The Meaning In Everything

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Usually, when I tackle a topic this broad and philosophical, it usually means that I have been binging some kind of podcast. As a result, I need to organize my thoughts. Today (when I write this) is no exception, unlike the exceptional Everygame casino welcome bonus that you should totally get right now!

The recent controversy with Joe Rogan where the Mainstream Media outlets and the Twitter rage mob are trying desperately to cancel him caused a Streisand effect that drew me right in. The reasons why people are after him has to do with a viral video that someone made compiling every time Joe Rogan said the n-word. I’d write it out in full, out of spite, if I wasn’t worried that some algorithm would bury this article as a result. Regardless, that whole controversy is neither here nor there.

While a lot of the controversy around Joe Rogan has centered around his recent interviews with medical doctors, such as Dr. Robert Malone, who partially invented mRNA vaccines, I was drawn to a more recent interview with none other than psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson.

What I find fascinating about Dr. Peterson is how he puts literary analogy to almost every aspect of life. While allegory has been an integral part of writing since writing was invented, Dr. Peterson does it to describe complex ideas about human nature, backed up by his credentials and experience as a practiced psychologist.

Meaning and Music

One of the key ideas that he stressed throughout the interview is that people require meaning and that the longing for meaning is an integral part of our biology. When we lack meaning, we become depressed and nihilistic.

One of the ways humans have learned to find and express meaning is through music. When we listen to a song we love, we are compelled to move our bodies. Dr. Peterson asks, “Why?”

He concludes that the answer lies in defining what music is. At its core, music is a pattern of sound. Not always, but most of the time, music is several layers of patterned sound, and it all has to sync together harmoniously. If the music is too chaotic and random, it becomes noise, and we tune it out. If it’s too rigid and structured, it becomes boring. Music requires just enough randomness to always surprise you but has to have enough structure to function correctly.

And isn’t that life? A series of layered and structured patterns must come together in order to function correctly.

Chaos vs Order

The conversation then flowed into freedom versus order. Too much freedom is paralyzing. If I have you sit across from me and suggest we play a game, and then say “your move”, what would you do? If you’re like most people, you’ll sit there confused for a moment. You have been given too much freedom, and there are no boundaries to work within in order to make a functioning game. Now put a chessboard on the table, and suddenly there are rules, but there is also far more fun to be had than before.

For me, I found it fascinating to hear this idea expressed in psychoanalytic terms, but that actually wasn’t where I first learned of this phenomenon. I found it through my hobby of developing video games and also from playing Dungeons and Dragons. A good video has clear rules, and the games that stand out the most are the ones that make a unique set of rules and refine them to be exceptional. The Game L.A. Noire tries to simulate what it’s like to be a detective. However, it tries to do too much, and the players are dropped into a world with too much freedom- so in order for the game to be any fun, the players have to be guided from one section of the game to another to avoid choice paralysis.

Dungeons and Dragons is another excellent example of this. This is a game where a player can do almost anything they can imagine- which can leave a beginner completely lost. They don’t know what to do, and without guidance, they’ll flounder around, get frustrated, and never return to play again.

I am a proud proponent of freedom and libertarian values. However, I’m not an anarchist for this exact reason. While I think that the government should have a far smaller role in our lives than it does, I understand that we need structure in order to live comfortably. That structure also manifests itself in our society through cultural values.

And speaking of cultural values, how can I overlook perhaps the biggest one of them all? The bible. Dr. Jordan Peterson later talks about the importance of stories. Since the dawn of humanity, humans have told one another stories. Language is such a fundamental part of mankind that even the mentally handicapped learn how to speak when they’re children- which is something I never really thought about before but amazes me.

Anyway, the meaning in stories. Right. The good doctor began to explain how the bible is one of the oldest collections of books in the world. For a period, it was the only book- at least, the only one that mattered. And there’s a reason that it has survived 3000 years. The stories held within are archetypical and connect to the human experience at a fundamental level.

Dr. Peterson gave the example of the story of Abraham. Here is this 80 year old man who lives in his father’s tent. A fairly boring life. He then hears the word of God, who tells him to pick up and move out. You could interpret this as the Call to Adventure, in literary terms- and I’ll get back to that idea.

But Abraham picks up and leaves, and what does he find? War. Totalitarians who try to kidnap his wife. Twice. It isn’t a safe life. The safe life was back in his tent. But the adventure. Abraham, or his story at least, is now in the canon of biblical history and patriarch to millions of people on the planet. What would he have been if he had stayed in his tent?

Safe, for sure. But nobody would have remembered him. Life requires one to step outside of their comfort zones in order to find meaning. This means giving up safety.

You can psychoanalyze just about every story in the bible this way, and every good story that you know too. They all have meaning because of what they speak of in the real world. Some of them contain more direct messages, such as “Of Mice and Men”, which was a critique of the period it’s set in.

However, it’s nowhere near as archetypical as a lot of Fantasy novels, which follow something like “The Hero’s Journey”. The Hero’s Journey is an archetypical adventure, where a would-be hero is called to adventure somehow. He initially refuses for whatever reason but gets drawn out of his comfort zone into danger, where he has to transform.

This usually requires a road of trials and tribulations or a training montage, which results in our hero emerging ready to defeat some grand, final challenge. The hero is tempted away from his path at some point and must atone. Eventually, he finds his way again and wins the day.

How many times have you heard or read stories like that? It’s the story of Star Wars, Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings, and the story I told above, of Abraham. You can apply the hero archetype to a lot of biblical characters.

Moses is another that the mold fits perfectly too. Jesus too. You can find this archetype appear in just about every mythology on the planet in one way or another.

The question is, why? Why are humans drawn to the idea of heroes, that this concept manifests itself spontaneously in cultures across the entire planet?

Perhaps because the story doesn’t always have to be literal, because those are the best stories- the kind that can be enjoyed on multiple levels. There’s the superficial story about our heroes slaying monsters and saving the innocent. However, you can look at it symbolically as the human experience.

Everyone has their own inner demon to slay, and you’ll only grow to your full potential if you’re pushed out of your comfort zone. This is why we need to take risks. This is why it was probably for the best that Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden. Think about how much humanity has progressed since, out of necessity.

Tangentially, I think that the Nazis captured the modern imagination because it’s so easy to depict them as tyrannical Dark Lords that had to be defeated at all costs. They were evil beyond imagining, and a planet wide-war was required to stamp them out.

The Nazis have become the modern incarnation of the Snake in the Garden. The little evil. Satan. They who represent all that must be purged from society if we are ever to be allowed into the Garden again. They have become their own archetype of a sort that will likely last. Hitler’s Reich may not have lasted a thousand years, but I think their story will.

And if I was a really cliché dickwad, I’d say that meant that in the end, they won after all. But I won’t because that’s stupid. Because they’re dead, and their story only lives in infamy, just as much as our archetypes of heroes continue to be glorified, and shall be for eons to come.


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