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JP: How To Create The Life You Want

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carl jung talked about this phenomena he cried phenomenon he described as retrogressive restoration of the persona it's a complicated idea but basically what it means is that sometimes you take a leap forward and you learn some things but you can't catalyze a new identity so you try to go back and hide in your old identity and that actually doesn't work because well things have changed and you've learned something and that isn't who you are anymore and so it's like you have to cut part parts of yourself off in a destructive manner to fit back into the person that you were now what happens here is that pinocchio escapes from this tyrannical situation and undergoes this descendant of chaos but he tries to go back home he tries to go back to what he was and he can't do that anymore his father isn't at home anymore and so so when he goes home he finds that there's no home there now this happens to people sometimes it's often a shock to them so they'll often stay under the thumb of their father and you think well why would someone do that because it means they're subject to the tyrannical judgment of their father they're always concerned about what their father would think or whether their father approves of him of them and so forth and you think well that's got to be an unpleasant place to be why would you do that freud said for example that no no no one could be a man unless his father had died and jung said yes but that death can take place symbolically okay so there's that part of the idea and then another part of the idea is one of the times in your life when you actually realize that you're an individual is when you'll go and ask your parents something and you'll realize they actually don't know any more about what you should do than you do and that sucks and that's partly why people are often willing to maintain a tyrant slave relationship with their fathers like on the one hand you have to be inferior in a relationship like that you know you've always got the judge watching you but on the other hand there's always someone who knows what to do there's always someone standing between you and the unknown that you can go ask what should i do well at some point you'll realize that the reason you can't ask that anymore is because they actually don't know any more than you do and then that's a pain like that that is a symbolic death that's also when you establish a more individual relationship with your parents it's at that point that you could conceivably start taking care of them instead of the reverse and that's a time that should come but you have to let that image of perfection go and that exposes you well that's what happens here you know pinocchio goes home and he wants things to be the way they were and he wants to stay under the careful care of the benevolent father but that's no longer possible he's past that point and that's why the father has disappeared and so geppetto has gone off to look for pinocchio because he also needs his son but but in any case the house is abandoned and so then we see inside the house that everything's covered with cobwebs and everything's gone and pinocchio and the crickets sit on the steps and they're very concerned first of all they wonder where he went so they're actually concerned that he's gone but they also don't know what to do because there's just no going home and so you know that's also the case that once you hit a certain point in your development well it's the same thing we already talked about the answers that you're looking for are not going to be found in your parents house it's as simple as that now you could artificially maintain your dependency but you know if you do that for too long things get pretty ugly peter pan is this magical boy pan means pan is the god of everything roughly speaking right and so it's not an accident that he has the name pan and he's the boy that won't grow up and he's magical well that's because children are magical they can be anything they're nothing but potential and peter pan doesn't want to give that up why well he's got some adults around him but the main adult is captain hook well who the hell wants to grow up to be captain hook first of all you've got a hook second you're a tyrant and third you're chased by the dragon of chaos with the clock in its stomach right the crocodile it's already got a piece of you well that's what happens when you get older time has already got a piece of you and eventually it's got a taste for you and eventually it's going to eat you and so hook is so traumatized by that that he can't help but be a tyrant and then peter pan looks at traumatized hook and says well no i'm not sacrificing my childhood for that so that's fine except he ends up king of lost boys in neverland well neverland doesn't exist and who the hell wants to be king of the lost boys and he also sacrifices the possibility to have a real relationship with a woman because that's wendy right and she's kind of conservative middle class london dwelling girl she wants to grow up and have kids and have a life she accepts her mortality she accepts her maturity peter pan has to content himself with tinkerbell she doesn't even exist she's like she's like the fairy of porn she doesn't exist she's the substitute for the real thing and so but the dichotomy that you're talking about it's very tricky because there's a sacrificial element in maturation right you have to sacrifice the plural potentiality of childhood for the actuality of a frame and the question is well why would you do that well one reason is it happens to you whether you do it or not you can either choose your damn limitation or you can let it take you unaware when you're 30 or even worse when you're 40 and then that is not a happy day you see i see people like this and i think it's more and more common in our culture because people can put off maturity without suffering an immediate penalty but all that happens is the penalty accrues and then when it finally hits it just wallops you because when you're 25 you can be an idiot it's no problem even when you're out in a job search it's like well you don't have any experience and you're kind of clueless yeah yeah you're young you know it's no problem we can that's what young people are like but they're full of potential okay well now you're the same person at 30. it's like people aren't so thrilled about you at that point it's like what the hell have you been doing for the last 10 years well i'm just as clueless as i was when i was 22. yeah but you're not 22. you're an old infant right and that's an ugly thing an old infant so the the part of the reason you choose your damn sacrifice because the sacrifice is inevitable but at least you get to choose it and then there's something that's that's even more complex than that in some sense is that the problem with being a child is that all you are is potential and it's really low resolution you could be anything but you're not anything so then you go and you adopt an apprenticeship roughly speaking and then you become at least you become something and when you're something that makes the world open up to you again you know like if you're a really good plumber then you end up being far more than a plumber right you end up being a good employer not not that plumbers i'm not putting plumbers down it's like more power to plumbers they've saved more lives than doctors so hygiene right so you know if you're a really good plumber well then you have some employees you run a business you you you make you you train some other people you enlarge their lives you're kind of a pillar of the community you you have your family it's you can once you pass through that narrow training period which narrows you and constricts you and develops you at the same time then you can come out the other end with a bunch of new possibility at hell at half and the lord said unto abram and this is this is the this is the opening of the story get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father's house unto a land that i will show thee and this is one of those phrases where every clause is significant go somewhere you don't understand that's the first thing get the out of the country you know back in the 1920s there was a whole slew of american writers who ended up as expatriates in paris hemingway among them and a variety of others it was very inexpensive in paris at the time and part of their transformation into great literary figures was the fact that they were out of their country and now they could see what their country was because you can't see what your country is until you leave it so you have to go into the unknown and that's that's god's first command go into the unknown because you already know what you know and so and that's not enough unless you think you're enough and if you're not enough and you don't think you're enough then you have to go where you haven't been and so that's the first commandment to abraham it's like okay that that's a good one that makes perfect sense go to where you don't know yes and from my kindred well what does that mean it means grow up right that's what it means it means get away from your family enough so that you can establish your independence and that isn't because there's something wrong with your family although perhaps there is you know as there is perhaps wrong with you but it means get away you know i talk to people very frequently whose families have provided them with too much protection and they know it themselves and that means they're deprived of necessity you know one of the things that you see in in the united states for example is that um the children of first generation immigrants often do better than the children that than their children and the reason for that is that the children of first generation immigrants have necessity driving them and you don't know how much you need necessity to drive you because maybe you're not very disciplined and if at a catastrophe doesn't immediately befall you if you don't act forthrightly today then maybe you never act forthrightly right because the the gap between your foolishness and the punishment is is lengthened by your unearned wealth and so you never grow up and learn and you have to get yourself away from your dependency in order to allow necessity to drive you forward and that's to become independent and to become mature and i think part of what's happening in our culture is that the the the force that's attacking the forthright movement forward of young men in particular is afraid of the power of men because it's confused about the distinction between power and authority and competence like a man who's who has authority and competence has power as a byproduct but the authority incompetence is everything and and and people who can't understand that fail to make the distinction between power and authority of competence and they're afraid of power and so they destroy authority and competence and that's a terrible thing because we need authority and competence what else is going to what else is going to allow us to prevail in the long run and so you get away from your country and you get away from your kin and from your father's house right and you go out there and you establish yourself in the world it's a call to adventure that's what this the first lines in the abrahamic story is a call to adventure let's say there's something going on at your workplace and that and you need to object to it because it's driving you crazy and you talk it over with your wife so that you've got your head screwed on straight say oh i've got to say something and you go there and you say something and you know you're stumbling and awkward and all of that but but you watch the response and maybe you get what you're aiming at maybe you don't but you've learned a bunch you've learned well i'm not as coherent as i could be i'm not as good at putting my arguments together my boss is more of a son of a [ __ ] than i that he thought he was this is a worse problem than i knew about it's like differentiated differentiated so now the landscape is higher resolution and so are you well so good so maybe you're a little bit next better prepared the next time you have to do that and so the issue here to some degree is don't lose an opportunity to grapple with something that objects to you especially when the object objection is rather small because that's something you can you say well i can put up with it it's like fair enough like you don't want to make everything into a war i usually use a rule of three if we're interacting and you do something that i find disruptive i'll note it it's like potential dragon gone and i leave it be and then if you do it again i think oh yeah that probably wasn't merely situational but i'll leave it be because that's still not enough evidence but if you do it a third time then i'll say hey i just noticed this and you'll say nah that didn't happen and i'll say yeah not only did it happen but it happened here and it happened here and i'm not making this up so there's something going on here like i'm not ignoring it and we can get to the bottom of it and then they'll come up with a bunch of objections about why that isn't necessary and you push those aside they'll come up with a few more objections and they'll push those aside and then usually they'll get mad or burst into tears and if you push that aside then you get to have a conversation right and then you can solve the problem but man it's you got to be a monster because first of all you need six arguments about why their objections aren't gonna stop you and then you have to not be intimidated by the anger and you have to not be swamped by compassion about the tears and then you can have a conversation and people don't do that they won't do that and so they don't solve the problems and so then the problems accrue right and if they accrue over 15 years of a relationship then that then they end up fat ugly and in divorce court let's say that you've been in the long-term relationship and it collapses let's say you were you know he had a tendency towards alcoholism you weren't so great with regards to your drug use you don't have that conscientious and you had like four or five kind of low rent affairs and you know it your marriage collapses bang well who do you first meet when you fall into chaos you meet king of the monsters and he's you it's like why did my marriage fall apart what did i do wrong bang bang bang bang bang i did all these things wrong why because that thing inhabits me what is it well that's the most horrifying question right well that's why so down there in the archetypal space all these things lurk the hero and the adversary you've just met the adversary right well maybe you were tyrant that's certainly possible maybe everything around you was chaotic so what do you encounter when things fall apart you encounter the adversary you encounter the tyrant you encounter the catastrophe of nature and you encounter the dragon of the chaos and they're all intermingled you have to sort that out that's what happens to ellis when she goes down the rabbit hole right she meets the red queen the red queen is always running around off with their heads off with their heads and she says in my kingdom you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place right down the rabbit hole you meet the archetypes if you're in a workplace and pathological things are happening this is easy i can tell you how you know if pathological things are happening at your workplace or they're happening with you one of the two but you can straighten that out if you're being required to do things that make you weak and ashamed then stop don't do them like one of the things i learned from solzhenitsyn and frankel was that systems go terribly under out of control when people don't stop them when they're going mildly out of control you know and you might say i should just keep my goddamn head down and shut up it's like maybe you should like that's not bad advice you know you don't want to make unnecessary enemies and you don't need any more trouble than you need but you got to ask yourself on a day-to-day basis what makes you think you're not selling your soul you know and there's so much foolishness going on in the mid-level bureaucratic world now that's where all the tyranny seems to be focused and the reason that it multiplies is because sensible people say nothing when they should say something and what's so strange about that is that there are way more sensible people than people who aren't sensible they're just not as noisy so what you'll turn out if like you know so let's say something's bugging the hell out of you at work well then you have to prepare to find another job that's the first thing you have to do i don't think that you should find another job but you should prepare to find another job and if possible you should prepare to find a better job because if you can't tell someone to go to hell then you can't negotiate with them and if and if they've got you over a barrel then you can't say anything so you gotta you gotta set yourself up so you've got some mobility and actually that's a really good principle in your life period you should set yourself up so that you have a lateral move at hand and then you should find out well are there things that work that are disturbing my soul you know and you find that out first of all you ask yourself okay i'm disturbed at work okay i'm probably weak and deceitful and useless and lazy you might as well start with that and then you talk to some people like your your wife your friends your co-workers and find out are you stupid deceitful and lazy or is there something not so good going on at work and maybe you should say something about it before the whole goddamn thing collapses because that can happen it can happen in companies a lot faster than people ever think you know and you may find that well first of all you may find if you say something well first of all that's an adventure that's for sure that's a bloody adventure and you have to do it carefully and and you have to be prepared for it but it might be the best thing that ever happened to you and the other thing is if you're careful about it you get your words right like and this is a this is strategic battle right it's not something you wander into carelessly then you may find that there's lots of people who feel exactly the same way you do and that you've actually cottoned on to something you're a canary in a coal mine and not just some like psychopathic mouthpiece so you've got to ask yourself when you go and do what you do like is this making you stronger is this making you weaker and if it's making you weaker then you got to ask yourself do you really want to be weaker because the weaker you get the more you're tyrannized and then worse than that like the weaker you get the more bitter you get and the more you work towards terrible things the more you'll snap at your wife the more you'll kick your kids you know like it's no joke to be tyranized at work and so i would say you have an ethical responsibility as a citizen to forthrightly confront creeping tyranny no matter where it occurs if you're aimed at the good which is a question you really got to ask yourself you know if you're genuinely aimed at the good then take heart because you're a lot stronger than you think but the other thing you got to tell people is pick your poison you don't you may be in a situation where you don't have uh you don't have a cake walk to the garden of paradise you got tyranny or famine those are your choices but you get to pick which one you have and i would say if if you're being oppressed and i mean in your soul by what you're required to swallow at work well you think you're not paying a price for that you've got no self-respect and and and rightly so but worse than that you're an agent of your own destruction you're destroying your own ideal and you're letting people who are weak and corrupt win and if you stood up and and stood up properly but you have to put yourself in order to do this at least to some degree right you can't do it casually you have to do it from some position of preparedness and strength then what makes you think you couldn't scare them back into the corners and that would be a good thing and you know the alternative personally is bad because there's a psychological degeneration that goes along with it i've seen this with many many of the people that i've worked with who have been tyrannized in the workplace to the absolute detriment of their psychological and physical health right to the point of collapse confronting these crazy crazy things when they were sensible people um that's a terrible price to pay man like it's it's a bad price and then if the foolishness isn't dealt with at the local level when it's still relatively trivial then it will multiply until it's dealt with at the social level and we're seeing signs of that already antifa is a good sign of that you know and problems that aren't solved multiply and soon people fight and you know better to argue than to fight unless you want to fight and some people want to fight and i can understand why but i wouldn't recommend it because that doesn't lead good places it really doesn't leave good places i say you have a duty maybe that's that's why you stand up it's because you have a goddamn duty to stand up and say just say what you have to say well it shouldn't be our life goal um because there are times in your life when you're not going to be happy and then what are you going to do your goal is demolished and there are going to be plenty of times in your life when you're not happy there might be years and so it's a shallow boat in a very rough ocean and how and it's it's it's based upon a misconceptualization happiness is something that descends upon you everyone knows that you know it it it it comes upon you suddenly and then you should be grateful for it because there's there's plenty of suffering and if you happen to be happy well wonderful enjoy it be grateful for it and maybe try to meditate on the reasons that it manifested itself right because it can come as a mystery you know you don't necessarily know when you're going to be happy something surprising happens and delights you and you can analyze that you can think well i'm doing something right i'm in the right place right now i've done something right maybe i can hang on to that maybe i can learn from that what you should be pursuing instead is well there's two things this you should be pursuing who you could be that'd be the first thing it's like because you're not who you could be and you know it you have guilt and shame and and regret and and you berate yourself for your lack of discipline and your procrastination and all your bad habits you know perfectly well that you're not who you could be and god only knows who you could be and so that's how you should be strive that's what you should be striving for and associated with that you should be attempting to formulate some conception of the highest good that you can conceive of that you can articulate because why not aim for that it's like your life is short and and it's troublesome and perhaps you need to do something worthwhile with it and if so then you should do the most worthwhile thing and you should figure out what that is for you and part of that's definitely going to be to develop your character as much as possible to dispense with those parts of you that are unworthy and then maybe if you're fortunate and you do that carefully then happiness will descend upon you from time to time and that's the best you've got and then also perhaps during sorrowful times or worse evil times the fact that you've strengthened your character and that you're aiming at the highest that you can conceptualize that'll give you the moral fortitude to endure without becoming corrupted during those times and to be someone who can be relied upon in a crisis there's there's a there's a [Music] name well the mission is the mission is the improvement of your character the constant improvement of your character and i think a lot of that's done in dialogue with your conscience it's like your conscience is always telling you socrates said this thousands of years ago your conscience is always telling you what you shouldn't be doing and one of the things socrates said was what discriminated him from the run-of-the-mill person and why perhaps we still know of him so many thousands of years later was that when his conscious conscience told him not to do something he didn't do it he stopped saying the things that he shouldn't have been saying and he stopped doing the things he shouldn't have been doing and that's a start you know that that's a discipline i would say that's the ability to follow a certain kind of intrinsic discipline and and maybe that's merely the cessation of evil that's not exactly the same as the pursuit of positive good let's say you haven't got there yet but that's a start you you clear away the obstacles from your vision by ceasing to engage in those activities you know to be wrong are your personal goals always going to be aligned with the needs of society the needs of humanity well that's that's a trick you know it's optimally the answer is yes and you can think about it like a musical score you know how there's levels in a musical score each instrument is doing its own thing each section is doing its own thing but it's all united into a single vision and that's the right this is another reason why critics of of the hierarchical structure are wrong because the proper way to set up a hierarchy is so that your interests are aligned with those of your family that's hard that requires a lot of negotiation and then you and your family have your interests aligned with those of your local community right so that all of those levels are reinforcing each other and then those are united at the higher level the higher political structure and that that's an equilibrated state to use a phrase from the developmental psychologist sean piaget it's a game that everyone wants to play and it's working for everyone at the same time and so it isn't based on oppression or dominance from the top down and so i think that if if you formulate your character properly and you put yourself together you start also to realize that you're not look if you get married to someone the idea is that you become one right and so it isn't just your interest anymore or maybe it's that your interest isn't your interest without it also being someone else's interest right it's insufficiently formulated and you need that conflict with that other person to tap you into proper shape so what you're aiming at is you and the development of your character but more than that and then you do the same when you introduce children into that you expand out that that that characterological capacity and then you can continue to expand that and so optimally yes the what serves you should be serving at every level people often have accused me of of an individualistic bias in my moral reasoning you know that well you should get yourself together it's like i'm rand it's like no that's not it you get yourself together so that you can get your family together so you can get your community together so that you can get the world together all of that at the same time there's nothing selfish about that except the responsibility which is on you to start that and to bear that and to lift that and to act it out so it has nothing to do with chasing your short term impulsive pleasure seeking goals you know i think of people as beasts of burden in some sense like we're built for a burden and we're not happy without that burden and we want to find the one that suits us and that's difficult it's it's part of the adventure of life to seek out the burden that suits you but when you have that then yes then hopefully you're operating in harmony with with the requirements of those around you and the what the thing to me is that everything else pales in comparison to that that's why it says in the new testament that you should stack up riches in heaven it's like there isn't anything better than that you know you're functioning well your family's functioning well you're contributing to your your community what you're doing is worthwhile you know you're not tormented by your conscience you're aiming at something that the sacrifices that you have to make are that clearly justify the sacrifices you have to make maybe even the sacrifice of your life because you're in this like this is a mortal game you're in this with your whole life and you'd think that what that would mean at least in part is that you need to find a game to play that's of sufficient grandeur and nobility so that perhaps even the fact that mortality is built into the structure now becomes justifiable i mean it's a hell of a it's a hell of an ambition but but i don't it doesn't seem to me to be something that's impossible i think you can live your life enough so that it justifies itself despite its limitation that's the real question can you do that [Music] and and i believe that you can and i believe that what that means is that the human spirit fundamentally triumphs over death and so that's that's optimism you know in the midst of the the sorrow [Music] and and the malevolence we have the capacity we have the capacity sorry i'll be sorry we have the capacity to transcend that and there isn't anything more optimistic than that and and there's nothing there's nothing in it that isn't good right it's good for you it's good for the people you love it's good for the broader society it's like it's good and that'll take you through your times of travail there isn't anything else that will and then maybe on your deathbed you can think i justified my privilege the terrible privilege of my existence and maybe that's good enough it's possible that that's good enough you certainly don't have you certainly don't have anything better to do than that as far as i can tell i talked to one of the people that i was working with who had a like a vision for retirement i said well what's your vision for retirement well i see myself in the beach you know some tropical country drinking margaritas and i thought first that's not a plan that's a travel poster it's like okay let's let's walk through this all right so you go down to this tropical country and you go sit on the beach and you have a margarita it's like okay well how many margaritas like 10. okay is it gonna do that but you're gonna do that for six months you'll be dead yeah well you'll be this like pathetic sunburned like fat yeah unhappy hungover serotonin yeah yeah it's like that's graduated so how long can you have a margarita on a beach like maybe you can do that once every six months for like 10 minutes something like that it's not a vision it's like this 16 year old fantasy of paradise it's like well yes and it just doesn't work out so yeah and and the thing that the thing is is that the thing that sustains people through life really is the lifting of a worthwhile burden it's something like that and it's partly because we're social animals right it's like we're evolved to be useful to the people around us because they're much more likely to let us live if we're like that yeah so and and it's been very fun talking to especially talking to young men about this it's like well and that's the other thing too is i think the world the world is full of darkness let's say and we could say each of us have a little bit of light and if we release that light if we let it shine properly christ it's too cliche to go on with in some sense but the world is a lesser place if you do not reveal from within yourself what you have to reveal and the fact that the world is a lesser place actually turns out not to be trivial like if you aren't everything you could be more people will die more people will suffer more evil will be unconstrained more tyranny will reign more chaos will remain chaotic and dangerous all of that do you mean this by this in the sense of like the old proverb of the wings of a butterfly fluttering become a hurricane it's it's it's something similar to that but it can even be more local it's like your family is more messed up than it could be if you were less messed up than you are right so if you just got your act together like 10 percent more your family would be one percent better right it's like well do it and that would ripple off in different people that they interact yes yes and ripple and it ripples fast yes that's the other thing that's so cool is that like people think well there's seven billion of us and each of us is just this separate dust moat like floating in the cosmos and what the hell difference does it make what you do anyways it's like that is not how we're connected it's like you're the center of a network and you know well you know way more people than this but let's say typically you know without you're gonna know a thousand people in your life well enough to have an impact on them okay and each of those thousand people is gonna know a thousand people so you're one step from a million and two steps from a billion and we are networked technically that that's how human interactions work and so when you do something that you shouldn't do it's worse than you think and when you do something that you should do it's better than you think and so you think well this is why i've been telling people clean up your room it's like well your room is actually network too it's not that easy to clean up your room to set it so you want your room to be set up so that when you walk in there it tells you to be better than you generally are it's organized it's got direction everything's in its place you try to do that in a chaotic household you know i've watched people do this because i had students do these sorts of things as assignments i'd say look pick a small moral goal clean up your room and just write down what happens as a consequence so maybe these are students in a chaotic household the whole place is a bloody mess no one's taking any responsibility for anything and so they decide they're going to start to clean up their room and then the people in the household notice well the first thing they do is get pissed off it's like who do you think you are like you think you're better than us you like why do you think this is worthwhile who made who died made you god all of that so just by trying to organize this little part of their life they immediately run into the people whose actions they're casting in a dim light by trying to improve themselves to some degree they might have to have like a thorough war in their household to be allowed to do something as simple as keep the room orderly they find out very rapidly that a that's way more difficult than it sounds and b that the consequences of it are far more far-reaching than people think maybe part of it is is that like everything around you is full of potential everything maybe more potential than you could ever possibly utilize and so maybe all you have is this little rat hole of a room in some run-down place in the world it's like fix it up there's more there than you think see what happens if you fix it up and you'll fix yourself up simultaneously because you have to get disciplined in order to fix up the room then you have a fixed-up room and you'll be a more fixed-up person it's like you think that nothing will happen as a consequence of that another client i worked with was having a hard time putting his kid to bed at night and so we we did the arithmetic it's like well i'm fighting with my kid for 45 minutes a night trying to get him to go to bed okay so let's analyze that all right so what does that mean well it means that both of you end the day upset that's not so good because why would you want that it means that you're spending 45 minutes fighting when you could spend 20 minutes doing something positive like reading to them say means that you don't get to spend that time with your wife so she's not very happy with you plus you're annoyed because you don't see her plus you blame it on the kid because he's the proximal cause it's like that's pretty damn ugly and then and then let's do the arithmetic it's like seven days a week 45 minutes a day let's call that five hours 20 hours a week 240 hours in a year six you're spending a month and a half of work weeks fighting with your four-year-old son you think you're gonna like him you don't like anyone you spend a month and a half a year fighting with it's a bad idea fix it it's important get them to bed make it peaceful you do it like these things that repeat every single day that's a motif in this book too your life isn't margaritas on a beach in in jamaica that happens now and then those are exceptions your life is how your wife greets you at the door when you come home every day because that's like 10 minutes a day your life is how you treat each other over the breakfast table because that's an hour and a half or an hour every single day you get those mundane things right those things you do every day you concentrate on them and you make them pristine it's like you got 80 of your life put together these little things that are right in front of us they're not little that's the first thing they are not little and they're hard to set right and if you set them right it has a rippling effect and and fast too way faster than people think one of the things i've been suggesting to people is that they pick something difficult to do i read this this funny little paragraph by kierkegaard it was written about 1840 and he was thinking about his role as a student and writer and he was a student and writer forever you know he never really had a career apart from that and he said that he wasn't one of these people who was capable of inventing something wonderful to make life easier for everyone like so many people were doing you know during the industrial revolution he said well maybe i'm one of these people whose benefit to society will be that i will make things more difficult for everyone because there will come a time when what people want not they don't want ease they want difficulty instead and i think well that is what people want that is what they want you think well i want an easy happy life it's like no actually that isn't what you want i think what people want is things that are difficult that they can overcome yeah right that's right they want an optimal challenge well there's a whole different thing when you overcome something when you do something difficult whether it's i mean i've never written a book but i assume when you write a book when you're done writing that book there's a great feeling of accomplishment because it's very difficult to do that feeling of accomplish for me it's like when i put together a comedy special or when i you know just anything that's difficult there's a feeling like i did it yeah yeah well one of the mysteries is why that feeling exists you know it's a genuine it's not a trivial thing that it's to say i did something difficult and that was worthwhile basically what you're saying to yourself is well there was a lot of suffering attendant on that along with the just general suffering of life but it turned out that was worth it that's what you want it's like you want that sense that you're engaged in something that's worth it i'm not a like a casual optimist about these sorts of things i mean one of the things i do in 12 rules for life is lay out the rationale that drives people like the columbine high school killers because i understand that rationale i've studied it for a long time i know why they did what they did and they have a powerful argument but it's wrong but you don't there's no sense in showing how it's wrong before showing that it's a powerful argument like life is suffering there is lots of malevolence it's no wonder that people want to bring being itself to a halt they want to take revenge on it it's not surprising it's the wrong way of going about it the right way is it's akin to the sorts of things that you were just observing is you take on a difficult task that pushes you past where you are already and you you succeed in it you get this sense that yes that was worthwhile it's like that's what you want you want to live in that place where things are worthwhile that's paradise on earth that's what that is and it isn't some happy little place where you know someone's feeding you peeled grapes that isn't what it is it's it's more like it's more like victory on the honorable battlefield or something like that [Music] there's a city and the city is full of people who are sinful what does that mean well to sin is an archery term it means to miss the mark so these are people who aren't oriented properly and so the city is in a chaotic state and god tells jonah that he's going to go to that city and tell them just exactly what's up with them and jonah thinks no i'm not going to do that and why well that doesn't require much explanation it's like how popular are you going to be if you go to a city full of chaotic people and tell them why they're stupid and wrong it's jonah thinks no i'm not going to do that i don't care if god's telling me to do it so his conscience is telling him to do it or his destiny is telling him to do it or or his orientation with higher morality is telling him to do it you can read it any way you want and so he thinks no i'm hopping on this boat and i'm getting as far away from that city as i possibly can and so he does that and then the storm comes up because god thinks no you're not getting away if i told you to do something you're not getting away from it a storm comes up well what does that mean well it's easy betray your destiny and see how long it takes you to be drowning in a storm it'll happen immediately and of course it will because what what's calling you to be your best is exactly the thing that's pushing you forward to manifest yourself most fully in the world it's what you need you run away from that the boat's going to start to rock very very quickly well you all know that you per you know that perfectly well it it's hell all you have to do is not study for an exam that you know that's coming up to see everything start to the storm waters start to rise and everything start to rock it's pretty bloody obvious so anyways he's on this boat and there's a storm and all of the people on the boat who who can't quite discriminate chaos from weather because they haven't differentiated the world to that degree think oh the boat wouldn't be about to be swamped if we hadn't some of us hadn't done something stupid and wrong and there's logic in that you know you might think well god has nothing personal against you because of the storm so you're confusing levels of analysis but you've got to give these people some credit it's like maybe they did do something stupid maybe they didn't caulk the damn boat properly maybe the ropes aren't in as good as shape as they might be maybe they weren't paying attention to the weather when they went out on the ocean you know or maybe they haven't made peace with their brother and so their hearts are bent twisted out of shape so they don't make particularly good sailors it's like the idea that you encounter a storm because you're stupid and wrong is a really good idea even though it's not of infinite applicability anyways they draw lots it's a primitive thing to do it's like well it's one it's someone's fault we don't know who we're gonna throw someone overboard the worst sinner obviously that's what god wants some kind of sacrifice so they all draw lots and someone loses and then jonah stands up and says well sorry guys like i know that i've got a problem with god at the moment so it's probably me you better throw me over and they don't really want to but he finally convinces them over he goes and the storm settles well you know [Music] sometimes if you're in a group of people in an organization there is someone in the organization whose head isn't screwed on exactly straight and they know exactly why it is and what they've done wrong and what puts them in that position and they are poisoning the entire enterprise and if you throw them overboard or better if they agree voluntarily to leave then the storm will abate and everything will be okay so anyways they throw joe job over or jonah overboard and a whale comes up and swallows them and takes them down to the bottom of the ocean well we already know what that means because we watched pinocchio it's like when god abandons you because you've abandoned your destiny and the storms come up the probability that you're going to be taken down to the to the depths is extraordinarily high and that happens in people's lives all the time also down there jonah repents well what do you do when you're in the underworld well you've been there before when things fall apart on your friends have abandoned you you're not as popular as you could be you can't stand to look at yourself in the mirror into the underworld you go and you think geez i've done a lot of things wrong you know maybe i should reconcile myself with the world and i could get out of this well so that's what jonah does he thinks all right i've got this destiny i better go do what god says so the whale spits them out onto the beach and off he goes to the city to tell them what's wrong well that's what that represents that's these symbols you know it's so cool this second one i really i really like it's so interesting because you see jonah reemerging from the whale and he's got a halo around his head you say well what's a halo well have you ever looked at a quarter well think about a quarter a quarter's the moon and who's on the quarter the queen the queen is surrounded by the halo of the moon the queen's queen of the queen of the night gold coin that's the king's head on the sun that's the halo well what comes out of the belly of the of the fish it's the illuminated human being it's the spirit of the illuminated human being that's what that means well what does that mean well what else would come out of chaos you know if you if you fall apart and then you put yourself back together what is it that comes back out at least you're in better shape than you were before you know and and then maybe you do that 20 times in your life or 50 times and you do it voluntarily every time you do it you're more like the thing with the halo and less like the thing that's you know being thrown overboard by your friends and the midianites sold joseph into egypt unto potiphar an officer of pharaohs and captain of the guard and joseph was brought down to egypt and potiphar an officer of pharaoh captain of the guard an egyptian bought him of the hands of the ishmaelites which had brought him down thither so now he's a slave so now you'd think well that would be this is a man who has a lot of reason to be irritated at the structure of reality right he's gone from being the favorite to being betrayed by all of his brothers that's pretty rough and then he's being transformed into a slave and now he's being he's being sold to work as a slave so you'd think that that would corrupt his character because you know one of the things i think this is the case anyways i think people are always looking for an excuse to have their character corrupted because if your character is corrupted then you get to lie and you get to cheat you get to steal and you get to betray and you get to act resentfully and you get to do nothing and that's all easy it's easier to lie than to tell the truth it's easier to do nothing than to do something so there's always part of you thinking well i need a justification for being useless and horrible because that'd be a lot less work and so then if something terrible comes along you think aha that's just exactly the excuse that i was waiting for and then out all that comes you know solzhenitsyn when he was in the concentration camps in russia watching how people behaved you know he said that there were people that were put in the camps who immediately became trustees or guards and they were even more vicious than the people who had been hired as guards his idea was that they had collected all that he called it foulness if i remember correctly around them in normal life but they didn't have the opportunity to express it but as soon as you gave them the opportunity it was like there it was right away and so so one of the messages that seems to echo through these old testament stories is that just because something terrible happens to you doesn't mean that you get to be that you get to wander off the path and make things worse and maybe it doesn't matter how terrible it is that what happens to you that's a tough call you know because you see people now and then in life who they've really got it rough man like 50 bad things are happening to them at the same time and you think oh it's no wonder if you were bitter and resentful and hostile i'd be like yeah no wonder but then you meet people and sergeants and again talked about this in the gulu like archipelago he said he met lots of people in the not lots he met enough people to impress him in the concentration camp system who didn't allow their misfortunes to corrupt them and that's something yeah because maybe the only real misfortune is to become corrupted that's a really useful thing to think you know maybe the rest of it maybe the rest of it is trivial in comparison i know that's a rough thing because you can be in very harsh circumstances but i do think there's something to that and the lord was with joseph and he was a prosperous man and he was in the house of his master the egyptian and his master saw that the lord was with him and the lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand so that's an echo of the idea that we encountered earlier about walking with god right so adam walked with god before he ate the fruit with eve and then he wouldn't walk with god and then noah walked with god and abraham walked with god and so the idea is well that's that alignment with the highest ideal i think it's something like that and you know we can think about that as a metaphysical claim as well but i don't think it is i mean i've got thousands of letters now in the last year from people who have told me that they were in a pit that's exactly right and that they decided that they were going to try to put their lives together and that it worked and so that's really something you know and they write surprised it's like well i decided that i was gonna work hard at what i was doing and i wasn't gonna lie any more than absolutely necessary i thought i'd give it a try for a few months you know and all sorts of good things started to happen to me it's like maybe that's how the world works now obviously it doesn't work like that all the time right because you can get sliced off at the knees i mean there's an arbitrary element to existence that that you can't wish away but that doesn't mean that there are it doesn't mean that there aren't bad strategies and good strategies so i do think that one of the most fundamental existential questions is like if things aren't going well for you in your life is are you absolutely certain that you're doing absolutely everything you can to put things in order because if you're not then you shouldn't complain because you don't know to what degree you're actually contributing or even causing the circumstance now that's a very annoying thing to think and i'm not trying to blame the victim you know i know that people end up with lung cancer because they were exposed to asbestos you know i'm not trying to although i also know too that if you have lung cancer because you've been exposed to asbestos that can be a tragedy or it can be hell and to some degree that depends on how you conduct yourself well i think the capacity for evil is something that is not easily distinguishable from strength you know and and i mean my my knowledge runs out at this level of analysis in some sense the world seems to be structured so that we have that we can act for the good and we can act for evil and i think that's associated with self-consciousness and i think that's illustrated in the story of adam and eve when adam and eve become self-conscious the scales from fall from their eyes they realize that they're naked and to realize that you're naked is to understand your vulnerability that's why adam and eve clothed themselves right away oh no i'm naked i can be hurt okay i can be hurt i have to clothe myself i have to protect myself in the future you actually become aware of that in a way that animals aren't well what does it mean that you're naked means that everyone else is too what does it mean that you can be hurt means that everyone else can be hurt too means that you could hurt them and that's why the knowledge of good and evil goes along with the knowledge of nakedness that took me a long time to figure out it took me about 30 years to figure that out why are those two things conjoined oh yes when you understand that you're vulnerable you understand that everyone else is vulnerable and then you have the option of exploiting that and so that that's what transforms human beings to some degree from animals because a predator just eats you but a human being a human being can play with you and will for all sorts of reasons now the capacity to do that though why is the capacity to do that let's say useful well it's useful to be strong and not to have to use it because it makes you formidable and i think that you have to be formidable in order to move forward properly in the world even to get through obstacles that aren't just to get through obstacles you have to have some strength of character you have to have some commitment and some of that is there will be a cost if you interfere with me [Music] it'll be the minimal cost necessary let's say if you're if you've got yourself under control it will be the minimal cost necessary but do not be thinking there won't be a cost and i don't think i don't believe that if that's not built into your character then you have you have no strength and you certainly have no strength when you're pushed by someone who's malevolent a bully if you're like that if the bully pushes you and your response is there will be a cost for pushing me and you will pay it then the bully will go elsewhere and we know that too from studies of bullies you know like even childhood bullies they push around kids and then they find the ones that retreat and withdraw and they bully them [Music] so and you know you might think well usually children are bullied because of some abnormality that's a very common idea it's like there's a guy named dan always a very smart norwegian psychologist and he studied bullying for a long time as a precursor to fascism by the way so that was his interest he said his analysis indicated that at least three-quarters of children have some obvious abnormality that could be the focus of bullying attention might even be your name it doesn't take much of a genius bully to come up with a good way of making fun of your name or you're too tall or you're too short or you know or or your brother's too tall or too short or there's something it isn't the abnormality that is the cause of the bullying it's the abnormality might become the focus of the bullying but part of the cause is the withdrawal in the face of the bullies because the bully thinks he can get away with it well if you're and it's also the case with children who are preyed upon by adult predators like adult predators of children look for children who are easily cowed and who won't put up a fight so for example if you're teaching your children to be terrified of strangers that's really not a very good strategy you want kids who are confident and who will make a noise if someone messes about with them and who are who are who are and so that that that characterological strength has to be built in this is how i think reality lays itself out i think we all know this [Music] you're not driven by your past like clock you're not deterministic you are to some degree because you're limited you're a limited creature you've got rules that you run by and all of that you know you're not omniscient but you don't you're not driven by the past what you do instead is confront the potential of the future that's what's in front of you so it's a it's a it's a domain with multiple pathways and that's what's always in front of you could go there you could go there you could go there there's there's an array of choices that confront you you confront that as soon as you wake up and become conscious in the morning and then there's all this potential that's there in front of you and you use your ethical choice to determine which of those possibilities will become actual and it's it's through that mechanism that you participate in the creation of reality and that's the making of you in the image of god because that's what god did at the beginning of time according to our old stories spoke and transformed potential into into the being that was good and that was dependent on using truthful speech so that's what you do if you act properly because you confront potential and you translate it into reality and it's your soul that does that [Music] well do you follow the story that's a fundamental religious question you know when people go to see a movie like pinocchio which is a movie i've taken apart online in some detail it's like they suspend disbelief no one thinks that a wooden puppet has become alive no one questions why the wooden puppet should rescue his father from the chaos of the whale it all just makes sense it's like well yeah but why does it make sense exactly and and isn't it interesting to notice that it makes sense and these stories have a pattern in the and the pattern has a function and that's a religious function you say well i don't know whether i believe it's like well you follow the story the harry potter books are a good example of that because they have a deeply deeply religious substructure and that's why they were so insanely popular you know they have to speak for a book to become that popular it has to speak to something that's in everyone because otherwise why would they become that popular you know in in the second volume harry confronts the the basilisks the thing that turns you to stone that lurks underneath the magic castle it's like well that's life that's jaws it's the same story it's like we have a structure it's kind of magical we live inside it it's a hierarchy but underneath there's chaos and terror and that can come up at any time and paralyze you with its gaze right turn you to stone because it's so awful and every building is like that and so what do you have to do is you have to go down into the depths and confront that thing voluntarily and then you find and that's what that's you'll find what's of great value in that pursuit and be reborn it's like well that's the harry potter story that's the second volume it's like well everyone knows that story do you believe it well do you act it out that's the that's the question do you act it out it's the right pattern i think and maybe you know maybe it's not even the right pattern maybe the human race is a hopeless race and there's and there's no destination for us but for better or worse that's our pattern our pattern is the snakes are after us well we can cower in our dens or we can go out and we can find the source of the snakes and we can contend with it and that's what we decided to do and god only knows how long ago millions of years we decided we weren't going to cower in our dance we were going to go out and root out the snakes it's like saint patrick or saint george and then we found well there was the snakes that will eat you and then there were the snakes that were in other people's hearts and then there were the snakes that were in your hearts and all those had to be contended with and rooted out and that's part of the that's part of the even deeper mythology is that like there's an association in christianity between the snake and the garden of evil in eat of eden and satan it's like where did that come from what kind of crazy idea is that well i just laid out the idea it's like there's always a snake what's the worst possible snake well it isn't an actual snake it's a metaphorical snake that's the snake that's in the heart of your enemy when it comes to burn down your city well what if you get rid of your enemies well the snake's still there well then it's in your heart so what's the ultimate battle the ultimate battle is with the snake in your heart i had this kid talk to me at a barbecue i was at this weekend and he's working with delinquent kids 13 and 14 years old and he said they were pulled out of other delinquent camps and brought to his camp which was for the worst delinquents and he started talking to them about my lectures and so they've been watching him and now they have a little fan club that's based around my lectures and they're doing things like talking to each other about making their beds and cleaning up their rooms it's like it's it's unbelievable how little genuine encouragement many people need and how and how they had none no one ever said to them and meant it it's not okay for you to be a weak loser it's not okay and the reason it's not okay is because you could be way more than that and it's a crime an ethical crime for you to allow all that necessary potential to go to waste it hurts you it hurts your family it hurts the world really really it does you write in the book there is no faith and no courage and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient what do you say to those viewers that don't pursue their dreams and are locked into their careers because they are too afraid to take risks and pursue something meaningful well the first thing i would say is well you should be afraid of taking risks and pursuing something meaningful but you should be more afraid of staying where you are if it's making you miserable it's like the first thing you want to do is dispense with the idea that you get to have any any permanent security outside of your ability to contend and adapt it's the same issue with children it's like you're paying a price by sitting there being miserable you might say well the devil i know is better than the one i don't it's like don't be so sure of that the clock is ticking and if you're miserable in your job now and you change nothing in five years you'll be much more miserable and you'll be a lot older but isn't it the luxury to pursue what is meaningful our viewers have mortgages they have children yeah they have payments and loans it's a luxury to pursue because we lack the resources well i don't think i don't remember now i'm not talking about what makes you happy it's a luxury to pursue what makes you happy it's a moral obligation to pursue what you find meaningful and that doesn't mean it's easy it might require sacrifice if you need to change your job too let's say you have a family and and children and a mortgage you have responsibilities you've already picked up those responsibilities you don't just get to walk away scot-free say well i don't like my job i quit that's no strategy but what you might have to do is you think well this job is killing my soul all right so what do i have to do about that well i have to look for another job well no one wants to hire me it's like okay maybe you need to educate yourself more maybe you need to update your your curriculum vita your resume maybe you need to overcome your fear of being interviewed maybe you need to sharpen your social skills like you you have to think about these things strategically if you're going to switch careers you have to do it like an intelligent responsible person that might take you a couple of years of of effort to do properly when you say pursue something meaningful is it important to have a vocation i i think it's more important to to have a an ethos an ethic so i have a program for example called the future authoring program which is a writing program that enables people to develop a vision for their life and then to develop a strategy and so it's based on the idea imagine that and it's an extension of the ideas in the book or at least something along the same lines the first thing that you want to do is figure out imagine you were taking care of yourself like you were someone you cared for which is rule number two by the way essentially then you should figure out well if you could have what you needed and wanted what would it be what sort of friends would you have what would your family relationships look like how would you conduct yourself with your children how would you educate yourself you need to think through how it is that your life could be properly arranged if you had that ability and then you can aim at that and the funny thing is is that if you do posit a goal of that sort and work towards it you will move towards it the goal will change because you'll learn things along the way but i mean i've i've dealt with hundreds of people in my clinical and consulting practice and we set a goal we develop a vision and work towards it and it things inevitably get better for people so it's not a luxury it's it's difficult it's a moral responsibility and it isn't happiness it's not the pursuit isn't for happiness [Music] that meaning is what you have to to buttress yourself against the tragedy of life it's like engagement we're having an engaging conversation you know we'll walk away from this and hopefully the people who are watching they'll walk when they'll think that was worthwhile it's like okay think about what that means it means that despite the fact that you're a fragile damaged mortal creature you found something to do that announced itself as worthwhile that's meaning it's an instinct like it it's not it's a deep deep instinct it's it's maybe the deepest instinct it's like a form of vision except it's not a it's not like an embodied set it's not a a specified sense meaning tells you when you're in the right place and the right place is between chaos and order and those are real places your hemispheres like your right hemisphere is roughly evolved let's say to deal with things you don't understand that's chaos and your left is there to deal with things you do understand it you can't just stay with the things you do understand because you already understand them and you can't just stay with what you don't understand because then you're lost yeah well you need to be in the middle of those two and you can tell when you're in the middle because everything lines up and you you feel engaged and that what you're doing is meaningful it's like that's what you pursue expedience is you do the thing that gets you off the hook the fastest right now well that you play that game across time it doesn't work it sends you down because you're sacrificing the future for the present meaning doesn't do that meaning says i'm here where i should be and you can't tell why it's just that everything is right and you you get this physiological sense right place right time right conversation you know and that's usually a conversation where you're both trying to expand the way that you look at the world well so you follow this meaningful path that's your buttress against the tragedy that produces resentment and malevolence his meaning is the antidote to that and that's the fundamental religious truth and it's really true that's the thing that so life is suffering that's true there's malevolence that's true meaning is the antidote to that yes and it's not it's not some kind of fragile epiphenomena it's the deepest thing so people need to know that it's so important to know that people say well meaning isn't real it's like no that's wrong it's actually the most real thing it might even be more real than suffering and evil it's possible and like i think about this technically you know this isn't a metaphysical assumption that i'm making and you do feel it it's you feel it in your body it's not just a a mental thing it's not an idea it's a place it's a place because we're in time and space right and a place is a is a place you know three dimensions of space but it's also a time and when the place and the time are set up properly you're in the right place and your brain is telling you that your being is telling you that yeah you got it right right you know it's going to fall apart because you're not going to be there all the time right you forget that pretty quick often right like that's just part of life yeah well you say you know you go see a great movie it's like hey you're in the right place at the right time and it you're engaged you're completely engaged in it it's because it's because it's there's no other way to put it you're in the right place at the right time and the meaning is the signal of that and so the purpose of profound religious contemplation in some sense in the deepest sense profound philosophical contemplation is to learn how to be in the right place at the right time all the time now you can't because you're not perfect but you can be there a lot more than you are and you can actually practice it you practice it by paying attention you think you watch yourself during the day like you don't know who you are right or what you're doing and you notice oh yeah right there i was listening to that piece of music i was having that conversation or i was doing this piece of work then i was there for like 10 minutes okay why i was doing something right i don't know what it is i want to or i wasn't doing something wrong you know and so i got this little illuminated moment it's like okay i need to figure out how to be there more often so there's this line from the gospel of thomas which was discovered in like 1957 and it says the kingdom of god is spread out before the eyes of man but men do not see it that's basically it and that's kind of what it's referring to it's like there are times when you're in the right place at the right time and then you're where you should be and you you don't notice that you don't say oh look wow there's something about this this is right i got to figure out how to do this more right because that sucks you out of it immediately even even if you could do that right right well that's also partly why it's hard and and you're not really trained to notice that because it isn't something we ever talk about it's like you're in the right place at the right time okay why what did i do right what did i do i need to do more of that so maybe it's only half an hour a week when you first start noticing and then maybe with three months of practice you can get it up to like an hour a day and then maybe you can get it up to four hours a day and god only knows where you could get it if you if you keep practicing you know you you can you can be there we don't know what the upper limit of that is this is what when players talk about being in the zone when you're definitely you're just throwing it up and and you're not even thinking and it's going in and you don't even realize it yeah and often when they talk about it after that you know they won't even realize that wow that was a seven minute stretch they think of it as a 30-second little thing that's right time goes away yes well that's the dao that the taoists talk about that's the zone that's the line between chaos and order and to be there is to be in the right place that's why people watch sports like part of it's the competition in the victory and that's all fine but this the serious thing is those moments when you're in the zone with the players because they're acting out being in the zone and everyone loves that in the quidditch game in harry potter there's two games going on at the same time there's the ordinary game which is just a game and there's the seeker game and the seeker is going after this golden thing that flickers in front of them and if they get that thing then no they win and the team wins well she got it exactly right i that little thing the snitch that everyone is chasing is actually an ancient alchemical symbol for the union of chaos in order i don't know how in the world she figured that out it's called the round chaos it's unbelievably obscure if you look it up on google i think the only reference to the round chaos is from my website i learned it from reading young i don't know how she figured it out wow but so the seeker is seeking this thing that glimmers in front of him right it moves everywhere right that's mercury the winged messenger of the gods right and so you're chasing that and now and then you get it and everyone wins so yeah that's that's meaning you

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