I’m Here For You, Brother


Today I have a special message on what is a for me a dubiously special day. Exactly one year ago today a traumatic disruption fell into my life like a meteor. Although in retrospect it was a fairly small stone, at the time it was more than enough to shatter my world. I eventually realized that my very existence was on the line, and I was either going to address the faults in my character or go on suffering like Prometheus tied to the rock, getting his liver ripped out by a buzzard every day for eternity. Summoning the act of will to “sort myself out,” to use what is becoming a popular phrase, coincided as if by Providence with the rise of Dr. Jordan Peterson.

Assiduous readers will recall that last Father’s Day I wrote a piece for the National Review on the rise of the Canadian psychology professor; it was entitled “YouTube’s New Father Figure.” Peterson’s book has just been released, and is fast becoming an international best-seller. And in another twist of fate, of the three blurbs used on the back of the book, one of them is from my article:

So that’s part one of this post. Now on to part two.

I hung out with the boys at J. Press yesterday — including my now old pal Dan, my delightful new buddy Robert, and the ever-dapper Sergio. Little bits of the conversation got transformed in my subconscious during the night, and I awoke from a powerful dream. As I slowly got myself up and into the kitchen, I tried to work out its symbolism, given that its surface meaning, like all dreams, seemed random and incoherent. In my dream, a magical world I’d discovered was “just two turns away” from where I live.

Then I suddenly remembered a passage from book I’ve twice read during this past year of highs and lows. The book is called “He: Understanding Masculine Psychology,” by Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson, which explores the legend of Parsifal and the Holy Grail myth. I began to work out that this magical place in my dream was my “Grail castle.” Here’s an excerpt from Johnson:

The most important event of one’s inner life is portrayed in the story of the Grail castle. Every youth blunders his way into the Grail castle sometime around age fifteen or sixteen and has a vision that shapes much of the rest of his life…

Most men can remember a magic half hour sometime in their youth when the whole world glowed and showed a beauty not easily described. Perhaps it is a sunrise, a glorious moment on the playing field, a solitary time during a hike when one turns a corner and the whole splendor of the inner world opens for one. No youth can cope with this opening of the Heavens for him and most set it aside but do not forget it. Others find it so disturbing that they dismiss it and play as if it had never happened. A few are so touched by the vision of meaning that they spend the rest of their lives, like Parsifal, searching fo the Grail castle again. One has only to “go down the road, turn left, cross the drawbridge.” But the very simplicity of the directions effectively hides it from view.

Later:

The drawbridge is a hint about the nature of the Grail castle. It doesn’t exist in physical reality. It is an inner reality, a vision, poetry, a mystical experience, and it can not be found in any other place. To search for it outwardly is to exhaust one’s self and to court discouragement.

And finally:

Parsifal spends many years, most of the legends say twenty, on his knightly adventures. He grows more bitter, more disillusioned… These are the dry years of a man’s middle age. He knows less and less why he is functioning and is apt to give an evasive answer when asked about the meaning of his life.

… The Grail castle is always just down the road and a turn to the left. If anyone is humble enough and of good heart, he can find that interior castle. Parsifal has had the arrogance beaten out of him by twenty years of fruitless searching, and he is now ready for his castle.

So your paradise is probably pretty close to where you are now, you just can’t see it. But if you can make that little turn in your point of view, you might catch a glimpse of where to find happiness.

Now part three, the real point of this post.

With a cup of coffee freshly brewed and the passages in the book found, I realized the date: that it was one year since the worst period of my life, and that my plan for today had been to write a blog post with a special message of support for anyone out there who’s going through a difficult time. If you’re reading this and have been feeling pretty rotten ( especially if you’re in denial of this fact), I’m here to help you work through it, brother. I shared this same message on Ivy’s Facebook group on New Year’s Day, and then later on Twitter. Several guys have reached out to me, but even more I heard from older guys who messaged me to say how much they appreciated the gesture of trying to do a little more good in the world. Many social commentators have said we’re going through a period of masculine crisis, and it’s more important than ever to look out for our fellows.

Over the years I’ve received constant emails asking me details about clothes. Often I haven’t been able to respond at length and have referred the men to the collective wisdom of the Facebook group. But I want you all to know that my inbox is ready and willing for anyone who needs a sounding board for life’s problems. I’ve got a dozen books I can recommend, a couple dozen ideas to try out, and, well, four dozen years on earth saying “I’m a philosopher of life” and finally having it put to the test.

From my New Year’s message:

2017 was the most pivotal year of my life, and I’m now looking at how to better manifest the greatest good I can in the world. I get asked all the time for wardrobe advice, but now maybe it’s time to not just help edit your wardrobe, but help edit you.

I’m looking to reconnect with my desire to help people, which had gotten lost along the way. In college I tutored English as a second language to Asian and African students, later taught swing and ballroom dancing up to 7 days a week, have tried to help every hack golfer I’ve met with my vast knowledge of how NOT to swing a club, and have recently been volunteering with New York Cares teaching chess to kids in Queens.

I know what it feels like to be knocked down by life and face the Herculean task of picking yourself up and dusting yourself off — especially after years of avoidance. We can work together to identify what your issues are, and I have a ton of books, ideas, and ways to change your point of view that may be helpful. With emails and calls we can hopefully get you feeling that life is fresh and new and full of possibilities come the bloom of spring.

And a few quick endorsements:

“Since meeting Christian, we’ve discussed a wide variety of topics and I’ve learned that he has a voracious appetite for knowledge. He discusses physical and mental health issues as easily as pop culture and psychology, and is always looking for new paths to improvement on the physical, mental and emotional planes. Our interactions always lead me to a deeper understanding of life’s challenges and rewards.” — Tony

“Christian’s breadth of knowledge about life and the mind is astounding, and his ability to share what he knows, and the energy he has to throw himself into projects, is both remarkable and contagious.” — Maria

“I’ve known Christian for 30 years. Throughout my young adult life I relied upon his interpersonal skills and straightforward approach to life. He has always helped center my decisions, which has led me to respect and admire his skills as a communicator.” — Joe

In closing, check out Dr. Peterson’s book as well as his YouTube lectures, as they’ll inspire you to be a better man. Try to move your life in the direction of helping others. And if you ever feel down in the dumps and can’t seem to find a way out, my email address is pretty easy to remember: christian@ivy-style.com. Peace be with you, brother. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

 

51 Comments on "I’m Here For You, Brother"

  1. A model of Christian charity.

  2. My brother says that my interest in fashion is a way of avoiding life’s problems. A distraction from reality. If only editing life’s problems were as easy as editing one’s wardrobe.

  3. Stick to writing about shirts and suits.

  4. I don’t write about shirts and suits often, but I hope you enjoy when I do. Feel free to ignore the other stuff.

  5. Paul Bonsee | February 1, 2018 at 2:08 pm |

    Thank you for this post Christian. I had the pleasure of meeting you briefly at the conclusion of the J Press event last week. Will keep your kind offer in mind, and hope that we get to meet again at some point.
    Paul

  6. More pleased than ever to be a part of this fine group.

  7. “He ain’t heavy, He’s my brother” As a recovered (p.29 BB) alcoholic I can share with you that I have found tremendous support on the backs of my brethren. I have also been blessed to be able to help a few. “You must give it away to keep it”
    I have been listening and sharing Peterson’s work and lectures now for the past year and have learned a lot about patience, logic, rational thought and speech and an affirmation of the morals and virtues that were instilled in me by grandfathers, father and male role models of my youth, many of which would be labelled anachronistic and archaic by today’s society. However I need only to look at today’s society to know that those simple suggestions for living are the ones that are TRUE.

  8. Very good. Peace be with you.

    Will

  9. Henry Contestwinner | February 1, 2018 at 3:27 pm |

    Thank you for sharing something that is both personal and universal.

    What jumps out at me about your activities is service to others. I know I am a better man for having volunteered to serve as my son’s Cub Scout den leader; I see there are other areas of my life where I am serving, and these activities have all helped me be a better version of myself, always acknowledging that there is room to grow.

  10. Bravo Christian.

  11. Christian,

    I respect, honor, and thank you for your desire to help your fellows. There is too little of this in the world, and any reminder that there are those who have concern about their fellow man is a positive. In particular, this past year and its shedding of light on the poor behavior of men in particular (Weinstein et. al.) points to the need for men with positive values to help our fellow men and hold each other up to a higher standard. Kudos to you good sir.

    The Concord Diaspora

  12. “Christian | February 1, 2018 at 1:31 pm |

    I don’t write about shirts and suits often, but I hope you enjoy when I do. Feel free to ignore the other stuff.”

    We do. Not a smart business descision when you constantly drag your personal politics into you business. Do what you want but know you’re alienating a good half of your audience.

  13. And also with you.

  14. Mark Russell | February 1, 2018 at 8:21 pm |

    As I have gone through life, it seemed like I was moving from one random disconnected point to another. In retrospect, it has been a straight line.
    May peace also be with you as you more completely inhabit the purpose for which you were designed.

  15. CC

    You are truly a good soul. Please continue to write about shirts, suits, and what ever else you believe is important.

  16. A Trad Confused | February 1, 2018 at 9:41 pm |

    Hi Bob,

    This post is far from political! Also, what’s the spirit of CC’s gracious gesture? Too offend?

    Also, out of 16 comments (minus Christian’s) 13 for, 2 against… its been a while since second grade math… but that doesn’t seem like half to me.

  17. Jay Satalich | February 1, 2018 at 10:23 pm |

    +1 on “…we’re going through a period of masculine crisis.”

  18. Make that 14.

    Kudos, and quite frankly, we could all probably do more in this area.

    As for your business model…it’s your business, it’s your blog, it’s your life, and simply, your prerogative to do whatever you like. Skip the comments and look to your web analytics to help determine how it may impact your business. And in a mutual aid of assistance, I’d be happy to help you analyze your analytics to determine that if you need any assistance.

    Remember, just like labels in clothing, there is no “one size fits all.” Those who disagree will go elsewhere, as is their prerogative, but will quite likely be replaced by new followers who appreciate what you have to offer.

    Cheers

  19. Thomas Mukherjee | February 1, 2018 at 11:15 pm |

    I have to admit that I find that Jordan Perterson frequently states what seems to me to be the obvious, and this is tiresome in the extreme.

    Having said that, anything that brings humanity into our collective fascination with clothing is to be applauded. It’s so much more uplifting than being asked to look at endless shots of faceles torsos garbed in badly ironed shirts, schoolboy ties and thrifted tweed sport coats.

  20. Grey Flannels | February 2, 2018 at 12:33 am |

    I find ivy style clothing and discussions of ivy style on this blog to be more than enough to raise my morale without popular psychological advice that can easily be found in Readers Digest and The Saturday Evening post.
    A freshly-ironed shirt does enough for my psychological well-being without a dose of Jordan Peterson.

  21. Grey Flannels,
    Usually a morale-bosting dose of Christian Chensvold, Bruce Boyer, or Richard Press is enough for me, too. They are my Jordan Petersons.

  22. @ Bob
    “Not a smart business decision when you constantly drag your personal politics into your business” Well said. I come here to try to escape today’s endless politics and just read about clothes and related topics (for me) such as jazz.

  23. M. Martindale | February 2, 2018 at 5:08 am |

    The photo gives the impression that the guy on the right side is about to give the other guy some good advice about choosing Ivy-appropriate neckties.

  24. Rene Lebenthal | February 2, 2018 at 5:13 am |

    Christian,
    I feel deeply impressed by your post and your words.
    Yes, we cannot do enough to improve our world and our surroundings.
    What a great aproach to humanity. I’d love to know you personnaly one day, when I come to NYC. In the meantime I am pleased to read about OCBD’s, Flannels and Khakis….and Ivy in general
    Amicalement,
    René

  25. Tom Tom Ivy | February 2, 2018 at 7:20 am |

    Christian,
    as someone who has been suffering with mental health issues for years and have found a lot of positives in the works of Jordan Peterson, I applaud you for this most kind and generous gesture.They say that a mark of a great man is not just how he behaves and what clothes he wears but what he is prepared to do for his fellow man.
    You are an inspiration and I hope you keep up the good work.
    With regards, Thomas

  26. Houghton Mead | February 2, 2018 at 7:54 am |

    Christian is doing more for his fellow man by running this blog than most of us will do in a lifetime. It’s not just about clothing; it’s also about standards, camaraderie, aesthetics, goodwill, respect for tradition and openness to innovation, and the good things of life. Like others who commented above, a daily dose of Ivy Style helps me make it through the day.

  27. Tom Tom Ivy | February 2, 2018 at 8:15 am |

    @Houghton Mead

    I could not have put it better myself.

  28. So I checked out Dr. Peterson’s lectures and they just seemed to be full of John Birch type conspiracy theories about Communists trying to destroy western civilization through queers. Am I missing something? How is that supposed to help me?

  29. Good on you for this one, CC.

  30. I’ll admit it. I tend to visit Ivy-Style less than I used to. And even then, most of the articles I like/visit are “vintage” ones from pre-2016ish. I respect CC and get that it is his blog, but for me, I’m looking for vintage Polo catalog images and opinions on yellow oxfords.

  31. Charlottesville | February 2, 2018 at 10:10 am |

    Christian — Best wishes, and please continue to post whatever you like.

    Joel — Are you the same Joel that I know through off-line contacts? I hope not. I am not especially familiar with Dr. Peterson’s lectures, but your description runs counter to what I have read about him, and is certainly not consistent with Christian’s views.

  32. Charlottesville,

    I’m not sure what you’re implying with your “I hope not” but I don’t think I know you personally.

    At any rate, I searched youtube for Jordan Peterson and all that came up were a bunch of videos of him speaking about how Marxists created transgender people to overthrow the west. He also kept talking about some Jewish philosopher named Derrida who was persecuting Christians. I also found some other video of him spewing paranoid talking about about how atheists are persecuting Christians.

    He sounds like the John Birch society talking about global bolshevism conspiracies. I thought that this stuff had long been purged from the National Review. This is not my kind of conservatism.

  33. @Joel You got some pretty strange search results. Sounds like they were from his enemies twisting his words. He’s been subject to that a great deal.

    But you can draw your own conclusions, take it or leave it. That’s what we all always do.

    I’d suggest watching one of the Joe Rogan interviews before you reach your final conclusion, though.

    @Mitate and others

    I don’t see anything political in this post, beyond the fact that my article on Dr. Peterson from last summer appeared in the National Review.

    @AJL

    I’m working as the editor of the launch issue of a magazine, so I’ve been a bit busy the past few weeks, but it’s almost over, so I’ll have more time for the site. That said, you can find vintage Polo ads and opinions on yellow oxfords others places on the web. We’ve done those topics here, but also a lot more over the past decade.

  34. Hey Christian,

    While I disagree with Jordan Peterson’s politics (A psychologist who in-ironically uses the term “Weaponized Autism”? https://twitter.com/jordanbpeterson/status/959002161446187009), I am very glad that through viewing his work you were able to find the help you needed and bring yourself to a better mental and emotional standing.

    Thanks for making Ivy Style a place that, while stirring passionate debate, is always a must-see blog for anyone interested in traditional American fashion.

  35. Jordan Mitchell | February 2, 2018 at 11:37 am |

    Christian,
    I too am glad that Dr. Peterson’s teachings were of benefit to you, but for those who would like a different perspective on him, allow me to share this:
    https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-s-So-Dangerous-About/242256

  36. @Joel

    Must you?

    Will

  37. Charlottesville | February 2, 2018 at 11:56 am |

    Joel – It is clearly a different Ivy Style commenter named Joel that I know outside of this site. My hope that you were not he is because your comments often seem so angry, and in the past have sometimes been laced with profanity. I am happy to say that the other Joel is not like that. Your characterization of Dr. Peterson does not comport with what little I know, but I have not watched his videos or read his book so may be misinformed. I certainly have never heard him associated with Anti-Semitism. However, if he rejects Marxism and the post-modernism of Derrida, that is fine with me. Others, of course, are free to differ, but I hope that they will do so calmly and without rancor.

  38. What a beautiful sentiment and a lovely piece, Christian. You’re living up to your forename.

    Joel, that’s a rather lame attempt at smearing Dr. Peterson as an anti-Semite merely because he spoke out against Derrida, who happens to be Jewish, and the insidious effects of Postmodernism on Western society. To quote the late, great Bill Buckley “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.”

  39. Henry Contestwinner | February 3, 2018 at 2:41 am |

    Criticizing a designated minority group, or an individual who is a member of a designated minority group, is not a sign of being anti-designated minority group. For example, it is possible to criticize Obama and not be anti-black, and it is possible to criticize Israel and not be anti-Semitic. It is the nature and content of the criticism that matters.

    If, however, one believes that all such criticism is intrinsically racist, then one has left the realm of the rational, just as much as those who are actually racist have.

    It is a sad state of affairs that this actually has to be mentioned.

  40. Hoo-boy — a guy tries to help his fellow guys and gets pilloried for it. I haven’t looked into Peterson, but Christian’s right when he says that men are in a rough spot, lately. Keep trying to be kind, fellas. It’s worth it.

  41. Thanks for saying you’re here for me, brother. Here in Canada we know Professor Peterson as a right-wing embarrassment from oil-rich cowboy country. I can’t dope out why he’s mentioned in your inventory of charitable deeds.

  42. A very interesting recent article about the misstatement of Dr. Peterson’s views.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/550859/

  43. I appreciated Christian’s post.

    While I am not much for “self help” books, a bit of introspection never hurts. Especially during periods of crises, significant life milestones, etc. I will have to look into this Dr. Peterson.

    The topic is interesting because I have recently heard even classical religion theologians point out that men today have far smaller circles of friends and support networks than in the past. Not the touchy-feely Oprah stuff that men are lost due to shifting gender roles stuff, but just the simple fact that men often do not socialize or have the support that is preferred. An interesting take.

  44. Henry Contestwinner | February 6, 2018 at 12:46 am |

    JayH, is he an “embarrassment” because he’s “right-wing”?

  45. When did I say he was anti-Semitic? I said he primarily promulgates a lunatic fringe conspiracy theory about communists taking over the country. You guys are way to eager to find strawmen without actually addressing what anyone says. Not very rational.

    I saw him on Fox and Friends recently and he talked about how a “Daddy Daughter Dance” was cancelled as a result of an epidemic of Marxism infiltrating the country. This seems profoundly paranoid.

    I watched a video of him on Joe Rogan and all he talked about was this Marxism and then some crap about Pepe the Frog, which, from what I understand, is a symbol of the alt-right.

    He seems like a total nut. I don’t know why anyone would take psychiatric advice from him.

  46. Henry, I think he means he’s an embarrassment because he flirts with the far right and rants about crazy conspiracy theories. He makes sane conservatives like me look bad.

  47. @Joel

    Real conservatives don’t feel the need to use qualifiers like “sane” to describe themselves. Your slip is showing.

    Cheers

    Will

  48. If being a “real” conservative means being a classless goon like you, or a conspiracy theorist nutball like Jordan Peterson, then fine, I’m a classical liberal.

  49. Actually classical liberal is how Jordan Peterson defines himself, so I’m afraid you’re now nutty by association.

  50. If Jordan Peterson is a classical liberal by virtue of calling himself that, then the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is truly Democratic.

    At any rate, allowing the lunatic alt right fringe to dominate has destroyed American conservatism and the GOP. It’s precisely goons like Will with their purity tests that has allowed what once was a freedom-loving coalition to slide into the paranoid, authoritarian, cultish nonsense of Donald Trump. It sounds like Jordan Peterson and his McCarthyist conspiracy theories are helping too.

    At least we still have Bill Kristol.

  51. Joel, your posts never fail to make me smile.

    Cheers,

    Will

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