Book Reviews

12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

32. 12 Rules For Life - Jordan Peterson

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Rating: 9/10

Date of reading: 29th of September – 10th of October, 2018

Description: The great Jordan Peterson and his bestselling book which sold 3 million copies in 2018 — 12 Rules Of Life. The book describes the relationship between order and chaos. Have too much order and life becomes unbearable. Have too much chaos and life becomes unbearable too. The solution? Just the right amount of order and chaos. How to do that? Through the 12 Rules For Life.


My notes:


Foreword by Norman Doidge


“And judged we are. After all, God didn’t give Moses “The Ten Suggestions,” he gave Commandments; and if I’m a free agent, my first reaction to a command might just be that nobody, not even God, tells me what to do, even if it’s good for me. But the story of the golden calf also reminds us that without rules we quickly become slaves to our passions—and there’s nothing freeing about that.” ( :5)

“Combining evolution, the neuroscience of emotion, some of the best of Jung, some of Freud, much of the great works of Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Eliade, Neumann, Piaget, Frye and Frankl, Maps of Meaning, published nearly two decades ago, shows Jordan’s wide-ranging approach to” ( :8)

“understanding how human beings and the human brain deal with the archetypal situation that arises whenever we, in our daily lives, must face something we do not understand” ( :9)

“Communism borrowed from the story of the Children of Israel in Egypt, with an enslaved class, rich persecutors, a leader, like Lenin, who goes abroad, lives among the enslavers, and then leads the enslaved to the promised land (the utopia; the dictatorship of the proletariat).” ( :9)

“I relate this, because years after we became friends, when Jordan would take a classical liberal stand for free speech, he would be accused by left-wing extremists as being a right-wing bigot.” ( :10)

“Rearing kids is hard, work is hard, aging, sickness and death are hard, and Jordan emphasized that doing all that totally on your own, without the benefit of a loving relationship, or wisdom, or the psychological insights of the” ( :10)

“greatest psychologists, only makes it harder. He wasn’t scaring the students; in fact, they found this frank talk reassuring, because in the depths of their psyches, most of them knew what he said was true, even if there was never a forum to discuss it—perhaps because the adults in their lives had become so naively overprotective that they deluded themselves into thinking that not talking about suffering would in some way magically protect their children from it.” ( :11)

“ordan focused on triumphant heroes. In all these triumph stories, the hero has to go into the unknown, into an unexplored territory, and deal with a new great challenge and take great risks. In the process, something of himself has to die, or be given up, so he can be reborn and meet the challenge.” ( :11)

“The first idea or teaching is that morality is relative, at best a personal “value judgment.” Relative means that there is no absolute right or wrong in anything; instead, morality and the rules associated with it are just a matter of personal opinion or happenstance, “relative to” or “related to” a particular framework, such as one’s ethnicity, one’s upbringing, or the culture or historical moment one is born into. It’s nothing but an accident of birth. According to this argument (now a creed), history teaches that religions, tribes, nations and ethnic groups tend to disagree about fundamental matters, and always have” ( :11)

“So, the decent thing to do—once it becomes apparent how arbitrary your, and your society’s, “moral values” are—is to show tolerance for people who think differently, and who come from different (diverse) backgrounds. That emphasis on tolerance is so paramount that for many people one of the worst character flaws a person can have fn1 is to be “judgmental.” And, since we don’t know right from wrong, or what is good, just about the most inappropriate thing an adult can do is give a young person advice about how to live.” ( :12)

“The study of virtue is not quite the same as the study of morals (right and wrong, good and evil). Aristotle defined the virtues simply as the ways of behaving that are most conducive to happiness in life. Vice was defined as the ways of behaving least conducive to happiness.” ( :12)

“Cultivating judgment about the difference between virtue and vice is the beginning of wisdom, something that can never be out of date.” ( :12)

“o, right alongside relativism, we find the spread of nihilism and despair, and also the opposite of moral relativism: the blind certainty offered by ideologies that claim to have an answer for everything. And so we arrive at the second teaching that millennials have been bombarded with. They sign up for a humanities course, to study greatest books ever written. But they’re not assigned the books; instead they are given ideological attacks on them, based on some appalling simplification.” ( :12)

“When the ancient Greeks sailed to India and elsewhere, they too discovered that rules, morals and customs differed from place to place, and saw that the explanation for what was right and wrong was often rooted in some ancestral authority. The Greek response was not despair, but a new invention: philosophy” ( :13)

“Scccccratccch the most clever postmodern-relativist professor’s Mercedes with a key, and you will see how fast the mask of relativism (with its pretense that there can be neither right nor wrong) and the cloak of radical tolerance come off.” ( :13)

“So why not call this a book of “guidelines,” a far more relaxed, user-friendly and less rigid sounding term than “rules”? Because these really are rules. And the foremost rule is that you must take responsibility for your own life. Period.” ( :14)




“has been viewed by a hundred and twenty thousand people and been upvoted twenty-three hundred times. Only a few hundred of the roughly six hundred thousand questions on Quora have cracked the two-thousand-upvote barrier. My procrastination-induced musings hit a nerve. I had written a 99.9 percentile answer.” ( :15)

“On the radio show, I suggested, instead, that a deeper meaning was required. I noted that the nature of such meaning was constantly re-presented in the great stories of the past, and that it had more to do with developing character in the face of suffering than with happiness. This is part of the long history of the present work.” ( :16)

“great myths and religious stories of the past, particularly those derived from an earlier, oral tradition, were moral in their intent, rather than descriptive.” ( :16)

“Order is where the people around you act according to well-understood social norms, and remain predictable and cooperative. It’s the world of social structure, explored territory, and familiarity. The state of Order is typically portrayed, symbolically—imaginatively—as masculine. It’s the Wise King and the Tyrant, forever bound together, as society is simultaneously structure and oppression. Chaos, by contrast, is where—or when—something unexpected happens. Chaos emerges, in trivial form, when you tell a joke at a party with people you think you know and a silent and embarrassing chill falls over the gathering. Chaos is what emerges more catastrophically when you suddenly find yourself without employment, or are betrayed by a lover. As the antithesis of symbolically masculine order, it’s presented imaginatively as feminine. It’s the new and unpredictable suddenly emerging in the midst of the commonplace familiar. It’s Creation and Destruction, the source of new things and the destination of the dead (as nature, as opposed to culture, is simultaneously birth and demise).” ( :16)

“This was partly because I had spent a very long time researching my first book: studying history, mythology, neuroscience, psychoanalysis, child psychology, poetry, and large sections of the Bible. I read and perhaps even understood much of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Goethe’s Faust and Dante’s Inferno.” ( :17)

“It isn’t precisely that people will fight for what they believe. They will fight, instead, to maintain the match between what they believe, what they expect, and what they desire. They will fight to maintain the match between what they expect and how everyone is acting. It is precisely the maintenance of that match that enables everyone to live together peacefully, predictably and productively. It reduces uncertainty and the chaotic mix of intolerable emotions that uncertainty inevitably produces” ( :18)


RULE 1 / Stand up straight with your shoulders back


“When the aristocracy catches a cold, as it is said, the working class dies of pneumonia.” ( :25)

“When a defeated lobster regains its courage and dares to fight again it is more likely to lose again than you would predict, statistically, from a tally of its previous fights. Its victorious opponent, on the other hand, is more likely to win.” ( :28)

“percent11— where the top 1 percent have as much loot as the bottom 50 and where the richest eighty-five people have as much as the bottom three and a half billion.” ( :28)

“The majority of scientific papers are published by a very small group of scientists. A tiny proportion of musicians produces almost all the recorded commercial music. Just a handful of authors sell all the books. A million and a half separately titled books (!) sell each year in the US. However, only five hundred of these sell more than a hundred 12 thousand copies. Similarly, just four classical composers (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky) wrote almost all the music played by modern orchestras. Bach, for his part, composed so prolifically that it would take decades of work merely to hand-copy his scores, yet only a small fraction of this prodigious output is commonly performed. The same thing applies to the output of the other three members of this group of hyper-dominant composers: only a small fraction of their work is still widely played. Thus, a small fraction of the music composed by a small fraction of all the classical composers who have ever composed makes up almost all the classical music that the world knows and loves. 13 This principle is sometimes known as Price’s law, after Derek J. de Solla Price, the researcher who discovered its application in science in 1963” ( :28)

“Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), an Italian polymath, noticed its applicability to wealth distribution in the early twentieth century, and it appears true for every society ever studied, regardless of governmental form. It also applies to the population of cities (a very small number have almost all the people), the mass of heavenly bodies (a very small number hoard all the matter), and the frequency of words in a language (90 percent of communication occurs using just 500 words), among many other things. Sometimes it is known as the Matthew Principle (Matthew 25:29), derived from what might be the harshest statement ever attributed to Christ: “to those who have everything, more will be given; from those who have nothing, everything will be taken.”” ( :28)

“It should be pointed out, however, that sheer physical power is an unstable basis on which to found Waal15 lasting dominance, as the Dutch primatologist Frans de has taken pains to demonstrate. Among the chimp troupes he studied, males who were successful in the longer term had to buttress their physical prowess with more sophisticated attributes. Even the most brutal chimp despot can be taken down, after all, by two opponents, each three-quarters as mean. In consequence, males who stay on top longer are those who form reciprocal coalitions with their lower-status compatriots, and who pay careful attention to the troupe’s females and their infants. The political ploy of baby-kissing is literally millions of years old. But lobsters are still comparatively primitive, so the bare plot elements of Beast and Beauty suffice for them.” ( :29)

“At this point another female will attempt the same thing—and so on. The dominant male, with his upright and confident posture, not only gets the prime real estate and easiest access to the best hunting grounds. He also gets all the girls. It is exponentially more worthwhile to be successful, if you are a lobster, and male.” ( :29)

“New features may be added, and old features may undergo some alteration, but most things remain the same. It is for this reason that the wings of bats, the hands of human beings, and the fins of whales look astonishingly alike in their skeletal form. They even have the same number of bones. Evolution laid down the cornerstones for basic physiology long ago.” ( :30)

“Mark Twain once said, “It’s not what we don’t know that gets us in trouble. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”” ( :30)

“Nature is not simply dynamic, either. Some things change quickly, but they are nested within other things that change less quickly (music frequently models this, too). Leaves change more quickly than trees, and trees more quickly than forests. Weather changes faster than climate. If” ( :31)

“It’s chaos, within order, within chaos, within higher order. The order that is most real is the order that is most unchanging— and that is not necessarily the order that is most easily seen. The leaf, when perceived, might blind the observer to the tree. The tree can blind him to the forest. And some things that are most real (such as the ever-present dominance hierarchy) cannot be “seen” at all.” ( :31)

“The order within the chaos and order of Being is all the more “natural” the longer it has lasted. This is because “nature” is “what selects,” and the longer a feature has existed the more time it has had to be selected—and to shape life. It does not matter whether that feature is physical and biological, or social and cultural. All that matters, from a Darwinian perspective, is permanence—and the dominance hierarchy, however social or cultural it might appear, has been around for some half a billion years. It’s permanent. It’s real.” ( :31)

“We (the sovereign we, the we that has been around since the beginning of life) have lived in a dominance hierarchy for a long, long time. We were struggling for position before we” ( :31)

“had skin, or hands, or lungs, or bones. There is little more natural than culture. Dominance hierarchies are older than trees.” ( :32)

“If you’re a number one, the highest level of status, you’re an overwhelming success. If you’re male, you have preferential access to the best places to live and the highest-quality food. People compete to do you favours. You have limitless opportunity for romantic and sexual contact. You are a successful lobster, and the most desirable females line up and 18 vie for your attention.” ( :32)

“Unfortunately, that physical hyper-response, that constant alertness, burns up a lot of precious energy and physical resources. This response is really what everyone calls stress, and it is by no means only or even primarily psychological. It’s a reflection of the genuine constraints of unfortunate circumstances. When operating at the bottom, the ancient brain counter assumes that even the smallest unexpected impediment might produce an uncontrollable chain of negative events, which will have to be handled alone, as useful friends are rare indeed, on society’s fringes.” ( :33)

“If you have a high status, on the other hand, the counter’s cold, pre-reptilian mechanics assume that your niche is secure, productive and safe, and that you are well buttressed with social support. It thinks the chance that something will damage you is low and can be safely discounted. Change might be opportunity, instead of disaster. The serotonin flows plentifully. This renders you confident and calm, standing tall and straight, and much less on constant alert. Because your position is secure, the future is likely to be good for you. It’s worthwhile to think in the long term and plan for a better tomorrow. You don’t need to grasp impulsively at whatever crumbs come your way, because you can realistically expect good things to remain available. You can delay gratification, without forgoing it forever. You can afford to be a reliable and thoughtful citizen.” ( :33)

“All day. Their systems cannot be reset until after more sleep. I have had many clients whose anxiety was reduced to subclinical levels merely because they started to sleep on a predictable schedule and eat breakfast.” ( :34)

“Most people have been subject to the deafening howling of feedback at a concert, when the sound system squeals painfully. The microphone sends a signal to the speakers. The speakers emit the signal. The signal can be picked up by the microphone and sent through the system again, if it’s too loud or too close to the speakers. The sound rapidly amplifies to unbearable levels, sufficient to destroy the speakers, if it continues.” ( :34)

“post-heart attack distress and suffering (death and social humiliation constituting the two most basic fears).” ( :35)

“But she goes, anyway. On the way, she can feel her heart pounding. That triggers another cycle of anxiety and concern. To forestall panic, she avoids the stress of the mall and returns home. But now the anxiety systems in her brain note that she ran away from the mall, and conclude that the journey there was truly dangerous. Our anxiety systems are very practical.” ( :35)

“They assume that anything you run away from is dangerous. The proof of that is, of course, the fact you ran away.” ( :36)

“Anxiety-induced retreat makes the self smaller and the ever-more-dangerous world larger.” ( :36)

“If someone is badly hurt at some point in life—traumatized—the dominance counter can transform in a manner that makes additional hurt more rather than less likely. This often happens in the case of people, now adults, who were viciously bullied during childhood or adolescence. They become anxious and easily upset. They shield themselves with a defensive crouch, and avoid the direct eye contact interpretable as a dominance challenge.” ( :36)

“Their now-counterproductive physiological adaptations to earlier reality remain, and they are more stressed and uncertain than is necessary. In more complex cases, a habitual assumption of subordination renders the person more stressed and uncertain than necessary, and their habitually submissive posturing continues to attract genuine negative attention from one or more of the fewer and generally less successful bullies still extant in the adult world.” ( :36)

“But just as often, people are bullied because they won’t fight back. This happens not infrequently to people who are by temperament compassionate and self-sacrificing—particularly if they are also high in negative emotion, and make a lot of gratifying noises of suffering when someone sadistic confronts them (children who cry more easily, for example, are more frequently bullied).” ( :37)

“I have seen people with a particularly acute sensitivity to petty tyranny and over-aggressive competitiveness restrict within themselves all the emotions that might give rise to such things. Often they are people whose fathers who were excessively angry and controlling.” ( :37)

“With their capacity for aggression strait-jacketed within a too-narrow morality, those who are only or merely compassionate and self-sacrificing (and naïve and exploitable) cannot call forth the genuinely righteous and appropriately self-protective anger necessary to defend themselves. If you can bite, you generally don’t have to.” ( :37)

“aggression and violence decreases rather than increases the probability that actual aggression will become necessary. If you say no, early in the cycle of oppression, and you mean what you say (which means you state your refusal in no uncertain terms and stand behind it) then the scope for oppression on the part of oppressor will remain properly bounded and limited.” ( :37)

“Naive, harmless people usually guide their perceptions and actions with a few simple axioms: people are basically good; no one really wants to hurt anyone else; the threat (and, certainly, the use) of force, physical or otherwise, is wrong. These axioms collapse, or worse, in the presence of individuals who are genuinely malevolent” ( :37)

“No one likes to be pushed around, but people often put up with it for too long. So, I get them to see their resentment, first, as anger, and then as an indication that something needs to be said, if not done (not least because honesty demands it). Then I get them to see such action as part of the force that holds tyranny at bay—at the social level, as much as the individual” ( :37)

“the revelation of that capacity undoes their world. And no wonder. Perhaps they assumed that all of history’s terrible perpetrators were people totally unlike themselves. Perhaps they were never able to see within themselves the capacity for oppression and bullying (and perhaps not their capacity for assertion and success, as well)” ( :38)

“To say it again: There is very little difference between the capacity for mayhem and destruction, integrated, and strength of character. This is one of the most difficult lessons of life.” ( :38)

“Maybe you are a loser. And maybe you’re not—but if you are, you don’t have to continue in that mode.” ( :38)

“Some of the positive feedback loops instantiated by body language can occur beyond the private confines of subjective experience, in the social space you share with other people. If your posture is poor, for example—if you slump, shoulders forward and rounded, chest tucked in, head down, looking small, defeated and ineffectual (protected, in theory, against attack from behind)—then you will feel small, defeated and ineffectual” ( :38)

“If you’re in number ten position, then standing up straight and appearing dominant might only attract the attention of those who want, once again, to put you down.” ( :39)

“It means casting dead, rigid and too tyrannical order back into the chaos in which it was generated; it means withstanding the ensuing uncertainty, and establishing, in consequence, a better, more meaningful and more productive order.” ( :39)

“attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.” ( :39)


RULE 2 / Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping


“Psychologists tend to take a dim view of such judgments. We are trained to assume that the failure of patients to follow professional advice is the fault of the practitioner, not the patient. We believe the health-care provider has a responsibility to profer advice that will be followed, offer interventions that will be respected, plan with the patient or client until the desired result is achieved, and follow up to ensure that everything is going correctly. This is just one of the many things that make psychologists so wonderful – :). Of course, we have the luxury of time with our clients, unlike other more beleaguered professionals, who wonder why sick people won’t take their medication. What’s wrong with them? Don’t they want to get better?” ( :46)

“. Thus, you care. Your actions prove it. In fact, on average, you care more. People are better at filling and properly administering prescription medication to their pets than to themselves.” ( :47)

“reality was construed differently. Being was understood as a place of action, not a place of things.” ( :48)

“Pain matters, more than matter matters.” ( :48)

“In any case, that which we subjectively experience can be likened much more to a novel or a movie than to a scientific description of physical reality. It is the drama of lived experience—the unique, tragic, personal death of your father, compared to the objective death listed in the hospital records; the pain of your first love; the despair of dashed hopes; the joy attendant upon a child’s success.” ( :48)

“One of these is chaos. Another is order. The third (as there are three) is the process that mediates between the two, which appears identical to what modern people call consciousness.” ( :48)

“We seldom leave places we understand—geographical or conceptual—for that reason, and we certainly do not like it when we are compelled to or when it happens accidentally.” ( :49)

“Before the Twin Towers fell—that was order. Chaos manifested itself afterward. Everyone felt it. The very air became uncertain. What exactly was it that fell? Wrong question. What exactly remained standing? That was the issue at hand.” ( :49)

“Order and chaos are not understood first, objectively (as things or objects), and then personified. That would only be the case if we perceived objective reality first, and then inferred intent and purpose. But that isn’t how perception operates, despite our preconceptions” ( :50)

“We see what things mean just as fast or faster than we see what they are.” ( :50)

“things we have come to know were born, originally, of the unknown, just as all beings we encounter were born of mothers. Chaos is mater, origin, source, mother; materia, the substance from which all things are made. It is also what matters, or what is the matter—the very subject matter of thought and communication. In” ( :51)

“Most men do not meet female” ( :51)

“human standards. It is for this reason that women on dating sites rate 85 percent of men as below average in attractiveness.” ( :52)

“t is Nature as Woman who says, “Well, bucko, you’re good enough for a friend, but my experience of you so far has not indicated the suitability of your genetic material for continued propagation.”” ( :52)

“Matthew 7:14: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” ( :53)

“No matter who we are, Kalahari Desert-dweller or Wall Street banker, some things are under our control, and some things are not. That’s why both can understand the same stories, and dwell within the confines of the same eternal truths.” ( :53)

“As the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn insisted, the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” ( :55)

“49 This is the great Freudian Oedipal nightmare. It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them.” ( :55)

“How could the nature of man ever reach its full potential without challenge and danger? How dull and contemptible would we become if there was no longer reason to pay attention?” ( :55)

“Question for parents: do you want to make your children safe, or strong?” ( :55)

“As the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov advised, “If there is a rifle hanging on the wall in act one, it must be fired in the next act. Otherwise it has no business being 50 there.”” ( :55)

“have been making men self-conscious since the beginning of time. They do this primarily by rejecting them—but they also do it by shaming them, if men do not take responsibility” ( :56)

“If you can’t identify with that sentiment, you’re just not thinking. Beauty shames the ugly. Strength shames the weak. Death shames the living—and the Ideal shames us all” ( :57)

“Abandon all ideals of beauty, health, brilliance and strength? That’s not a good solution. That would merely ensure that we would feel ashamed, all the time—and that we would even more justly deserve it.” ( :57)

“What are we to do about that? Abandon all ideals of beauty, health, brilliance and strength? That’s not a good solution. That would merely ensure that we would feel ashamed, all the time—and that we would even more justly deserve it. I don’t want women who can stun by their mere presence to disappear just so that others can feel unselfconscious. I don’t want intellects such as John von Neumann’s to vanish, just because of my barely-grade-twelve grasp of mathematics. By the time he 55 was nineteen, he had redefined numbers. Numbers! Thank God for John von Neumann! Thank God for Grace Kelly and Anita Ekberg and Monica Bellucci! I’m proud to feel unworthy in the presence of people like that. It’s the price we all pay for aim, achievement and ambition. But it’s also no wonder that Adam and Eve covered themselves up.” ( :57)

“God’s a judgmental father. His standards are high. He’s hard to please.” ( :57)

“And then he blames God. He says, “The woman, whom you gave to me, she gave it to me (and then I ate it).” How pathetic—and how accurate. The first woman made the first man self-conscious and resentful. Then the first man blamed the woman. And then the first man blamed God. This is exactly how every spurned male feels, to this day.” ( :57)

“The programmability of his massive brain means that he must be trained until he is eighteen (or thirty) before being pushed out of the nest.” ( :58)

“Why would someone buy prescription medication for his dog, and then so carefully administer it, when he would not do the same for himself? Now you have the answer, derived from one of the foundational texts of mankind. Why should anyone take care of anything as naked, ugly, ashamed, frightened, worthless, cowardly, resentful, defensive and accusatory as a descendant of Adam? Even if that thing, that being, is himself? And I do not mean at all to exclude women with this phrasing.” ( :58)

“Back is the way forward—as T. S. Eliot so rightly insisted—” ( :61)

“They have the opposite problem: they shoulder intolerable burdens of self-disgust, self-contempt, shame and self-consciousness. Thus, instead of narcissistically inflating their own importance, they don’t value themselves at all, and they don’t take care of themselves with attention and skill.” ( :62)

“Any claim that the Golden Rule does not mean “sacrifice yourself for others” might therefore appear dubious.” ( :62)

“how to accept finitude, betrayal and tyranny heroically—how to walk with God despite the tragedy of self-conscious knowledge—” ( :62)

“To sacrifice ourselves to God (to the highest good, if you like) does not mean to suffer silently and willingly when some person or organization demands more from us, consistently, than is offered in return. That means we are supporting tyranny, and allowing ourselves to be treated like slaves. It is not virtuous to be victimized by a bully, even if that bully is oneself.” ( :62)

“Carl Jung, the famous Swiss depth psychologist, about “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” or “loving your neighbour as yourself.” The first lesson was that neither of these statements has anything to do with being nice. The second was that both are equations, rather than injunctions. If I am someone’s friend, family member, or lover, then I am morally obliged to bargain as hard on my own behalf as they are on theirs. If I fail to do so, I will end up a slave, and the other person a tyrant. What good is that? It much better for any relationship when both partners are strong.” ( :62)

“I knew a man, injured and disabled by a car accident, who was employed by a local utility. For years after the crash he worked side by side with another man, who for his part suffered with a degenerative neurological disease. They cooperated while repairing the lines, each making up for the other’s inadequacy. This sort of everyday heroism is the rule, I believe, rather than the exception.” ( :63)

“There are so many ways that things can fall apart, or fail to work altogether, and it is always wounded people who are holding it together. They deserve some genuine and heartfelt admiration for that. It’s an ongoing miracle of fortitude and perseverance.” ( :63)

“All that complex machinery that protects us from freezing and starving and dying from lack of water tends unceasingly towards malfunction through entropy, and it is only the constant attention of careful people that keeps it working so unbelievably well.” ( :63)

“To treat yourself as if you were someone you are responsible for helping is, instead, to consider what would be truly good for you. This is not “what you want.” It is also not “what would make you happy.” Every time you give a child something sweet, you make that child happy. That does not mean that you should do nothing for children except feed them candy. “Happy” is by no means synonymous with “good.” You must get children to brush their teeth. They must put on their snowsuits when they go outside in the cold, even though they might object strenuously.” ( :64)

“You need to consider the future and think, “What might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly? What career would challenge me and render me productive and helpful, so that I could shoulder my share of the load, and enjoy the consequences?” ( :64)

“Once having understood Hell, researched it, so to speak—particularly your own individual Hell—you could decide against going there or creating that.” ( :64)


RULE 3 / Make friends with people who want the best for you


“There wasn’t much for young people to do in Fairview, even in the summer. But the winters were worse. Then your friends mattered. More than anything.” ( :71)

“I was a happy clam when I arrived at college. I found another, expanded group of like-minded companions, whom my Bear Canyon comrade also joined. We were all captivated by literature and philosophy. We ran the Student Union. We made it profitable, for the first time in its history, hosting college dances. How can you lose money selling beer to college kids? We started a newspaper. We got to know our professors of political science and biology and English literature in the tiny seminars that characterized even our first year. The instructors were thankful for our enthusiasm and taught us well. We were building a better life.” ( :73)

“In a small town, everyone knows who you are. You drag your years behind you like a running dog with tin cans tied to its tail. You can’t escape who you have been. Everything wasn’t online then, and thank God for that, but it was stored equally indelibly in everyone’s spoken and unspoken expectations and memory.” ( :73)

“We found the same furtive street-vending marijuana providers. We spent the weekend drinking in the hotel room. Although we had travelled a long distance, we had gone nowhere at all.” ( :73)

“an up-and-out-of-there person. (Not too many years later she would plant strawberries in Norway and run safaris through Africa and smuggle trucks across the Tuareg-menaced Sahara Desert, and babysit orphan gorillas in the Congo.)” ( :73)

“I took Ed aside and told him politely that he had to leave. I said that he shouldn’t have brought his useless bastard of a companion. He nodded. He understood. That made it even worse. His older cousin Chris wrote me a letter much later about such things. I included it in my first book, Maps of 62 Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, published in 1999: “I had friends,” he said. “Before. Anyone with enough self-contempt that they could forgive me mine.”” ( :74)

“Chris had a psychotic break in his thirties, after flirting with insanity for many years. Not long afterward, he committed suicide. Did his heavy marijuana use play a magnifying role, or was it understandable self-medication?” ( :74)

“Sometimes, when people have a low opinion of their own worth—or, perhaps, when they refuse responsibility for their lives—they choose a new acquaintance, of precisely the type who proved” ( :74)

“troublesome in the past.” ( :75)

“Freud called this a “repetition compulsion.” He thought of it as an unconscious drive to repeat the horrors of the past—sometimes, perhaps, to formulate those horrors more precisely, sometimes to attempt more active mastery and sometimes, perhaps, because no alternatives beckon.” ( :75)

“”It is only right to see the best in people. The highest virtue is the desire to help.” But not everyone who is failing is a victim, and not everyone at the bottom wishes to rise, although many do, and many manage it. Nonetheless, people will often accept or even amplify their own suffering, as well as that of others, if they can brandish it as evidence of the world’s injustice.” ( :75)

“Imagine someone not doing well. He needs help. He might even want it. But it is not easy to distinguish between someone truly wanting and needing help and someone who is merely exploiting a willing helper.” ( :75)

“Something like this is detailed in the incomparable Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s bitter classic, Notes from Underground, which begins with these famous lines: “I am a sick man … I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased.” It is the confession of a miserable, arrogant sojourner in the underworld of chaos and despair. He analyzes himself mercilessly, but only pays in this manner for a hundred sins, despite committing a thousand. Then, imagining himself redeemed, the underground man commits the worst transgression of the lot. He offers aid to a genuinely unfortunate person, Liza, a woman on the desperate nineteenth-century road to prostitution. He invites her for a visit, promising to set her life back on the proper course. While waiting for her to appear, his fantasies spin increasingly messianic:” ( :75)

“She tells the underground man that she wants to leave her current life. His response? “Why have you come to me, tell me that, please?”” ( :76)

“”I’ll tell you, my good girl, why you have come. You’ve come because I talked sentimental stuff to you then. So now you are soft as butter and longing for fine sentiments again. So you may as well know that I was laughing at you then. And I am laughing at you now. Why are you shuddering? Yes, I was laughing at you! I had been insulted just before, at dinner, by the fellows who came that evening before me. I came to you, meaning to thrash one of them, an officer; but I didn’t succeed, I didn’t find him; I had to avenge the insult on someone to get back my own again; you turned up, I vented my spleen on you and laughed at you. I had been humiliated, so I wanted to humiliate; I had been treated like a rag, so I wanted to show my power…. That’s what it was, and you imagined I had come there on purpose to save you. Yes? You imagined that? You imagined that?”” ( :76)

“But a villain who despairs of his villainy has not become a hero. A hero is something positive, not just the absence of evil.” ( :76)

“Christ himself, you might object, befriended tax-collectors and prostitutes. How dare I cast aspersions on the motives of those who are trying to help? But Christ was the archetypal perfect man. And you’re you.” ( :76)

“In a fit of inspiration, the well-meaning manager moves that problematic person into the midst of his stellar team, hoping to improve him by example. What happens?—and the psychological literature is clear on this point” ( :76)

“The same thing happens when well-meaning counsellors place a delinquent teen among comparatively civilized 65 peers. The delinquency spreads, not the stability. Down is a lot easier than up.” ( :76)

“Or maybe it’s because it’s easier to look virtuous when standing alongside someone utterly irresponsible.” ( :77)

“Are you so sure the person crying out to be saved has not decided a thousand times to accept his lot of pointless and worsening suffering, simply because it is easier than shouldering any true responsibility?” ( :77)

“Are you so sure the person crying out to be saved has not decided a thousand times to accept his lot of pointless and worsening suffering, simply because it is easier than shouldering any true responsibility? Are you enabling a delusion? Is it possible that your contempt would be more salutary than your pity?” ( :77)

“Besides, if you buy the story that everything terrible just happened on its own, with no personal responsibility on the part of the victim, you deny that person all agency in the past (and, by implication, in the present and future, as well). In this manner, you strip him or her of all power.” ( :77)

“But consider this: failure is easy to understand. No explanation for its existence is required. In the same manner, fear, hatred, addiction, promiscuity, betrayal and deception require no explanation. It’s not the existence of vice, or the indulgence in it, that requires explanation. Vice is easy. Failure is easy, too. It’s easier not to shoulder a burden. It’s easier not to think, and not to do, and not to care. It’s easier to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, and drown the upcoming months and years in today’s cheap pleasures. As the infamous father of the Simpson clan puts it, immediately prior to downing a jar of mayonnaise and vodka, “That’s a problem for Future Homer. Man, I don’t envy that guy!” ( :77)

“Success: that’s the mystery. Virtue: that’s what’s inexplicable. To fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits. You just have to bide your time. And once someone has spent enough time cultivating bad habits and biding their time, they are much diminished. Much of what they could have been has dissipated, and much of the less that they have become is now real. Things fall apart, of their own accord, but the sins of men speed their degeneration. And then comes the flood” ( :78)

“But it is much harder to extract someone from a chasm than to lift him from a ditch. And some chasms are very deep. And there’s not much left of the body at the bottom.” ( :78)

“The desire to improve was, instead, the precondition for progress. I’ve had court-mandated psychotherapy clients. They did not want my help. They were forced to seek it. It did not work. It was a travesty.” ( :78)

“Maybe I can then conclude, about myself, “Someone that self-sacrificing, that willing to help someone—that has to be a good person.” Not so. It might be just a person trying to look good pretending to solve what appears to be a difficult problem instead of actually being good and addressing something real.” ( :78)

“If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father, or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself?” ( :78)

“It’s appropriate and praiseworthy to associate with people whose lives would be improved if they saw your life improve.” ( :78)

“They will instead encourage you when you do good for yourself and” ( :78)

“others and punish you carefully when you do not.” ( :79)

“Michelangelo’s great perfect marble David cries out to its observer: “You could be more than you are.”” ( :79)

“where they understand that their cynicism and immobility are unjustifiable. You play Abel to their Cain.” ( :79)

“where they understand that their cynicism and immobility are unjustifiable. You play Abel to their Cain. You remind them that they ceased caring not because of life’s horrors, which are undeniable, but because they do not want to lift the world up on to their shoulders, where it belongs.” ( :79)

“A good, healthy person is an ideal. It requires strength and daring to stand up near such a person. Have some humility. Have some courage. Use your judgment, and protect yourself from too-uncritical compassion and pity.” ( :79)


RULE 4 / Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today


“It may be for that reason that people who were born in small towns are statistically 68 overrepresented among the eminent. If you’re one in a million now, but originated in modern New York, there’s twenty of you—and most of us now live in cities. What’s more, we have become digitally connected to the entire seven billion. Our hierarchies of accomplishment are now dizzyingly vertical.” ( :83)

“And you? Your career is boring and pointless, your housekeeping skills are second-rate, your taste is appalling, you’re fatter than your friends, and everyone dreads your parties. Who cares if you are prime minister of Canada when someone else is the president of the United States?” ( :83)

“The winners don’t take all, but they take most, and the bottom is not a good place to be. People are unhappy at the bottom.” ( :83)

“orthlessness is the default condition. What but willful blindness could possibly shelter people from such withering criticism? It is for such reasons that a whole generation of social psychologists recommended “positive illusions” as the only 69 reliable route to mental health. Their credo? Let a lie be your umbrella. A more dismal, wretched, pessimistic philosophy can hardly be imagined: things are so terrible that only delusion can save you.” ( :84)

“There will always be people better than you—that’s a cliché of nihilism, like the phrase, In a million years, who’s going to know the difference? The proper response to that statement is not, Well, then, everything is meaningless. It’s, Any idiot can choose a frame of time within which nothing matters. Talking yourself into irrelevance is not a profound critique of Being. It’s a cheap trick of the rational mind.” ( :84)

“Standards of better or worse are not illusory or unnecessary. If you hadn’t decided that what you are doing right now was better than the alternatives, you wouldn’t be doing it.” ( :84)

“Differentials in quality are omnipresent. Furthermore, if there was no better and worse, nothing would be worth doing. There would be no value and, therefore, no meaning. Why make an effort if it doesn’t improve anything?” ( :84)

“You might object: I should be winning at everything! But winning at everything might only mean that you’re not doing anything new or difficult. You might be winning but you’re not growing, and growing might be the most important form of winning. Should victory in the present always take precedence over trajectory across time?” ( :85)

“There’s some real utility in gratitude. It’s also good protection against the dangers of victimhood and resentment. Your colleague outperforms you at work. His wife, however, is having an affair, while your marriage is stable and happy. Who has it better? The celebrity you admire is a chronic drunk driver and bigot. Is his life truly preferable to yours” ( :85)

“internal critic puts you down using such comparisons, here’s how it operates: First, it selects a single, arbitrary domain of comparison (fame, maybe, or power). Then it acts as if that domain is the only one that is relevant. Then it contrasts you unfavourably with someone truly stellar, within that domain.” ( :85)

“The conditions of our lives become more and more personal and less and less comparable with those of others. Symbolically speaking, this means we must leave the house ruled by our father, and confront the chaos of our individual Being.” ( :85)

“Who are you? You think you know, but maybe you don’t. You are, for example, neither your own master, nor your own slave. You cannot easily tell yourself what to do and compel your own obedience (any more than you can easily tell your husband, wife, son or daughter what to do, and compel theirs). You are interested in some things and not in others. You can shape that interest, but there are limits. Some activities will always engage you, and others simply will not.” ( :85)

“How much can you sacrifice to your partner before generosity turns to resentment? What is it that you actually love?” ( :85)

“Before you can articulate your own standards of value, you must see yourself as a stranger—” ( :85)

“and then you must get to know yourself.” ( :86)

“I’m not talking about what other people require from you, or your duties to them. I’m talking about determining the nature of your moral obligation, to yourself. Should might enter into it, because you are nested within a network of social obligations. Should is your responsibility, and you should live up to it. But this does not mean you must take the role of lapdog, obedient and harmless. That’s how a dictator wants his slaves. Dare, instead, to be dangerous. Dare to be truthful. Dare to articulate yourself, and express (or at least become aware of) what would really justify your life.” ( :86)

“if you were even willing to consider them—you might discover that they were not so dark, given the light of day. You might discover, instead, that you were just afraid and, so, pretending to be moral.” ( :86)

“It’s part of an evil triad: arrogance, deceit, and resentment. Nothing causes more harm than this underworld Trinity.” ( :86)

“Then he had to fluff his pillow. Then he had to adjust the bedsheets. Over and over and over and over. I said, “Maybe that part of you, that insanely persistent part, wants something, inarticulate though it may be. Let it have its say. What could it be?” He said, “Control.” I said, “Close your eyes and let it tell you what it wants. Don’t let fear stop you. You don’t have to act it out, just because you’re thinking it.” He said, “It wants me to take my stepfather by the collar, put him up against the door, and shake him like a rat.”” ( :86)

“The infant is dependent on his parents for almost everything he needs. The child—the successful child—can leave his parents, at least temporarily, and make friends. He gives up a little of himself to do that, but gains much in return. The successful adolescent must take that process to its logical conclusion. He has to leave his parents and become like everyone else. He has to integrate with the group so he can transcend his childhood dependency. Once integrated, the successful adult then must learn how to be just the right amount different from everyone else.” ( :87)

“We hurl insults, launch plans, and pitch ideas.” ( :87)

“Even when satisfied, temporarily, we remain curious. We live within a framework that defines the present as eternally lacking and the future as eternally better. If we did not see things this way, we would not act at all.” ( :87)

“The first step, perhaps, is to take stock. Who are you? When you buy a house and prepare to live in it, you hire an inspector to list all its faults—as it is, in reality, now, not as you wish it could be. You’ll even pay him for the bad news. You need to know. You need to discover the home’s hidden flaws.” ( :88)

“You need to know because you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken—and you’re broken.” ( :88)

“Maybe you’re a handy-man’s dream, a real fixer-upper. How can you start your renovations without being demoralized, even crushed, by your internal critic’s lengthy and painful report of your inadequacies?” ( :88)

“The present is eternally flawed. But where you start might not be as important as the direction you are heading. Perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak. Much of happiness is hope, no matter how deep the underworld in which that hope was conceived.” ( :88)

“Imagine that you are someone with whom you must negotiate. Imagine further that you are lazy, touchy, resentful and hard to get along with. With that attitude, it’s not going to be easy to get you moving. You might have to use a little charm and playfulness. “Excuse me,” you might say to yourself, without irony or sarcasm. “I’m trying to reduce some of the unnecessary suffering around here. I could use some help.”” ( :88)

“A little careful kindness goes a long way, and judicious reward is a powerful motivator. Then you could take that small bit of yourself by the hand and do the damn dishes. And then you better not go clean the bathroom and forget about the coffee or the movie or the beer or it will be even harder to call those forgotten parts of yourself forth from the nooks and crannies of the underworld.” ( :89)

“Aim small. You don’t want to shoulder too much to begin with, given your limited talents, tendency to deceive, burden of resentment, and ability to shirk responsibility. Thus, you set the following goal: by the end of the day, I want things in my life to be a tiny bit better than they were this morning. Then you ask yourself, “What could I do, that I would do, that would accomplish that, and what small thing would I like as a reward?” Then you do what you have decided to do, even if you do it badly. Then you give yourself that damn coffee, in triumph. Maybe you feel a bit stupid about it, but you do it anyway. And you do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And, with each day, your baseline of comparison gets a little higher, and that’s magic.” ( :89)

“Now the beam is disappearing from your eye, and you’re learning to see. And what you aim at determines what you see. That’s worth repeating. What you aim at determines what you see.” ( :89)

“The dependency of sight on aim (and, therefore, on value—because you aim at what you value) was demonstrated unforgettably by the cognitive psychologist Daniel Simons more than fifteen years ago.” ( :89)

“So, he said, “Watch the video again. But this time, don’t count.” Sure enough, a minute or so in, a man dressed in a gorilla suit waltzes right into the middle of the game for a few long seconds, stops, and then beats his chest in the manner of stereotyped gorillas everywhere. Right in the middle of the screen. Large as life. Painfully and irrefutably evident.” ( :90)

“It gets worse. Dr. Simons did another study. This time, he showed his subjects a video of someone being served at a counter. The server dips behind the counter to retrieve something, and pops back up. So what? Most of his participants don’t detect anything amiss. But it was a different person who stood up in the original server’s place! “No way,” you think. “I’d notice.” But it’s “yes way.” There’s a high probability you wouldn’t detect the change, even if the gender or race of the person is switched at the same time. You’re blind too.” ( :90)

“We save the fovea for things of importance. We point our high-resolution capacities at the few specific things we are aiming at. And we let everything else—which is almost everything—fade, unnoticed, into the background.” ( :90)

“The ball on which Simons’s research subjects were focused was never obscured by the gorilla or by any of the six players. Because of that—because the gorilla did not interfere with the ongoing, narrowly defined task—it was indistinguishable from everything else the participants didn’t see, when they were looking at that ball. The big ape could be safely ignored. That’s how you deal with the overwhelming complexity of the world: you ignore it, while you concentrate minutely on your private concerns.” ( :90)

“There’s a profound idea in the ancient Vedic texts (the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, and part of the bedrock of Indian culture): the world, as perceived, is maya—appearance or illusion. This means, in part, that people are blinded by their desires (as well as merely incapable of seeing things as they truly are).” ( :90)

“Imagine that you’re unhappy. You’re not getting what you need. Perversely, this may be because of what you want. You are blind, because of what you desire. Perhaps what you really need is right in front of your eyes, but you cannot see it because of what you are currently aiming for” ( :91)

“Before your crisis impels you to that hideous conclusion, however, you might consider the following: life doesn’t have the problem. You do. At least that realization leaves you with some options.” ( :91)

“Imagine that you are thinking, enviously, “I should have my boss’s job.” If your boss sticks to his post, stubbornly and competently, thoughts like that will lead you into in a state of irritation, unhappiness and disgust. You might realize this. You think, “I am unhappy. However, I could be cured of this unhappiness if I could just fulfill my ambition.” But then you might think further. “Wait,” you think. “Maybe I’m not unhappy because I don’t have my boss’s job. Maybe I’m unhappy because I can’t stop wanting that job.” That doesn’t mean you can just simply and magically tell yourself to stop wanting that job, and then listen and transform. You won’t—can’t, in fact—just change yourself that easily. You have to dig deeper. You must change what you are after more profoundly.” ( :91)

“”I don’t know what to do about this stupid suffering. I can’t just abandon my ambitions. That would leave me nowhere to go. But my longing for a job that I can’t have isn’t working.” You might decide to take a different tack.” ( :91)

“”I will make a different plan. I will try to want whatever it is that would make my life better—whatever that might be—and I will start working on it now. If that turns out to mean something other than chasing my boss’s job, I will accept that and I will move forward.”” ( :91)

“This will only work, however, if you genuinely want your life to improve. You can’t fool your implicit perceptual structures. Not even a bit. They aim where you point them. To retool, to take stock, to aim somewhere better, you have to think it through, bottom to top. You have to scour your psyche. You have to clean the damned thing up. And you must be cautious, because making your life better means adopting a lot of responsibility, and that takes more effort and care than living stupidly in pain and remaining arrogant, deceitful and resentful.” ( :92)

“What if the more your conception of the best has been elevated, expanded and rendered sophisticated the more possibility and benefit you could perceive? This doesn’t mean that you can have what you want merely by wishing it, or that everything is interpretation, or that there is no reality. The world is still there, with its structures and limits.” ( :92)

“But you can dance with it, if your aim is to dance—and maybe you can even lead, if you have enough skill and enough grace. This is not theology. It’s not mysticism. It’s empirical knowledge. There is nothing magical here—or nothing more than the already-present magic of consciousness.” ( :92)

“something like, “I want whatever might be better than just my life being better.”” ( :92)

“Even older and deeper than ethics, however, is religion. Religion concerns itself not with (mere) right and wrong but with good and evil themselves—with the archetypes of right and wrong. Religion concerns itself with domain of value, ultimate value.” ( :92)

“Religion is instead about proper behaviour. It’s about what Plato called “the Good.”” ( :93)

“You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored.” ( :93)

“It is therefore necessary and desirable for religions to have a dogmatic element. What good is a value system that does not provide a stable structure?” ( :93)

“Of course, there must be vision, beyond discipline; beyond dogma. A tool still needs a purpose. It is for such reasons that Christ said, in the Gospel of Thomas, “The Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, but men do not see it.”” ( :93)

“You might object, “But I’m an atheist.” No, you’re not (and if you want to understand this, you could read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, perhaps the greatest novel ever written, in which the main character, Raskolnikov, decides to take his atheism with true seriousness, commits what he has rationalized as a benevolent murder, and pays the price).” ( :93)

“You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself.” ( :93)

“You don’t understand anything. You didn’t even know that you were blind.” ( :93)

“The Bible is, for better or worse, the foundational document of Western civilization (of Western values, Western morality, and Western conceptions of good and evil).” ( :94)

“There has been a price paid, however, for such plotting (and I mean that in both senses of the word): the tendency for modern people to think, when confronted with Jehovah, “I would never believe in a God like that.” But Old Testament God doesn’t much care what modern people think. He often didn’t care what Old Testament people thought, either (although He could be bargained with, to a surprising degree, as is particularly evident in the Abrahamic stories).” ( :94)

“Is a hungry lion reasonable, fair or just? What kind of nonsensical question is that?” ( :94)

“New Testament God is often presented as a different character (although the Book of Revelation, with its Final Judgment, warns against any excessively naïve complacency).” ( :94)

“The all-good God, in a post-Auschwitz world? It was for such reasons that the philosopher Nietzsche, perhaps the most astute critic ever to confront Christianity, considered New Testament God the worst literary crime in Western history. In Beyond Good and Evil” ( :95)

“In the Jewish ‘Old Testament’, the book of divine justice, there are men, things and speeches on such a grand style that Greek and Indian literature has nothing to compare with it. One stands with fear and reverence before those stupendous remains of what man was formerly, and one has sad thoughts about old Asia and its little out-pushed peninsula Europe…. To have bound up this New Testament (a kind of ROCOCO of taste in every respect) along with the Old Testament into one book, as the “Bible,” as “The Book in Itself” is perhaps the greatest audacity and “sin against the spirit” which literary Europe has on its conscience.” ( :95)

“Pay attention. Focus on your surroundings, physical and psychological. Notice something that bothers you, that concerns you, that will not let you be, which you could fix, that you would fix.” ( :96)

“”Is that something I could fix?” and “Would I actually be willing to fix it?” If you find that the answer is “no,” to any or all of the questions, then look elsewhere. Aim lower. Search until you find something that bothers you, that you could fix, that you would fix, and then fix it. That might be enough for the day.” ( :96)

“Don’t tell yourself, “I shouldn’t need to do that to motivate myself.” What do you know about yourself? You are, on the one hand, the most complex thing in the entire universe, and on the other, someone who can’t even set the clock on your microwave. Don’t over-estimate your selfknowledge.” ( :96)

“Soon you will find yourself in a different situation. Now you will be asking yourself, habitually, “What could I do, that I would do, to make Life a little better?” You are not dictating to yourself what “better” must be. You are not being a totalitarian, or a utopian, even to yourself, because you have learned from the Nazis and the Soviets and the Maoists and from your own experience that being a totalitarian is a bad thing. Aim high.” ( :97)

“This is the expression not merely of admirable self-control and self-mastery but of the fundamental desire to set the world right.” ( :97)

“Do that only after you have determined to sacrifice whatever it is that must be sacrificed so that you can pursue the highest good.” ( :97)

“Realization is dawning. Instead of playing the tyrant, therefore, you are paying attention. You are telling the truth, instead of manipulating the world. You are negotiating, instead of playing the martyr or the tyrant. You no longer have to be envious, because you no longer know that someone else truly has it better. You no longer have to be frustrated, because you have learned to aim low, and to be patient. You are discovering who you are, and what you want, and what you are willing to do. You are finding that the solutions to your particular problems have to be tailored to you, personally and precisely. You are less concerned with the actions of other people, because you have plenty to do yourself.” ( :97)

“Attend to the day, but aim at the highest good.” ( :97)

“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” ( :98)


RULE 5 / Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them


“Well, a reproductively successful daughter might gain you eight or nine children. The Holocaust survivor Yitta Schwartz, a star in this regard, had three generations of direct descendants who matched such performance. She was the ancestor of almost two thousand people by the time of her 2010 death in” ( :103)

“”A man who has been the indisputable favorite of his mother keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror, that confidence of success that often induces real success.”” ( :103)

“”Look,” she said, holding up his bowl. “You finished all of it.” This boy, who was standing in the corner, voluntarily and unhappily, when I first saw him; who wouldn’t interact with the other kids, who frowned chronically, who wouldn’t respond to me when I tickled and prodded him, trying to get him to play—this boy broke immediately into a wide, radiant smile. It brought joy to everyone at the table. Twenty years later, writing it down today, it still brings me to tears.” ( :104)

“Later in the day, but far too soon, his mother reappeared. She came down the stairs into the room we all occupied. “Oh, SuperMom,” she uttered, resentfully, seeing her son curled up in my wife’s lap. Then she departed, black, murderous heart unchanged, doomed child in hand. She was a psychologist. The things you can see, with even a single open eye. It’s no wonder that people want to stay blind.” ( :104)

“daughter. It’s also not for the best that all human corruption is uncritically laid at society’s feet. That conclusion merely displaces the problem, back in time. It explains nothing, and solves no problems. If society is corrupt, but not the individuals within it, then where did the corruption originate? How is it propagated? It’s a one-sided, deeply ideological theory.” ( :105)

“Each person’s private trouble cannot be solved by a social revolution, because revolutions are destabilizing and dangerous.” ( :105)

“It has been said that every individual is the conscious or unconscious follower of some influential philosopher” ( :105)

“It has been said that every individual is the conscious or unconscious follower of some influential philosopher. The belief that children have an intrinsically unsullied spirit, damaged only by culture and society, is derived in no small part from the eighteenth-century Genevan French philosopher JeanJacques Rousseau.” ( :105)

“He claimed that nothing was so gentle and wonderful as man in his precivilized state. At precisely the same time, noting his inability as a father, he abandoned five of his children to the tender and fatal mercies of the orphanages of the time.” ( :106)

“90 Careful perusal of book as shocking and horrific as Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking, which describes the brutal decimation of that Chinese city by the invading Japanese, will disenchant even a committed romantic” ( :106)

“90 Careful perusal of book as shocking and horrific as Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking, which describes the brutal decimation of that Chinese city by the invading Japanese, will disenchant even a committed romantic. And the less said about Unit 731, a covert Japanese biological warfare research unit established at that time, the better. Read about it at your peril. You have been warned.” ( :106)

“The yearly rate of homicide in the modern UK is 100,000.91 about 1 per It’s four to five times higher in the US, and about ninety times higher in Honduras, which has the highest rate recorded of any modern nation.” ( :106)

“The !Kung bushmen of Africa, romanticized in the 92 1950s by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas as “the harmless people,” had a yearly murder rate of 40 per 100,000, which declined by more than 30% once they became subject to state authority” ( :107)

“early rates of 300 per 100,000 have been reported for the Yanomami of Brazil, famed for their aggression—but the stats don’t max out there. The denizens of Papua, New 100,000.94 Guinea, kill each other at yearly rates ranging from 140 to 1000 per However, the record appears to be held by the Kato, an indigeneous people of California, 1450 of whom per 100,000 met 1840.95 a violent death circa” ( :107)

“Such children are chronically ignored by their peers. This is because they are not fun to play with. Adults tend to manifest the same attitude (although they will deny it desperately when pressed).” ( :107)

“believe that response, harsh and terrible though it may be, was an almost universally-experienced internal warning signal indicating the comparative danger of establishing a relationship with a poorly socialized child: the likelihood of immediate and inappropriate dependence (which should have been the responsibility of the parent) and the tremendous demand of time and resources that accepting such dependence would necessitate.” ( :107)

“They want their children’s friendship above all, and are willing to sacrifice respect to get it. This is not good. A child will have many friends, but only two parents—if that—and parents are more, not less, than friends.” ( :108)

“We assume that rules will irremediably inhibit what would otherwise be the boundless and intrinsic creativity of our children, even though the scientific literature clearly indicates, first, that rare96 creativity beyond the trivial is shockingly and, second, that strict limitations facilitate rather than inhibit creative achievement” ( :108)

“He knew exactly what he was doing. Up yours, Daddy-O—that was his philosophy. He had already concluded that adults were contemptible, and that he could safely defy them. (Too bad, then, that he was destined to become one.) That was the hopeless future his parents had saddled him with. To his great and salutary shock, I picked him bodily off the playground structure, and threw him thirty feet down the field. No, I didn’t. I just took my daughter somewhere else.” ( :109)

“Why would he do such a thing? It’s a stupid question. It’s unacceptably naive. The answer is obvious. To dominate his mother. To see if he can get away with it. Violence, after all, is no mystery. It’s peace that’s the mystery. Violence is the default. It’s easy. It’s peace that is difficult: learned, inculcated, earned. (People often get basic psychological questions backwards. Why do people take drugs? Not a mystery. It’s why they don’t take them all the time that’s the mystery. Why do people suffer from anxiety? That’s not a mystery. How is that people can ever be calm? There’s the mystery. We’re breakable and mortal. A million things can go wrong, in a million ways. We should be terrified out of our skulls at every second. But we’re not. The same can be said for depression, laziness and criminality.)” ( :109)

“My son was particularly ornery when he was a toddler. When my daughter was little, I could paralyze her into immobility with an evil glance. Such an intervention had no effect at all on my son. He had my wife (who is no pushover) stymied at the dinner table by the time he was nine months of age. He fought her for control over the spoon. “Good!” we thought. We didn’t want to feed him one more minute than necessary anyway. But the little blighter would only eat three or four mouthfuls. Then he would play. He would stir his food around in his bowl. He would drop bits of it over the” ( :109)

“high chair table top, and watch as it fell on the floor below. No problem. He was exploring. But then he wasn’t eating enough. Then, because he wasn’t eating enough, he wasn’t sleeping enough. Then his midnight crying was waking his parents. Then they were getting grumpy and out of sorts. He was frustrating his mother, and she was taking it out on me. The trajectory wasn’t good.” ( :110)

“A patient adult can defeat a two-year-old, hard as that is to believe. As the saying goes: “Old age and treachery can always overcome youth and skill.” This” ( :110)

“But I had more tricks up my sleeve. I poked him in the chest, with my free hand, in a manner calculated to annoy. He didn’t budge. I did it again. And again. And again. Not hard—but not in a manner to be ignored, either. Ten or so pokes letter, he opened his mouth, planning to emit a sound of outrage. Hah! His mistake. I deftly inserted the spoon. He tried, gamely, to force out the offending food with his tongue. But I know how to deal with that, too. I just placed my forefinger horizontally across his lips. Some came out. But some was swallowed, too.” ( :110)

“There was outrage. There was some wailing. My wife had to leave the room. The stress was too much. But food was eaten by child. My son collapsed, exhausted, on my chest. We had a nap together. And he liked me a lot better when he woke up than he had before he was disciplined.” ( :110)

“”He won’t sleep,” said his father. “After you put him to bed, he will crawl out of his bed, and come downstairs. We usually put on an Elmo video and let him watch it.” “There’s no damn way I’m rewarding a recalcitrant child for unacceptable behaviour,” I thought, “and I’m certainly not showing anyone any Elmo video.” I always hated that creepy, whiny puppet. He was a disgrace to Jim Henson’s legacy. So reward-by-Elmo was not on the table. I didn’t say anything, of course. There is just no talking to parents about their children—until they are ready to listen.” ( :110)

“Kids do this frequently. Scared parents think that a crying child is always sad or hurt. This is simply not true. Anger is one of the most common reasons for crying.” ( :111)

“They also don’t sound the same, and can be distinguished with careful attention. Anger-crying is often an act of dominance, and should be dealt with as such. I lifted him up, and laid him down. Gently. Patiently. But firmly. He got up. I laid him down. He got up. I laid him down. He got up. This time, I laid him down, and kept my hand on his back. He struggled, mightily, but ineffectually. He was, after all, only one-tenth my size. I could take him with one hand. So, I kept him down and spoke calmly to him and told him he was a good boy and that he should relax. I gave him a soother and pounded gently on his back. He started to relax. His eyes began to close. I removed my hand. He promptly got to his feet. I was impressed. The kid had spirit! I lifted him up, and laid him down, again. “Lie down, monster,” I said.” ( :111)

“”How was the kid?” his father asked me when he got home, much later that night. “Good,” I said. “No problem at all. He’s asleep right now.” “Did he get up?” said his father. “No,” I said. “He slept the whole time.” Dad looked at me. He wanted to know. But he didn’t ask. And I didn’t tell. Don’t cast pearls before swine, as the old saying goes. And you might think that’s harsh. But training your child not to sleep, and rewarding him with the antics of a creepy puppet? That’s harsh too. You pick your poison, and I’ll pick mine.” ( :111)

“Skinner observed the animals he was training to perform such acts with exceptional care. Any actions that approximated what he was aiming at were immediately followed by a reward of just the right size: not small enough to be inconsequential, and not so large that it devalued future rewards.” ( :112)

“You can teach virtually anyone anything with such an approach. First, figure out what you want. Then, watch the people around you like a hawk. Finally, whenever you see anything a bit more like what you want, swoop in (hawk, remember) and deliver a reward. Your daughter has been very reserved since she became a teenager. You wish she would talk more. That’s the target: more communicative daughter. One morning, over breakfast, she shares an anecdote about school. That’s an excellent time to pay attention. That’s the reward. Stop texting and listen. Unless you don’t want her to tell you anything ever again.” ( :112)

“Given this, the fundamental moral question is not how to shelter children completely from misadventure and failure, so they never experience any fear or pain, but how to maximize their learning so that useful knowledge may be gained with minimal cost.” ( :113)

“More truthfully, they refuse to pay attention, admit to what is happening, and teach her how to act properly. They’re annoyed, of course, when she won’t share with her sister, but they pretend everything is OK. It’s not OK. They’ll snap at her later, for something totally unrelated. She will be hurt by that, and confused, but learn nothing.” ( :113)

“If its hierarchies are based only (or even primarily) on power, instead of the competence necessary to get important and difficult things done, it will be prone to collapse, as well. This is even true, in simpler form, of the hierarchies of chimpanzees, which is an indication of its fundamental, biological and non-arbitrary emergent truth.” ( :115)

“Here’s a straightforward initial idea: rules should not be multiplied beyond necessity. Alternatively stated, bad laws drive out respect for good laws.” ( :115)

“This is the ethical—even legal—equivalent of Occam’s razor, the scientist’s conceptual guillotine, which states that the simplest possible hypothesis is preferable. So, don’t encumber children—or their disciplinarians—with too many rules. That path leads to frustration.” ( :115)

“The first: limit the rules. The second: Use the least force necessary to enforce those rules.” ( :115)

“About the first principle, you might ask, “Limit the rules to what, exactly?” Here are some suggestions. Do not bite, kick or hit, except in self-defence. Do not torture and bully other children, so you don’t end up in jail. Eat in a civilized and thankful manner, so that people are happy to have you at their house, and pleased to feed you. Learn to share, so other kids will play with you. Pay attention when spoken to by adults, so they don’t hate you and might therefore deign to teach you something. Go to sleep properly, and peaceably, so that your parents can have a private life and not resent your existence. Take care of your belongings, because you need to learn how and because you’re lucky to have them. Be good company when something fun is happening, so that you’re invited for the fun. Act so that other people are happy you’re around, so that people will want you around. A child who knows these rules will be welcome everywhere” ( :116)

“This must be established experimentally, starting with the smallest possible intervention. Some children will be turned to stone by a glare. A verbal command will stop another. A thumb-cocked flick of the index finger on a small hand might be necessary for some. Such a strategy is particularly useful in public places such as restaurants. It can be administered suddenly, quietly and effectively, without risking escalation. What’s the alternative? A child who is crying angrily, demanding attention, is not making himself popular. A child who is running from table to table and disrupting everyone’s peace is bringing disgrace (an old word, but a good one) on himself and his parents. Such outcomes are far from optimal, and children will definitely misbehave more in public, because they are experimenting: trying to establish if the same old rules also apply in the new place. They don’t sort that out verbally, not when they are under three.” ( :116)

“first baby, our daughter, Mikhaila. When we took her down the street in her little foldup stroller in our French Montreal working-class neighbourhood, rough-looking heavy-drinking lumberjack types would stop in their tracks and smile at her.” ( :116)

“Third, we should note that some misbegotten actions must be brought to a halt both effectively and immediately, not least so that something worse doesn’t happen. What’s the proper punishment for someone who will not stop poking a fork into an electrical socket? Or who runs away laughing in a crowded supermarket parking lot? The answer is simple: whatever will stop it fastest, within reason. Because the alternative could be fatal.” ( :117)

“To hold the no excuse for physical punishment theory is also (fifth) to assume that the word no can be effectively uttered to another person in the absence of the threat of punishment. A woman can say no to a powerful, narcissistic man only because she has social norms, the law and the state backing her up.” ( :117)

“What no means, in the final analysis, is always “If you continue to do that, something you do not like will happen to you.” Otherwise it means nothing. Or, worse, it means “another nonsensical nothing muttered by ignorable adults.”” ( :117)

“A Summary of Principles Disciplinary principle 1: limit the rules. Principle 2: use minimum necessary force. Here’s a third: parents should come in pairs” ( :118)

“I am not saying we should be mean to single mothers, many of whom struggle impossibly and courageously—and a proportion of whom have had to escape, singly, from a brutal relationship—but that doesn’t mean we should pretend that all family forms are equally viable. They’re not. Period.” ( :119)

“particularly psychological: parents should understand their own capacity to be harsh, vengeful, arrogant, resentful, angry and deceitful.” ( :119)

“A child who pays attention, instead of drifting, and can play, and does not whine, and is comical, but not annoying, and is trustworthy—that child will have friends wherever he goes.” ( :120)


RULE 6 / Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world


“Sometimes suffering is clearly the result of a personal fault such as willful blindness, poor decision-making or malevolence. In such cases, when it appears to be self-inflicted, it may even seem just. People get what they deserve, you might contend. That’s cold comfort, however, even when true.” ( :127)

“My position was terrible. I knew that I could find nothing in the way of rational knowledge except a denial of life; and in faith I could find nothing except a denial of reason, and this was even more impossible than a denial of life.” ( :127)

“Try as he might, Tolstoy could identify only four means of escaping from such thoughts. One was retreating into childlike ignorance of the problem. Another was pursuing mindless pleasure. The third was “continuing to drag out a life that is evil and meaningless, knowing beforehand that nothing can come of it.” He identified that particular form of escape with weakness: “The people in this category know that death is better than life, but they do not have the strength to act rationally and quickly put an end to the delusion by killing themselves….” Only the fourth and final mode of escape involved “strength and energy. It consists of destroying life, once one has realized that life is evil and meaningless.” Tolstoy relentlessly followed his thoughts:” ( :127)

“Tolstoy wasn’t pessimistic enough. The stupidity of the joke being played on us does not merely motivate suicide. It motivates murder—mass murder, often followed by suicide. That is a far more effective existential protest. By June of 2016, unbelievable as it may seem, there had been one thousand mass killings (defined as four or more people shot in a single incident, excluding the shooter) in the US in twelve hundred and sixty days” ( :127)

“One of the most vengeful murderers of the twentieth century, the terrible Carl Panzram, was raped, brutalized and betrayed in the Minnesota institution responsible for his “rehabilitation” when he was a delinquent juvenile.” ( :128)

“Panzram’s response was (and this is what was so terrible) perfectly understandable. The details of his autobiography reveal that he was one of Tolstoy’s strong and logically consistent people. He was a powerful, consistent, fearless actor. He had the courage of his convictions. How could someone like him be expected to forgive and forget, given what had happened to him? Truly terrible things happen to people. It’s no wonder they’re out for revenge. Under such conditions, vengeance seems a moral necessity.” ( :128)

“I had a client who did not have good parents. Her mother died when she was very young. Her grandmother, who raised her, was a harridan, bitter and over-concerned with appearances. She mistreated her granddaughter, punishing her for her virtues: creativity, sensitivity, intelligence— unable to resist acting out her resentment for an admittedly hard life on her granddaughter. She had a better relationship with her father, but he was an addict who died, badly, while she cared for him. My client had a son. She perpetuated none of this with him. He grew up truthful, and independent, and hard-working, and smart. Instead of widening the tear in the cultural fabric she inherited, and transmitting it, she sewed it up. She rejected the sins of her forefathers. Such things can be done.” ( :129)

“Distress, whether psychic, physical, or intellectual, need not at all produce nihilism (that is, the radical rejection of value, meaning and desirability). Such distress always permits a variety of interpretations.” ( :129)

“Someone tormented by her mother can learn from her terrible experiences how important it is to be a good parent. Many, perhaps even most, of the adults who abuse children were abused themselves as children. However, the majority of people who were abused as children do not abuse their own children.” ( :129)

“She has thought long and hard about this, she says, and has come to the following conclusion: if it’s her fault, she might be able to do something about it. If it’s God’s fault, however—if reality itself is flawed, hell-bent on ensuring her misery—then she is doomed. She couldn’t change the structure of reality itself. But maybe she could change her own life.” ( :130)

“He witnessed the pointless and degrading suffering and death of his friends and acquaintances. Then he contracted an extremely serious disease. Solzhenitsyn had cause to curse God. Job himself barely had it as hard.” ( :130)

“He learned to watch and to listen. He found people he admired; who were honest, despite everything. He took himself apart, piece by piece, let what was unnecessary and harmful die, and resurrected himself. Then he wrote The Gulag Archipelago, a history of the Soviet 115 prison camp system. It’s a forceful, terrible book, written with the overwhelming moral force of unvarnished truth. Its sheer outrage screamed unbearably across hundreds of pages. Banned (and for good reason) in the USSR, it was smuggled to the West in the 1970s, and burst upon the world. Solzhenitsyn’s writing utterly and finally demolished the intellectual credibility of communism, as ideology or society. He took an axe to the trunk of the tree whose bitter fruits had nourished him so poorly—and whose planting he had witnessed and supported.” ( :130)

“was not the least of the reasons why. He was not the only such person to perform such a miracle. Václav Havel, the persecuted writer who later, impossibly, became the president of Czechoslovakia, then of the new Czech Republic, comes to mind, as does Mahatma Gandhi.” ( :130)

“This is life. We build structures to live in. We build families, and states, and countries. We abstract the principles upon which those structures are founded and formulate systems of belief. At first we inhabit those structures and beliefs like Adam and Eve in Paradise. But success makes us complacent. We forget to pay attention. We take what we have for granted. We turn a blind eye. We fail to notice that things are changing, or that corruption is taking root. And everything falls apart. Is that the fault of reality—of God? Or do things fall apart because we have not paid sufficient attention?” ( :131)

“The Dutch prepare their dikes for the worst storm in ten thousand years. Had New Orleans followed that example, no tragedy would have occurred. It’s not that no one knew. The Flood Control Act of 1965 mandated improvements in the levee system that held back Lake Pontchartrain. The system was to be completed by 1978. Forty years later, only 60 percent of the work had been done. Willful blindness and corruption took the city down.” ( :131)

“The ancient Jews always blamed themselves when things fell apart. They acted as if God’s goodness—the goodness of reality—was axiomatic, and took responsibility for their own failure.” ( :131)

“If the answer is no, here’s something to try: Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today.” ( :132)


RULE 7 / Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)


“Do what’s expedient. Lie, cheat, steal, deceive, manipulate—but don’t get caught. In an ultimately meaningless universe, what possible difference could it make? And this is by no means a new idea. The fact of life’s tragedy and the suffering that is part of it has been used to justify the pursuit of immediate selfish gratification for a very long time.” ( :137)

“We learned that behaving properly now, in the present—regulating our impulses, considering the plight of others—could bring rewards in the future, in a time and place that did not yet exist.” ( :139)

“Here’s a productive symbolic idea: the future is a judgmental father. That’s a good start. But two additional, archetypal, foundational questions arose, because of the discovery of sacrifice, of work. Both have to do with the ultimate extension of the logic of work—which is sacrifice now, to gain later.” ( :139)

“Not all sacrifices are of equal quality.” ( :140)

“Furthermore, it often appears that sacrifices of apparently high quality are not rewarded with a better future—and it’s not clear why.” ( :140)

“He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged” ( :141)

“Consider, for example, the case of Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher. After a lifetime of seeking the truth and educating his countrymen, Socrates faced a trial for crimes against the city-state of Athens, his hometown. His 118 accusers provided him with plenty of opportunity to simply leave, and avoid the trouble. But the great sage had already considered and rejected this course of action. His companion Hermogenes 119 observed him at this time discussing “any and every subject” other than his trial, and asked him why he appeared so unconcerned. Socrates first answered that he had been preparing his whole life to 120 defend himself, but then said something more mysterious and significant” ( :143)

“123 Socrates discussed this voice at the trial itself. He men124 said that one of the factors distinguishing him from other was his absolute willingness to listen to its warnings—to stop speaking and cease acting when it objected. The Gods themselves had deemed him wise above other men, not least for this reason, according to the Delphic Oracle herself, held to be a reliable judge of such things.”” ( :143)

“He saw that he could escape the terrible slow degeneration of the advancing years. He came to understand all that was happening to him as a gift from the gods. He was not therefore required to defend himself against his accusers—at least not with the aim of pronouncing his innocence, and escaping his fate. Instead, he turned the tables, addressing his judges in a manner that makes the reader understand precisely why the town council wanted this man dead. Then he took his poison, like a man.” ( :143)

“once you become consciously aware that you, yourself, are vulnerable, you understand the nature of human vulnerability, in general. You understand what it’s like to be fearful, and angry, and resentful, and bitter. You understand what pain means. And once you truly understand such feelings in yourself, and how they’re produced, you understand how to produce them in others.” ( :144)

“So deep a malice, to confound the Race Of Mankind in one Root, and Earth with Hell to mingle and involve—done all to spite the Great Creator” ( :147)

“Cain turns to Evil to obtain what Good denied him, and he does it voluntarily, self-consciously and with malice aforethought.” ( :147)

“that, and some consideration of the fact that worst of the concentration camp guards were human, all-too-human, too. That’s all part of making the desert story real again; part of updating it, for the modern mind.” ( :147)

“Auschwitz,” said Theodor Adorno, student of authoritarianism, “there should be no poetry.” He was wrong. But the poetry should be about Auschwitz.” ( :147)

“His own becomes key, opening the door to deep understanding of the desert encounter with the devil himself. “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto,” said the Roman playwright Terence: nothing human is alien to me.” ( :147)

“”No tree can grow to Heaven,” adds the ever-terrifying Carl Gustav Jung, psychoanalyst extraordinaire, “unless its roots reach down to Hell.”” ( :147)

“without a corresponding move down. It is for this reason that enlightenment is so rare. Who is willing to do that?” ( :147)

“Soldiers who develop post-traumatic stress disorder frequently develop it not because of something they saw, but because of something they did” ( :148)

“Now and then something climbs through and possesses some naive farm-boy from Iowa, and he turns monstrous. He does something terrible. He rapes and kills the women and massacres the infants of My Lai. And he watches himself do it. And some dark part of him enjoys it—and that is the part that is most unforgettable. And, later, he will not know how to reconcile himself with the reality about himself and the world that was then revealed. And no wonder.” ( :148)

“”One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” What does this answer mean? It means that even under conditions of extreme privation, there are more important things than food.” ( :148)

“Bread is of little use to the man who has betrayed his soul, even if he is currently starving.” ( :148)

“s only begotten Child from hunger and isolation and the presence of great evil? But that establishes no pattern for life. It doesn’t even work as literature. The deus ex machina—the emergence of a divine force that magically rescues the hero from his predicament—is the cheapest trick in the hack writer’s playbook. It makes a mockery of independence, and courage, and destiny, and free will, and responsibility.” ( :149)

“He who contrives, defeats his purpose; and he who is grasping, loses. The sage does not contrive to win, and therefore is not defeated; 138 he is not grasping, so does not lose.” ( :150)

“Being in the story of the third temptation. To obtain the greatest possible prize—the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth, the resurrection of Paradise—the individual must conduct his or her life in a manner that requires the rejection of immediate gratification, of natural and perverse desires alike, no matter how powerfully and convincingly and realistically those are offered, and dispense, as well with the temptations of evil.” ( :150)

“As the Christian revolution progressed, however, the impossible problems it had solved disappeared from view. That’s what happens to problems that are solved. And after the solution was implemented, even the fact that such problems had ever existed disappeared from view.” ( :152)

“The fact that automobiles pollute only becomes a problem of sufficient magnitude to attract public attention when the far worse problems that the internal combustion engine solves has vanished from view. People stricken with poverty don’t care about carbon dioxide.” ( :152)

“involved two main lines of attack. Nietzsche claimed, first, that it was precisely the sense of truth developed in the highest sense by Christianity itself that ultimately came to question and then to undermine the fundamental presuppositions of the faith.” ( :152)

“Carl Jung continued to develop Nietzsche’s arguments decades later, pointing out that Europe awoke, during the Enlightenment, as if from a Christian dream, noticing that everything it had heretofore taken for granted could and should be questioned. “God is dead,” said Nietzsche. “God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us?”” ( :152)

“But it was his second attack—on the removal of the true moral burden of Christianity during the development of the Church—that was most devastating.” ( :152)

“Nietzsche believed that Paul, and later the Protestants following Luther, had removed moral responsibility from Christ’s followers. They had watered down the idea of the imitation of Christ. This imitation was the sacred duty of the believer not to adhere (or merely to mouth) a set of statements about abstract belief but instead to actually manifest the spirit of the Saviour in the particular, specific conditions of his or her life—to realize or incarnate the archetype, as Jung had it; to clothe the eternal pattern in flesh.” ( :153)

“”The Christians have never practiced the actions Jesus prescribed them; and the impudent garrulous talk about the ‘justification by faith’ and its supreme and sole significance is only the consequence of the Church’s lack of courage and will to profess the works Jesus demanded.”” ( :153)

“Dogmatic belief in the central axioms of Christianity (that Christ’s crucifixion redeemed the world; that salvation was reserved for the hereafter; that salvation could not be achieved through works) had three mutually reinforcing consequences: First, devaluation of the significance of earthly life, as only the hereafter mattered.” ( :153)

“Second, passive acceptance of the status quo, because salvation could not be earned in any case through effort in this life (” ( :153)

“third, the right of the believer to reject any real moral burden (outside of the stated belief in salvation through Christ), because the Son of God had already done all the important work.” ( :153)

“Quite the contrary: In The Brothers Karamazov, for example, Dostoevsky’s atheist, Ivan, argues against the presuppositions of Christianity with unsurpassable clarity and passion. Alyosha, aligned with the Church by temperament and decision, cannot undermine” ( :153)

“a single one of his brother’s arguments (although his faith remains unshakeable). Dostoevsky knew and admitted that Christianity had been defeated by the rational faculty—by the intellect, even—but (and this is of primary importance) he did not hide from that fact.” ( :154)

“Dostoevsky has the great embodied moral goodness of Alyosha—the novitiate’s courageous imitation of Christ—attain victory over the spectacular but ultimately nihilistic critical intelligence of Ivan.” ( :154)

“The long bondage of the spirit … the persistent spiritual will to interpret everything that happened according to a Christian scheme, and in every occurrence to rediscover and justify the Christian God in every accident:—all this violence, arbitrariness, severity, dreadfulness, and unreasonableness, has proved itself the disciplinary means whereby the European spirit has attained its strength, its remorseless curiosity and subtle mobility; granted also that much irrecoverable strength and spirit had to be stifled, suffocated and spoiled in the process.” ( :154)

“nihilism, as well as an equally dangerous susceptibility to new, totalizing, utopian ideas. It was in the aftermath of God’s death that the great collective horrors of Communism and Fascism sprang forth (as both Dostoevsky and Nietzsche predicted they would).” ( :155)

“But this is the element of his thinking that appears weakest, psychologically: we cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls.” ( :155)

“Three hundred years before Nietzsche, the great French philosopher René Descartes set out on an intellectual mission to take his doubt seriously, to break things apart, to get to what was essential” ( :155)

“time. It might be said that Descartes merely secularized the Logos, turning it, more explicitly, into “that which is aware and thinks.” That’s the modern self, simply put. But what exactly is that self?” ( :155)

“depth psychologists—Freud and Jung paramount among them—insisted that the human psyche was a battleground for ideas. An idea has an aim. It wants something. It posits a value structure.” ( :156)

“An idea defines figure against ground. An idea is a personality, not a fact. When it manifests itself within a person, it has a strong proclivity to make of that person its avatar: to impel that person to act it out.” ( :156)

“attractive to me as an alternative proved equally insubstantial; with time, I came to understand, through the great George Orwell, that much of such thinking found its motivation in hatred of the rich and successful, instead of true regard for the poor.” ( :157)

“e socialists were more intrinsically capitalist than the capitalists. They believed just as strongly in money. They just thought that if different people had the money, the problems plaguing humanity would vanish.” ( :157)

“Rich people still divorce each other, and alienate themselves from their children, and suffer from existential angst, and develop cancer and dementia, and die alone and unloved. Recovering addicts cursed with money blow it all in a frenzy of snorting and drunkenness. And boredom weighs heavily on people who have nothing to do.” ( :157)

“No one had answered those questions, as far as I could tell. Like Descartes, I was plagued with doubt. I searched for one thing—anything—I could regard as indisputable. I wanted a rock upon which to build my house. It was doubt that led me to it.” ( :157)

“A guard would force an inmate to carry a hundred-pound sack of wet salt from one side of the large compound to the other—and then to carry it back. Arbeit macht frei, said the sign over the camp entrance—”Work will set you free”—and the freedom was death. Carrying the salt was an act of pointless torment. It was a piece of malevolent art. It allowed me to realize with certainty that some actions are wrong.” ( :157)

“In his Gulag Archipelago, in the second part of the second volume, he discussed the Nuremburg trials, which he considered the most significant event of the twentieth century. The conclusion of those trials? There are some actions that are so intrinsically terrible that they run counter to the proper nature of human Being. This is true essentially, cross-culturally—across time and place. These are evil actions. No excuses are available for engaging in them.” ( :157)

“Each human being understands, a priori, perhaps not what is good, but certainly what is not. And if there is something that is not good, then there is something that is good. If the worst sin is the torment of others, merely for the sake of the suffering produced—then the good is whatever is diametrically opposed to that. The good is whatever stops such things from happening” ( :158)

“It was from this that I drew my fundamental moral conclusions. Aim up. Pay attention. Fix what you can fix. Don’t be arrogant in your knowledge. Strive for humility, because totalitarian pride manifests itself in intolerance, oppression, torture and death.” ( :158)

“Consider then that the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering is a good. Make that an axiom: to the best of my ability I will act in a manner that leads to the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering.” ( :158)

“Jung observed that the construction of such a moral hierarchy was inevitable—although it could remain poorly arranged and internally self-contradictory. For Jung, whatever was at the top of an individual’s moral hierarchy was, for all intents and purposes, that person’s ultimate value, that person’s god. It was what the person acted out. It was what the person believed most deeply.” ( :158)

“If you act properly, your actions allow you to be psychologically integrated now, and tomorrow, and into the future, while you benefit yourself, your family, and the broader world around you. Everything will stack up and align along a single axis. Everything will come together. This produces maximal meaning.” ( :159)

“Meaning trumps expedience. Meaning gratifies all impulses, now and forever. That’s why we can detect it.” ( :159)

“You may come to ask yourself, “What should I do today?” in a manner that means “How could I use my time to make things better, instead of worse?”” ( :159)

“Expedience—that’s hiding all the skeletons in the closet. That’s covering the blood you just spilled with a carpet. That’s avoiding responsibility. It’s cowardly, and shallow, and wrong. It’s wrong because mere expedience, multiplied by many repetitions, produces the character of a demon.” ( :159)

“Meaning is when everything there is comes together in an ecstatic dance of single purpose—the glorification of a reality so that no matter how good it has suddenly become, it can get better and better and better more and more deeply forever into the future.” ( :160)


RULE 8 / Tell the truth—or, at least, don’t lie


“There were only two, as far as I could quickly surmise. I could tell the patient a story designed to save everyone’s face, or I could answer truthfully. “We can only take eight people in our group,” would have fallen into the first category, as would have, “We are just leaving the hospital now.”” ( :164)

“But I was a fake. Realizing this, I started to practise only saying things that the internal voice would not object to. I started to practise telling the truth—or, at least, not lying.” ( :165)

“You have to listen very carefully and tell the truth if you are going to get a paranoid person to open up to you.” ( :165)

“He talked to me, nonetheless, because I listened and responded honestly, even though I was not encouraging in my responses. He trusted me, despite (or, more accurately, because of) my objections. He was paranoid, not stupid.” ( :165)

“He was one of those men who have a miraculous capacity for alcohol; he could drink fifty or sixty beer in a two-day binge and remain standing the whole time.” ( :166)

“What do you say to a severely intoxicated, violence-prone ex-biker-gang-president with patchy English when he tries to sell his microwave to you at your open door at two in the morning?” ( :166)

“I was playing no tricks. In that moment I wasn’t an educated, anglophone, fortunate, upwardly-mobile young man. He wasn’t an ex-con Québécois biker with a blood alcohol level of .24. No, we were two men of good will trying to help each other out in our common struggle to do the right thing” ( :167)

“He glared seriously at me without speaking for about fifteen seconds. That was plenty long enough. He was watching, I knew, for any micro-expression revealing sarcasm, deceit, contempt or selfcongratulation.” ( :167)

“Taking the easy way out or telling the truth—those are not merely two different choices. They are different pathways through life. They are utterly different ways of existing.” ( :167)

“These are all examples of what Sigmund Freud’s compatriot, the lesser-known Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler, called “life-lies.”” ( :167)

“all I know is all that needs to be known.” ( :168)

“I have seen people define their utopia and then bend their lives into knots trying to make it reality. A left-leaning student adopts a trendy, anti-authority stance and spends the next twenty years working resentfully to topple the windmills of his imagination.” ( :168)

“that decision when she was little more than a child. What did she know about her fifty-twoyear-old self, when still a teenager?” ( :168)

“There is another fundamental problem, too, with the life-lie, particularly when it is based on avoidance. A sin of commission occurs when you do something you know to be wrong. A sin of omission occurs when you let something bad happen when you could do something to stop it. The former is regarded, classically, as more serious than the latter—than avoidance. I’m not so sure.” ( :168)

“And hiding from others also means suppressing and hiding the potentialities of the unrealized self. And that’s the problem. If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself.” ( :169)

“It means that so much of what you could be will never be forced by necessity to come forward.” ( :169)

“If you say no to your boss, or your spouse, or your mother, when it needs to be said, then you transform yourself into someone who can say no when it needs to be said.” ( :169)

“If you ever wonder how perfectly ordinary, decent people could find themselves doing the terrible things the gulag camp guards did, you now have your answer. By the time no seriously needed to be said, there was no one left capable of saying it” ( :169)

“It’s not vision. It is instead willful blindness. It’s the worst sort of lie. It’s subtle. It avails itself of easy rationalizations. Willful blindness is the refusal to know something that could be known. It’s refusal to admit that the knocking sound means someone at the door. It’s refusal to acknowledge the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room, the elephant under the carpet, the skeleton in the closet.” ( :169)

“Every game has rules. Some of the most important rules are implicit. You accept them merely by deciding to play the game. The first of these rules is that the game is important. If it wasn’t important, you wouldn’t be playing it. Playing a game defines it as important. The second is that moves undertaken during the game are valid if they help you win. If you make a move and it isn’t helping you win, then, by definition, it’s a bad move.” ( :169)

“The prideful, rational mind, comfortable with its certainty, enamoured of its own brilliance, is easily tempted to ignore error, and to sweep dirt under the rug. Literary, existential philosophers, beginning with Søren Kierkegaard, conceived of this mode of Being as “inauthentic.” An inauthentic person continues to perceive and act in ways his own experience has demonstrated false. He does not speak with his own voice.” ( :170)

“”Did what I want happen? No. Then the world is unfair. People are jealous, and too stupid to understand. It is the fault of something or someone else.” That is the voice of inauthenticity. It is not too far from there to “they should be stopped” or “they must be hurt” or “they must be destroyed.”” ( :170)

“Someone power-hungry makes a new rule at your workplace. It’s unnecessary. It’s counterproductive. It’s an irritant. It removes some of the pleasure and meaning from your work. But you tell yourself it’s all right. It’s not worth complaining about. Then it happens again. You’ve already trained yourself to allow such things, by failing to react the first time.” ( :170)

“You’re a little less courageous. Your opponent, unopposed, is a little bit stronger. The institution is a little bit more corrupt. The process of bureaucratic stagnation and oppression is underway, and you’ve contributed, by pretending that it was OK. Why not complain? Why not take a stand?” ( :170)

“For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” ( :170)

“Solzhenitsyn wrote the truth, his truth, hard-learned through his own experiences in the camps, exposing the lies of the Soviet state. No educated person dared defend that ideology again after Solzhenitsyn published The Gulag Archipelago. No one could ever say again, “What Stalin did, that was not true communism.”” ( :171)

“Solzhenitsyn wrote the truth, his truth, hard-learned through his own experiences in the camps, exposing the lies of the Soviet state. No educated person dared defend that ideology again after Solzhenitsyn published The Gulag Archipelago. No one could ever say again, “What Stalin did, that was not true communism.” Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor who wrote the classic Man’s Search for Meaning, drew a similar social-psychological conclusion: deceitful, inauthentic individual existence is the precursor to social totalitarianism.” ( :171)

“The inability of a son to thrive independently is exploited by a mother bent on shielding her child from all disappointment and pain. He never leaves, and she is never lonely. It’s an evil conspiracy, forged slowly, as the pathology unfolds, by thousands of knowing winks and nods.” ( :171)

“What is going to save you? The totalitarian says, in essence, “You must rely on faith in what you already know.” But that is not what saves. What saves is the willingness to learn from what you don’t know. That” ( :173)

“Oddly, there are no devils sitting on the edge of this giant pot, but the clamberer disappears back under the surface anyway. The American asks, “Why are there no demons here to keep everyone from escaping?” Satan replies, “This is where we put the Russians. If one tries to escape, the others pull him back in.”” ( :173)

“Milton believed that stubborn refusal to change in the face of error not only meant ejection from heaven, and subsequent degeneration into an ever-deepening hell, but the rejection of redemption itself.” ( :173)

“These are the people to whom you instinctively give a wide berth. These are the people who are immediately angered if you direct your gaze toward them, although sometimes they will instead turn away in shame. I saw a horribly damaged street alcoholic do exactly that in the presence of my young daughter. He wanted above all to avoid seeing his degraded state incontrovertibly reflected in her eyes” ( :174)

“When Horus confronts Set, they have a terrible battle. Before Set’s defeat and banishment from the kingdom, he tears out one of his nephew’s eyes. But the eventually victorious Horus takes back the eye. Then he does something truly unexpected: he journeys voluntarily to the underworld and gives the eye to his father.” ( :175)

“It was for this reason that Nietzsche said that a man’s worth was determined by how much truth he could tolerate.” ( :175)

“You are by no means only what you already know. You are also all that which you could know, if you only would.” ( :175)

“Sometimes such deaths virtually destroy us. In such cases, we might never” ( :175)

“recover or, if we do, we change a lot. A good friend of mine discovered that his wife of decades was having an affair. He didn’t see it coming. It plunged him into a deep depression. He descended into the underworld. He told me, at one point, “I always thought that people who were depressed should just shake it off. I didn’t have any idea what I was talking about.” Eventually, he returned from the depths. In many ways, he’s a new man—and, perhaps, a wiser and better man. He lost forty pounds. He ran a marathon. He travelled to Africa and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. He chose rebirth over descent into Hell.” ( :176)

“One day you have had enough. You drop out. You disappoint your parents. You learn to live with that. You consult only yourself, even though that means you must rely on your own decisions. You take a philosophy degree. You accept the burden of your own mistakes. You become your own person. By rejecting your father’s vision, you develop your own. And then, as your parents age, you’ve become adult enough to be there for them, when they come to need you.” ( :177)

“As Matthew 10:34 has it, citing Christ—emphasizing the role of the spoken Truth: “Think not that I have come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”” ( :177)

“If existence is good, then the clearest and cleanest and most correct relationship with it is also good. If existence is not good, by contrast, you’re lost. Nothing will save you—certainly not the petty rebellions, murky thinking and obscurantist blindness that constitute deceit. Is existence good? You have to take a terrible risk to find out. Live in truth, or live in deceit, face the consequences, and draw your conclusions” ( :177)

“This is the “act of faith” whose necessity was insisted upon by the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard. You cannot know ahead of time.” ( :177)

“It is this risk that the ancients described as the sacrifice of personal will to the will of God.” ( :177)

“[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.” ( :178)

“Finally, there is the proposition: “Being itself is susceptible to my manipulations. Thus, it deserves no respect.”” ( :179)

“After that comes the arrogance and sense of superiority that inevitably accompanies the production of successful lies (hypothetically successful lies—and that is one of the greatest dangers: apparently everyone is fooled, so everyone is stupid, except me. Everyone is stupid and fooled, by me—so I can get away with whatever I want). Finally, there is the proposition: “Being itself is susceptible to my manipulations. Thus, it deserves no respect.”” ( :179)

“In Paradise, everyone speaks the truth. That is what makes it Paradise. Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie.” ( :180)


RULE 9 / Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t


“NOT ADVICE Psychotherapy is not advice. Advice is what you get when the person you’re talking with about something horrible and complicated wishes you would just shut up and go away. Advice is what you get when the person you are talking to wants to revel in the superiority of his or her own intelligence. If you weren’t so stupid, after all, you wouldn’t have your stupid problems.” ( :186)

“She was a ghost of a person. She dressed, however, like a professional. She knew how to present herself, for first appearances. In consequence, she had finagled her way onto a government advisory board considering the construction of a major piece of transportation infrastructure (even though she knew nothing about government, advising or construction).” ( :187)

“local public-access radio show dedicated to small business, even though she had never held a real job, and knew nothing about being an entrepreneur. She had been receiving welfare payments for the entirety of her adulthood.” ( :187)

“The sections included such topics as “My Dreams” and “Books I Have Read.” She had written down dozens of her night-time dreams in the “My Dreams” section, and provided brief summaries and reviews of her reading material.” ( :187)

“So, if you have come apart at the seams (or if you never have been together at all) you can restructure your life on Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, Rogerian or behavioural principles.” ( :187)

“People think they think, but it’s not true. It’s mostly self-criticism that passes for thinking. True thinking is rare—just like true listening. Thinking is listening to yourself.” ( :190)

“But something new and radical is still almost always wrong. You need good, even great, reasons to ignore or defy general, public opinion. That’s your culture. It’s a mighty oak. You perch on one of its branches. If the branch breaks, it’s a long way down —farther, perhaps, than you think. If you’re reading this book, there’s a strong probability that you’re a privileged person. You can read. You have time to read. You’re perched high in the clouds. It took untold generations to get you where you are. A little gratitude might be in order. If you’re going to insist on bending the world to your way, you better have your reasons. If you’re going to stand your ground, you better have your reasons. You better have thought them through. You might otherwise be in for a very hard landing. You should do what other people do, unless you have a very good reason not to. If you’re in a rut, at least you know that other people have travelled that path. Out of the rut is too often off the road. And in the desert that awaits off the road there are highwaymen and monsters. So speaks wisdom.” ( :191)

“He was afraid that he would in such a manner detrimentally affect the development of his patients. It was for such reasons, as well, that Freud insisted that psychoanalysts be analyzed themselves. He wanted those who practiced his method to uncover and eliminate some of their own worst blind spots and prejudices, so they would not practise corruptly. Freud had a point. He was, after all, a genius. You can tell that because people still hate him.” ( :191)

“He says, “That was a good session, Dr. Peterson.” I nod. You can be pretty smart if you can just shut up.” ( :192)

“You have to get along with other people. A therapist is one of those other people. A good therapist will tell you the truth about what he thinks. (That is not the same thing as telling you that what he thinks is the truth.)” ( :193)

“”Stop the discussion for a moment, and institute this rule: ‘Each person can speak up for himself only after he has first restated the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately, and to that speaker’s satisfaction.'” ( :193)

“There are several primary advantages to this process of summary. The first advantage is that I genuinely come to understand what the person is saying. Of this, Rogers notes, “Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But if you try it you will discover it is one of the most difficult things you have ever tried to do. If you really understand a person in this way, if you are willing to enter his private world and see the way life appears to him, you run the risk of being changed yourself. You might see it his way, you might find yourself influenced in your attitudes or personality. This risk of being changed is one of the most frightening prospects most of us can face.”” ( :193)

“The third advantage to employing the Rogerian method is the difficulty it poses to the careless construction of straw-man arguments. When someone opposes you, it is very tempting to oversimplify, parody, or distort his or her position. This is a counterproductive game, designed both to harm the dissenter and to unjustly raise your personal status.” ( :193)


RULE 10 / Be precise in your speech


“To put it another way: What you perceive as your computer is like a single leaf, on a tree, in a forest—or, even more accurately, like your fingers rubbing briefly across that leaf. A single leaf can be plucked from a branch. It can be perceived, briefly, as a single, self-contained entity—but that perception misleads more than clarifies. In a few weeks, the leaf will crumble and dissolve. It would not have been there at all, without the tree. It cannot continue to exist, in the absence of the tree. This is the position of our laptops in relation to the world. So much of what they are resides outside their boundaries that the screened devices we hold on our laps can only maintain their computer-like façade for a few short years. Almost everything we see and hold is like that, although often not so evidently.” ( :206)

“We don’t see valueless entities and then attribute meaning to them. We perceive the meaning directly” ( :206)

“We see tools and obstacles, not objects or” ( :206)

“Something similar, but more extreme, happens when we identify, not with a character in a fictional drama, but with a whole group, in a competition.” ( :207)

“Paradoxically, that is a direct consequence not of our aggression but of our extreme sociability and willingness to cooperate.” ( :208)

“If we can become not only ourselves, but our families, teams and countries, cooperation comes easily to us, relying on the same deeply innate mechanisms that drive us (and other creatures) to protect our very bodies.” ( :208)

“Her husband is not who she perceived him to be—but neither is she, the betrayed wife. She is no longer the “well-loved, secure wife, and valued partner.” Strangely enough, despite our belief in the permanent immutability of the past, she may never have been. The past is not necessarily what it was, even though it has already been.” ( :209)

“Maybe! That’s the moral of many, many stories. Chaos emerges in a household, bit by bit. Mutual unhappiness and resentment pile up” ( :211)

“Don’t ever underestimate the destructive power of sins of omission.” ( :212)

“Here’s the terrible truth about such matters: every single voluntarily unprocessed and uncomprehended and ignored reason for marital failure will compound and conspire and will then plague that betrayed and self-betrayed woman for the rest of her life.” ( :214)

“Here’s the terrible truth about such matters: every single voluntarily unprocessed and uncomprehended and ignored reason for marital failure will compound and conspire and will then plague that betrayed and self-betrayed woman for the rest of her life. The same goes for her husband.” ( :214)

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while th” ( :214)

“The problem itself must be admitted to, as close to the time of its emergence as possible. “I’m unhappy,” is a good start (not “I have a right to be unhappy,” because that is still questionable, at the beginning of the problem-solving process). Perhaps your unhappiness is justified, under the current circumstances. Perhaps any reasonable person would be displeased and miserable to be where you are. Alternatively, perhaps, you are just whiny and immature? Consider both at least equally probable, as terrible as such consideration might appear.” ( :216)

“This is difficult, but the difficulty is not relevant, because the alternative is worse.” ( :216)

“You must determine where you have been in your life, so that you can know where you are now.” ( :218)

“You can’t get from point A to point B unless you are already at point A, and if you’re just “anywhere” the chances you are at point A are very small indeed.” ( :218)

“Confront the chaos of Being. Take aim against a sea of troubles. Specify your destination, and chart your course. Admit to what you want. Tell those around you who you are. Narrow, and gaze attentively, and move forward, forthrightly.” ( :218)


RULE 11 / Do not bother children when they are skateboarding


“Some might call that stupid. Maybe it was. But it was brave, too. I thought those kids were amazing. I thought they deserved a pat on the back and some honest admiration. Of course it was dangerous. Danger was the point. They wanted to triumph over danger. They would have been safer in protective equipment, but that would have ruined it. They weren’t trying to be safe. They were trying to become competent—and it’s competence that makes people as safe as they can truly be.” ( :222)

“I have flown several times in a carbon fibre stunt plane—even doing a hammerhead roll—and that was OK, although it’s very physically and mentally demanding. (To perform a hammerhead roll, you pilot the plane straight up vertically, until the force of gravity makes it stall. Then it falls backwards, corkscrewing, until eventually it flips and noses straight down, after which you pull out of the dive. Or you don’t do another hammerhead roll.)” ( :222)

“I say “sufficiently safe” about the demolished playgrounds because when playgrounds are made too safe, kids either stop playing in them or start playing in unintended ways. Kids need playgrounds dangerous enough to remain challenging. People, including children (who are people too, after all) don’t seek to minimize risk. They seek to optimize it.” ( :223)

“If you read the depth psychologists—Freud and Jung, for example, as well as their precursor, Friedrich Nietzsche—you learn that there is a dark side to everything. Freud delved deeply into the latent, implicit content of dreams, which were often aimed, in his opinion, at the expression of some improper wish. Jung believed that every act of social propriety was accompanied by its evil twin, its unconscious shadow. Nietzsche investigated the role played by what he termed ressentiment in motivating what were ostensibly selfless actions—and, often, exhibited all too publicly.” ( :223)

“Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier for the Left Book Club, a socialist publishing group that released a select volume every month. After reading the first half of his book, which deals directly with the miners’ personal circumstances, it is impossible not to feel sympathy for the working poor. Only a monster could keep his heart hardened through the accounts of the lives Orwell describes: It is not long since conditions in the mines were worse than they are now. There are still living a few very old women who in their youth have worked underground, crawling on all fours and dragging tubs of coal. They used to go on doing this even when they were pregnant.” ( :224)

“He concluded that the tweed-wearing, armchair-philosophizing, victim-identifying, pityand-contempt-dispensing social-reformer types frequently did not like the poor, as they claimed. Instead, they just hated the rich.” ( :224)

“It is because of of Freud, Jung, Nietzsche—and Orwell—that I always wonder, “What, then, do you stand against?” whenever I hear someone say, too loudly, “I stand for this!” The question seems particularly relevant if the same someone is complaining, criticizing, or trying to change someone else’s behaviour” ( :224)

“Jung who developed the most surgically wicked of psychoanalytic dicta: if you cannot understand why someone did something, look at the consequences—and infer the motivation.” ( :224)

“People motivated to make things better usually aren’t concerned with changing other people—or, if they are, they take responsibility for making the same changes to themselves (and first).” ( :224)

“Rene was a big, smart, good-looking kid, and he was tough. We were in grade six together, in a class taught by my father. Rene was caught chewing gum. “Rene,” said my father, “spit that gum out. You look like a cow.” “Ha, ha,” I laughed, under my breath. “Rene the cow.” Rene might have been a cow, but there was nothing wrong with his hearing. “Peterson,” he said, “after school—you’re dead.”” ( :225)

“I crouched down and hid behind some bikes, keeping an eye on Rene. “Rene,” I yelled, “I’m sorry I called you a cow. Let’s quit fighting.” He started to approach me again. I said, “Rene, I am sorry I said that. Really. And I still want to go to the movie with you.” This wasn’t just a tactic. I meant it. Otherwise what happened next would not have happened. Rene stopped circling. Then he stared at me. Then he broke into tears. Then he ran off. That was Native-white relationships in a nutshell, in our hard little town. We never did go to a movie together.” ( :225)

“When she pointed out what he was doing, he played the victim, but he was deeply and dangerously furious. Part” ( :226)

“Maybe I picked up some change in scent that night, when death hung in the air. Chris had a very bitter odour. He showered frequently, but the towels and the sheets picked up the smell. It was impossible to get them clean. It was the product of a psyche and a body that did not operate harmoniously. A social worker I knew, who also knew Chris, told me of her familiarity with that odour. Everyone at her workplace knew of it, although they only discussed it in hushed tones. They called it the smell of the unemployable.” ( :227)

“But it didn’t last. I didn’t see him in Boston again. Almost ten years later—the night before Chris’s fortieth birthday, as it happened—he called me again. By this time, I had moved my family to Toronto. He had some news. A story he had written was going to be published in a collection put together by a small but legitimate press. He wanted to tell me that. He wrote good short stories. I had read them all. We had discussed them at length. He was a good photographer, too. He had a good, creative eye. The next day, Chris drove his old pickup—the same battered beast from Fairview—into the bush. He ran a hose from the exhaust pipe into the front cab. I can see him there, looking through the cracked windshield, smoking, waiting. They found his body a few weeks later. I called his dad. “My beautiful boy,” he sobbed.” ( :227)

“(like computer touchscreens, but capable of being placed everywhere). He spoke instead about the threat human beings posed to the survival of the planet. Like Chris—like far too many people—he had become anti-human, to the core. He had not walked as far down that road as my friend, but the same dread spirit animated them both.” ( :227)

“Would have the professor reconsidered his opinions, if he knew where such ideas can lead? I would like to say yes, but I don’t believe it. I think he could have known, but refused to. Worse, perhaps: he knew, but didn’t care—or knew, and was headed there, voluntarily, in any case.” ( :227)

“1800s that the brilliant biologist Thomas Huxley (1825-95)—staunch defender of Darwin and Aldous Huxley’s grandfather—told the British Parliament that it was literally impossible for mankind to exhaust the oceans.” ( :228)

“Parkour, a sport derived from French military obstacle course training, is amazing, as is free running.” ( :228)

“No one in the modern world may without objection express the opinion that existence would be bettered by the absence of Jews, blacks, Muslims, or Englishmen. Why, then, is it virtuous to propose that the planet might be better off, if there were fewer people on it?” ( :228)

“Boys are suffering, in the modern world. They are more disobedient—negatively—or more independent—positively—than girls, and they suffer for this, throughout their pre-university educational career. They are less agreeable (agreeableness being a personality trait associated with 172 compassion, empathy and avoidance of conflict) and less susceptible to anxiety and depression, at 173 least after both sexes hit puberty. Boys’ interests tilt towards things; girls’ interests tilt towards 174 people. Strikingly, these differences, strongly influenced by biological factors, are most pronounced in the Scandinavian societies where gender-equality has been pushed hardest: this is the opposite of what would be expected by those who insist, ever more loudly, that gender is a social construct. It isn’t. This isn’t a debate. The data are in” ( :229)

“games. This is in part because it is admirable for a girl to win when competing with a boy. It is also OK for her to lose to a boy. For a boy to beat a girl, however, it is often not OK—and just as often, it is even less OK for him to lose. Imagine that a boy and a girl, aged nine, get into a fight. Just for engaging, the boy is highly suspect. If he wins, he’s pathetic. If he loses —well, his life might as well be over. Beat up by a girl.” ( :229)

“They can add to this victory by winning in the boys’ hierarchy.” ( :229)

“hierarchy—by being good at what girls value, as girls. They can add to this victory by winning in the boys’ hierarchy” ( :229)

“They will lose status, among girls and boys, by being good at what girls value. It costs them in reputation among the boys, and in attractiveness among the girls. Girls aren’t attracted to boys who are their friends, even though they might like them, whatever that means. They are attracted to boys who win status contests with other boys. If you’re male, however, you just can’t hammer a female as hard as you would a male.” ( :229)

“The women at female-dominated institutes of higher education are finding it increasingly difficult to arrange a dating relationship of even moderate duration.” ( :230)

“From 1997 to 2012, 180 according to the Pew Research Centre, the number of women aged 18 to 34 who said that a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life rose from 28 to 37 percent (an increase fn2 of more than 30 percent ). The number of young men who said the same thing declined 15 percent fn3 over the same period (from 35 to 29 percent )” ( :230)

“But most aren’t, and most won’t, and money doesn’t seem to improve people’s lives, once they have enough to avoid the bill collectors.” ( :230)

“They understood, as well—and perfectly well—that it was the market that defined success, not the men they worked with. If you are earning $650 an hour in Toronto as a top lawyer, and your client in Japan phones you at 4 a.m. on a Sunday, you answer. Now. You answer, now, even if you have just gone back to sleep after feeding the baby. You answer because some hyper-ambitious legal associate in New York would be happy to answer, if you don’t—and that’s why the market defines the work.” ( :231)

“First, women have a strong proclivity to marry across or up the economic dominance hierarchy. They prefer a partner of equal or greater status. This holds 184 true cross-culturally. The same does not hold, by the way, for men, who are perfectly willing to marry across or down (as the Pew data indicate),” ( :231)

“I can’t help finding that amusing, in a blackly ironic manner. The oppressive patriarchal institution of marriage has now become a luxury. Why would the rich tyrannize themselves?” ( :231)

“Of course, culture is an oppressive structure. It’s always been that way. It’s a fundamental, universal existential reality.” ( :232)

“any hierarchy creates winners and losers. The winners are, of course, more likely to justify the hierarchy and the losers to criticize it. But (1) the collective pursuit of any valued goal produces a hierarchy (as some will be better and some worse at that pursuit not matter what it is) and (2) it is the pursuit of goals that in large part lends life its sustaining meaning.” ( :232)

“It looks to me like the so-called oppression of the patriarchy was instead an imperfect collective attempt by men and women, stretching over millennia, to free each other from privation, disease and drudgery. The recent case of Arunachalam Muruganantham provides a salutary example. This man, the “tampon king” of India, became unhappy because his wife had to use dirty rags during her menstrual period. She told him it was either expensive sanitary napkins, or milk for the family. He spent the next fourteen years in a state of insanity, by his neighbours’ judgment, trying to rectify the problem. Even his wife and his mother abandoned him, briefly, terrified as they became of his obsession. When he ran out of female volunteers to test his product, he took to wearing a bladder of pig’s blood as a replacement. I can’t see how this behaviour would have improved his popularity or status. Now his low-cost and locally made napkins are distributed across India, manufactured by women-run selfhelp groups. His users have been provided with freedom they never previously experienced. In 2014, this high-school dropout was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. I am unwilling to consider personal gain Muruganantham’s primary motivation. Is he part of the patriarchy?” ( :233)

“James Young Simpson used ether to help a woman who had a deformed pelvis give birth. Afterwards, he switched to the better-performing chloroform. The first baby delivered under its influence was named “Anaesthesia.” By 1853, chloroform was esteemed enough to be used by Queen Victoria, who delivered her seventh baby under its influence. Remarkably soon afterward, the option of painless childbirth was available everywhere. A few people warned of the danger of opposing God’s pronouncement to women in Genesis 3:16: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children …” Some also opposed its use among males: young, healthy, courageous men simply did not need anaesthesia. Such opposition was ineffectual. Use of anaesthesia spread with extreme rapidity (and far faster than would be possible today). Even prominent churchmen supported its use.” ( :233)

“tampon, Tampax, didn’t arrive until the 1930s. It was invented by Dr. Earle Cleveland Haas. He made it of compressed cotton, and designed an applicator from paper tubes. This helped lessen resistance to the products by those who objected to the self-touching that might otherwise occur. By the early 1940s, 25 percent of women were using them. Thirty years later, it was 70 percent. Now it’s four out of five, with the remainder relying on pads, which are now hyperabsorbent, and held in place by effective adhesives (opposed to the awkwardly placed, bulky, belted, diaper-like sanitary napkins of the 1970s). Did Muruganantham, Simpson and Haas oppress women, or free them? What about Gregory Goodwin Pincus, who invented the birth control pill? In what manner were these practical, enlightened, persistent men part of a constricting patriarchy?” ( :233)

“Horkheimer and his Frankfurt School of associated thinkers—first, in Germany and later, in the US—aimed at a full-scale critique and transformation of Western civilization.” ( :234)

“rench philosopher Jacques Derrida, leader of the postmodernists, who came into vogue in the late 1970s. Derrida described his own ideas as a radicalized form of Marxism. Marx attempted to reduce history and society to economics, considering culture the oppression of the poor by the rich.” ( :234)

“One of the primary architects of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, Khieu Samphan, received a doctorate at the Sorbonne before he became the nominal head of Cambodia in the mid-1970s.” ( :234)

“doctoral thesis, written in 1959, he argued that the work done by non-farmers in Cambodia’s cities was unproductive: bankers, bureaucrats and businessmen added nothing to society. Instead, they parasitized the genuine value produced through agriculture, small industry and craft.” ( :234)

“The Khmer Rouge evacuated Cambodia’s cities, drove all the inhabitants into the countryside, closed the banks, banned the use of currency, and destroyed all the markets. A quarter of the Cambodian population were worked to death in the countryside, in the killing fields” ( :234)

“Great Depression, the Stalinist Soviets sent two million kulaks, their richest peasants, to Siberia (those with a small number of cows, a couple of hired hands, or a few acres more than was typical).” ( :235)

“Wealth signified oppression, and private property was theft. It was time for some equity. More than thirty thousand kulaks were shot on the spot. Many more met their fate at the hands of their most jealous, resentful and unproductive neighbours, who used the high ideals of communist collectivization to mask their murderous intent.” ( :235)

“The women were raped. Their belongings were “expropriated,” which, in practice, meant that their houses were stripped down to the rafters and ceiling beams and everything was stolen.” ( :235)

“The “parasitical” kulaks were, in general, the most skillful and hardworking farmers. A small minority of people are responsible for most of the production in any field, and farming proved no different. Agricultural output crashed.” ( :235)

“”To eat your own children is a barbarian act,” declared posters of the Soviet regime.” ( :235)

“Malcolm Muggeridge published a” ( :235)

“series of articles describing Soviet demolition of the peasantry as early as 1933, for the Manchester Guardian. George Orwell understood what was going on under Stalin, and he made it widely known. He published Animal Farm, a fable satirizing the Soviet Union, in 1945, despite encountering serious resistance to the book’s release. Many who should have known better retained their blindness for long after this. Nowhere was this truer than France, and nowhere truer in France than among the intellectuals.” ( :236)

“mid-century philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, was a well-known communist, although not a card-carrier, until he denounced the Soviet incursion into Hungary in 1956.” ( :236)

“Marxism, nonetheless, and did not finally break with the Soviet Union until 1968, when the Soviets violently suppressed the Czechoslovakians during the Prague Spring.” ( :236)

“It circulated in underground samizdat format. Russians had twenty-four hours to read their rare copy before handing it to the next waiting mind. A Russian-language reading was broadcast into the Soviet Union by Radio Liberty.” ( :236)

“This did not mean that the fascination Marxist ideas had for intellectuals—particularly French intellectuals—disappeared. It merely transformed. Some refused outright to learn. Sartre denounced Solzhenitsyn as a “dangerous element.” Derrida, more subtle, substituted the idea of power for the idea of money, and continued on his merry way.” ( :236)

“Society was no longer repression of the poor by the rich. It was oppression of everyone by the powerful.” ( :236)

“There are “males and females” only because members of that more heterogeneous group benefit by excluding the tiny minority of people whose biological sexuality is amorphous. Science only benefits the scientists. Politics only benefits the politicians. In Derrida’s view, hierarchies exist because they gain from oppressing those who are omitted. It is this ill-gotten gain that allows them to flourish.” ( :236)

“People compete to rise to the top, and they care where they are in dominance hierarchies. But (and this is where you separate the metaphorical boys from the men, philosophically) the fact that power plays a role in human motivation does not mean that it plays the only role, or even the primary role.” ( :237)

“Although the facts cannot speak for themselves (just as an expanse of land spread out before a voyager cannot tell him how to journey through it),” ( :237)

“Now, I have some beliefs that might be regarded as left-leaning. I think, for example, that the tendency for valuable goods to distribute themselves with pronounced inequality constitutes an everpresent threat to the stability of society. I think there is good evidence for that. That does not mean that the solution to the problem is self-evident. We don’t know how to redistribute wealth without introducing a whole host of other problems.” ( :237)

“There isn’t a shred of hard evidence to support any of their central claims: that Western society is pathologically patriarchal; that the prime lesson of history is that men, rather than nature, were the primary source of the oppression of women (rather than, as in most cases, their partners and supporters);” ( :238)

“competence, not power, is a prime determiner of status.” ( :238)

“competence, not power, is a prime determiner of status. Competence. Ability. Skill. Not power.” ( :238)

“No one with brain cancer is equity-minded enough to refuse the service of the surgeon with the best education, the best reputation and, perhaps, the highest earnings.” ( :238)

“189 Entrepreneurs and artists are higher in openness to experience, another cardinal personality trait, than in conscientiousness.” ( :238)

“After all, scientists are people too, and people like power, just like lobsters like power—just like deconstructionists like to be known for their ideas, and strive rightly to sit atop their academic hierarchies” ( :238)

“The introduction of the “equal pay for equal work” argument immediately complicates even salary comparison beyond practicality, for one simple reason: who decides what work is equal? It’s not possible. That’s why the marketplace exists. Worse is the problem of group comparison: women should make as much as men. OK. Black women should make as much as white women. OK. Should salary then be adjusted for all parameters of race? At what level of resolution? What racial categories are “real”?” ( :239)

“Here’s the fundamental problem: group identity can be fractionated right down to the level of the individual.” ( :239)

“190 from studies of adopted-out identical twins, that culture can produce a fifteen-point (or one standard deviation) increase in IQ (roughly the difference between the average high school student and the average state college student)” ( :240)

“If the brain is a tree, then aggression (along with hunger, thirst and sexual desire) is there in the very trunk.” ( :241)

“sophisticated behavioural routines. Aggression underlies the drive to be outstanding, to be unstoppable, to compete, to win—to be actively virtuous, at least along one dimension.” ( :241)

“Many of the female clients (perhaps even a majority) that I see in my clinical practice have trouble in their jobs and family lives not because they are too aggressive, but because they are not aggressive enough.” ( :241)

“They tend to treat those around them as if they were distressed children. They tend to be naïve. They assume that cooperation should be the basis of all social transactions, and they avoid conflict (which means they avoid confronting problems in their relationships as well as at work). They continually sacrifice for others.” ( :241)

“Because too-agreeable people bend over backwards for other people, they do not stand up properly for themselves. Assuming that others think as they do, they expect— instead of ensuring—reciprocity for their thoughtful actions. When this does not happen, they don’t speak up. They do not or cannot straightforwardly demand recognition. The dark side of their characters emerges, because of their subjugation, and they become resentful.” ( :241)

“There are only two major reasons for resentment: being taken advantage of (or allowing yourself to be taken advantage of), or whiny refusal to adopt responsibility and grow up.” ( :241)

“Are you feeling hard done by, in an immature manner? If, after some honest consideration, you don’t think it’s that, perhaps someone is taking advantage of you. This means that you now face a moral obligation to speak up for yourself. This might mean confronting your boss, or your husband, or your wife, or your child, or your parents. It might mean gathering some evidence, strategically, so that when you confront that person, you can give them several examples of their misbehaviour (at least three), so they can’t easily weasel out of your accusations. It might mean failing to concede when they” ( :241)

“offer you their counterarguments. People rarely have more than four at hand.” ( :242)

“You might think, “if they loved me, they would know what to do.” That’s the voice of resentment.” ( :242)

“Assume ignorance before malevolence.” ( :242)

“. Tell them directly what would be preferable, instead, after you have sorted it out. Make your request as small and reasonable as possible—but ensure that its fulfillment would satisfy you. In that manner, you come to the discussion with a solution, instead of just a problem.” ( :242)

“They sacrifice themselves for others, sometimes excessively, and cannot comprehend why that is not reciprocated. Agreeable people are compliant, and this robs them of their independence. The danger associated with this can be amplified by high trait neuroticism. Agreeable people will go along with whoever makes a suggestion, instead of insisting, at least sometimes, on their own way. So, they lose their way, and become indecisive and too easily swayed. If they are, in addition, easily frightened and hurt, they have even less reason to strike out on their own, as doing so exposes them to threat and danger (at least in the short term). That’s the pathway to dependent personality disorder, technically speaking.” ( :242)

“It would be lovely if the opposite of a criminal was a saint—but it’s not the case. The opposite of a criminal is an Oedipal mother, which is its own type of criminal.” ( :242)

“Oedipal mother (and fathers can play this role too, but it’s comparatively rare) says to her child, “I only live for you.” She does everything for her children. She ties their shoes, and cuts up their food, and lets them crawl into bed with her and her partner far too often. That’s a good and conflict-avoidant method for avoiding unwanted sexual attention, as well.” ( :242)

“”Above all, never leave me. In return, I will do everything for you. As you age without maturing, you will become worthless and bitter, but you will never have to take any responsibility, and everything you do that’s wrong will always be someone else’s fault.” The children can accept or reject this—and they have some choice in the matter. The Oedipal mother” ( :242)

“This archetypal entity was confused with an objective, historical reality, back in the late 1800s, by a Swiss anthropologist named Johann Jakob Bachofen. Bachofen proposed that humanity had passed through a series of developmental stages in its history.” ( :243)

“The first, roughly speaking (after a somewhat anarchic and chaotic beginning), was Das Mutterrecht199— a society where women held the dominant positions of power, respect and honour, where polyamory and promiscuity ruled, and where any certainty of paternity was absent. The second, the Dionysian, was a phase of transition, during which these original matriarchal foundations were overturned and power was taken by men. The third phase, the Apollonian, still reigns today. The patriarchy rules, and each woman belongs exclusively to one man. Bachofen’s ideas became profoundly influential, in certain circles, despite the absence of any historical evidence to support them.” ( :243)

“The Terrible Mother is an ancient symbol. It manifests itself, for example, in the form of Tiamat, in the earliest written story we have recovered, the Mesopotamian Enuma Elish. Tiamat is the mother of all things, gods and men alike. She is the unknown and chaos and the nature that gives rise to all forms. But she is also the female” ( :244)

“Eric commandeers a wrecked ship, and rams her with its broken bowsprit. Triton and the other captured souls are released. The rejuvenated Triton then transforms his daughter into a human being, so she can remain with Eric. For a woman to become complete, such stories claim, she must form a relationship with masculine consciousness and stand up to the terrible world (which sometimes manifests itself, primarily, in the form of her too-present mother). An actual man can help her do that, to some degree, but it is better for everyone concerned when no one is too dependent.” ( :245)

“She was a fair distance away, about thirty yards, but I could immediately see by the change in her body language that she knew what was going on. Of course, the other kids saw her as well. She walked right by. I knew that hurt her. Part of her was worried that I would come home with a bloody nose and a black eye. It would have been easy enough for her just to yell, “Hey, you kids, quit that!” or even to come over and interfere. But she didn’t. A few years later, when I was having teenage trouble with my dad, my mom said, “If it was too good at home, you’d never leave.”” ( :245)

“Many of the other workers were Northern Cree Indians, quiet guys for the most part, easygoing, until they drank too much, and the chips on their shoulders started to show. They had been in and out of jail, as had most of their relatives.” ( :246)

“When it works well (when everybody gets, and gives as good as they get, and can give and take) it’s a big part of what allows men who work for a living to tolerate or even enjoy laying pipe and working on oil rigs and lumberjacking and working in restaurant kitchens and all the other hot, dirty, physically demanding and dangerous work that is still done almost totally by men.” ( :246)

“Lunchbucket couldn’t accept his name, or settle into his job. He adopted an attitude of condescending irritation when addressed, and reacted to the work in the same manner. He was not fun to be around, and he couldn’t take a joke. That’s fatal, on a work crew. After about three days of carrying on with his ill-humour and general air of hard-done-by superiority, Lunchbucket started to experience harassment extending well beyond his nickname.” ( :246)

“Men enforce a code of behaviour on each other, when working together. Do your work. Pull your weight. Stay awake and pay attention. Don’t whine or be touchy. Stand up for your friends. Don’t suck up and don’t snitch. Don’t be a slave to stupid rules. Don’t, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, be a girlie man. Don’t be dependent. At all. Ever. Period.” ( :247)

“”The Insult that Made a Man out of Mac” and could be found in almost every comic book, most of which were read by boys. Mac, the protagonist, is sitting on a beach blanket with an attractive young woman. A bully runs by, and kicks sand in both their faces. Mac objects. The much larger man grabs him by the arm and says, “Listen here. I’d smash your face …. Only you’re so skinny you might dry up and blow away.” The bully departs. Mac says to the girl, “The big bully! I’ll get even some day.” She adopts a provocative pose, and says, “Oh, don’t let it bother you, little boy.” Mac goes home, considers his pathetic physique, and buys the Atlas program. Soon, he has a new body. The next time he goes to the beach, he punches the bully in the nose. The now-admiring girl clings to his arm. “Oh, Mac!” she says. “You’re a real man after all.”” ( :247)

“he presents himself with what Alfred Adler, Freud’s most practical colleague, called a “compensatory fantasy.”” ( :247)

“Part of the reason that so many a working-class woman does not marry, now, as we have alluded to, is because she does not want to look after a man, struggling for employment, as well as her children. And fair enough. A woman should look after her children—although that is not all she should do. And a man should look after a woman and children—although that is not all he should do. But a woman should not look after a man, because she must look after children, and a man should not be a child. This means that he must not be dependent.” ( :247)

“This is one of the reasons that men have little patience for dependent men.” ( :247)

“If is for this reason that Nelson Muntz of The Simpsons is so necessary to the small social group that surrounds Homer’s antihero son, Bart. Without Nelson, King of the Bullies, the school would soon be overrun by resentful, touchy Milhouses, narcissistic, intellectual Martin Princes, soft, chocolate-gorging German children, and infantile Ralph Wiggums. Muntz is a corrective, a tough, self-sufficient kid who uses his own capacity for contempt to decide what line of immature and pathetic behaviour simply cannot be crossed.” ( :248)

“When softness and harmlessness become the only consciously acceptable virtues, then hardness and dominance will start to exert an unconscious fascination. Partly what this means for the future is that if men are pushed too hard to feminize, they will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology” ( :248)

“Fight Club, perhaps the most fascist popular film made in recent years by Hollywood, with the possible exception of the Iron Man series, provides a perfect example of such inevitable attraction. The populist groundswell of support for Donald Trump in the US is part of the same process, as is (in far more sinister form) the recent rise of far-right political parties even in such moderate and liberal places as Holland, Sweden and Norway.” ( :248)

“have to toughen up. Men demand it, and women want it, even though they may not approve of the harsh and contemptuous attitude that is part and parcel of the socially demanding process that fosters and then enforces that toughness.” ( :248)

“They were more likely to fight physically, and to skip class, and to tell the teachers off, and to quit school because they were tired of raising their hands for permission to go to the bathroom when they were big and strong enough to work on the oil rigs.” ( :248)

“That does not mean that every manifestation of daring and courage is criminal.” ( :248)

“When they quit school, they went to work as rig roughnecks when it was forty bloody degrees below zero. It wasn’t weakness that propelled so many out of the classroom, where a better future arguably awaited. It was strength.” ( :248)

“If they’re healthy, women don’t want boys. They want men. They want someone to contend with; someone to grapple with. If they’re tough, they want someone tougher. If they’re smart, they want” ( :248)

“someone smarter.” ( :249)

“This often makes it hard for tough, smart, attractive women to find mates: there just aren’t that many men around who can outclass them enough to be considered desirable (who are higher, as one research publication put it, in “income, education, self-confidence, intelligence, dominance and social position”” ( :249)

“No one aiming at moving up would allow him or herself to become possessed by such a thing. And if you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of. Leave children alone when they are skateboarding.” ( :249)

“The spirit that interferes when boys are trying to become men is, therefore, no more friend to woman than it is to man. It will object, just as vociferously and self-righteously (“you can’t do it, it’s too dangerous”) when little girls try to stand on their own two feet. It negates consciousness. It’s antihuman, desirous of failure, jealous, resentful and destructive.” ( :249)


RULE 12 / Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street


“Tajfel’s studies demonstrated two things: first, that people are social; second, that people are antisocial. People are social because they like the members of their own group. People are antisocial because they don’t like the members of other groups.” ( :256)

“Imagine a Being who 211 is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. What does such a Being lack? The answer? Limitation.” ( :259)

“If you are already everything, everywhere, always, there is nowhere to go and nothing to be. Everything that could be already is, and everything that could happen already has.” ( :259)

“John Byrne successfully rebooted it, rewriting Superman, retaining his biography, but depriving him of many of his new powers. He could no longer lift planets, or shrug off an H-bomb. He also became dependent on the sun for his power, like a reverse vampire. He gained some reasonable limitations. A superhero who can do anything turns out to be no hero at all. He’s nothing specific, so he’s nothing. He has nothing to strive against, so he can’t be admirable. Being of any reasonable sort appears to require limitation.” ( :261)

“I also don’t think it is possible to answer the question by thinking. Thinking leads inexorably to the abyss.” ( :262)

“Perhaps you might start by noticing this: when you love someone, it’s not despite their limitations. It’s because of their limitations.” ( :262)

“During much of this period, we were overwhelmed. The demands of everyday life don’t stop, just because you have been laid low by a catastrophe. Everything that you always do still has to be done. So how do you manage? Here are some things we learned: Set aside some time to talk and to think about the illness or other crisis and how it should be managed every day” ( :264)

“”Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof”—that is Matthew 6:34. It is often interpreted as “live in the present, without a care for tomorrow.” This is not what it means. That injunction must be interpreted in the context of the Sermon on the Mount,” ( :264)

“He had specialized in ankle treatment in the UK, in London. He placed his hands around her ankle and compressed it for forty seconds, while Mikhaila moved her foot back and forth. A mispositioned bone slipped back where it belonged. Her pain disappeared. She never cries in front of medical personnel, but she burst into tears. Her knee straightened up. Now she can walk long distances, and traipse around in her bare feet. The calf muscle on her damaged leg is” ( :265)

“growing back. She has much more flexion in the artificial joint. This year, she got married and had a baby girl, Elizabeth, named after my wife’s departed mother. Things are good. For now.” ( :266)




“Here’s how I was wrong ….” ( :268)

“The problem with asking yourself such a question is that you must truly want the answer. And the problem with doing that is that you won’t like the answer.” ( :269)

“What shall I do with a torn nation? Stitch it back together with careful words of truth.” ( :271)

“Socrates’ trial and death—which might be summarized, as follows: A life lived thoroughly justifies its own limitations.” ( :273)

“For a host of interesting statistics derived from the analysis of his dating site, OkCupid, see Rudder, C. (2015). Dataclysm: Love, sex, race & identity. New York: Broadway Books. It is also the case on such sites that a tiny minority of individuals get the vast majority of interested inquiries (another example of the Pareto distribution).” ( :278)

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