An open letter to Doctor Jordan Peterson
I, among multitudes of others, have found you to be a welcome relief from all the PC-oriented chatter which seems to have clogged our channels of communication around the world. You, among too few others, have been successful in explaining and muffling their incessant noise. You have consistently been able to counter the most recent bag of garbage to drop from their capacious garbage trucks. And with expertise—marshaling facts and figures drawn from a dizzying array of authoritative sources—you have not only been able to explain the droppings, but to confidently disassemble and explain the truck itself. And as an accomplished instructor, you have patiently and with clarity, explained the derivation and original purpose of each of the mechanisms being used by all the well-intentioned garbagepersons who deliver this trash.
Thank you, Doctor Peterson, for your hard-fought and inestimably valuable service to us all.
The purpose of this missive is to be of possible service to you. There may be some help in looking from a slightly different viewpoint at the various demons which may be camping in your vicinity while you make your painful escape from prescription drugs. I've developed what seems to be a unique stance from which to view errant thoughts as they stream by. May my musings be of use to you. The bottom line is that if you can look at it – it ain't you! I hope you return to us soon – no matter your route.
On a personal note, I unfortunately do not fit the generally youthful demographics of one of your fans. Although I have been cursed with maleness, whiteness, and a tenderness of heart regarding the American Dream—as described in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights—I have misspent my youth, and am now even older than you!
And I know that in the use of the word fan, I am not in lockstep with your rejection of that term. But in spite of the mindless attachment to another that the word fan conjures up – I am one. You are perhaps more analogous to a sports star, then a singer of grunge rock. When you are on the field of play, I feel an aura of happy expectation that I'm about to witness yet another victory of logic and reason, over mindless feelings and good intentions. (A caveat: this may not be the last time in this letter that I seem to disagree with you.)
In my misspent youth—late teens to early twenties—I lead a career as an undergraduate, ostensibly majoring in Philosophy. Even as a little kid I was always wondering what the hell was going on. But following on the urgings of such as Doctor Timothy Leary and Frank Zappa – tune in, turn on, quit school, why fake it? – I left academia for a more homegrown system of inquiry. Following on the happy realization that life had to be good, or it wasn't worth it – I spent the next 25 years with a new-agey group that specialized in regression therapy. Interesting vistas. Since then, I have continued on as a lone Seeker.
I feel that I have made great strides forward in my quest. But I have cut so many lines to my past teachers and authorities, that I have had to come up with a new name for the body of my speculations. I call it Trinity Gnostic Solipsism. And I call myself a Mystic Solipsist.
The Trinity above, is the ancient Vedantic triad of the Life Experience: Be/Do/Have. As far as I can see, every Life Experience can be described by fitting any and all of its components into one of those three pigeonholes. And they don't overlap. Similar to tailoring one's diet to the health benefits from individual foods—and eschewing the rest—I have come to see that all Experience can be assigned to one of these food-for-thought groups. And depending upon that which I am currently focused, I see myself actualized in one of three Selves. I will quickly define the Trinity of Selves which I find intuitively in every Life Experience.
A) The first Self, I call the Player. And it is first because of its moment to moment immediacy. In the fundamental Triad of Be/Do/Have, the Player fills the Do slot. For a long time I had called it the Spirit Identity – which is a good definition; it lasted me for years. The term identity, pulled me from ethereal heights, and tended to plant me here on the Earth, subject to Words with which to compare me with Others, and thus come up with a profile or identity. But when I think of myself, Spirit Identity is not an intuitive term. Player, on the other hand describes me much more intuitively. I'm the guy who is continually rolling the dice and making moves in the Game of Life – just trying to do the best I can with each roll. Much like in any board game, a Player is not physically on the board of play, but exterior to it, and other than it. My Body is that which is physically involved in the game. My Body is my Piece, so to speak.
For all the years from my hippie days, to just recently, I had focused on myself as a Spiritual Being. That is certainly not untrue, nor a waste of time, but in the Game of Life, while it might be what I'm reaching for—and potentially ultimately am—it is not the intuitive status in which I know myself on a moment to moment basis.
Along the way, I have reduced any and all Life Experiences to one simple sentence: I am experiencing This! This statement is one of Action. In every moment I am doing something – if only perceiving, or speculating. Those are activities I do in private – in here where no one else can reach. They are mental activities – shielded by my skull from casual observation. Of course I also act out there in the Real World – in front of God and everybody. I do that by squeezing the muscles of my Body, putting it into motion – in that way I make it move about the board in the Game of Life. (And I'll repeat a critical point: I am always doing my best, given the circumstances. All life forms are always doing their best, from their points of view. Adam Smith's Invisible Hand – gone viral! And it is good....)
As a Solipsist, I recognize that I am trapped (as it were) within my Mentality. That is the indisputable logical conclusion I must accept. I am not at all concerned by the inescapability of my condition, but… I recognize that I do not live by Logic alone. I am awash with feelings and emotions, plus there is my Body's insistence that there is a real world of Things out there. Based on Logic or no – I must give this visceral take on Reality its due. Viscerality : Logic :: Emotion : Reason. As a Player it's about a 50/50 split on average (although personally, I'm more at ease dealing with Logic).
So as Player I am the active interface between my longed for Pure Spirituality, and the facts of the Matter and Energy I perceive in the Real World. I am always acting, always trying to make Things better.
B) The second Self up for discussion—my spiritual Self—I call the Independent Spirit. (It has the happy acronym of the IS.) Such as Psyche and Soul are close, more common names. But these terms often stray too far from my meaning. The IS is my static Self that never changes. It is the same "I" it was last week, and earlier when I had a baby's body, and it will be the same "I" if I ever get a new model.
I reject most of the Abrahamic concept of being created in God's image. I'm fairly sure I'm not so pretty as God, so the God's-image assertion must mean that I share similar, more spiritual Qualities with Him, Her, or It. And I reject out of hand the idea of being created! Being created robs one of all Responsibility! Surely, God wasn't created; so, in that regard we're in the same boat. Interestingly, I have come to occasionally apply the same ontological and cosmological arguments to myself as the IS that I used to reserve for God. But since by definition, Spirit is no Thing, applying Words to it is a tricky business. I'll just stick with an abiding Mystery for now.
My favorite analogy to describe this Be aspect of myself, is to think of God as a pure infinite volume of loving Whiteness. And I am a mere pixel of color – a unique point within that volume. And each IS, running whatever kind of Body—plant or animal—has its own unique hue. In this analogy, if you and I and all other living beings were able to maximize and optimally glow ourselves into a living harmony – in that harmony of spirit, we might attain to the pure Whiteness of God.
I used to call this aspect, the Individual Spirit – to reflect my being set off from all Others. But the word Independent also carries the sense of being a unique individual, while additionally suggesting my ultimate Responsibility for my own Life Experience.
Holding with my independence of spirit, I insist that the Qualities I bring to the Game of Life are in some manner unique – just like my pale blue pixel is unique. And my unique packet of godly Qualities explains Kant's concerns about the a priori, and also gives hope to Nietzsche's challenge that I step up and take responsibility for forgoing somebody else's definition of God – and find Truth for myself.
Metanarratives are all well and good! They may be ubiquitous and swell, but they ain't me. And whenever I find myself mindlessly parroting ancient wisdom, I take a break until the fit passes. As Margret Mead is rumored to have said, Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.
And while I'm quoting others, let me have my way with Descartes for a moment. I have disassembled his famous, I think, therefore, I am! into two more logical statements: 1) I... therefore I am!; and 2) I think, therefore I have Thoughts! #1 covers the IS; and #2 covers both the Player in action, and the Personae (see below) with its Things.
The IS is quite obviously the Be aspect of myself.
C) The third Self is the Have aspect. This Self deals with physical, measurable chunks of Matter and splashes of Energy – in what appears to be the Real World. And it also deals with my current Ideas, Considerations, Emotions, etc, about that Real World – mental and resistant to measure, though they may be. The Player thinks in here, and orders the Body around in the Real World as it sees fit. The Body acts, and is acted upon out there. It feels, and has Emotions, but it doesn't think. While the Body is certainly at the center of this Have aspect – it is not all of it. What I call the Personae is the complete package. It is the physical Body, plus all the Phenomena and Epiphenomena of which the Body is aware in any Life Experience.
Phenomena are all the out there Things the Body tells me about via its sense organs. Epiphenomena are the created mental Things that I, as Player, speculate into existence in here, as I ponder the Phenomena on which my Body reports. The Personae (plural Personaes) can be thought of as the complete inventory of all the Things in any Life Experience – both phenomenal and epiphenomenal. Both are Things. And I as Player am neither.
And of great importance, are the epiphenomenal speculations about Who I am being in any given Life Experience. At the Player's whim, the Body will dance and sing on the stage of life. And if we were not aware of an audience, the concept of Who we were being would not present itself. But the fact is – we do perceive an audience. And depending on their mixture of clapping and booing, we determine Who we are. Who I am is epiphenomenal. And in this regard, Who we are is really our best bet at guessing Who others think we are. We can say that the phenomenal Body plus the epiphenomenal considerations of Who we are equals the Personae.
Summing up: The Player describes the in here world of Mentality; the Independent Spirit describes the ineffable world of Spirituality; and the Personae describes the out there Real World of Things. And as an aside: All we ever really know is encapsulated in HereNow – the Current Life Experience.
I know the above is a very brief and underdeveloped statement of my speculations regarding the Life Experience. But I am confident that you can see the Logic of the terms I am stringing together in my Metaphysics.
And to the purpose at hand: I hope that offering you another angle on your being able to distance your Self from the horrors—mental, physical, and emotional—with which you are currently contending, will help in some way. Just recognizing that as Jordan Peterson, the Player, if you can see it, say it, or think about it – it ain't you, might give you some added relief.
PS – Thank you for being the inspiration for my sharing my speculations as above. Some of my more secular ravings can be found at MLGov.org, and GoIDCSA.com. Be well, JH