Maps of Meaning with Jordan Peterson: Part 2, Life is Deadly Serious

Ok, let's jump right in.

Peterson begins Maps of Meaning with a Preface, which is largely autobiographical, his personal journey that led him to the discipline of psychology and the writing of the book.

Let's stop right here, given my purposes in this series. Recall, the goal of this series is to understand what makes Jordan Peterson so compelling to people. And the Preface to Maps of Meaning illustrates, I think, a bit of his magic.

Specifically, Peterson doesn't write or speak as a disinterested academic. Peterson is, rather, on a personal quest to save his soul from the devil and damnation. Or, at least, damnation and the devil as understood from a Jungian perspective. More of that to come. This is what strikes you most when you watch Peterson deliver his lectures on the Bible, that he is personally wrestling with, live and in front of you, serious, personal business. As he talks he gets lost in a personal reflection. He looks into the abyss. He recoils in horror. He tears up with emotion. Jordan Peterson is playing a very high stakes game, and he insists that you play along. This may be his core message, "Life is deadly serious. You need to wake up because you are, right now, teetering on the brink of disaster."

This, in my estimation, is what sets Peterson apart from most public intellectuals, academics, and pundits. Peterson isn't opining about the world. He's not giving you a TED talk about his big idea. He doesn't care about smooth or practiced oratory. He doesn't use compelling stories to interest or move you. He doesn't gather facts, statistics or graphs. He doesn't spend time doing what 99.99% of social media does: talking about the bad behavior of other people. In fact, Peterson is noteworthy, I think, in not trying to convince you of anything at all. Rather, when you watch Jordan Peterson you are bearing witness to something happening right in front of you.

People can debate this impression of mine, but when you watch Peterson on the stage delivering his Bible lectures what you see is a man wrestling, like Jacob at the Jabbok, with some great mystery upon which everything hangs in the balance, for himself most especially. And it's this pathos and intensity that makes Peterson so compelling and unique. 

Is there a lesson here for preachers, pastors and those speaking about God in our culture? I think so.

My take. I think people are drowning. There's a desperation in the air. Consequently, people want to listen to someone who begins right there, with the desperation. People don't want to listen to someone who is funny or smart or a blessed mixture of both. They want to listen to someone who thinks life is a deadly serious game. Someone who looks into the abyss and demands that you look as well. Someone who is telling you to wake up because you are, right now, teetering on the brink of a disaster. 

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