12 Regras para a Vida

Wanderley Caloni

December 30, 2018

12 Regras para a Vida, como o nome indica, é um livro de auto-ajuda, mas diferente do que você poderia esperar. Livros de auto-ajuda que usam o exemplo de vida do autor servem como guia apenas para… er… o autor. Já o livro do psicólogo/filósofo Jordan Peterson utiliza a sabedoria das narrativas antigas, dos usos e costumes das sociedades, aliado ao que a ciência já descobriu sobre nossa espécie para chegar a um denominador comum de quais são as regras mais valiosas para se viver uma vida significativa. Ah, sim, Peterson está menos preocupado com viver feliz do que viver com significado. “Precisamos de regras; quaisquer regras”. Esse livro é a tentativa de elencar as melhores.

Prefácio

O início do livro nos apresenta a ideia de que valores são tão importantes quanto fatos científicos, mas que atualmente existe um movimento que tenta eliminar o discernimento moral como algo absoluto ou mensurável. O mundo que vivemos está substituindo certezas onde podemos nos agarrar pela tolerância ilimitada e cientificismo exarcebado, onde teoricamente apenas fatos importariam. Ledo engano. “12 Rules” enfatiza como a razão não é todo o conhecimento que podemos obter do mundo à nossa volta (apesar de ser importante), pois há lugares que apenas nossa intuição pode caminhar. E para isso um guia pode ser as inúmeras narrativas mitológicas sobre o mundo (que mesmo parecendo contos de fadas estão aí até hoje por um motivo). Há uma certa ênfase em como as narrativas de heróis fictícios sempre focam na transformação pelo qual ele passa e pelo sacrifício necessário para que ele passe para o “próximo nível”.

Particularmente a parte mais notável dessa introdução é entender que valores são tão importantes para nós, humanos, como os hoje glorificados fatos científicos. Aliás, fica uma questão interessante para ser respondida durante a vida: como há tantos fatos hoje em dia e prestamos atenção apenas aos que nos interessam (portanto, os que valorizamos) como separar fatos de valores?

Por fim, a mensagem implícita nessas regras de como viver é simplesmente a máxima clichê e piegas de seguir os seus sonhos. E sonhos, por definição, não são obtidos através da razão.

Enfim: vamos às regras.

Regra #1: Levante-se reto com seus ombros para trás (Stand up straight with your shoulders back)

Desde as lagostas hierarquia por dominação existe no reino animal. Os que perdem um confronto se tornam submissos em um sistema de feedback positivo que começa ao medir forças e continua através dos hormônios. Por isso você pode começar a se sentir melhor apenas agindo como um vencedor e o resto seu corpo segue e lhe dá a chance de mudar de verdade.

Regra #2: Trate você como alguém que você seja responsável por ajudar (Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping)

Nós decidimos o quanto de caos e ordem queremos em nossa vida, portanto ser niilista é patético. Negocie com você de forma a obter o melhor retorno para si e não como um tirano dando ordens. Essa é uma regra que você deve seguir para evitar ser escravo do caos ou da ordem.

Regra #3: Faça amizade com pessoas que querem o melhor de você (Make friends with people who want the best for you)

A derrota é o estado natural da vida e não precisa de explicação. O que deve ser explicado é a vitória, e como ninguém sabe é melhor estar próximo de pessoas que estejam querendo saber, e não o contrário, pois pessoas que estão na pior geralmente estão lá por um motivo e tendem a ficar lá e arrastar todos com ela.

Regra #4: Se compare com quem você foi ontem, não com o que outra pessoa é hoje (Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today)

Parece óbvio, mas não faz o menor sentido se comparar com as outras pessoas. Por outro lado, você mesmo no passado é um ótimo indicativo; principalmente se decidir estar sempre melhor todo dia no decorrer de alguns anos. E sempre trabalhar em parceria com você mesmo, e não como um tirano mandando e desmandando em seu corpo e mente.

Regra #5: Não deixe suas crianças faça qualquer coisa que faça você desgostar delas (Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them)

Violência na natureza não é algo que precise ser explicado, pois é o padrão. Sociedades organizadas é que precisam de explicação, e às crianças deve ser permitido se socializar o quanto antes para que aprendam a ser úteis nessa organização que temos e a serem indivíduos que as pessoas gostam de ter por perto.

Regra #6: Deixe sua casa em perfeito estado antes de criticar o mundo (Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world)

É simples: ache o que está fazendo de errado e pare de fazer, mesmo que você não saiba exatamente por que isso é errado. Fazendo isso aos poucos e em um ano ou dois estará completamente mudado.

Regra #7: Persiga o que é significativo, não o que é expediente (Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient)

O significado para nós surgiu ao postergarmos a recompensa; com isso surgiu a civilização, evoluímos como grupos; pertencemos a algo maior que nós mesmos. É a fuga do hedonismo, o sacrifício que nos entrega um eu completamente mudado.

Regra #8: Conte a verdade – ou, ao menos, não minta (Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie)

Só há uma maneira de melhorar na vida, que é sabendo quando algo está errado; mas mentir evita isso a todo custo, então nunca conseguimos melhorar mentindo para nós mesmos, pois o problema não consegue se tornar claro o suficiente para lidarmos com ele.

Regra #9: Assuma que a pessoa que está ouvindo sabe algo que você não sabe (Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t)

Você já sabe o que já sabe; e sabe que ainda não é suficiente. Então para obter mais conhecimento você precisa aprender a ouvir de verdade.

Regra #10: Seja preciso ao falar (Be precise in your speech)

Se não formos acurados, isto é, se não extrairmos ordem onde há apenas caos, não há como discernir as coisas funcionando na realidade. E elas só funcionam de acordo com a nossa definição das coisas. Logo, seja mais claro ao evocar ordem e ela fará mais sentido para todos. E, claro, é preciso sempre definir bem (e sem mentir) quando há um dragão pequeno escondido debaixo da cama. Porque ele pode crescer.

Regra #11: Não atrapalhe crianças quando estão no skate (Do not bother children when they are skateboarding)

Apenas o perigo cria as condições para nós crescermos. E no conto de João e Maria a bruxa é a mãe superprotetora, que os mantém presos em uma casa de fartura. Em determinado momento ela precisa sacrificar João, engordando ele. É essa a relação doentia de uma mãe superprotetora e seu filho morando para sempre com ela. Portanto, deixe as pessoas correrem os riscos que elas precisam correr para crescer. Do contrário a pessoa pode morrer lentamente e viver uma vida falsa, onde tudo é seguro.

Regra #12: Brinque com um gato quando encontrar um na rua (Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street)

Aprender com o caos em formato de animal podemos entender como nos planejar a longo prazo, mesmo que as coisas sejam irremediavelmente imprevisíveis. Lidar com um dia após o outro e saber que há muito que sabemos que é difícil de lidar, como entes queridos precisando de toda atenção e cuidado por anos a fio. Nada é fácil, a vida humana é sempre sofrimento. Portanto fique feliz nos poucos momentos em que estiver observando um gato brincando na rua.

Conclusão

Essas são apenas minhas anotações preliminares da primeira leitura. São pessoais, para eu entender por cima um livro longo. E ele é longo porque Jordan B. Peterson gosta de se alongar em um assunto. Ele é uma máquina de narrativas, mas usa muitas referências científicas. Vale a pena uma releitura? Talvez não. Apenas de partes. Se trata de um livro episódico que contém alguns momentos que soam sabedoria, mas que acabam se revelando como um guia promissor para algum desenvolvimento de conhecimento baseado em humanos, com valores e ciência, caminhando a lado a lado para buscar o melhor de todos nós.

Recortes

Moreover, by implying that values had a lesser reality than facts, science contributed in yet another way to moral relativism, for it treated ‘value’ as secondary. (But the idea that we can easily separate facts and values was and remains naive; to some extent, one’s values determine what one will pay attention to, and what will count as a fact.)

Dreams shed light on the dim places where reason itself has yet to voyage.

Para aqueles que têm tudo, mais será dado; daqueles que não têm nada, tudo será tirado (Mateus, 25:29).

Being was understood as a place of action, not a place of things.

Before you help someone, you should find out why that person is in trouble. You shouldn’t merely assume that he or she is a noble victim of unjust circumstances and exploitation. It’s the most unlikely explanation, not the most probable. In my experience ‘clinical and otherwise’ it’s just never been that simple. Besides, if you buy the story that everything terrible just happened on its own, with no personal responsibility on the part of the victim, you deny that person all agency in the past (and, by implication, in the present and future, as well). In this manner, you strip him or her of all power.

Ideologues are people who pretend they know how to ‘make the world a better place’ before they’ve taken care of their own chaos within.

When you have something to say, silence is a lie – and tyranny feeds on lies.

The dependency of sight on aim (and, therefore, on value – because you aim at what you value) was demonstrated unforgettably by the cognitive psychologist Daniel Simons more than fifteen years ago. Simons was investigating something called ‘sustained inattentional blindness.’ He would sit his research subjects in front of a video monitor and show them, for example, a field of wheat. Then he would transform the photo slowly, secretly, while they watched. He would slowly fade in a road cutting through the wheat. He didn’t insert some little easy-to-miss footpath, either. It was a major trail, occupying a good third of the image. Remarkably, the observers would frequently fail to take notice.

What if it was the case that the world revealed whatever goodness it contains in precise proportion to your desire for the best? What if the more your conception of the best has been elevated, expanded and rendered sophisticated the more possibility and benefit you could perceive? This doesn’t mean that you can have what you want merely by wishing it, or that everything is interpretation, or that there is no reality. The world is still there, with its structures and limits. As you move along with it, it cooperates or objects. But you can dance with it, if your aim is to dance – and maybe you can even lead, if you have enough skill and enough grace. 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. The rest of the world (and that’s most of it) is hidden. If we start aiming at something different – something like “I want my life to be better” – our minds will start presenting us with new information, derived from the previously hidden world, to aid us in that pursuit. Then we can put that information to use and move, and act, and observe, and improve.

Does that mean that what we see is dependent on our religious beliefs? Yes! And what we don’t see, as well! You might object, “But I’m an atheist.” No, you’re not (and if you want to understand this, you could read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, perhaps the greatest novel ever written, in which the main character, Raskolnikov, decides to take his atheism with true seriousness, commits what he has rationalized as a benevolent murder, and pays the price). You’re simply not an atheist in your actions, and it is your actions that most accurately reflect your deepest beliefs – those that are implicit, embedded in your being, underneath your conscious apprehensions and articulable attitudes and surface-level self-knowledge. You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself. Imagine a toddler repeatedly striking his mother in the face. Why would he do such a thing? It’s a stupid question. It’s unacceptably naive. The answer is obvious. To dominate his mother. To see if he can get away with it. Violence, after all, is no mystery. It’s peace that’s the mystery. Violence is the default. It’s easy. It’s peace that is difficult: learned, inculcated, earned. (People often get basic psychological questions backwards. Why do people take drugs? Not a mystery. It’s why they don’t take them all the time that’s the mystery. Why do people suffer from anxiety? That’s not a mystery. How is that people can ever be calm? There’s the mystery. We’re breakable and mortal. A million things can go wrong, in a million ways. We should be terrified out of our skulls at every second. But we’re not. The same can be said for depression, laziness and criminality.)

Scared parents think that a crying child is always sad or hurt. This is simply not true. Anger is one of the most common reasons for crying. Careful analysis of the musculature patterns of crying children has confirmed this. – Anger- crying and fear-or-sadness crying do not look the same. They also don’t sound the same, and can be distinguished with careful attention. Anger-crying is often an act of dominance, and should be dealt with as such.

About the first principle, you might ask, “Limit the rules to what, exactly?” Here are some suggestions. Do not bite, kick or hit, except in selfdefence. Do not torture and bully other children, so you don’t end up in jail. Eat in a civilized and thankful manner, so that people are happy to have you at their house, and pleased to feed you. Learn to share, so other kids will play with you. Pay attention when spoken to by adults, so they don’t hate you and might therefore deign to teach you something. Go to sleep properly, and peaceably, so that your parents can have a private life and not resent your existence. Take care of your belongings, because you need to learn how and because you’re lucky to have them. Be good company when something fun is happening, so that you’re invited for the fun. Act so that other people are happy you’re around, so that people will want you around. A child who knows these rules will be welcome everywhere. Many, perhaps even most, of the adults who abuse children were abused themselves as children. However, the majority of people who were abused as children do not abuse their own children. This is a well-established fact, which can be demonstrated, simply, arithmetically, in this way: if one parent abused three children, and each of those children had three children, and so on, then there would be three abusers the first generation, nine the second, twenty-seven the third, eighty-one the fourth – and so on exponentially. After twenty generations, more than ten billion would have suffered childhood abuse: more people than currently inhabit the planet. But instead, abuse disappears across generations. People constrain its spread. That’s a testament to the genuine dominance of good over evil in the human heart.

This is life. We build structures to live in. We build families, and states, and countries. We abstract the principles upon which those structures are founded and formulate systems of belief. “No tree can grow to Heaven,” adds the ever-terrifying Carl Gustav Jung, psychoanalyst extraordinaire, “unless its roots reach down to Hell.”!

Nietzsche claimed, first, that it was precisely the sense of truth developed in the highest sense by Christianity itself that ultimately came to question and then to undermine the fundamental presuppositions of the faith. That was partly because the difference between moral or narrative truth and objective truth had not yet been fully comprehended (and so an opposition was presumed where none necessarily exists) – but that does not bely the point.

A long period of unfreedom – adherence to a singular interpretive structure – is necessary for the development of a free mind. Christian dogma provided that unfreedom. But the dogma is dead, at least to the modern Western mind. It perished along with God. What has emerged from behind its corpse, however – and this is an issue of central importance – is something even more dead; something that was never alive, even in the past: nihilism, as well as an equally dangerous susceptibility to new, totalizing, utopian ideas. It was in the aftermath of God’s death that the great collective horrors of Communism and Fascism sprang forth (as both Dostoevsky and Nietzsche predicted they would). Nietzsche, for his part, posited that individual human beings would have to invent their own values in the aftermath of God’s death. But this is the element of his thinking that appears weakest, psychologically: we cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls. This was Carl Jung’s great discovery – made in no little part because of his intense study of the problems posed by Nietzsche.

We rebel against our own totalitarianism, as much as that of others. I cannot merely order myself to action, and neither can you. “I will stop procrastinating,” I say, but I don’t. “I will eat properly,” I say, but I don’t. “I will end my drunken misbehavior,” I say, but I don’t. I cannot merely make myself over in the image constructed by my intellect (particularly if that intellect is possessed by an ideology). I have a nature, and so do you, and so do we all. We must discover that nature, and contend with it, before making peace with ourselves. What is it, that we most truly are? What is it that we could most truly become, knowing who we most truly are? We must get to the very bottom of things before such questions can be truly answered.

Chaos is the deep ocean bottom to which Pinocchio voyaged to rescue his father from Monstro, whale and fire-breathing dragon. That journey into darkness and rescue is the most difficult thing a puppet must do, if he wants to be real; if he wants to extract himself from the temptations of deceit and acting and victimization and impulsive pleasure and totalitarian subjugation; if he wants to take his place as a genuine Being in the world.

Our brains respond instantly when chaos appears, with simple, hyper-fast circuits maintained from the ancient days, when our ancestors dwelled in trees, and snakes struck in a flash. After that nigh-instantaneous, deeply reflexive bodily response comes the later-evolving, more complex but slower responses of emotions – and, after that, comes thinking, of the higher order, which can extend over seconds, minutes or years. All that response is instinctive, in some sense – but the faster the response, the more instinctive.

To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth and adventure. When life suddenly reveals itself as intense, gripping and meaningful; when time passes and you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing you don’t notice’it is there and then that you are located precisely on the border between order and chaos.

We can produce abstracted representations of potential modes of Being. We can produce an idea in the theatre of the imagination. We can test it out against our other ideas, the ideas of others, or the world itself. If it falls short, we can let it go. We can, in Popper’s formulation, let our ideas die in our stead. Then the essential part, the creator of those ideas, can continue onward, now untrammeled, by comparison, with error. Faith in the part of us that continues across those deaths is a prerequisite to thinking itself.

What can I not doubt? The reality of suffering. It brooks no arguments. Nihilists cannot undermine it with skepticism. Totalitarians cannot banish it. Cynics cannot escape from its reality. Suffering is real, and the artful infliction of suffering on another, for its own sake, is wrong. That became the cornerstone of my belief.

There is no faith and no courage and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient. There is no careful observation that actions and presuppositions matter, or that the world is made of what matters. To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want, because you may neither know what you want, nor what you truly need. Meaning is something that comes upon you, of its own accord. You can set up the preconditions, you can follow meaning, when it manifests itself, but you cannot simply produce it, as an act of will. Meaning signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment.

Meaning is what manifests itself when the many levels of Being arrange themselves into a perfectly functioning harmony, from atomic microcosm to cell to organ to individual to society to nature to cosmos, so that action at each level beautifully and perfectly facilitates action at all, such that past, present and future are all at once redeemed and reconciled.

Taking the easy way out or telling the truth – those are not merely two different choices. They are different pathways through life. They are utterly different ways of existing.

A life lived in this manner is based, consciously or unconsciously, on two premises. The first is that current knowledge is sufficient to define what is good, unquestioningly, far into the future. The second is that reality would be unbearable if left to its own devices.

Such speaking and thinking requires the arrogance and certainty that the English poet John Milton’s genius identified with Satan, God’s highest angel gone most spectacularly wrong. The faculty of rationality inclines dangerously to pride: all I know is all that needs to be known. Pride falls in love with its own creations, and tries to make them absolute.

This kind of oversimplification and falsification is particularly typical of ideologues. They adopt a single axiom: government is bad, immigration is bad, capitalism is bad, patriarchy is bad. Then they filter and screen their experiences and insist ever more narrowly that everything can be explained by that axiom.

She does not get what she wants, or needs, because doing so would mean speaking her mind. So, there is nothing of value in her existence to counter-balance life’s troubles. And that makes her sick.

When you explore boldly, when you voluntarily confront the unknown, you gather information and build your renewed self out of that information. That is the conceptual element. However, researchers have recently discovered that new genes in the central nervous system turn themselves on when an organism is placed (or places itself) in a new situation. These genes code for new proteins. These proteins are the building blocks for new structures in the brain. This means that a lot of you is still nascent, in the most physical of senses, and will not be called forth by stasis. You have to say something, go somewhere and do things to get turned on. And, if not … you remain incomplete, and life is too hard for anyone incomplete.

Lucifer, in Milton’s eyes – the spirit of reason – was the most wondrous angel brought forth from the void by God. This can be read psychologically. Reason is something alive. It lives in all of us. It’s older than any of us. It’s best understood as a personality, not a faculty. It has its aims, and its temptations, and its weaknesses. It flies higher and sees farther than any other spirit. But reason falls in love with itself, and worse. It falls in love with its own productions. It elevates them, and worships them as absolutes. Lucifer is, therefore, the spirit of totalitarianism. He is flung from Heaven into Hell because such elevation, such rebellion against the Highest and Incomprehensible, inevitably produces Hell.

What is going to save you? The totalitarian says, in essence, “You must rely on faith in what you already know.” But that is not what saves. What saves is the willingness to learn from what you don’t know. That is faith in the possibility of human transformation. That is faith in the sacrifice of the current self for the self that could be.

All people serve their ambition. In that matter, there are no atheists. There are only people who know, and don’t know, what God they serve.

If existence is good, then the clearest and cleanest and most correct relationship with it is also good. If existence is not good, by contrast, you’re lost. Nothing will save you – certainly not the petty rebellions, murky thinking and obscurantist blindness that constitute deceit. Is existence good? You have to take a terrible risk to find out. Live in truth, or live in deceit, face the consequences, and draw your conclusions.

People think they think, but it’s not true. It’s mostly self-criticism that passes for thinking. True thinking is rare – just like true listening. Thinking is listening to yourself. It’s difficult. To think, you have to be at least two people at the same time. Then you have to let those people disagree. Thinking is an internal dialogue between two or more different views of the world. Viewpoint One is an avatar in a simulated world. It has its own representations of past, present and future, and its own ideas about how to act. So do Viewpoints Two, and Three, and Four. Thinking is the process by which these internal avatars imagine and articulate their worlds to one another. You can’t set straw men against one another when you’re thinking, either, because then you’re not thinking. You’re rationalizing, post-hoc. You’re matching what you want against a weak opponent so that you don’t have to change your mind. You’re propagandizing. You’re using doublespeak. You’re using your conclusions to justify your proofs. You’re hiding from the truth.

The fact is important enough to bear repeating: people organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds. Like hoarders, they cannot unclutter themselves. The input of the community is required for the integrity of the individual psyche. To put it another way: It takes a village to organize a mind.

Men are often accused of wanting to “fix things” too early on in a discussion. This frustrates men, who like to solve problems and to do it efficiently and who are in fact called upon frequently by women for precisely that purpose. It might be easier for my male readers to understand why this does not work, however, if they could realize and then remember that before a problem can be solved it must be formulated precisely. Women are often intent on formulating the problem when they are discussing something, and they need to be listened to – even questioned – to help ensure clarity in the formulation. Then, whatever problem is left, if any, can be helpfully solved. (It should also be noted first that too-early problem-solving may also merely indicate a desire to escape from the effort of the problemformulating conversation.)

Furthermore, in the absence of agreed-upon tradition (and the constraints – often uncomfortable; often even unreasonable – that it imposes) there exist only three difficult options: slavery, tyranny or negotiation. The slave merely does what he or she is told – happy, perhaps, to shed the responsibility – and solves the problem of complexity in that manner. But it’s a temporary solution. The spirit of the slave rebels. The tyrant merely tells the slave what to do, and solves the problem of complexity in that manner. But it’s a temporary solution. The tyrant tires of the slave. There’s nothing and no one there, except for predictable and sullen obedience. Who can live forever with that? But negotiation – that requires forthright admission on the part of both players that the dragon exists. That’s a reality difficult to face, even when it’s still too small to simply devour the knight who dares confront it.

No one finds a match so perfect that the need for continued attention and work vanishes (and, besides, if you found the perfect person, he or she would run away from ever-so-imperfect you in justifiable horror). In truth, what you need – what you deserve, after all – is someone exactly as imperfect as you.

They weren’t trying to be safe. They were trying to become competent–and it’s competence that makes people as safe as they can truly be.

Consider this, as well, in regard to oppression: any hierarchy creates winners and losers. The winners are, of course, more likely to justify the hierarchy and the losers to criticize it. But (1) the collective pursuit of any valued goal produces a hierarchy (as some will be better and some worse at that pursuit not matter what it is) and (2) it is the pursuit of goals that in large part lends life its sustaining meaning. We experience almost all the emotions that make life deep and engaging as a consequence of moving successfully towards something deeply desired and valued. The price we pay for that involvement is the inevitable creation of hierarchies of success, while the inevitable consequence is difference in outcome. Absolute equality would therefore require the sacrifice of value itself¿and then there would be nothing worth living for.

Marxist ideas were very attractive to intellectual Utopians. One of the primary architects of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, Khieu Samphan, received a doctorate at the Sorbonne before he became the nominal head of Cambodia in the mid-1970s. In his doctoral thesis, written in 1959, he argued that the work done by non-farmers in Cambodia’s cities was unproductive: bankers, bureaucrats and businessmen added nothing to society. Instead, they parasitized the genuine value produced through agriculture, small industry and craft. Samphan’s ideas were favourably looked upon by the French intellectuals who granted him his Ph.D. Back in Cambodia, he was provided with the opportunity to put his theories into practice. The Khmer Rouge evacuated Cambodia’s cities, drove all the inhabitants into the countryside, closed the banks, banned the use of currency, and destroyed all the markets. A quarter of the Cambodian population were worked to death in the countryside, in the killing fields.

There are only two major reasons for resentment: being taken advantage of (or allowing yourself to be taken advantage of), or whiny refusal to adopt responsibility and grow up.

You might think, “if they loved me, they would know what to do.” That’s the voice of resentment. Assume ignorance before malevolence

Bachofen proposed that humanity had passed through a series of developmental stages in its history. The first, roughly speaking (after a somewhat anarchic and chaotic beginning), was Das Mutterrecht –a society where women held the dominant positions of power, respect and honour, where polyamory and promiscuity ruled, and where any certainty of paternity was absent. The second, the Dionysian, was a phase of transition, during which these original matriarchal foundations were overturned and power was taken by men. The third phase, the Apollonian, still reigns today. The patriarchy rules, and each woman belongs exclusively to one man. Bachofen’s ideas became profoundly influential, in certain circles, despite the absence of any historical evidence to support them.

When softness and harmlessness become the only consciously acceptable virtues, then hardness and dominance will start to exert an unconscious fascination. Partly what this means for the future is that if men are pushed too hard to feminize, they will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology. Fight Club, perhaps the most fascist popular film made in recent years by Hollywood, with the possible exception of the Iron Man series, provides a perfect example of such inevitable attraction. The populist groundswell of support for Donald Trump in the US is part of the same process, as is (in far more sinister form) the recent rise of far-right political parties even in such moderate and liberal places as Holland, Sweden and Norway.

I came to realize through such thoughts that what can be truly loved about a person is inseparable from their limitations.

Ideologues are people who pretend they know how to ‘make the world a better place’ before they’ve taken care of their own chaos within.

In a world where students are taught to see evolution and religion as simply opposed (by thinkers like Richard Dawkins), Jordan showed his students how evolution, of all things, helps to explain the profound psychological appeal and wisdom of many ancient stories, from Gilgamesh to the life of the Buddha, Egyptian mythology and the Bible. He showed, for instance, how stories about journeying voluntarily into the unknown’the hero’s quest’mirror universal tasks for which the brain evolved.

The hunger among many younger people for rules, or at least guidelines, is greater today for good reason. In the West at least, millennials are living through a unique historical situation. They are, I believe, the first generation to have been so thoroughly taught two seemingly contradictory ideas about morality, simultaneously’at their schools, colleges and universities, by many in my own generation.

The first idea or teaching is that morality is relative, at best a personal ‘value judgment.’

Today, the postmodernist left makes the additional claim that one group’s morality is nothing but its attempt to exercise power over another group.

Cultivating judgment about the difference between virtue and vice is the beginning of wisdom, something that can never be out of date.

Order and chaos are the yang and yin of the famous Taoist symbol: two serpents, head to tail. Order is the white, masculine serpent; Chaos, its black, feminine counterpart. The black dot in the white’and the white in the black’indicate the possibility of transformation: just when things seem secure, the unknown can loom, unexpectedly and large. Conversely, just when everything seems lost, new order can emerge from catastrophe and chaos.

I have learned to pay attention to dreams, not least because of my training as a clinical psychologist. Dreams shed light on the dim places where reason itself has yet to voyage.

If you’re surrounding yourself with smart people, you’re doing something right. Remember, iron sharpens iron.

Sometimes one lobster can tell immediately from the display of claw size that it is much smaller than its opponent, and will back down without a fight. The chemical information exchanged in the spray can have the same effect, convincing a less healthy or less aggressive lobster to retreat. That’s dispute resolution Level 1. If the two lobsters are very close in size and apparent ability, however, or if the exchange of liquid has been insufficiently informative, they will proceed to dispute resolution Level 2. With antennae whipping madly and claws folded downward, one will advance, and the other retreat. Then the defender will advance, and the aggressor retreat. After a couple of rounds of this behaviour, the more nervous of the lobsters may feel that continuing is not in his best interest. He will flick his tail reflexively, dart backwards, and vanish, to try his luck elsewhere. If neither blinks, however, the lobsters move to Level 3, which involves genuine combat. This time, the now enraged lobsters come at each other viciously, with their claws extended, to grapple. Each tries to flip the other on its back. A successfully flipped lobster will conclude that its opponent is capable of inflicting serious damage. It generally gives up and leaves (although it harbours intense resentment and gossips endlessly about the victor behind its back). If neither can overturn the other’or if one will not quit despite being flipped’the lobsters move to Level 4. Doing so involves extreme risk, and is not something to be engaged in without forethought: one or both lobsters will emerge damaged from the ensuing fray, perhaps fatally. The animals advance on each other, with increasing speed. Their claws are open, so they can grab a leg, or antenna, or an eye-stalk, or anything else exposed and vulnerable. Once a body part has been successfully grabbed, the grabber will tail-flick backwards, sharply, with claw clamped firmly shut, and try to tear it off. Disputes that have escalated to this point typically create a clear winner and loser. The loser is unlikely to survive, particularly if he or she remains in the territory occupied by the winner, now a mortal enemy.

If a dominant lobster is badly defeated, its brain basically dissolves. Then it grows a new, subordinate’s brain’one more appropriate to its new, lowly position. Its original brain just isn’t sophisticated to manage the transformation from king to bottom dog without virtually complete dissolution and regrowth. Anyone who has experienced a painful transformation after a serious defeat in romance or career may feel some sense of kinship with the once successful crustacean.

In one of the more staggering demonstrations of the evolutionary continuity of life on Earth, Prozac even cheers up lobsters.

High serotonin/low octopamine characterizes the victor. The opposite neurochemical configuration, a high ratio of octopamine to serotonin, produces a defeated-looking, scrunched-up, inhibited, drooping, skulking sort of lobster, very likely to hang around street corners, and to vanish at the first hint of trouble.

Sometimes it is known as the Matthew Principle (Matthew 25:29), derived from what might be the harshest statement ever attributed to Christ: ‘to those who have everything, more will be given; from those who have nothing, everything will be taken.’

A third of a billion years ago, brains and nervous systems were comparatively simple. Nonetheless, they already had the structure and neurochemistry necessary to process information about status and society.

It is for such reasons that I always ask my clinical clients first about sleep. Do they wake up in the morning at approximately the time the typical person wakes up, and at the same time every day? If the answer is no, fixing that is the first thing I recommend. It doesn’t matter so much if they go to bed at the same time each evening, but waking up at a consistent hour is a necessity. Anxiety and depression cannot be easily treated if the sufferer has unpredictable daily routines. The systems that mediate negative emotion are tightly tied to the properly cyclical circadian rhythms.

Her heart rate increases again, because of her additional fear. She detects that, and her heart rate rises again. Poof! Positive feedback loop. Soon the anxiety transforms into panic, regulated by a different brain system, designed for the severest of threats, which can be triggered by too much fear.

Circumstances change, and so can you. Positive feedback loops, adding effect to effect, can spiral counterproductively in a negative direction, but can also work to get you ahead. That’s the other, far more optimistic lesson of Price’s law and the Pareto distribution: those who start to have will probably get more. Some of these upwardly moving loops can occur in your own private, subjective space. Alterations in body language offer an important example. If you are asked by a researcher to move your facial muscles, one at a time, into a position that would look sad to an observer, you will report feeling sadder. If you are asked to move the muscles one by one into a position that looks happy, you will report feeling happier. Emotion is partly bodily expression, and can be amplified (or dampened) by that expression.

But standing up straight with your shoulders back is not something that is only physical, because you’re not only a body. You’re a spirit, so to speak’a psyche’as well. Standing up physically also implies and invokes and demands standing up metaphysically. Standing up means voluntarily accepting the burden of Being. Your nervous system responds in an entirely different manner when you face the demands of life voluntarily. You respond to a challenge, instead of bracing for a catastrophe. You see the gold the dragon hoards, instead of shrinking in terror from the all-too-real fact of the dragon. You step forward to take your place in the dominance hierarchy, and occupy your territory, manifesting your willingness to defend, expand and transform it. That can all occur practically or symbolically, as a physical or as a conceptual restructuring.

Scientific truths were made explicit a mere five hundred years ago, with the work of Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton.

Before the dawn of the scientific worldview, reality was construed differently. Being was understood as a place of action, not a place of things.

The scientific world of matter can be reduced, in some sense, to its fundamental constituent elements: molecules, atoms, even quarks. However, the world of experience has primal constituents, as well. These are the necessary elements whose interactions define drama and fiction. One of these is chaos. Another is order. The third (as there are three) is the process that mediates between the two, which appears identical to what modern people call consciousness. It is our eternal subjugation to the first two that makes us doubt the validity of existence’that makes us throw up our hands in despair, and fail to care for ourselves properly. It is proper understanding of the third that allows us the only real way out.

Our brains respond instantly when chaos appears, with simple, hyper-fast circuits maintained from the ancient days, when our ancestors dwelled in trees, and snakes struck in a flash. After that nigh-instantaneous, deeply reflexive bodily response comes the later-evolving, more complex but slower responses of emotions’and, after that, comes thinking, of the higher order, which can extend over seconds, minutes or years. All that response is instinctive, in some sense’but the faster the response, the more instinctive.

To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth and adventure. When life suddenly reveals itself as intense, gripping and meaningful; when time passes and you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing you don’t notice’it is there and then that you are located precisely on the border between order and chaos.

That’s what music is telling you, too, when you’re listening’even more, perhaps, when you’re dancing’when its harmonious layered patterns of predictability and unpredictability make meaning itself well up from the most profound depths of your Being.

Naked means vulnerable and easily damaged. Naked means subject to judgment for beauty and health. Naked means unprotected and unarmed in the jungle of nature and man. This is why Adam and Eve became ashamed, immediately after their eyes were opened. They could see’and what they first saw was themselves. Their faults stood out. Their vulnerability was on display. Unlike other mammals, whose delicate abdomens are protected by the armour-like expanse of their backs, they were upright creatures, with the most vulnerable parts of their body presented to the world.

Choose your destination and articulate your Being. As the great nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted, ‘He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.”

People choose friends who aren’t good for them for other reasons, too. Sometimes it’s because they want to rescue someone. This is more typical of young people, although the impetus still exists among older folks who are too agreeable or have remained naive or who are willfully blind. Someone might object, ‘It is only right to see the best in people. The highest virtue is the desire to help.’ But not everyone who is failing is a victim, and not everyone at the bottom wishes to rise, although many do, and many manage it.

Before you help someone, you should find out why that person is in trouble. You shouldn’t merely assume that he or she is a noble victim of unjust circumstances and exploitation. It’s the most unlikely explanation, not the most probable. In my experience ‘clinical and otherwise’it’s just never been that simple. Besides, if you buy the story that everything terrible just happened on its own, with no personal responsibility on the part of the victim, you deny that person all agency in the past (and, by implication, in the present and future, as well). In this manner, you strip him or her of all power.

If I stay in an unhealthy relationship with you, perhaps it’s because I’m too weak-willed and indecisive to leave, but I don’t want to know it. Thus, I continue helping you, and console myself with my pointless martyrdom. Maybe I can then conclude, about myself, ‘Someone that self-sacrificing, that willing to help someone’that has to be a good person.’ Not so. It might be just a person trying to look good pretending to solve what appears to be a difficult problem instead of actually being good and addressing something real.

You are not morally obliged to support someone who is making the world a worse place. Quite the opposite. You should choose people who want things to be better, not worse. It’s a good thing, not a selfish thing, to choose people who are good for you. It’s appropriate and praiseworthy to associate with people whose lives would be improved if they saw your life improve.

Standards of better or worse are not illusory or unnecessary. If you hadn’t decided that what you are doing right now was better than the alternatives, you wouldn’t be doing it. The idea of a value-free choice is a contradiction in terms.

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. There’s some real utility in gratitude. It’s also good protection against the dangers of victimhood and resentment.

When the internal critic puts you down using such comparisons, here’s how it operates: First, it selects a single, arbitrary domain of comparison (fame, maybe, or power). Then it acts as if that domain is the only one that is relevant.

You have a nature. You can play the tyrant to it, but you will certainly rebel. How hard can you force yourself to work and sustain your desire to work? How much can you sacrifice to your partner before generosity turns to resentment? 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. What do you find valuable or pleasurable? How much leisure, enjoyment, and reward do you require, so that you feel like more than a beast of burden? How must you treat yourself, so you won’t kick over the traces and smash up your corral? You could force yourself through your daily grind and kick your dog in frustration when you come home. You could watch the precious days tick by. Or you could learn how to entice yourself into sustainable, productive activity. Do you ask yourself what you want? Do you negotiate fairly with yourself? Or are you a tyrant, with yourself as slave?

Consult your resentment. It’s a revelatory emotion, for all its pathology. It’s part of an evil triad: arrogance, deceit, and resentment. Nothing causes more harm than this underworld Trinity. But resentment always means one of two things. Either the resentful person is immature, in which case he or she should shut up, quit whining, and get on with it, or there is tyranny afoot’in which case the person subjugated has a moral obligation to speak up. Why? Because the consequence of remaining silent is worse. Of course, it’s easier in the moment to stay silent and avoid conflict. But in the long term, that’s deadly. When you have something to say, silence is a lie’and tyranny feeds on lies. When should you push back against oppression, despite the danger? When you start nursing secret fantasies of revenge; when your life is being poisoned and your imagination fills with the wish to devour and destroy.

The dependency of sight on aim (and, therefore, on value’because you aim at what you value) was demonstrated unforgettably by the cognitive psychologist Daniel Simons more than fifteen years ago. Simons was investigating something called ‘sustained inattentional blindness.’ He would sit his research subjects in front of a video monitor and show them, for example, a field of wheat. Then he would transform the photo slowly, secretly, while they watched. He would slowly fade in a road cutting through the wheat. He didn’t insert some little easy-to-miss footpath, either. It was a major trail, occupying a good third of the image. Remarkably, the observers would frequently fail to take notice. The demonstration that made Dr. Simons famous was of the same kind, but more dramatic’even unbelievable. First, he produced a video of two teams of three people. One team was wearing white shirts, the other, black. (The two teams were not off in the distance, either, or in any way difficult to see. The six of them filled much of the video screen, and their facial features were close enough to see clearly.) Each team had its own ball, which they bounced or threw to their other team members, as they moved and feinted in the small space in front of the elevators where the game was filmed. Once Dan had his video, he showed it to his study participants. He asked each of them to count the number of times the white shirts threw the ball back and forth to one another. After a few minutes, his subjects were asked to report the number of passes. Most answered ‘15.’ That was the correct answer. Most felt pretty good about that. Ha! They passed the test! But then Dr. Simons asked, ‘Did you see the gorilla?’ Was this a joke? What gorilla? So, he said, ‘Watch the video again. But this time, don’t count.’ Sure enough, a minute or so in, a man dressed in a gorilla suit waltzes right into the middle of the game for a few long seconds, stops, and then beats his chest in the manner of stereotyped gorillas everywhere. Right in the middle of the screen. Large as life. Painfully and irrefutably evident. But one out of every two of his research subjects missed it, the first time they saw the video. It gets worse. Dr. Simons did another study. This time, he showed his subjects a video of someone being served at a counter. The server dips behind the counter to retrieve something, and pops back up. So what? Most of his participants don’t detect anything amiss. But it was a different person who stood up in the original server’s place! ‘No way,’ you think. ‘I’d notice.’ But it’s ‘yes way.’ There’s a high probability you wouldn’t detect the change, even if the gender or race of the person is switched at the same time. You’re blind too. This is partly because vision is expensive’psychophysiologically expensive; neurologically expensive. Very little of your retina is high-resolution fovea’the very central, high-resolution part of the eye, used to do such things as identify faces. Each of the scarce foveal cells needs 10,000 cells in the visual cortex merely to manage the first part of the multi-stage processing of seeing. Then each of those 10,000 requires 10,000 more just to get to stage two. If all your retina was fovea you would require the skull of a B-movie alien to house your brain. In consequence, we triage, when we see.

What if it was the case that the world revealed whatever goodness it contains in precise proportion to your desire for the best? What if the more your conception of the best has been elevated, expanded and rendered sophisticated the more possibility and benefit you could perceive? This doesn’t mean that you can have what you want merely by wishing it, or that everything is interpretation, or that there is no reality. The world is still there, with its structures and limits. As you move along with it, it cooperates or objects. But you can dance with it, if your aim is to dance’and maybe you can even lead, if you have enough skill and enough grace. 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. The rest of the world (and that’s most of it) is hidden. If we start aiming at something different’something like ‘I want my life to be better”our minds will start presenting us with new information, derived from the previously hidden world, to aid us in that pursuit. Then we can put that information to use and move, and act, and observe, and improve.

It may be the case that to him ‘good’ means nothing but ‘obedient” even blindly obedient. Hence the classic liberal Western enlightenment objection to religious belief: obedience is not enough. But it’s at least a start (and we have forgotten this): You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored. You will not know what to target, and you won’t fly straight, even if you somehow get your aim right. And then you will conclude, ‘There is nothing to aim for.’ And then you will be lost. It is therefore necessary and desirable for religions to have a dogmatic element. What good is a value system that does not provide a stable structure? What good is a value system that does not point the way to a higher order? And what good can you possibly be if you cannot or do not internalize that structure, or accept that order’not as a final destination, necessarily, but at least as a starting point? Without that, you’re nothing but an adult two-year-old, without the charm or the potential.

You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself.

Realization is dawning. Instead of playing the tyrant, therefore, you are paying attention. You are telling the truth, instead of manipulating the world. You are negotiating, instead of playing the martyr or the tyrant. You no longer have to be envious, because you no longer know that someone else truly has it better. You no longer have to be frustrated, because you have learned to aim low, and to be patient. You are discovering who you are, and what you want, and what you are willing to do. You are finding that the solutions to your particular problems have to be tailored to you, personally and precisely. You are less concerned with the actions of other people, because you have plenty to do yourself.

"12 Regras para a Vida" foi escrito por Wanderley Caloni. 2018-12-30. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson


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