature of our existence.
But we don’t see that it is a door, because of our ego, so we created a different God, one that watches over us and gives us Meaning for the present, not the impartiality that denigrates our Being in the great expanse of time like Nihilism does.
So we take the Blue Pill. We enjoy the steak. We give up on seeking the Truth.
The void has no relevance to morality, so we need God, to enforce Order. The expanse holds no guarantee for your future, so we cling to things of the past to prop them up as worthy, survivable elements that will last.
But if you simply sit still, and allow yourself to be that point between the immense past and the abysmal future, and listen to that dark suppressed voice that permeates all, you will gain new eyes, true eyes, to see reality.
“We can imagine new ways that things could be set right, and improved, even if we have everything we thought we needed. Even when satisfied, temporarily, we remain curious. We living within a framework that defines the present as eternally lacking and the future as eternally better.
If we did not see things this way, we would not act at all. We wouldn’t even be able to see, because to see we must focus, and to focus we must pick one thing above all else on which to focus.”p. 93
The Buddhists will say that Life is suffering. Peterson called it “attendant upon existence as the irreducible truth of Being.”
And it is. Subjectively. All life forms experience suffering.
But objectively, viewed very far away, in the entire expanse of time, even before and after the existence of life forms, existence, and life being part of that spectrum of existence, is simply the very bold concept of change.
The plants and the animals that we eat indeed suffer, and conscious beings equally suffer for our participation in this cycle of suffering, but objectively, the energy within the plants and animals simply changed one form to another, into us. Life and Death is just change. What previously did not exist changed into something that exists, or what was infinite and unlimited changed into the finite and limited.
Life and existence can indeed be meaningless, but it’s still moving, regardless. And what’s even more important is that Life is indeed focused. We are not born God. We can’t see the entire expanse of time. We are only served with this single maniacally minuscule slice to enjoy at the kid’s table of existence.
It is only God, eternal beings, that really have to contend with the Nihilistic nature of existence. But us fragile humans are blessed with change. We have a limit. We have a focus.
But the truth is, that focus, is always out of focus.
“This is partly because vision is expensive…In consequence, we triage, when we see. Most of our vision is peripheral, and low resolution…We point our high resolution capacities at the few specific things we are aiming at. And we let everything else–which is almost everything–fade, unnoticed, into the background.”pp. 97-98
So Peterson will reject nihilism, because without values there is no meaning, and therefore Life will not be in motion. But if you accept Nihilism, you will immediately gain the vision to see that all values are simply subject to change, meaning that the only value we actually have is change itself, or better yet, no values at all, and what simply persists is the act of evaluation.
So when you assign yourself the Meaning that you must rescue the culture of the past and integrate it, you are simply changing your present and becoming “The Past” 2.0. You think the past creates standards, and without standards, life is without motion. But truly life without change is one that is not in motion.
Jordan Peterson wants you to be the prodigal son, or Pinocchio rescuing Geppetto from Monstro, but I want you to be Nikola Tesla, no, I want you to be yourself, as any person that is willing to see with new eyes. Naturally, with sharper vision, you will be able to discern about the future, like Nikola Tesla, but time is linear, so this is common.
I want your eyes to see a completely new and different world.
“Now you’re on a whole different kind of trajectory. Before, what was right, desirable, and worthy of pursuit was something narrow and concrete. But you became stuck there, tightly jammed and unhappy. So you let go. You make the necessary sacrifice, and allow a whole new world of possibility, hidden from you because of your previous ambition, to reveal itself. And there’s a lot there…
This is not theology. It’s not mysticism,. It’s empirical knowledge. There is nothing magical here–or nothing more than the already-present magic of consciousness. We only see what we aim at.”pp. 100-101
All our collective vision is actually narrow. As immense voids exist on both sides of time, beginning and end, the past is simply a tiny retraction, when we recall it, and the future but a ripple of our desire. None of it ever grasps the true ocean of existence. We only see what we aim at.
The past is merely a bow, the arrow is our future, and the passage of time until we hit our target is precisely our duration of life.
But when we aim at the world, there is no fixed target; Existence is change, or consists of changes.
But the arrow has already been shot. Life and existence has allowed itself to culminate and be hit as one single target.
“2Does the LORD speak only through Moses?” they said. “Does He not also speak through us?” And the LORD heard this… 6he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.” – Numbers 12:2&6
When Christians try to herd me back into their Faith, they urge me to continue reading the Bible. I simply answer them that if the Lord is real, then he should be able to be seen without the book.
I also like to say that Jesus’ only mistake was that he called his students his 12 disciples, and not 12 seekers. You are taught to follow, and not to see for yourself.
Narrowing our vision is natural, but many of us start with too wide of a view, and having things out of focus forces some to rely on the vision of others. This is the definition of religion, and when we widen our vision, we discover that creating religion is a prevalent phenomenon distinct across all cultures.
So let’s turn our vision back unto ourselves. Even if you are Christian, you must realize that you do come from the Father. Just like a DNA test will show a connection between you and your biological father, seeking within must also reveal a direct link between you and the source of all existence.
”There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” – Miyamoto Musashi
Nihilism is a narrow view of the world as well, but a necessary one, so that you cease aiming pointlessly at the world, with it’s ever-changing direction.
Nihilism is the ultimate form of self-respect. While other religions place a God and prophets over you, Nihilism discards everything, with the only thing remaining being you. Existence is meaningless, and yet, there is existence, with you smack-dab in the center of it.
You were not born a God, able to see time and consciousness in its entirety, but were given full responsibility for just one limited vehicle of consciousness that you are currently inhabiting.
So how, and why, would you seek solace in existence anywhere else but your own?
“Everything you value is a product of unimaginably lengthy developmental processes, personal, cultural and biological. You don’t understand how what you want–and, therefore, what you see–is conditioned by the immense, abysmal, profound past.“
“Finally, you might come to realize that the specifics of the many games you are playing are so unique to you, so individual, that comparison to others is simply inappropriate. Perhaps you are overvaluing what you don’t have and undervaluing what you do.”p. 103 , 88
There is no free will. You were not asked for consent to be born. Your past, your culture and its traditions, were all determined for you, setting you on a trajectory, a block chain of decisions merely built upon the previous ones.
Yes, you do have a nature. You will intuitively resonate and repudiate. But your values were predetermined based on your circumstances, and what you will value should they change is based on those starting attributes. I only start to wear red since I have worn so much blue.
So you must also pierce into your heart that there is no inherent value.
The fact that values do change invalidates the existence of one value, and the prevalence of multiple instances of consciousness invalidate the presence of one consciousness. Comparing yourself, competing with others, is merely you trying to become one with others. A race is different paths leading to the same place.
But the Narrow Way is a path that can only be walked by one, because it is a full acceptance of one’s time and place of being born into existence, with the attributes given, and a dedication to express this unique and individual creative nature to its maximum output, or, to be witnessed internally, to its maximum visibility.
“Who are you? You think you know, but maybe you don’t. You are, for example, neither your own master, nor your own slave. You cannot easily tell yourself what to do and compel your own obedience…You are interested in some things and not in others…You have a nature…
What is it that you actually love? What is it that you genuinely want? Before you can articulate your own standards of value, you must see yourself as a stranger–and then you must get to know yourself.pp. 89-90
Convince me otherwise on how you are so familiar to yourself.
When you look into the mirror, tell me, can you remember when you designed yourself at the Character Select screen? When you wrote your backstory? Chose your amount of starting gold?
You are merely borrowing this time. If you, the awareness, not the ego, were once part of a whole, you are now divided into this singular perspective of existence.
Life is just a roller coaster you got strapped into, and you must go along for the ride with eyes wide open. Hands off the handle bars is even better.
You are a witness to your existence, so see it, clearly and unwavering.
Even when you finally do get to know yourself, to whatever functional degree, Life does not stop. Time still flows.
What need is there for news and gossip when you are instead eagerly waiting for your next unique and creative expression and impression for each individually passing moment?
What need is there to look at the past, when they were always peering forward towards you? And if you look far enough into the future, you too will see that they have their backs turned from you. Even if you are lucky enough for them to see you, their vision of you and your circumstances will always be incomplete and out of focus.
So stay with yourself in the present.
Nothing that you see around you will ever reveal it’s true properties until you first see the true value within yourself.
There is absolutely no reason to seek out anything in this world until you can properly see, with new eyes, whats behind the very eyes that even look at the world.
Meditate on these matters.
And I will not see you on the Far Side, but next week Sunday at 12PM, every week for the rest of this series.
Thank you for reading. – Monk Moon Base
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