Truth be told

Nietzsche said that a man’s worth was determined by how much truth he could tolerate. You are by no means only what you already know. You are also that which you could know, if you only would. Thus you should never sacrifice what you could be for what you are.*
(Jordan Peterson)

As Rilke says: Hier zu sein ist so viel – to be here is immense.**
(John O’Donohue)

We are all richer than we know and we can be richer still.

This richness is in our complexity of being able to imagine and make and fail and keep going.

This is our truth.

Lies are easier to live with, mind: others are imaginative but not you; others make great things but no one wants what you have to bring; these others don’t know the meaning of the word failure; to keep going, then, when life has dealt such an impossible hand, is too difficult.

The lie requires you to keep moving, to be surrounded by noise, but find a place to stop and be quiet in, and listen to your heart beating, listen to the truth your life is:

It is so absolutely quiet that each person can hear the heartbeat of the person to his right or his left.^

Perhaps nothing will happen the first time you find this place, but keep going there and something will.

(*From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.)
(^From Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams.)


Immaculate conception

Meaning is the ultimate balance between, on the one hand, the chaos of transformation and possibility, and on the other, the discipline of pristine order, whose purpose is to produce out of the attendant chaos a new order that will be even more immaculate, and capable of bringing forth a still more balanced and productive chaos and order. Meaning is the Way, the path more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that. Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient.*
(Jordan Peterson)

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.**
(James the Apostle)

Seventeen years ago, I came across a metaphor for life that includes the dynamic and the static, how we need both, the dynamic producing the static and the static stimulating the dynamic. When either spins off into their own smaller orbit, it results in spiritism or idealism on the part of the dynamic, and traditionalism or organisationalism (amnd, dare I say, totalitarianism) on the part of the static.^

Whenever I come across similar thoughts, I stop and notice.

Wallace Stevens offers just such a possibility when he writes about the new reality coming about when the pressure of reality meets the power of imagination.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes similarly with the concepts of belonging and exploration.^^

This is what Jordan Peterson offers us in the opening words for today. We find meaning between the chaos of the new or unfamiliar and the order of the old or familiar.

Albert Einstein claimed for himself:

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.*^

When we realise we hardly know anything, curiosity is what we need if we are to move from the static-familiar into the dynamic-unfamiliar, understanding that we’re able then incorporate and integrate the new-familiar into who we are and what we produce.

Curiosity doesn’t try to talk over what we are becoming aware of. First of all it needs to listen and inquire and learn.

You may enjoy Rebecca Elson’s poem Theories of Everything:^*

(When the lecturer’s shirt matches the painting on the wall)

He stands there speaking without love
Of theories where, in the democracy
Of this universe, or that,
There could be legislators
Who ordain trajectories for falling bodies,
Where all things must be dreamed with indifference,
And purpose is a momentary silhouette
Backlit by a blue anthropic flash,
A storm on the horizon.

But even the painting on the wall behind,
Itself an accident of shattered symmetries,
Is only half eclipsed by his transparencies
Of hierarchy and order,
And the history of thought.

And what he cannot see is this:
Himself projected next to his projections
Where the colours from the painting
Have spilled onto his shirt,
Their motion stilled into a rigorous
Design of lines and light.

(*From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)
(**James 1:19-20.)
(^See Christian Schwarz’s Paradigm Shift in the Church.)
See Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity.)
(*^Albert Einstein, quoted in Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)
(^*Rebeca Elson’s Theories of Everything, quoted in maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Universe in Verse.)

Some tension in-between

No tree can grow to Heaven unless its roots reach down to Hell.*
(Carl Jung)

What if it was the case that the world revealed whatever goodness it contains in precise proportion to your desire for the best?**
(Jordan Peterson)

We want the easy life, to be special in some way, for life to work for us, to be in control, and perhaps, even, to live forever.

None of these seem particularly harmful and yet history shows us that none of us are free from dealing great harm when are free to roam wherever they will.

We need to be tethered and the tether is a five corded hawser, a means of focusing more powerfully our hopes and wants:

Life is hard;
We are not as special as we think;
Our lives are not about us;
We are not in control;
We are going to die.

The tension created between what we want and how life is where we find ourselves most alive and useful and caring, where our greatest joys and the world’s deepest needs meet.

Slackness, the separation of one from the other, is what we have to avoid.

(*Carl Jung, quoted in Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)
(**From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)

Where haven’t you looked yet?

getting what we currently wan can make us bond to higher callings*
(Jordan Peterson)

Is it good? Really good? Do you like it? You can also focus on what work does that can’t be measured. What it does to your soul.**
(Austin Kleon)

Whatever you’re focused on means you’re not seeing something else.

If you’ve been focusing on it for a while, it means other things have been neglected for some time.

There’ll come a point when the things you’ve been neglecting are exactly the tools you need right now for the challenge or opportunity (sometimes the same thing) standing before you.

You can despair, believing you’ve missed what you realise you’ve been looking for, just in the wrong places, or you can take a deep breath, embrace the fact that this is going to take a little longer, and take a slow, long look in the places you haven’t looked before.

(*From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rule for Life.)
(**From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)

My responsibility

I’m sorry.

When I blamed you, I surrendered my responsibility.
When I reacted the way I did
I closed the matter and walked away:
It was your fault and there was nothing for me to learn.

I am here to take it back.
I ought to have at least paused,
Considered the options, selected my response:
Was it my fault or yours?

My responsibility, though, is larger now.
It’s growing up, calling on the fullness of
Who I am and all I have,
Imagining a future neither you nor I had first seen.

I’m sorry I held this back from you.

Everyday truths

How you do what you do is your competitive advantage.*
(Bernadette Jiwa)

If we lived in Truth; if we spoke the Truth – then we would walk with God once again, and respect ourselves, and others, and the world.**
(Jordan Peterson)

Some, not knowing the truth and not wanting to look bad or incompetent, make it up.

Others, know the truth, but hide it because it doesn’t provide them with the advantage they desire.

None of us are free from these temptations. In some way or other we play with order and chaos, yet those who make the seeking of the truth their how in life will spread goodness.

With his understanding of myths, Jordan Peterson writes:

The moral of Genesis 1 is that Being brought into existence through true speech is Good.**

The point is, each of us has the incredible capacity to use true speech and bring Goodness into our world with and for others:

[Good’s] existence is the unmistakable sign that we are spiritual creatures, attracted by excellence and made for good.^

We might say, we’re only becoming what we are made for.

(*From The Story of Telling: The Empathy Advantage.)
(**From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)
(^From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)

Flawed but not floored

You are strong, fearless, self-sufficient, you make time for reading, thinking, quiet contemplation, meditation or prayer. This need not cost a penny.*
(Tom Hodgkinson)

When writing action, it’s imperative to remember this key principle: spectacle isn’t meaning. The key to action is life and death.**
(Robert McKee)

Tom Hodgkinson’s opening words are flawed but they are also true.

We are all flawed but when we accept this then something wonderful and meaningful happens.

Maybe we could get to perfect if life were not so full of life and death struggles.

Jordan Peterson tells of when he and his wife took in a neighbour’s four year old son for the day, mentioning that he wouldn’t eat all day, adding, “That’s okay.”

But it wasn’t okay and a straightforward battle over food followed and the four year old won.

He ate his food, having been told he was a good boy and then broke into a broad smile:

Ten not-too-painful minutes later he finished his meal. We were all watching intently. It was a drama of life and death.^

Or someone says a hurtful thing about a piece of work you did. You shrug it off but every time you repeat that work, the words come back to mind. It’s a matter of life and death.

Protagonist versus the antagonism.

I include Hodgkinson’s words because this place of quiet contemplation is where we can overcome the antagonism we carry around with us, opening a true sense of who we are, allowing us to become stronger and more creative – a blossoming of ideas and dreams that we can move into the day and give some shape to.

The truest form of alchemy because we know we are flawed but whole.

(*From Tom Hodgkinson’s Business for Bohemians.)
(**From Robert McKee’s blog: Why Action Writing is a Matter of Life and Death.)
(^From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)