Finding “An Antidote to Chaos”

Steven Roche '21, Staff Writer

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, who is a professor at the University of Toronto, provides a roadmap to arrive at a better, more meaningful life. Using empirical and anecdotal evidence, he eloquently makes abstract ethical principles palpable through psychological, mythological, and religious concepts.

As BC High students grow into adulthood, it is important to be armed with a strategy to live well and successfully. Although our students are taught well in various religious classes and by mentors throughout the school, Peterson’s book will provide yet another angle on how we can be better human beings.

He starts with a simple, proven premise – life is suffering – and that people can either withdraw from the world or face and rise above the suffering. Through 12 chapters, or rules, he explains just how one can transcend the world’s suffering. His book and ideas are so potent that he has received many letters from others who state that he has “brought them back from the brink of destruction”. Clearly, his book is worth an attentive read.

Beyond providing advice on how to find meaning, he explains many phenomena in the world. With unmatched depth, he describes why concepts of dominance hierarchies, gender roles, and ideologies exist and what to make of them. In fact, these abstract ideas are more real than the tangible world in his eyes.

After reading this book, I gained deep insight into modern-day issues and how I should orient myself in the world. Thus, I urge students and faculty members seeking to expand their knowledge of the world and themselves to consider his ideas. Perhaps you may disagree with some ideas, but at least you thought about them. And thinking is a rare thing indeed.

If you are interested, the 12 rules he examines are:

  • Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
  • Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
  • Make friends with people who want the best for you.
  • Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
  • Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
  • Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
  • Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).
  • Tell the truth – or at least, don’t lie.
  • Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.
  • Be precise in your speech.
  • Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.
  • Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.