In this glorious digital age in which we live in, all of us like to think of ourselves as philosophers and indeed as intellectuals. In a documentary I recently saw Nicola Roberts, former singer from the group Girls Aloud, said something rather simple yet deeply profound:
In today’s society we all feel, especially with social media, that we all have a voice and we all feel entitled to give our opinion. But a lot of the time that opinion is uneducated. – Nicola Roberts, from the 2017 BBC documentary New York Hijabis
The writer and satirist Armando Iannucci also made a simple point as to why we feel our voices, when projected online, are somehow more important than we perhaps realise:
The trouble now is, of course, anything online looks true because it is in print. It’s typed. I mean, it is as simple as that. – Armando Iannucci
Despite the fact that we may now think of ourselves as being intellectuals, what exactly do we mean by an intellectual? The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre described an intellectual as “someone who meddles in what does not concern them.” Edward Said, a Palestinian American Professor, took this theme a few thoughts further in his definition of an intellectual:
An intellectual is someone whose main concern is to try to advance the cause of freedom and justice…someone able to speak the truth to power, a crusty, eloquent, fantastically courageous and angry individual for whom no worldly power is too big and imposing to be criticised and pointedly taken to task…neither a pacifier nor a consensus-builder, but someone whose whole being is staked on a critical sense, a sense of being unwilling to accept easy formulas, or ready-made cliches, or the smooth, ever-so-accommodating confirmations of what the powerful or conventional have to say, and what they do. Not just passively unwilling, but actively willing to say so in public…Least of all should an intellectual be there to make his or her audiences feel good: the whole point is to be embarrassing, contrary, even unpleasant…Real intellectuals are supposed to risk being burnt at the stake, ostracised, or crucified. – Edward Said
So who are the recognised intellectuals of today? Who are the people that speculate profoundly on all things metaphysical? Who are (to borrow a phrase from Foreign Policy magazine) our modern “Global reThinkers”? There are some obvious names that spring to my mind, although I am not sure if the people I am thinking of are intellectuals or if I just think they are, but here are my starters for ten: Adam Curtis, Armando Iannucci, Barbara Ehrenreich, Fareed Zakaria, Fran Lebowitz, Frankie Boyle John Gray, Karen Armstrong, Malcolm Gladwell, Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Noam Chomsky, Pankaj Mishra, Professor Robert George, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Imran Hosein, Slavoj Zizek, Steven Pinker, Tariq Ramadan, and Thomas Friedman, to name but some.
Sometimes intellectuals get things incredibly right (gold star to Samuel Huntington for his ‘clash of civilisations’ hypothesis; and similar plaudits to Edward Said for his analysis of orientalism), and sometimes they can be oh so wrong (a lifetime of detention for Francis Fukuyama and his ‘end of history’ nonsense; and feel free to ignore virtually any point made by the prominent Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali).
Whilst these are all people I have been aware of and admired for some time now, a new name can be added to this personal list of mine. Professor Jordan B Peterson is, to borrow from Said’s definition, someone who is completely unwilling to accept easy formulas, and he is actively willing to say so in public. Like all great intellectuals I may not always agree with what he is saying, but I most definitely admire the effort of thought that is put into what is being said. In a famously controversial interview he did for Channel 4 News with presenter Cathy Newman, Peterson said “I choose my words very, very carefully.”
Peterson recently came to prominence due to his online presence on YouTube and due to his best-selling book 12 Rules For Life. This new found fame has brought Peterson his fair share of admirers. Tom Bartlett describes him as “an obscure psychology professor [who] now he leads a flock of die-hard disciples.” Dorian Lynskey says he is a “psychology professor and culture warrior.” Zack Beauchamp says he is an “obscure Canadian psychologist turned right-wing celebrity.” Slavoj Zizek pins him down as an “alt-right scientist,” whereas Melanie Phillips describes him as “a kind of secular prophet…in an era of lobotomised conformism.” Camille Paglia anointed him “the most important and influential Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan.” And then we have David Brooks who takes this to the next level by declaring Peterson as “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now,” a view shared by economist Tyler Cowen.
Being an online celebrity means he also has his critics, mainly due to what people perceive his views to be on race, gender, politics, and religion. A good overview of where he stands on various topics is presented by Dorian Lynskey in a Guardian profile, well worth a read.
I recently saw a two and half hour interview Peterson gave. The interview topic was ‘Religion, Myth, Science, And Truth: An Evening Of Darwinian Thought With Dr Jordan B Peterson.’ During the interview Peterson does indeed manage to cover the big topics of religion, myth, science, and truth, but he also touches on other complicated subject matters such as dominance hierarchies, Darwinism, Egyptian and Mesopotamian theologies, patterns, archetypes, Jung, Nietzsche, rationalism, patriarchy, Mother Nature, the Columbine school shooting, the invention of sacrifice, and so much more. His views on the Bible are particularly interesting as it seems to me that Peterson dissects and analyses the Bible to the same level of depth as the great Islamic scholar Imran Nazar Hosein does with the Qur’an.
It is only after listening to someone like Peterson that I realise how little I actually know, and how far it is possible to go when a person spends that much time and dedication to applied thinking. As someone who is trying to be a good Muslim I found the interview fascinating, in a mind expanding kind of way. One of the main concepts that emerged for me from all the lengthy discussions was that religion is not some simple man made concept to control the masses. Religion is far more complicated than that.
These ancient mythological representations, these old stories of morality, surely these things are primitive? As Peterson says quite a few times during the interview “Don’t be so sure.” These primitive religions were perhaps not so primitive. Instead they can be looked at as stepping stones, each helping us in our intellectual evolution, allowing us to determine what is moral and immoral, and what is rational and irrational. These ideas of morality are embedded in us today because they have been developed over large spans of time, mainly through religious practice and understanding. This is something that atheists and rationalists ignore, so much so that at one point Peterson refers to Dawkins and his ilk as wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Maybe, perhaps, just perhaps, religion is more embedded into our psyche than we realise, or would care to realise.
This is something I have thought about often, but never really had the intellect to articulate, not until I heard Peterson do so so brilliantly in this interview. Anyways, a link to the entire interview is presented below, along with some of my favourite quotes, as per usual. It has been virtually impossible to pick out my favourite bits as the whole discussion is so in-depth, intense, and wide ranging in topic. These quotes, whilst interesting in their own right, are taken out of their original context and are far more interesting when placed back in their original wider contexts. At times thoughts and ideas are presented in such numbers and at such speed that you find yourself having to catch your breath, exhausted from having to perform all those mental gymnastics. I lost count of the number of times I paused or rewound a clip to reflect on what was just said. Anyways, enjoy!
Religion, Myth, Science, And Truth: An Evening Of Darwinian Thought With Dr Jordan B Peterson
A discussion about Religion, Myth, Science and Truth. It was originally recorded by Transliminal in November 2015.
It’s not just rational behavior that drives people towards war. There’s an irrational element of it that you can’t explain without recourse to religious language. It’s the only language that’s deep enough to get at it properly.
There are patterns of action and perception in a sense, or cognitive categories, that’s another way of looking at it, that lie at the bottom of our thoughts. They structure the way that we look at the world. And they have a deep evolutionary basis. And they have the quality, in a sense, of God. And that really frightened me, that idea.
So, now, then you ask yourself, well, how do you determine whether or not a theory is true? Then you ask yourself, well, what do you mean by true? Well, then you’re in trouble. Because I think you can take a Newtonian perspective on that or a Darwinian perspective, but you can’t do both at the same time.
And you might say, well, of course the materialistic perspective is right. Look what we’ve built with it. We’ve built hydrogen bombs, for example. But then you might object to that by saying, well, yeah, we’ve built hydrogen bombs. But the only reason we could build them or were willing to was because we left things out of the equation. Well, what things? Well, things like, is it really a good idea to build hydrogen bombs, for example? I can give you another example of that. I read a book a while back that was written by a KGB officer who claimed to be exposing the inner workings of the Soviet scientific community with regards to biological warfare. And the people in the Institute that he described were trying to cross Ebola with smallpox because smallpox is extremely infectious and Ebola is extremely deadly. So like, that’s a valid scientific enterprise. OK. Then you think, oh, isn’t that interesting that that’s a valid scientific enterprise? Because obviously, that’s insane. So then you think, well, if it’s so obvious that that’s insane and it’s a valid scientific enterprise. Well, there’s some disconnect there between two different views of what constitute at least appropriate behavior. Now, you know that this is why the definitions of truth start to become so important. Like, is it truth as expressed in action? Is it truth as it serves Darwinian purposes? Is it truth as defined by the axioms of the materialist philosophy…which by the way, aren’t even true anymore, because if you go down far enough into material reality, now we know you hit a realm that’s so bizarre that we can’t even comprehend it. And there are implications of that bizarreness that we can’t comprehend. So I would say we will develop a materialist philosophy of consciousness eventually. But it won’t be using the same material that we use now.
There’s an implicit assumption that’s what’s out there, in objective space, is what’s real. OK, well, but the problem with that is that that’s an assumption about reality. Now, it’s obviously a powerful assumption. But here’s another way of looking at the Darwinian problem, as far as I can tell. So part of the reason that the Darwinians insist that random mutation is the source of continual — it’s not progress — continual survival is that the underlying environment changes, and it changes unpredictably. By its essential nature, it’s unpredictable. Thus, if it’s unpredictable, only random transformation can keep up with it, a lot of random transformation. Hopefully, the randomness of the environmental change will be matched by the randomness of the genetic change. OK. So what that means in part is that the environment, so to speak, is finally incomprehensible because you can’t predict it. OK. So that means that a limited creature that’s established itself by Darwinian means can’t have access to the truth. They can only have access to sufficient truth. And sufficient truth is the truth that allows you to survive and reproduce. And from a Darwinian perspective, there isn’t any truth past that. So I don’t think Dawkins is a Darwinian. I think he’s a Newtonian because he believes that there is truth. The Darwinians don’t believe that. The Darwinians say, no, there’s enough truth to keep you alive and have you survive, and that’s all. And eventually all that’s going to go to because, you know, 99.5% of all species are extinct…Look, the American pragmatists figured this out in the late 1800s.
A simple part of the problem too is that because science is reductionistic, whenever you measure something extremely accurately, there’s a whole bunch of other things you’re not measuring. And your assumption is that the knowledge gained by that precision isn’t undone by the dismissal of everything else. Well, is that a valid claim? It depends on what your preconditions are for determining validity. Like, automobiles get you from point A to point B. You might say, well, that’s their fundamental purpose. That’s what they were designed to do. But I could say, well, no, it turns out that there are fundamental consequence, if not purpose, is the complete transformation of cities, the demolition of the rural communities, and the destruction of the atmosphere. It’s like, oh, we left something out. Yeah, you left something out. So you gain precision. But you pay for it with the loss of something else.
If a truth drives you insane, it’s not a truth. There’s something wrong with it.
What I think about religion is very Darwinian. I think religion is evolved knowledge. And it’s knowledge about action. And the world is made out of action, especially the human world. And so you can’t say well, that’s not real. It’s like, that’s wrong. It’s real.
The fundamentals of truth are those that guide action. And then the object of science is nested inside that. It has to be. There’s no way around that.
What are the principles that guarantee universal success? So you might say, well, that’s the ultimate question of life. It’s like, yes, that is the ultimate question of life.
It’s complicated. But one of the things that Jung recognized was that the core doctrine of Christianity, in some sense, is the truth buttresses you most thoroughly against the vicissitudes of being. That’s your salvation, the truth, the spoken truth. So you might say, well, people say, Christians say, well, if you believe in Christ you’re saved. Well, what do you mean by belief exactly? You say Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And you say, I believe that. Just because you say that, doesn’t mean you believe it at all. It has almost no bearing on what you believe. The question is, how do you act? And the fundamental question that’s under all that is, is your speech true?
The story that underlies Christianity — and it’s not only Christianity, but it’s Christianity that I’m most familiar with — is that the rule is live in accordance with the truth and see what happens. So in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, Christ basically says, set your sights on allegiance to God. It’s like, whatever the highest value is, we’ll say. And act in a manner that’s concordant with that. So that’s your goal. Then pay attention to the here and now, your best strategy for the future. Then you might say, well, prove that. Well, that that’s when the question starts to become existential. It’s like, well, you can’t prove it. You have to try it. That’s like Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. You cannot tell if this works unless you do it. And that’s a commitment.
The figure of evil throughout history is always the hyper rational intellect. And the reason for that is the intellect is God’s highest angel. So that’s Lucifer. And it falls in love with its own creations. It likes to make totalities out of its own creation. Once there’s a totality, there’s no room for the transcendent. There’s no god. That’s Satan’s error, by the way. And everything immediately turns into hell.
There’s information in chaos. And we’re information scavengers. And that’s our niche. It’s like, outside what we know, there’s information.
The Enlightenment is like, it’s really thin paint on a mile deep piece of rock. It’s nothing. One of the things I really liked about reading Jung was that Jung tracks the development of thought say, back 10,000 years. It’s like, wow, that’s a 10,000 year span of history. That’s a long time. It’s like, well, not compared to 300 million years. That’s a really long time. OK so if we’re going to talk about the Darwinian underpinnings of the brain, or of the human organism, let’s use some time spans. So Dawkins has Darwinism painted on Enlightenment rationality. He’s an enlightenment guy. It’s like, rationality rules. It’s like, this is how you make sense of the world. It’s like, OK, well, we thought that more or less for 400 years. So what did we think for the other like, 300 million years? How did we manage without that if it’s truth? So, it’s a form of truth. It’s a partial form of truth. And it’s a powerful partial form of truth. But to say it’s truth? Well, then it depends on what you mean by truth.
Some things are only true for one thing. Some things are true for 10 things. Some things are true for a million things. It’s like, well, that’s a better truth. Well, and what the religious imagination, which is the imagination that’s concerned with values, is always trying to determine is well, what’s the highest value? That’s the religious question, what’s the highest value, which is what should you serve, let’s say, to ensure your viability across the broadest domain of time?
SPEAKER: What you’re saying is that religious systems that are often derided by, let’s say, enlightenment or post enlightenment thinkers for axioms that are just not true: that they are false about the world, that they are religious superstition, that they are clearly wrong, that they are backwards. But what you’re saying is they were and are very much true in the sense that they are almost pre-conscious representations of correct action…JORDAN PETERSON: And the environment in which correct action takes place, which is fundamentally the dominance hierarchy.
The universal isn’t real till it’s being made particular. And what we are are particular manifestations of the universal. And the particular and the universal are both important. So the general pattern is crucial. But so are the details. So the archetype is a general pattern. Your religious task, in a sense, is to figure out how to embody the archetype in actual time and space. So it’s a pattern. But, you know, you still have to fill in the details. And it’s not like the details are irrelevant. They’re really relevant.
JORDAN PETERSON: If you think about religions as at least in part variations of hero mythology, which they are in part, then it’s a story that can be told 1,000 times in 1,000 ways. I mean, that’s what the movie is if it’s an adventure movie. It’s always a hero myth of some sort. I mean, Christ, the ones we have now are almost purely archetypal, like all the superhero movies. Those are archetypal right to the core. And it’s funny because I know a comic book artist or author who writes Batman and Wolverine. And there’s a community that the comic figure serves. So if it’s Batman, and you’re a writer for Batman, you don’t just get to do anything with Batman. There are Batman rules. And the whole community of Batman fans, they know the rules. And so if you muck about with Batman, then they tell you. So Batman is actually an archetype that’s been generated by the collective. Right? And they all feel well, that’s not quite right. Well, why do you feel that the story isn’t quite right? Well, the answer to that is it’s like a Platonic answer. You know the story. You just don’t know that you know the story. And so when someone tells you the story properly you think, wow, that’s the story. It’s like, key in lock!…SPEAKER: Which is fascinating. And is your argument, then, that we know it’s right when we see it because it’s so ancient and ingrained in us on so many levels, biological and social?…JORDAN PETERSON: Absolutely. Yeah.
The conspiracy theorists, you know, the people who say, well, you know, this is all about control by the upper classes. It’s like, they assume that you can just generate up some arbitrary rules that happen to serve you, and then enforce them on a community. Well, no. Partly, but fundamentally no. You know. Because that’s not biological thinking. You know, that’s dawn of the industrial age thinking, or something like that, or post agricultural thinking. Who cares about that?! You know, let’s go back to when we lived in trees. We’ll go back 60 million years, and start talking about who we are from that perspective. And that’s just a start. We’re older than that. So it’s way too narrow a view. It’s not informed by biological reality.
All scientists are devoted to the truth. What truth? Maybe they’re devoted to the purpose of demonstrating that there’s no meaning in life so that they don’t have to bear any moral responsibility. It’s like, why not that? Oh, we wouldn’t think that. It’s like, well, I’m a psychoanalyst. I might think that because whenever anybody says to me I believe x, I think, what does that allow you not to believe? I’m for x. What are you against?
It’s more than that because as an individual, I’m an individual. But as a human, I’m not an individual at all. I’m this unbelievably old thing. I’m like, as old as life. I’m really old. Well, there’s the “me” in this, which is this thing that was like come around in 1962. But there’s the deeper reality of this thing that I am. You could say, well, that’s the Jungian self. That’s one way of looking at it. And it has its nature. It’s the human nature. Well, good and evil are human terms. Whether we refer to something transcendent, that’s a whole different question. That is not a simple question because we don’t know what role consciousness plays in being. So like the deepest strata of thought that I’ve encountered makes the case that the most real thing is the eternal battle between good and evil. And I’m prone to believe that. So what exactly that means, that’s a different story. It’s a complicated idea.
Objective reality encompassing mythology, that is one proposition. Mythology encompassing objective reality, that is another proposition. And that’s my proposition. It’s like, this (mythology) is way deeper than this (objective reality). It’s incomparably deeper. Now, that doesn’t mean this (objective reality) isn’t deep. It’s deep. But it’s sterile. And that’s dangerous. And then when you forget which is embedded in which, then you make mistakes. It’s like, yeah, well why not cross Ebola with smallpox? Well, that’s a good question. Why not do it? Well, you know, a rationalist would say, well, I’m capable of making that judgment. OK, well, let’s really specify that. What exactly do you mean that you’re capable of making that judgment? Because again, with Dawkins and his ilk, they make the claim that they can have their cake and eat it, too. So they can have all the benefits of an evolved morality, which is basically a Judeo-Christian morality in the West. And they can say, well, yeah, but we don’t have to accept any of the metaphysical presumptions. It’s like, says who? Yeah. You could be right, but why would you assume that you are? This is Nietzsche’s point, maybe the metaphysical presuppositions are absolutely necessary.
If you look carefully at the structure of the Old Testament, and Northrop Frye did this, Frye’s argument was basically this. Well, you’ve got the really old stories, forget about them, history starts basically with Abraham. What is the Old Testament about? The Israelites climb up to dominance. They get corrupt, they forget about the widows and the children. A prophet comes up and says, you better look out, you’re off the path. They ignore him. Whap! They’re in chaos for like a long time. They get all humble and they build themselves up again. And when they get power, they get all corrupt. And a prophet comes along and says, you better look out, you’re off the path, you’re not paying attention to the widows and the children, and all hell’s going to break loose. Like, bang, down they go. Six times. Is that arbitrary, or is that actually the right idea to derive from history? It’s like, power corrupts. So you make your kingdom, you make your empire, and it’s serving its proper purpose, but you let it get corrupt, things are going to fall apart. So I can give you an example of that. It’s like, what caused the flooding in New Orleans? A hurricane? No. No. Corruption. If the dikes would have been built properly, as everyone knew they should have been built. If all those millions of dollars hadn’t gone into the pockets of corrupt politicians, there wouldn’t have been any flood. In Holland, they build the dikes for the worst storm in 10,000 years. In New Orleans, they built them for the worst storm in 100 years. Well everyone knew that was insufficient. So why didn’t they do something about it? Well, if you get corrupt enough, God will send a flood. It’s like it’s an old story. It’s right. Now, the question is, who is God? Well, I would say the ancient Israelites never said who God was. They just said, look the hell out for him. You deviate from the path, man, you’re going to get flattened. The people who wrote that book…first of all, it was assembled loosely as a book. It’s a bunch of books. That’s what Bible means. It was edited and assembled across vast stretches of time. We have no idea what process led people to assemble it that way, except that they felt that that made sense. So they were guided by their internal intuition of meaning. Weirdly enough, it produced a document with a narrative. Now, the narrative is difficult in some ways to discern given all of the detail. So I would say, give our ancestors a break, for God sake. What do you want? You want absolute perfect coherence when they’re trying to be so inclusive? It’s very hard to be coherent when you’re trying to be inclusive. Those two things battle. So have a little respect. That’s how it looks to me. Those people weren’t stupid. They were seriously not stupid. And what they thought was not stupid.
OK, so you make your sacrifices. It’s like, why do people do that? God, that’s primitive. It’s like, no. The invention of the sacrifice was probably the single greatest stroke of genius that mankind ever was given or produced. What is a sacrifice? You give up something of value now so that things might be better in the future. It’s like that’s the human discovery. That’s the human discovery of time. Everybody makes sacrifices. It’s like, I’m going to go to university instead of partying and snorting cocaine. It’s like, because that’s fun. Why? Well, because if I organize my behavior properly and I make the right sacrifices, God will smile on me in the future, or at least the probability seems enhanced. It’s like, OK. Well, we don’t use the same terminology. Well, we use the same terminology. We don’t burn rabbits. But then again, we’re not agriculturalists. So the people who are playing with the idea of sacrifice, they were acting out the discovery of time. You can give up something now. Try to get a bone from a dog and tell him you’re going to give him two bones. It’s like, he doesn’t give a damn about that. Bone now! And we regard the civilized person as the person who’s capable of deferring gratification. Deferring gratification is a sacrifice. Does it please God? Well, everyone thinks so or they wouldn’t do it. So you burn the sacrifice. Why? Well, God’s in heaven. How else is he going to figure out the quality of your sacrifice? Well, you might say, well, that’s primitive. It’s like, don’t be so sure. It’s like, they got the sacrifice idea right. They got the awe part right. If they’re acting it out, it’s concretized. It’s like a drama. Does that make it primitive? Well, no. It’s not primitive. It’s unbelievably sophisticated. It’s ridiculously sophisticated. Because the mode in the Old Testament is you make the right sacrifices and you will thrive. It’s like, do we believe that? Yeah, it’s the basis of civilized behavior. You don’t get a complex civilization without that presupposition.
So it’s not like I dismissed the capacity of science to produce useful information, but I am also terrified of it. It’s like, there’s no reason to be so optimistic about scientific truth. The other thing that I’ve noticed about the rationalists — the empiricists, they’re sort of off in the same corner — is that they always make the assumption that if we transcend our historical religions, we’ll no longer be religious. And what we will be is rational. It’s like, I think, no, no. You’re completely out of your cotton-picking mind if you think that. It’s like, well, how do you account for the emergence of new age philosophy? It’s like, if you want incoherent, just take a wander through that desert. It’s like, you blow out these carefully constructed historical frameworks, what you get is like a rampant and insane Protestantism. The idea that people will magically become like Newton because we’ve blown out the substructure of morality. That’s so absurd that that’s the sort of thought that I think is motivated. It’s like, there’s a reason to believe that because who the hell would believe that? You don’t know anything about people if you believe that. It’s hard to think scientifically. It’s really hard.
Here’s a way of thinking, too. You can reduce religion to sort of Darwinian principles and sort of destroy it that way. Or, you can expand your notion of Darwinism, so that it actually encompasses the genuine phenomena of religion. Man! That is way more interesting.
What you assume to be true structures your argument. And you have to assume something to be true because you don’t have infinite knowledge. So you make that initial choice. Why? Well, it might be because you’re a true truth seeker. Well, I would be careful about making that claim because you’re probably not.
So then the question is, well, how do you best deal with complexity? And the reason I think truth is so useful is because generally it reduces complexity. I mean, one of the things that’s really useful about trying to say things that you believe to be true is you don’t have to remember what you said. It’s like, well, what did I say? Well, I don’t know, but I was trying to explain things properly. Then you don’t have to tear through all your rationalizations and think about what you have to keep track of. Deceptions, they grow. They’re like hydras. So well, don’t do that. OK. Truth, simpler. That’s one big advantage. And people can say, well, truth isn’t always the answer. Well, there are sometimes you get into a situation that’s so awful, you’ve made so many mistakes that not only would it be very difficult for truth to rescue you, you’ve already warped your character to such a degree that you couldn’t even use it. Well, you’ve had it. You’re off the radar at that point and nothing short of a miracle would save you.
My experience has been that, to the degree that I’m able to speak carefully, and I do speak carefully. And I don’t really care about the consequences. It isn’t that they don’t matter. It’s that I’m not speaking to produce a consequence. I’m just trying to say what seems to me to be the case. For me, that’s been incredibly, ridiculously, practically useful. Insanely useful. Like it’s opened doors that I would have never dreamed of opening. And in my professional life, it’s produced all sorts of opportunities. And it’s been a real aid in my private life, too. And in my professional life…I can’t believe that I’ve been able to lecture about the things that I lecture about without running mightily afoul of something. Because my classes are quite different than the standard psychology class or the standard university class. They’re very different. I don’t know. So far, it seems to be working, which is a surprise to me.
So that’s what I would say to people, is like select the domain in which you can act. Straighten it up first, and that’ll transform things a bit. You put your house in order. Then, you can start to put your town in order, or maybe your street, or maybe your neighbor. God only knows. Start where you can start. And you might think, well, what’s that? Well, it’s nothing you can wave a placard in the street about, which is a good thing. That’s like praying in public. This is more like praying in private. Fix up what you can fix up, and see what happens. And I don’t think that there’s anything that’s more powerful than that.