On my way home from the pharmacy, on what must have been the first scorching hot day of summer in New York this year, I saw an elderly woman — lets call her Alice — walking ahead, cane in one hand, roller bag in the other. She was walking slowly and had a very pronounced crook in her walk, perhaps caused by some hip surgery or accident. When I saw this, two thoughts flashed through my mind: first pity which made me think that I should ask her if she needed some help; and then something else, a different value system that emerged from what I had learned from the teachings of Helen Luke, a Jungian writer whose specialty was the responsibilities of womanhood. Her book, ‘The Way of Woman’ changed my life because it demanded that we take responsibility for our lives as women, mind, body, and soul. And I had always seen this message in books directed to men, but never to women.
Little did we know that social media, especially Twitter, as-yet uninvented in the late 1990s, were what "The Matrix" was prophetically warning us about. Your wise, incisive, but also peace-inculcating meditations take us by the hand and walk us straight out of the belly of the beast--and for that I'm grateful. More than once in the past couple of weeks I've started to comment on somebody's tweet, then realized that what was being pulled out of me, incentivized by the format, wasn't just not my best self but was entirely unneeded snarky or snark-adjacent crap. I'd retained just enough presence of mind to lift my head, realize what was going on, and discard my reply, unsent. Four or five times this has happened. The matrix is right there, beseeching us. Thanks for helping us see and feel that.
I'm a huge fan of Peterson, but I absolutely agree with you here. Thank you for your precise and thoughtful words.
I agree, Chloe. Dr. Peterson’s work has influenced my life dramatically, but lately I haven’t been able to follow his public train of thought. I feel it narrowing and becoming rigid, which is a type of thinking I’m prone to (especially on social media) and trying to overcome. His writing & lectures usually encourage the opposite. Maybe it’s just a phase.
I enjoyed reading this and hope you and JBP can discuss it sometime. Glad I found your Substack 🙏
Balanced as always I really enjoyed it. Peterson is getting lost in the woods of social media, debating, and defending, (who can blame him). Hopefully he can realign himself as he continues his journey. Maybe he can look for the love perhaps.
I hope one day you can speak to Russell Brand you seem like kindred sprits on the tight rope of Nuance!
Keep up you fantastic work. Peter (UK)
A wonderful essay; so compassionate and useful. After reading it, I decided to take a social media break- but must post this comment, before doing so!
In the tradition of generous comment, I would venture the observation that Dr. Peterson has leaned more into inflexible take of ideological framing than into the flexibility and adaptability of psychological framing. I would add that many writers succeed far more as crafters of fiction than essayists on current events.
By medical standards and BMI (body mass index) Yumi Nu is obese. Given America's tolerance for obesity and its drastic rise (even encouragement) over the last 50 years, as well as cardiovascular disease being the number one killer in America, I can see JPs cause for concern. However, I don't think it was a wise hill to die on nor was singling out Yumi. Love the article and reflections though, thanks Chloe.
Hi Chole, I read this after watching you conversation with Brett Anderson, and I wanted to just say that I appreciated you comments about the conservative distain for the body positivity movement and the conversation around what it means to be healthy. Human existence/human health is complex and as you said in your interview with Brett, what we constitute as beautiful really is subjective, perhaps there are scientific measures that can show us on average how society may measure human attractiveness, but I've been attracted to disabled men who were shorter than me and paralyzed from the waste down, because I fell in love with the soul of the person in the body -- there is an individualism to attractiveness and what we view as beautiful as much as we can try and rationalize what beauty is or who we should be attracted to. I've also been a fat girl since puberty, so I never lived my life as someone that was called beautiful or even really approached much by men-- however I've seen people fall in love with the beauty of my personality, even if they didn't find themselves enamored with my physical "beauty" or lack thereof, I could see it reflected in their eyes and I could sense it through the chemistry that comes with vibing with another person.
With that said, I like Jordan Peterson and have much respect for the man. The issue with something like this is that I think if Jordan Peterson met me in-person and we spoke, I don't think he would even notice my weight or even dare to think I wasn't beautiful. I think of all of Jordan's followers and admirers who may be fat people, and how it must feel to be slandered for no reason other than to make a point in the culture war. There is no guarantee any of us will get to live to old age, perhaps eating healthy and taking care of ourselves will increase the odds, but life is unpredictable and death can come for us at any time. As you illustrate with Alice, despite her physical state, she had so much life in your interaction, and there is a conversation to be had about the state of "the soul" that animates the body and what it means to live a good life, even if it is not in a perfect body. Jordan and his daughter have both experienced terrible sickness and perhaps that is where the "concern" over keeping "healthy" comes from, a need to claim some control over something they themselves struggle with for no reason seemingly other than the bad luck of genetics.