Tuesday, September 18, 2018

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson

Chapter 2

1. Scientific truths were made explicit a mere five hundred years ago, with the work of Francis Bacon, RenĂ© Descartes and Isaac Newton. In whatever manner our forebears viewed the world prior to that, it was not through a scientific lens. Because we are so scientific now— and so determinedly materialistic— it is very difficult for us even to understand that other ways of seeing can and do exist. But those who existed during the distant time in which the foundational epics of our culture emerged were much more concerned with the actions that dictated survival than with anything approximating what we now understand as objective truth.

Where do you see such distinctions between past/present?

2. Chaosis the domain of ignorance itself. It’s unexplored territory. Chaos is what extends, eternally and without limit, beyond the boundaries of all states, all ideas, and all disciplines. Order, by contrast, is explored territory. That’s the hundreds-of-millions-of-years-old hierarchy of place, position and authority. That’s the structure of society. It’s the structure provided by biology, too— particularly insofar as you are adapted, as you are, to the structure of society.

- How does Peterson further describe chao & order?

3. We eternally inhabit order, surrounded by chaos. We eternally occupy known territory, surrounded by the unknown. We experience meaningful engagement when we mediate appropriately between them. We are adapted, in the deepest Darwinian sense, not to the world of objects, but to the meta-realities of order and chaos, yang and yin. Chaos and order make up the eternal, transcendent environment of the living. To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth and adventure.

- What example from your life illustrates this truth?

4. And even if we had defeated all the snakes that beset us from without, reptilian and human alike, we would still not have been safe. Nor are we now. We have seen the enemy, after all, and he is us. The snake inhabits each of our souls. This is the reason, as far as I can tell, for the strange Christian insistence, made most explicit by John Milton, that the snake in the Garden of Eden was also Satan, the Spirit of Evil itself. The importance of this symbolic identification— its staggering brilliance— can hardly be overstated. It is through such millennia-long exercise of the imagination that the idea of abstracted moral concepts themselves, with all they entail, developed. Work beyond comprehension was invested into the idea of Good and Evil, and its surrounding, dream-like metaphor. The worst of all possible snakes is the eternal human proclivity for evil. The worst of all possible snakes is psychological, spiritual, personal, internal. No walls, however tall, will keep that out. Even if the fortress were thick enough, in principle, to keep everything bad whatsoever outside, it would immediately appear again within. As the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn insisted, the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

- How does this provide insight into the nature of sin?

5. And so we return to our original query: Why would someone buy prescription medication for his dog, and then so carefully administer it, when he would not do the same for himself? Now you have the answer, derived from one of the foundational texts of mankind. Why should anyone take care of anything as naked, ugly, ashamed, frightened, worthless, cowardly, resentful, defensive and accusatory as a descendant of Adam? Even if that thing, that being, is himself? And I do not mean at all to exclude women with this phrasing. All the reasons we have discussed so far for taking a dim view of humanity are applicable to others, as much as to the self. They’re generalizations about human nature; nothing more specific.

- Where do your choices & actions in life reflect this ancient view? 

6. Human beings have a great capacity for wrongdoing. It’s an attribute that is unique in the world of life. We can and do make things worse, voluntarily, with full knowledge of what we are doing (as well as accidentally, and carelessly, and in a manner that is willfully blind). Given that terrible capacity, that proclivity for malevolent actions, is it any wonder we have a hard time taking care of ourselves, or others— or even that we doubt the value of the entire human enterprise? And we’ve suspected ourselves, for good reason, for a very long time. Thousands of years ago, the ancient Mesopotamians believed, for example, that mankind itself was made from the blood of Kingu, the single most terrible monster that the great Goddess of Chaos could produce, in her most vengeful and destructive moments. After drawing conclusions such as that, how could we not question the value of our being, and even of Being itself? Who then could be faced with illness, in himself or another, without doubting the moral utility of prescribing a healing medicament? And no one understands the darkness of the individual better than the individual himself. Who, then, when ill, is going to be fully committed to his own care?

- How does this contribute to your own awareness of good & evil?

7. The entire Bible is structured so that everything after the Fall— the history of Israel, the prophets, the coming of Christ— is presented as a remedy for that Fall, a way out of evil. The beginning of conscious history, the rise of the state and all its pathologies of pride and rigidity, the emergence of great moral figures who try to set things right, culminating in the Messiah Himself— that is all part of humanity’s attempt, God willing, to set itself right. And what would that mean? And this is an amazing thing: the answer is already implicit in Genesis 1: to embody the Image of God— to speak out of chaos the Being that is Good— but to do so consciously, of our own free choice. Backis the way forward— as T. S. Eliot so rightly insisted— but back as awake beings, exercising the proper choice of awake beings, instead of back to sleep.

- What does it mean to live as “awake beings” today?

8. You need to consider the future and think, “What might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly? What career would challenge me and render me productive and helpful, so that I could shoulder my share of the load, and enjoy the consequences? What should I be doing, when I have some freedom, to improve my health, expand my knowledge, and strengthen my body?” You need to know where you are, so you can start to chart your course. You need to know who you are, so that you understand your armament and bolster yourself in respect to your limitations. You need to know where you are going, so that you can limit the extent of chaos in your life, restructure order, and bring the divine force of Hope to bear on the world. You must determine where you are going, so that you can bargain for yourself, so that you don’t end up resentful, vengeful and cruel. You have to articulate your own principles, so that you can defend yourself against others’ taking inappropriate advantage of you, and so that you are secure and safe while you work and play. You must discipline yourself carefully. You must keep the promises you make to yourself, and reward yourself, so that you can trust and motivate yourself. You need to determine how to act toward yourself so that you are most likely to become and to stay a good person.

- Why are these questions vital to your present and your future?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan Peterson

Chapter 1

1. Who ever thought we’d be discussing the similarities of territorial lobsters and birds in this group? What lessons did you learn about the neurochemistry of defeat and victory from these comparisons?

2. What is the principle of unequal distribution and why does it occur?
3. What is “the nature of nature?”  Why is evolution conservative?

4. “There is an unspeakably primordial calculator, deep within you, at the very foundation of your brain, far below your thoughts and feelings. It monitors exactly where you are positioned in society - on a scale of one to ten, for the sake of argument.”

- What details did you learn about life at the top and at the bottom?

5. What does Peterson mean by “rising up?”  

6. “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos 
of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality (it means acting to please God, in the ancient language).”

- Where have to encountered these choices in your life?

7. “So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them - at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.  Then you may be able to accept the terrible burden of the World, and find joy. Look for your inspiration to the victorious lobster, with its 350 million years of practical wisdom. Stand up straight, with your shoulders back.”

- How does your posture today compare with this goal?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Designing Your Life

Chapter 9

1. Every great design was made great because there was a design team that brought that project, product, or building to life. Designers believe in radical collaboration because true genius is a collaborative process. We design our lives in collaboration and connection with others, because weis always stronger than I- it’s as simple as that.

- Why is this true?  Why is this hard at times?

2. Everyone participating in your life design effort in one way or another should be thought of as being a part of your team, but there are different roles to be played, and it’s useful to name them.

            Supporters -
            Players -
            Intimates -
            The Team -

- Briefly review the role of each, along with examples in your life.
3. That last part - the conversation - is the most important. As far as rules go, we use just four in our Stanford teams. Keep it: 

1. Respectful 
2. Confidential 
3. Participative (no holding back) 
4. Generative (constructive, not skeptical or judging)

- Again, provide examples demonstrating the value of each.

4. Your life design effort will be greatly enhanced if you’ve got a few mentors participating with you. We make a clear distinction between counsel and advice. “Counsel” is when someone is trying to help you figure out what you think. “Advice” is when someone is telling you what he or she thinks.

- Provide a situation where each has worked well; and has backfired.

5. Mentors can make a particularly valuable contribution to your discernment process when it’s time to make choices. Important decisions are seldom easy, and there are lots of competing issues and trade-off considerations that conspire to make it awfully noisy in your head. The mentor can listen to you dump out all the stuff going on inside you and help you to make sense of it all, sorting it into the big stuff, the small stuff, and the irrelevant stuff.

- Who serves as this type of mentor for you?  Why is it effective?

6. Now, you’re probably wondering where you are going to find all these great mentors. We suggest that there are many more people capable of giving good mentoring than there are good mentors...all you really need are mentor-capable people from whom you can extract a mentor contribution. You just have to be the initiator. Specifically, ask him not so much to tell you what he’d do as to use his insights and experience to try to help you sort out your own thinking.

- Where has this approach proved useful to you as a mentee?
- Where have you served as a mentor in this capacity?

7. To find a “community” as we intend it, you’re looking for a group of people that shares most of the following attributes:

            Kindred purpose -
            Meets regularly -
            Shared ground -
            To know and be known -

- Review these attributes and share how each has benefitted you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Designing Your Life

Chapter 9

1. In life design, being happy means you choose happiness. The secret to happiness in life design isn’t making the right choice; it’s learning to choose well.

- Over the years, what have you learned from poor vs. good choosing?
- What examples can you offer of each?

2. In life design, the choosing process has four steps….

Step 1: Gather and Create Options
We won’t spend any more time on option generation here, other than to tell you (again) to write your Workview and Lifeview, to create mind maps, do your three Odyssey Plan alternatives, and prototype conversations and experiences.

- What have you learned about yourself from this first step?

Step 2: Narrow Down the List
So, what exactly do you do with too many options? Simple. Get rid of some. First, if it turns out that a lot of your options group together into categories, you can break your list down into smaller sub lists. That may help you get to your top contender for each option type. But eventually you’ll be in that overwhelmed-by-too-many-options place and have to get rid of a bunch of those jams. How? Just cross them off your list. If you’ve got a list of twelve options, cross out seven, then rewrite your list with just the remaining five on it and go to step three.

- Where do you encounter too many options?  How do you downsize?

Step 3: Choose Discerningly
Now, once you’ve done the preliminary work of gathering and narrowing down, the hard part starts: actually choosing. The key to step three is to make discerning decisions by applying more than one way of knowing, and in particular not applying just cognitive judgment by itself, which is informed but not reliable on its own. We aren’t suggesting making only emotional decisions, either. We’re inviting you to integrate all your decision-making faculties, and to be sure you make space so your emotional and intuitive ways of knowing can surface in the process.

- Where have you found it necessary “to listen to your knee or your gut or your heart” as part of your choosing wisely?

When you finally get down to making a choice from your narrowed-down list of alternatives, and you’ve cognitively evaluated the issues, and emotionally and meditatively contemplated the alternatives, it may be time to grok it. To grok a choice, you don’t think about it - you become it.

- Now you have a new word to add to your vocabulary!  Examples?

Step 4: Let Go and Move On
The perception that there are gazillions of possibilities that may have been great but that we never got to is a powerful force against being at peace with our choice making; even if we don’t know what it was, there must have been a better option out there, and we missed it. The key is to remember that imagined choices don’t actually exist, because they’re not actionable. We revel in exploring a few possibilities, then taking action by starting with a choice. Only by taking action can we build our way forward. So, let’s get better and better at building by getting better and better at letting go of the options we don’t need any longer. This is key to choosing happiness and being happy with our choices. When in doubt… let go and move on. It really is that simple.

- What is your experience with letting go of too many options?

3. Designers don’t agonize. They don’t dream about what could have been. They don’t spin their wheels. And they don’t waste their futures by hoping for a better past. Life designers see the adventure in whatever life they are currently building and living into. This is how you choose happiness. And, really, is there any other choice?

- How does this summary speak to your present & future goals?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Designing Your Life

Chapter 7 

1. How many of you are currently looking for a new job?  None?  I thought so!

- Over the years what specific process did you utilize to get hired, either in a paid or volunteer position?
- How was that process different or similar to the advice from this chapter?

2. Imagine that you are 30-something again…

- What would you have to do differently to get hired today?

3. Lutheran clergy participate in an ELCA-wide call process.
(Pr. Mark now explains the process in mind-numbing detail.)

- How is the call process for clergy unique and beneficial to the church?

4. Expanding the scope of this chapter, many “seekers” today “shop” for potential church homes in similar fashion to their seeking the right job, using the internet as a key tool for exploration.

- What does St. Mark offer to “seekers” looking for a church home?

- How would you, as one of the “owners tasked with hiring,” persuade seekers to consider joining our congregation?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Designing Your Life

Chapter 5 - Do an Odyssey Plan

In preparation for our morning meeting on February 22, please do the following in advance.  Then bring your worksheet with you to Panera for discussion.

1. Create three alternative five-year plans, using the worksheet provided.

2. Give each alternative a descriptive six-word title and write down three questions that arise out of each version of you.

3. Complete each gauge on the dashboard — ranking each alternative for resources, likability, confidence, and coherence.

4. Present your plan to a small group at our Panera meeting.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Designing Your Life

Chapter 3

1. Wayfinding is the ancient art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your destination. For wayfinding, you need a compass and you need a direction. Not a map - a direction. Think of the American explorers Lewis and Clark. Wayfinding your life is similar. What you can do is pay attention to the clues in front of you, and make your best way forward with the tools you have at hand.

- Where has “wayfinding” proven useful in your life?
- Where has it proven unsuccessful?

2. Flow is engagement on steroids. Flow is that state of being in which time stands still, you’re totally engaged in an activity, and the challenge of that particular activity matches up with your skill— so you’re neither bored because it’s too easy nor anxious because it’s too hard. People describe this state of engagement as “euphoric,” “in the zone,” and “freakin’ awesome.”

- When are you most apt to find yourself in the flow?  Why?

3. After engagement, the second wayfinding clue to look for is energy. Human beings, like all living things, need energy to live and to thrive. Men and women used to spend most of their daily energy on physical tasks. Nowadays, many of us are knowledge workers, and we use our brains to do the heavy lifting. The brain is a very energy-hungry organ. Of the roughly two thousand calories we consume a day, five hundred go to running our brains.

- What ratio of daily energy is physical vs. mental for you? 
- How do you prepare for both of these energy demands?

4. Here’s another key element when you’re wayfinding in life: follow the joy; follow what engages and excites you, what brings you alive. Most people are taught that work is always hard and that we have to suffer through it. If it’s not fun, a lot of your life is going to suck. Now, what makes work fun? It’s not what you might think. It’s not one unending office party. It’s not getting paid a lot of money. It’s not having multiple weeks of paid vacations. Work is fun when you are actually leaning into your strengths and are deeply engaged and energized by what you’re doing.

- Please offer an example of when you’ve experienced such joy.

5. There are two elements to the Good Time Journal:
* Activity Log (where I record where I’m engaged and energized)
* Reflections (where I discover what I am learning)
The Activity Log simply lists your primary activities and how engaged & energized you were by those activities. We recommend that you make Activity Log entries daily, to be sure to capture lots of good information.

- How might this exercise benefit you in surprising ways?

6. After a week or two, when you’ve got a decent body of entries in your Good Time Journal and you’re starting to notice some interesting things, it’s time to zoom in and take the exercise to the next level. Typically, after you start to get the hang of paying more detailed attention to your days, you notice that some of your log entries could be more specific: you need to zoom in to see more clearly. The idea is to try to become as precise as possible; the clearer you are on what is and isn’t working for you, the better you can set your wayfinding direction.

- What will it take for you to look at your life more closely?

7. Your past is waiting to be mined for insights, too— especially your mountaintop moments, or “peak experiences.” Peak experiences in our past— even our long-ago past— can be telling. Take some time to reflect on your memories of past peak work-related experiences and do a Good Time Journal Activity Log and reflection on them to see what you find. Those memories have stuck with you for good reason. You can make a list of those peak experiences, or write them out as a narrative or story.

- What is one major peak experience you can share with others?