psychology

An Abrahamic view on naivety, growth and adulthood – Jordan Peterson

Jordan B. Peterson

If you forthrightly pursue that which ‘God’ directs you to pursue – let’s say – that all things are possible.

That’s the idea in the narrative.

You might say that’s naïve: you know that it’s not. You think it when you’re naïve, and then you dispense with that idea. And then when you stop being the sort of person that dispenses with ideas, then you come to another place. And that’s the place where you think – you have no idea what might be possible for you, only if you got things together and proceeded with what you should pursue.

Phenomenalism in the context of personal growth

I’ve watched people who’ve put themselves together across time, incrementally and continually. And they beomce capable of things which are jaw droppingly amazing, and sometimes – metaphysically impossible to understand.

And so, we don’t know the limits of human endeavour. We truly don’t. It’s premature to put a cap on what it is that we’re capable of.

You’re already something – maybe you’re not so bad in your current configuration, but you might wonder: if you did nothing for the next 30 years except pull yourself together, just exactly what would you be able to do? You might think: “well, that’s worth finding out”.

But of course, that’s the adoption of responsibility.

Does your life have value or meaning?

Over the years, I’ve been curious labour this battle between meaning and nihilism. I could see, for a long while, the rationale in nihilism and power, and the power of the nihilistic argument.

It occurred to me, over time, that the power of the nihilistic argument is more powerful than naïve optimism, but it is not more powerful than the optimism that is not naïve.

Nihilism is not more powerful than the optimism that is not naïve.Jordan Peterson

Why? Because the optimism that is not naïve, says, “It’s self-evident that the world is a place of suffering – there are things to be done about that! It’s self-evident that people are flawed and that there are things to be done about that.”

It’s the non-naïve optimist who says, “The suffering could be reduced. The insufficiency could be overcome – if people oriented themselves properly and did what they are capable of doing.”

I do not believe that is deniable.

“I do think that human potential is virtually limitless.”

Jordan Peterson

Also: you don’t know. You don’t know how much of what is impossible to you right now, would soon become fully possible under those non-naïve optimist conditions. It’s an unknown phenomenon.

Phenomenalism in the context of personal growth

I’ve watched people who’ve put themselves together across time, incrementally and continually. And they beomce capable of things which are jaw droppingly amazing, and sometimes – metaphysically impossible to understand.

And so, we don’t know the limits of human endeavour. We truly don’t. It’s premature to put a cap on what it is that we’re capable of.

You’re already something – maybe you’re not so bad in your current configuration, but you might wonder: if you did nothing for the next 30 years except pull yourself together, just exactly what would you be able to do? You might think: “well, that’s worth finding out”.

But of course, that’s the adoption of responsibility.

I do think that human potential is virtually limitless and that there’s nothing, perhaps, that’s beyond our grasp if we’re careful as individuals and as a society. So there’s no reason for nihilism, hopelessness, or to bow down to evil – because we are all capable of so much more.

How to know your nihilism is futile

You can know this – you know it when you’re not happy with who you are; and you’re ashamed and embarrassed about it, as you should be. You know it because, when you look out there, you see people who are capable of doing great things, and you know that you’re not giving it your all.

And still – we’re not doing so badly, you know? Then you might wonder – if we devoted 90% of our effort to putting things right, instead of 55% of our effort or less – perhaps you might just find how well things could be put together.

You must go somewhere new to grow and expand your potential

Go somewhere you don’t understand. That’s the first thing: “Get thee out of thy country,” or go somewhere that you don’t understand. That’s the first thing. You know, back in the 1920s, there was a whole slew of writers who became as ex-patriots in Paris, Hemingway, Gatsby – and then a variety of others. it was very inexpensive in Paris at the time. Part of their transformation into great literary figures was the fact that they were out of their own country; they could finally see what their home country was like, because they were beyond it. You can’t see what your country is until you leave it.

So you have to go into the unknown.

You already know what you know. If you’re not enough, or, you don’t think you’re enough – then you have to go where you have not been before. That’s the first commandment to Abraham, for example. ‘Yes,’ that makes sense; yes and “from thy kindred,” – what does that mean? It means grow up, right? Get away from your family enough so that you can establish your independence. And that isn’t because there’s something wrong with your family (although, maybe there is, as there is perhaps with you) – and so it means you get away.

I talk to people frequently, whose families overprotected them, and they know it themselves. That means they’re deprived of necessity. In the United States, for example, we see that the children of the first generation of immigrants succeed more than their own children. And why is that? The reason for that is that the generation of first generation immigrants have necessity driving them.

You don’t know how much you need necessity to drive you, maybe if you’re not very disciplined, and a catastrophe doesn’t immediately befall you today – well, then maybe you don’t ever need to act forthrightly.

Human only act extensively on their needs and necessities

If you had no necessity, then the gap between foolishness and punishment for that foolishness is lengthened by unearned wealth or lack of consequences. And so you never grow up and learn.

If you have no necessity, there may be a dependency – biochemical, physical, even egoistic. You have to get yourself away from your dependence in order to allow necessity to drive you forward.

I think part of what happening in our culture is the force that’s attacking the forthright movement forward as an independent individual – of young men in particular – is afraid of the power of men because it’s confused about the distinction between powerm authority, and competence.

I know a man who has authority, competence and actually has power as a by-product: the authority and competence is everything. People who can’t understand this will often fail to make the distinction. Then they are afraid, and so seek to destroy authority, power and competence.

We need authority and competence – what else will allow us to prevail in the long run?

Get away from you country and get away from your kin

‘Get away from your fathers house,’ so goes the saying – you go out there and you establish yourself in the world.

That’s what this is: the first line in the Abrahamic story, is a call to adventure “unto a land that I will show you”. Go somewhere you don’t understand. It’s a call to adventure.

The first of the noble truths

We know what’s wrong with life. Life is rife with suffering, insufficiency, deception and evil. It’s all of that- obviously! Ok, so in kin with maybe a Buddhist outlook, in accepting that: we can ask what would make the journey worthwhile? You can ask yourself that, instead of ‘why must we suffer?’.

it’s like, “All right. In order to bear up under this load, what is that I would need to be striving to attain?” If you ask yourself that, that’s the knock and the door will open. That’s what that means.

If you ask yourself that, you will find an answer. But maybe you’ll shrink away from it. You’ll think, “well, there’s no way I could do that!” – you don’t actually know right now, what you could do – you don’t know what is possible, and you’re not as much as you could be. But what is you went forward anyway, giving all that you have, sacrificing everything to it? Back to the Abrahamic stories: that’s the reason Abraham is constantly making sacrifices. Archaic, right? He’s burning up baby lambs while they still alive… that is something valuable, [significant to his experience].

You have to admit, as a modern person, the act of sacrificing something might have some dramatic compulsion to it. Such as this example: to go out into a flock, take something that is new-born, to cut its throat and then to bleed it and burn it – metaphorically, that might be a way of indicating to yourself that you’re actually serious about something. It isn’t so obvious that we have rituals of seriousness like that now, and so it’s not obvious that we’re actually serious about anything. Maybe, we shouldn’t be thinking then that these people were archaic and their ideas so primitive and superstitious.

It’s possible that they know something that we don’t.

In the Abrahamic stories, one of the behaviours that maintains Abraham’s covenant with God is his continual willingness to sacrifice. That sacrificial issue is so important because you are not committed to something unless you’re willing to sacrifice for it.

Commitment and sacrifice are the same: it borders on the miraculous that those concepts together are embedded into this narrative at the level of dramatic action, instead of abstract explanation! People are acting this out; the fundamental conception is so profound and really quite awe-inspiring. It’s breath-taking really, when you understand what message is trying to be conveyed.

How do you make sacrifices to enable personal growth?

You have to make sacrifices. If something you do makes you ashamed – then stop doing it!

You have to sacrifice that which is most valuable to you, that’s also currently stopping you. It’s certainly the worst of you – and to what degree you’re in love with the worst of you, which you have to sacrifice.

You must move from the unbearable present to the ideal future. That can’t be helped – that your structure, if you want to get your house in order.

You have to plan for the future that is your true version of what is perfect.

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