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Rules, Commandments, And Obligations

March 26, 2018 Featured Today No Comments


Professor Jordan Peterson, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto and practices clinical psychology, has become a celebrity largely because he has refused to use ideological pronouns to address people who see themselves as neither male nor female. His notoriety has created a market for his recent book, 12 Rules for Life which the Spectator claims to be “one of the most important books to emerge on the world stage for many years.” It has been selling briskly through
His dozen bromides for a better life, which also serve as, according to the book’s subtitle, “An Antidote to Chaos,” are as follows: 1) Stand straight; 2) Obey the Golden Rule; 3) Choose your friends wisely; 4) Set yourself reasonable expectations; 5) Raise your children well; 6) Don’t be a hypocrite; 7) Cherish meaning; 8) Don’t lie; 9) Listen before you speak; 10) Choose your words carefully; 11) Let children fail so that they learn to succeed; 12) Be kind to animals.
I will not comment on the selection of these rules except to say that they are as sensible as they are fundamental. Nothing ground-breaking here. But they are “rules” and as such are somewhat arbitrary and therefore optional, though they have slightly more force than “suggestions.” Games are played by rules, and so is parliamentary procedure. Robert’s Rules of Order are sensible, but are man-made and are neither morally nor legally binding. Life, however, requires something less arbitrary and more commanding than mere rules.
The Ten Commandments command people to obey. There are no permissible options here, though we cannot obey unless we are free to obey. Moreover, the Commandments come from God and therefore cannot be disputed. The Ten Commandments, in today’s world, however, are often misunderstood as threats to freedom and consequently have fallen, to some extent, into disrepute.
Obligations, we might say, are positioned halfway between the arbitrariness of rules and the non-negotiability of God’s Commandments. We should not shirk our obligations. But first of all, we should know what they are. I have proposed “12 Obligations” which, though representing a woefully incomplete list, outline some of the natural duties we have as human beings to God, ourselves, and to our others (either living or dead).
First, Appreciate the beauty of nature: In our fast-paced, mechanized world, it is easy to ignore the natural beauty that surrounds us. We have a natural kinship with the beauty of nature and we should take advantage of the calming, inspiring, and energizing effect it has on us.
Second, Realize the inherent connection between design and a Designer: There is more to nature than meets the eye. The wonders of nature did not come about by chance. The fact that a tiny one-celled zygote can grow to a unified organism of 35 trillion cells is not something that happens of its own accord.
Third, Enjoy the classics in music, literature, painting, and poetry: The world of great art is emotionally uplifting and intellectually satisfying. It offers an antidote for those who are discouraged and an inspiration for young and old. It represents the insights of great artists who have labored to share their vision and to awaken the heart.
Fourth, Profit from the lessons of history: History has much to teach us so that we do not need to learn everything on our own. The best of tradition is a great asset. We should learn the folly of war, the glory of peace, the temptation to power, and the value of liberty.
Fifth, Learn how philosophy can lead to wisdom: Cynicism is unprofitable, relativism goes nowhere. The great philosophers help us to travel along a road that leads to insights that helps us to understand the essential meaning of our life. Philosophy illumines the mind and clarifies our destiny.
Sixth, Be wary of the Media: The Media, to a large extent, are self-serving. Television, newspapers, and the motion picture industry are heavily influenced by the reigning ideologies. “Today” and today’s fashions are emphasized, often to the rejection of a higher vision and a life that has timeless significance.
Seventh, Do not fear the truth of things: The truth may be unpopular and therefore difficult to live by. It may be scorned by those in power. Nonetheless, it is the only light that can guide us realistically. All else is an illusion, and illusions can lead only to disillusionment.
Eighth, Listen to others without prejudice: No one has a monopoly on knowledge. Every person we meet can teach us something of value. We should not categorize people and dismiss them as being of lesser value than ourselves. We are all part of the great enterprise of love, life, and learning.
Ninth, Be ready to forgive those who insult you: Without forgiveness, bitterness and resentment grow into anger. Forgiveness is of supernatural origin, but it allows us to live naturally and at peace with our neighbor. We should forgive as readily as we seek forgiveness for our own indiscretions.
Tenth, Recognize that real freedom has real limitations: We need freedom from inhibiting restrictions so that we can be free to be ourselves. We cannot be any one but ourselves. Freedom, therefore, is both inclusive as well as exclusive, including who we are and excluding what we are not.
Eleventh, Understand the integral nature of love, sexuality, marriage, and procreation: There is a natural order, suffused by love, which flows from sexuality to marriage and to an openness to procreation. Lust isolates sexuality from love; contraception and abortion isolate marriage from procreation. In the unity of the person, there is an abiding consistency between love, sexuality, marriage, and the begetting of children.
Twelfth, Have faith in the power of prayer: The God who created us will not abandon us. Prayer is “reversed thunder.” It maintains our friendship with God on a daily basis. Without prayer, we become cosmic orphans, having lost our Father and, as a consequence, find ourselves attempting to locate our destiny without a roadmap. Prayer unites us with the source of love, light, and leadership.
When we are fulfilling our obligations, we find that we are, at the same time, obeying God’s commands.

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