Several weeks ago I awoke on a bright Sunday morning and instead of going straight to the coffee and computer, I threw on my Sperry Top-Siders and took a walk around the block. It may sound mundane, but in my particular state of mind that morning, and at this particular juncture in my life’s journey, it took a certain effort of will to rise from bed and have my first impressions of the day not be a computer screen, but instead the world outside.
I was alert and aware, noticing all the flowers of the neighborhood and not the trash, and the birds and squirrels going about their daily search for sustenance, oblivious to human angst. When I got back to my apartment I poured some coffee and sat at my desk full of inspiration, and wrote the longest sustained batch of prose I’d written in quite some time. And the essay I wrote that Sunday morning — which has a paternal theme — was published this weekend on the National Review’s website.
The story is about the fast-rising Internet fame of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University Of Toronto. I discovered the lectures and interviews with Dr. Peterson a couple of months ago, when I fell into a very depressed state and Ivy Style HQ became shrouded in existential black rather than optimistic preppy pink and green. I wondered where to send the piece, and remembered I had among my correspondents an Ivy Style reader who’s written for William F. Buckley’s magazine. I figured I probably owe WFB for all the images I’ve used of him over the years, so I submitted it there and they accepted it.
If you don’t know who Dr. Peterson is, then it is my pleasure to introduce him to you, as he is helping many men “sort themselves out,” as the countless videos, testimonials, comments, fan sites, memes, and merchandise about him attest.
Here’s a snippet from my essay:
Although the medium he uses is cutting-edge, giving his “therapy sessions” near-infinite reach, what Peterson teaches is not new but timeless: 4,000-year-old Biblical tales, mythologies of the past two millennia, and ideas from 19th- and 20th-century figures such as Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, and Jung. Dr. P isn’t just a therapist for men at a time of masculine crisis; no, the man who draws so much on patriarchal archetypes is fast becoming YouTube’s new ideal male authority figure.
Firm but caring, Peterson is not a rigid drill sergeant out to eradicate your knee-jerk adolescent revolt. That’s a different kind of self-help guru for a different kind of man. Instead, Dr. P encourages, which, as he points out, means to instill with courage. In cognitive therapy, removing fear doesn’t work. You don’t make the bad stuff go away be retreating to a safe space, to use a popular buzzword; you do so by making yourself stronger. Peterson doesn’t tell you what you should do, because only you can figure out your purpose — but he can point out a few places to look.
So on this Father’s Day I’d encourage you to check out my piece, and then check out Dr. Peterson on YouTube. The worst that could happen is you find yourself bored, in which case congratulations: you’re one well adjusted human being. On the other hand, the best that could happen — especially if you’ve ever found yourself acting like your own worst enemy — is that you get inspired to start striving for the highest good you can achieve, and manifesting that good in the world. Not to mention healing your family, slaying the dragon to bring back the gold, surviving the flood, sorting yourself out, and cleaning your room.
Because if we all did what the wise doctor advises, we’d be better men, and that would make the world around us a better place. But if we all continue to give in to our worst tendencies and become the distorted, dark shadow figures of ourselves, then maybe God will decide to wipe the Earth clean again, as in the Old Testament story of the flood. Of course this time it will be with an asteroid. Noah had to transform himself into a shipbuilder and sailor to save the world. You might have to become a gopher.
Best wishes to all of you reading this on this Father’s Day. It is my privilege, honor, pleasure, and — as Dr. Peterson has made me see more clearly — resposibility to continue to inform and entertain you. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
I enjoyed your piece, Christian. But tread carefully taking that guy as a guru. That is one seriously uptight guy. His medication needs adjusting.
Your postings and the comments of Ivy Style readers do more for my morale than Dr. Peterson could ever do.
By the way, I like to take my Bible, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, etc., first-hand, in undiluted form.
Thanks for the introduction to Dr. Peterson, Christian. I hadn’t known him or yourself until yesterday’s NR read. Nice to meet you both. I was lucky enough to come into my twenties when feminism, the men’s movement of Robert Bly and others, and the strong desire for men to ‘retool our souls’ to paraphrase Dr. Peterson, was in the air and available readily. I took advantage of it all and it was a pretty miserable experience for a long time. Then over time it wasn’t any more. It was peaceful, and to my honest surprise, reassuring and strong. And at this point in life it now feels like strength building on strength. Very cool.
I don’t know why there is such fear of whittling away at the mote in one’s own eye, though i do know I felt it. I wish the best for anyone who undertakes it, and look forward to a better world in times ahead.
CC on NR! Great news. Journals of opinion need this kind of perspective. In the early years NR had more of it. And thanks for introducing us to Dr Petersen.
A pipe, a cup of coffee, some good music, and a good book work wonders.
Exactly, DD, the book I should be writing.
The best part of the whole red pill meme, is the fact that the Wachowski brothers are now the Wachowski sisters.
Great article, CC. I very much enjoy Dr. Peterson’s work and I am glad that you discovered him as well.
On another note, that father figure in the Rockwell painting bears a striking resemblance to George Will. Bow tie and all.
Rockwell’s Facts of Life from the 1952 cover of the Post magazine — very appropriate for Father’s Day. Wish you had not cropped off the bottom of the picture with the book on the Dad’s leg. Hope you had a nice holiday.
Dad’s eyeglass frames look like tortoise P3s.
Thank you CC for sharing these deep feelings with us. You show quite another CC than the one I got to know through the Ivy-Style Blog till now….
Anyway, this Kind of “opening-your-heart” makes you even more sympathetic and human. Congrats for that.
I will enjopy even more my daily dose of Ivy Style.com …..
Well done, Christian.
Thanks, everyone, for the kind words!
Very best wishes, Christian. Thank you for being willing to share some of yourself, painful as well as hopeful, with us.
This was bold stuff, CC; and being published in the NR is quite a feather in your cap.
I haven’t looked at Peterson, although I certainly will . Have you ever read much of Brett McKay’s blog, the ‘Art of Manliness’? Among grooming, cooking & fitness articles, the site really has a lot of interesting pieces on striving to be the best man you can be, with a focus on Aristotle and nicomachean ethics: ie. “become by doing”.
Thank you, Paul.
I don’t regularly read AoM but I identified it years ago as one of the few doing something original.
I’ll take a fresh look at Nicomachean ethics, as my mind’s a blank on it.
I am a 77 year old grandmother. My 27 year old grandson introduced me to Dr. Peterson. First I was amazed at the wisdom and logic then very grateful.
How wonderful! And just this moment I finished a “therapy session” with a woman in the building who’s reduced to hyperventilating panic if a mouse or roach shows up. She even said she dreams of them and they’re huge monsters!
I explained the whole serpent in the garden thing, that in her mind she’s made them out to be dragons that are a threat to her safety, and the concept of exposure therapy.
It was hard for her to hear the voluntary facing of the phobia part. And she said it’s gotten worse over time.
Exactly what the wise doctor says happens when something isn’t sorted out, such as an irrational fear that you will be destroyed by a mouse or bug.
I absolutely adore the good doctor. I think he fills a massive void in the west between the destructive cultural cynicism of progressives and the evangelical zealotry of many conservatives.
I’m going to start pestering him to do a series on child rearing, the gems he’s dropped about socialization and boundaries have been really great.