by Ben Sixsmith
Wednesday, 21
October 2020
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11:33

Jordan Peterson returns from the desert

There is rejoicing at the thinker's return — and also some sour disappointment
by Ben Sixsmith

It is good to see him. Peterson, Canadian clinical psychologist cum YouTube guru, has been MIA for over a year amid a cloud of rumours about anxiety, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome and experimental treatments in Moscow and Belgrade. I am sure that many people did not expect to see him again but he is back and, according to a new video, hard at work on lectures about Exodus and Proverbs. There is much rejoicing — and also some amount of sour disappointment.

“Be not wise in thine own eyes,” says Proverbs 3:7. There has been a certain amount of crowing about Peterson’s struggles, some of it purely malicious and some of it based on the perception that they undermine his status as a public figure. Is Peterson, after all, not the man whose “rules for life” include “set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world”?

Well, yes. In Twelve Rules for Life, Peterson wrote “things fall apart because we have not paid sufficient attention” and said, “Don’t reorganise the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility.”

So, perhaps he could have taken his advice a little more. In the video, he says that not thinking about the implications of taking benzodiazepine was a mistake. But has he ever claimed to be above it? Not to my knowledge. If some of his followers have deified — or at least beatified — the man that is to their discredit but I do not think he has encouraged them.

Perhaps a steelman of the criticisms of Peterson is that his struggles highlight the limits of individual responsibility. Some problems, like drug withdrawal, make us depend on other people — and some problems, like overprescription, demand a societal and not simply an individual response. In his book, Peterson allegorises with reference to the floods that struck New Orleans in 2005. Hurricane Katrina was a random tragedy but the lack of hurricane preparedness was a sin. That is true, but also illustrates how much can lie beyond a single man’s capacities.

But there is no point in erecting a dichotomy here. Both individual and communal responsibility have their place. Could a mountain climber reach their full potential without a team? No. Could a team of mountain climbers function without its members’ individual courage, skill and hard work? No. The team supports the individuals but the individuals make the team.

Certainly, Peterson knows the importance of his team. His return video is humble and soft-spoken. He salutes his friends and family, saying, “I am certainly not convinced that I would have the character to provide for any of them what they have provided for me.” Perhaps he would, but it is a nice thing to say nonetheless.

So, welcome back, Dr Peterson, and may your troubles trail behind you. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his ideas, it is good to have that argument with the man himself at his strongest.

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Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
1 year ago

The very worst anyone could have said about Dr Peterson is that he encouraged people to think.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

I saw the video on YT yesterday and it is indeed lovely to have him back.

William Costello
William Costello
1 year ago

Glad you made the point that JBP never claimed to be above any of his own advice. He has also at length lectured on the importance of building your own ‘Noah’s Ark’ around you in the form of familial support, because the flood is always coming and when it does you better be ready.

David George
David George
1 year ago

It’s great to see him back from his terrible ordeal, he almost died (had to be resuscitated twice) had severe pneumonia and caught the covid virus just as he was over the worst of that.
The new book is coming out and some welcome new material being worked on.
God bless you Jordan Peterson.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
1 year ago

It is a pleasure to have him back.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
1 year ago

Yes it’s good to see Jordan Peterson on the road to recovery, in fact on the trail back from the desert. Many have found a period in the desert, real or metaphorical, a transformative experience bringing depths of self-knowledge and knowledge of God which otherwise would not have happened. It’s great to know that Dr. Peterson intends to continue making his vital contributions to the issues of our time.

LilaJean Wagner
LilaJean Wagner
1 year ago

I’m reminded of a vivid image in the Song of Songs:–the bride is leaning on her bridegroom as they come out of the desert. The Peterson family certainly provided a shoulder for Jordan to lean on. We all need someone to lean on and the humility to acknowledge that need.

Joff Brown
Joff Brown
1 year ago

In his lectures, Peterson often stresses that, however much you prepare, sometimes events outside your control can be catastrophic.

Don Jujanas
Don Jujanas
1 year ago

Watching people attack this man is like watching idiot children pull the wings off flies.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Don Jujanas

Very well put.

tiffeyekno
tiffeyekno
1 year ago

I have recommended 12 Rules to Life to my 4 sons – 22, 21, 18 and 16. Emphasisng, of course, that it is a matter for them to read or not and act or not. This is to add to the other things I hope Ive given them – manners, self respect, industry and integrity I cant think of a better thing to give them. But I guess those 4 things are wrapped up in the core of JP’s rules.

Lady Marchmain
Lady Marchmain
1 year ago

Some good news in an otherwise wretched year.

Gerald gwarcuri
Gerald gwarcuri
1 year ago

An intellectual and moral giant among Pygmies returns. And, a reminder to those who gloated about this courageous man’s travails: schadenfreude is a mortal sin.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

Perhaps a steelman of the criticisms of Peterson is that his struggles highlight the limits of individual responsibility.
Steel man or straw man? No one ever said individual responsibility is unlimited. But no one deals with struggle without first taking some responsibility and working to address them.

Communal responsibility relies on each individual doing his/her part. It’s why communism sounds good in theory, but fails in practice. There are always those slackers who won’t pull their weight.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
1 year ago

Yes, I was very moved by the video, poor chap. His speech reminded me of me trying to communicate in the throes of the first stage of a severe, classical migraine. I wished I could get a couple of jump leads and wire him up to Edward Dutton.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

A welcome return, for all his perspicacity he never figured out how bad the diazepam family of drugs is but kudos for getting free of it. Same problemwith DHCs/Fentanyl/Mesamorphines.I guess because they are pushed by governments the harms are well hidden. Much as regular heroin, cocaine and the meth/dex amphetamines can ruin lives they remain a lot safer than the state sponsored drugs.

LilaJean Wagner
LilaJean Wagner
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

My husband with lupus was kept sane and writing b/c he was on a fentanyl patch for the last few weeks of his life.
For everything there is a season and a time for everything under heaven.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

I am sure there are clinical uses for Fentanyl, but the broader social damage it does is so great you may as well stick to morphine or heroin. As far as benzos are concerned there seems no reason for them to exist and if they have a season or time it is under hell, not heaven.

Trishia A
Trishia A
1 year ago

Oh yeah! The Book of Genesis! I’m so excited! …

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Trishia A

Well you don’t have to listen to the lectures, then, do you. Why are some atheists so intolerant (I see you have downvoted two religious-toned comments)? What are you so frightened of?

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Whenever people tell me they believe the account of Creation in Genesis I always ask “Which one?” There are two distinct accounts, one in each of the first two chapters.

As for why some atheists are so intolerant, I think it’s because they see religious people as being so opposed to evidence-based thinking. It’s not a matter of being afraid. Of course, the intolerance of religious people is related to fear, because they realise, even if subconsciously, that many of their tenets don’t stand up to reason. For them, religion is a matter of identity, and as impervious to argument as those intolerant atheists.

What both need to realise (IMO) is that scientific evidence and religious belief occupy different places. Millions of religious people manage to maintain their beliefs and accept science as factually true. Atheists like Dawkins do no one a favour by insisting that the two are opposed, as if laying about Christians with scientific evidence would somehow change their minds.

Trishia A
Trishia A
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

As you have the option of not skulking around up and down arrows. Why are faithers so intolerant!

lesterfwilson8
lesterfwilson8
1 year ago

He is not a psychiatrist, dimbo.

He is a psychologist.

No medical degree.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
1 year ago
Reply to  lesterfwilson8

No need to be nasty. My wife is a psychiatrist and very often (daily?) gets referred to as a psychologist. She isn’t offended, as many people don’t know the difference. Don’t make a big deal of things that aren’t a big deal.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
1 year ago
Reply to  lesterfwilson8

Who said he was? I’ve looked through the article and the comments, but I can’t find what this refers to.