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Jordan Peterson released “Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life” on March 2. Wiki­media Commons

“Beyond Order” is about the dangers of too much security and control, according to Jordan B. Peterson in the intro­duction to his best­selling book “Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life,” released on Mar. 2. While his first book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” explored the dangers of ven­turing without the req­uisite humility and grounding into the vast unknown, “Beyond Order” con­siders the dangers of the con­trary, a state of too much order. The book, written during Peterson’s own battle with various health dif­fi­culties, is refresh­ingly rel­evant in a world rattled by race riots and divi­sions, a global pan­demic, and post-election par­tisan violence.

Peterson has received no shortage of neg­ative press, and despite his spending more than a year out of the public eye, his media foes haven’t let up. The Guardian summed up “Beyond Order” in a headline as “a ragbag of self-help dictums.” Helen Lewis, a jour­nalist Peterson has clashed with before in a viral GQ interview, wrote that his return to the public eye was due to the, “irre­sistible ordeal of modern cul­tural celebrity.” Yet Peterson is far from the attention-seeking syco­phant his media foes wish him to be, and he is back with a much-needed message to an upset world.

In an age of vic­timhood, Peterson tells us it is better to con­front suf­fering and make some­thing useful out of it rather than retreat into nihilistic resentment. He does this in 12 chapters — or 12 “rules” — for his audience to follow.

In Rule 6, which bids the reader to “Abandon ide­ology” Peterson writes of the strange hush that covers the audience every time he brings up the topic of respon­si­bility, some­thing he does quite often. This is because, Peterson argues, people are hungry for it. Young people in par­ticular have been starved for this kind of message and this pri­vation “has left them vul­nerable: vul­nerable to easy answers and sus­cep­tible to the dead­ening force of resentment.” 

Peterson has brought that food of respon­si­bility to a vast, hungry audience. Peterson tells several stories in his book and else­where of people who have embraced respon­si­bility for their own destiny and pulled back their life from unimag­inable cir­cum­stances. They often say Peterson helped artic­ulate what they already really knew. “Helping people bridge the gap between what they pro­foundly intuit but cannot artic­ulate seems to be a rea­sonable and valuable function for a public intel­lectual,” Peterson writes. Today, race problems are “solved” by one group — gen­erally white people—apol­o­gizing for their “whiteness”and the accom­pa­nying alleged role of oppression they play. Peterson diag­noses the kind of thinking that leads to such displays.

“Since the ide­o­logue can place him or herself on the morally correct side of the equation without the genuine effort nec­essary to do so validly, it is much easier and more imme­di­ately grat­i­fying to reduce the problem to some­thing simple and accompany it with an evildoer who can then be morally opposed.” 

Instead, Peterson urges his reader to assume respon­si­bility for that corner of his life he can fix. Then, ten­ta­tively, he may attempt to rectify the problems of the world. Hear­kening back to Rule 6 of his first book, “12 Rule for Life,” “Set your house in perfect order before you crit­icize the world,” Peterson bids his reader to “have some humility. Clean up your bedroom. Take care of your family. Follow your con­science. Straighten up your life. Find some­thing pro­ductive and inter­esting to do and commit to it.” 

After the hard­ships of the last year, Peterson proffers what may seem like an unlikely response — grat­itude in spite of suf­fering. There’s always a reason — perhaps a really legit­imate one — to be a victim. But even so, there’s also always a reason to be grateful. There’s some­thing amaz­ingly simple about such a statement, yet the success of Peterson’s videos, pod­casts, and books points to the fact that our world is hungry for such a timeless truth. The antidote to the suf­fering of the world, Peterson writes, is to, “con­front the lim­i­ta­tions of life courageously.” 

There’s some­thing divine about embracing respon­si­bility and grat­itude despite the sin­ister nature of exis­tence, Peterson argues. “If God is, above all, as he is ini­tially described, that implies that the men and women created in His image share with Him some­thing of import — or, more to the point, they share an anal­ogous destiny, necessity, or responsibility.”

The final pages of Rule 2 are pure Peterson wisdom.

“Imagine who you could be and aim single-mindedly at that,” Peterson writes. He encourages his reader to aim at some attainable goal, or, as he might say in one of his lec­tures on the arche­typal sig­nif­i­cance of “Pinocchio,” to “wish upon a star.” Once you have out­lined a rea­sonable, attainable, and worth­while plan, you must “vol­un­tarily con­front what stands in your way.” That is fun­da­mental to walking the fine line between the “order and chaos.” The moment you choose respon­si­bility and grat­itude in spite of your suf­fering, you have chosen, “the straight and narrow path that con­sti­tutes the very border between order and chaos and that reversing which brings them into balance.” And that is fun­da­men­tally what Peterson, in his broader message, and in “Beyond Order,” is encour­aging us all to do. Walk the straight and narrow with courage, humility, and grat­itude, in spite of your suf­fering, and in spite of the myriad of jus­tified reasons to descend into resentment. What could be more relevant?