12 Rules for Jordan Peterson
1. Write more books. Your analysis is sharp and your prose readable, in some places beautiful (the Coda in particular). Your stances are courageous, contrarian and often counterintuitive. I love the way you weave together the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of the word, and apply them to areas of life—parenting, work, friendship—where they are often absent in contemporary culture. You have helped a lot of people, and I’m sure you will continue to. Thank you.
2. Your Augustinianism is far more realistic, and ultimately far more liberating, than your Pelagianism. Embrace it, and stare down the alternatives, like a lobster.
3. Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, and confront your editor. A book like this should have a) fewer typos, b) fewer reference errors, and c) footnotes that actually correspond to their numbers.
4. Next time you read through Genesis, keep your eye on the seed. He makes all the difference.
5. Compare notes with Baz Luhrmann and/or Phil Dunphy. The overlap between your rules for life and theirs might amuse you. (“Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.” Or: “Of course you can reach your dreams. Just lower your expectations.” Or: “If life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all, like: what?”)
6. Retain your blend of empathy and boldness. In our ideologically tribal age, compassionate types often retreat, and confrontational types are often inflammatory and annoying. There is something very valuable—and often moving—about your capacity to feel people’s pain and let it shape your ethics, while saying uncomfortable things and taking no nonsense from the thought police. I learned a lot from it.
7. Assertions do not become true by being written in italics.
8. You should meet Tim Keller some time, if you haven’t already. Both of you are father figures to a generation of young, bright males looking for wisdom; he’s a preacher who sounds like a professor, and you’re a professor who sounds like a preacher. If you ever meet for coffee, I’d love to be a fly on the wall.
9. Tell us what you really think. The highlights of 12 Rules are the places where you say something sharp, unpredictable and thought-provoking (just as the lowlights are the places where you ramble a bit, or pull back from jumping the last fence). Fight Club is fascist. The wonder of Being might make up for the ineradicable suffering that accompanies it. When the hurricane hit New Orleans, and the town sank under the waves, was that a natural disaster? If you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of. And things like that. There is something of Pascal, or Lichtenberg, or Chesterton, in these moments, as if your natural form of writing is the aphorism. Consequently:
10. Cut more text. There’s a huge amount to like about this book, but it could have been a hundred pages shorter, and therefore more readable for more people, if some of the excurses and tangentially related musings (what was that bit with the squirrels all about?) had been removed.
11. If you give people law without gospel, they will die. Slowly, perhaps; with better manners and nicer children, very likely; but die they will, all the same. Give them the promise of a law fulfilled, a resurrection hope, a loving Father, a crucified Saviour, an empowering Spirit. Give them life.
12. Take a vacation, have a glass of wine, and give yourself a pat on the back. This is a challenging, interesting, provocative, serious and deservedly talked-about book. We who are about to die salute you.