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