My friends often roll their eyes when I hesitate to embrace anything that’s popular. It’s true that I’m wary of popular things. It’s not because I’m a hipster (I’m not – I live in the suburbs and I like Bud Light and Taco Bell). I think the reason I balk at popular things is because I’m afraid of getting swept up in something that I’ll later regret. It’s better to test things on their own merit than to sign my name to something that sours.
So, when my friends recommended I read this bestselling popular book, I internally balked. The New York Times called the author “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now”. Ok, I thought. Let’s pump the brakes.
But Peterson, a clinical psychologist, professor, and family guy, won me over early and easily. The book is formatted as a dozen rules (ex. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street), each of which is expounded upon using psychology, Western and Eastern religious traditions, anecdotes, literature, and whatever else weaves together holistic thought. While all of that is in the book, Peterson maintains a good-humored, conversational tone.
This little project started as small, playful musings on a website, and bloomed into this opus of hopeful philosophy and cosmology that we need in 2018. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular: It’s a smart guy saying eloquently and with conviction that hope isn’t stupid. We can make things better, and that starts with making ourselves better. He proceeds to give a roadmap. More than that, though, he teaches the reader how to make their own roadmap to a life well-lived. That’s the job of a professor, in my opinion, and of a dad.
I brought up the NYT quote about Peterson because I think he would wave it off and point back at his readers. The point isn’t that he’s smart, or that he has a good rules. The point of the book is that we need to develop our own rules and live courageously. That is, we need to wake up, get out of bed, and be good.