The first thing I thought when I sat down to write this was, I must tread carefully. And I hate that I thought that, because it meant that I harbored some fear of expressing an opinion about Peterson’s work or worse: admitting that I had even read it.
I first learned of Jordan Peterson through Internet memes. This is never the best first introduction to anything, despite the efficiency of the medium. It is too easy to dismiss potentially valuable information out of hand due to the typically humorous nature of the meme. Furthermore, the memes in question were weaponized as part of the never-ending pseudo war between the supposed liberals and conservatives on social media. I foolishly threw Peterson out with the bathwater, much like I would do with J.K. Rowling, over the mob reaction to transsexual issues. After all, it is much easier to dehumanize someone than take the time to critically consider what is going on and look at a person as a complex and nuanced individual whose thoughts and their expression rises from a lifetime of lived experience.
There came a point where I decided I needed to break away from the black and white group-think of social media and start doing my own research; to come to conclusions, for better or worse, that were informed by my own thoughts rather than knee-jerk reactions to trending topics. To that end, I investigated Peterson: who he was and what had raised him to prominence. Part of that exploration brought me to this book.
It took me more than two years of careful reading to get through the text. I would re-read many pages and delve deep into the referenced material, in particular the Biblical passages. I am no Christian (though I would like to be) but that is a much longer discussion for a more appropriate forum. Yet I understand how easy it would be to dismiss much of what Peterson says in this book were I still as agnostic as I was in my youth. In fact, in order to fully appreciate the content of this book I had to suspend many of my preconceived notions and apply the “rules” to the text itself. It is iterative literature, and rewards levels of understanding with further depths of illumination.
I do not agree with everything he says, but no one should ever be in complete agreeance with another person. There are a multitude of potential paths in the deep forests and trackless wastes of life, and it is up to each of us to find our own way through. There are times, though, when it pays great dividends to tread the roads paved by our forebears. That is the essence of wisdom, and we are free to choose the proverbs that make the most sense. But to toss any book out the window as meritless simply because it is hard to read, or its author has been vilified by history, is wasteful.
It is a shame that Peterson chose to open this book with the stuff about the lobsters. But at least you know that anyone who dismisses the whole thing because of that has only read—and misunderstood—the first chapter.
P.S. One of the referenced texts was Jack Kent's There's No Such Thing as a Dragon. Take the ten minutes to read it.