Jordan Peterson knows how we can be happier, and he works hard to share that with people. His path towards happiness is not the materialistic path that drives profits for manufacturers, developers and service providers. Nor is it a path that depends on other people doing something that benefits us. It is an independent path, based on adapting your mind to the world around you, and on having an understanding of how the mind works.
As a Buddhist, my faith is founded the four noble truths: that suffering has a cause, that the cause of suffering can be identified, that there is a way to end suffering, and that the way to end suffering can be found. Peterson is a Christian, and there are a number of ways that I feel his faith leads him astray. But his service to the Buddhist ideal of freedom from suffering (often named ‘enlightenment’) is one that I appreciate greatly, because he gets a lot of things right.
Peterson, like the Buddha, teaches that the path towards enlightenment is paved with self-discipline, and with an appreciation of our limits as human beings. That we do not make the world better by demanding more from others, but by demanding more from ourselves.
He knows that the cure for fear is to learn bravery, and he teaches his students how to help someone choose to be brave (while noting that forcing someone into a fearful situation is not helpful).
He knows that the responsible father warns their children not to do dangerous things, while forgiving their inevitable exploration of the forbidden. He knows that if we do not explore, we stagnate. He knows that if we do explore, we are in danger.
He knows that the most important thing a child can learn is how to play the meta-game: the game of playing with people in such a way that they want to play with you again. He knows that you lose the meta-game if you always win the individual games, and that tyrants will be laid low by an alliance of the downtrodden.
He knows that (to use the Buddhist terminology) the essential nature of human life is desire: that to be human is to pursue something, and that to be able to experience happiness, we must have a goal to pursue. He knows that accomplishments and achievements do not satisfy, that such pleasures are fleeting.
He knows that post-traumatic stress disorder does not arise because of the magnitude of the danger, but the incomprehensibility of the danger. That it is when we understand what has happened, why it happened, and how to protect ourselves in future, that we can be free of PTSD.
He’s openly flawed, and incomplete, and he tries anyway; he embodies (as well as anyone) the hero that he exhorts his audience to become.
He’s still wrong when he attempts to build software to identify ‘neo-Marxists’. And his political views derive from a flawed and toxic assumption. But he’s also right. Most importantly, he’s right when he says that nobody is right about everything all the time, and that’s why we need to talk to each other.