One of the most painful things we can do in life is sort through past emotions. Big emotions do not “go away” with time. They only go away with attention. They have a life cycle, like the weather. Emotions evaporate when we feel them. Children do this instinctually – they cry as long (and as hard) as they need to to feel the feeling, then they are done.
This post is not about emotions – not directly. This post is about clutter. It’s about “stuff.” One of the most painful things I have ever done is sorting through past stuff. In my childhood, I saw a lot of people crippled by the inability to throw things away, give them away, make them useful, or get rid of them. My adult life has been a slow, painful, process of unclenching my fist and getting rid of things: artwork, clothes, batteries, papers, bills, knick-knacks, picture frames, books, notes from college, journals, shoes, hats, food, boxes, computer files, videos, CDs.
These two – sorting through feelings and sorting through stuff – are related.
“Clutter is unmade decisions.” (paraphrasing Christina Scalize*) I would add that clutter is unprocessed emotion.
A stubborn pile that refused to be organized, put away, thrown away represents a pile of emotion that has to be felt. The same probably goes for stubborn pounds that refuse to go away. Extra weight on the body and extra stuff around the house are spiritually identical.
Health comes from eating what you need (no more) and eating what is good for you (less junk) and burning it all off with healthy and enjoyable activity. Similarly, cleanliness comes from taking into your life what you use (no more) and what is actually good to have around (no junk), while consistently “burning it all off” by decluttering, getting rid, making decisions, and processing emotions.
The state of the art
I am almost there. As of right now, I have one “inbox” with a bunch of un-made decisions. Most of these are from the last month or two, but some stretch back years. They are the last, stubborn kernel of unprocessed emotion physically manifested in my house.
How simple is simplicity? How de-cluttered does living a de-cluttered life have to be? I don’t know. But I am almost to the point where I do not feel weighed down by my clothing, piles, and unmade decisions
A couple of maxims have motivated my journey. First, Fr. Josiah Trenham says “the possession is justified by use.” If you don’t use it, you may not be justified in owning it. Second, St. John Chrysostem says that “whatever you don’t use belongs to the poor.” By thinking this way, I have slimmed down… slowly but surely, for the last 8 years.
A bit of history
I have had a massive “inbox”, several bankers boxes full, for many years. David Allen helped me to even put it all into one place and label it as an “inbox.” I got through small percentages of it over the years.
A big change came in 2012 when I had to pack up and move across country. This required an exhausting inventory of all our things. We sorted them into “keep – take with us”, “keep – store” and “get rid.” The get rid pile divided into throw away and give away piles.
A lot made it into the get rid pile. My wife and I got rid of a lot of stuff. We stored some stuff at our parents house (two or three closets worth). Amazingly, we only brought a SINGLE MINIVAN’s worth of stuff to Kentucky. (We bought furniture there once we arrived.)
While in Kentucky, we lived light for 5 years. Even so we accumulated stuff that had to be garage-sale sold. We moved back with a minivan and two truck pallets shipped by freight.
Once we arrived back in CA, we got a small apartment. I had time, so I decided it was time to go nuclear. I threw almost everything away. I cried a lot. I felt a lot of nostalgia, fear, anxiety, sadness, anger. It was a crazy washing-machine of emotions. But over two or three months, I gathered all of our stuff from storage, parents houses, childhood homes, and put it in one place and slowly went through it. I even went through the old file cabinet (again) and got rid of about 50% of papers, including some photos and journals.
During that time, I did the unthinkable. It almost killed me. But I gave away about 20% of my books. As a lifelong reader and book collector, I can’t express how painful this was. But it felt great after! I got rid of those books I could admit to myself that I would probably never open them again (or that I could re-purchase if need be.)
My “decision box” (or inbox) is now one pile. There is nothing in storage. There is nothing in my car. My file cabinet is two banker’s boxes worth of files I am ready, willing, and able to store and refer to until I die.
It feels incredible to live light. I am nimble now. I can take in new stuff, and trust myself to process it quickly and either use it or eject it. I am trying to maintain a strict purity of vision, a focus on my priorities
It’s ongoing. I still let my email inbox pile up twice a year, and clean it out twice a year. A normal week is busy, and doesn’t allow for much decluttering. But a little regular check in is now more effective than a big once a year push.
Thank God for progress! Here’s to living clutter free.
*“Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.”
I read hundreds of anti-Trump articles during the primaries and the election season two years ago. Very few, almost none, of them, “got” the real problem with Trump. They said things like “he is evil, racist, sexist, xenophobic” which were so patently untrue of this liberal New York billionaire who that they didn’t stick. By overstating their case, they weakened their case.
Jonah Goldberg gets it. The real genius and real problem of Trump are one and the same thing: exaggeration. Bluster. Hype. Kayfabe.
Everything he says and does is exaggerated beyond reality. He’s not a habitual liar, he’s a habitual BS-er. (Scott Adams got this early and has never wavered.)
Trump’s philosophy is the WWE concept of “kayfabe”. Make the act real enough to seem real.
A professional wrestling term, “kayfabe” means presenting staged events as if they’re real. Pro wrestling is theater, not sport. But it thrives on the illusion that it is the latter, not the former.
Kayfabe philosophy means “fake it to make it”, and Trump takes faking it to the extreme. Even his approach to exaggerating is exaggerated. That’s what makes Trump so hard to parody – he’s already a parody version of himself.
It’s also what makes Trump so hard to put down: his version of reality is extremely clear. The patriotism is extremely patriotic; the law-enforcement is extremely lawful; the good deals are extremely good and the bad deals are painted as historically bad. For better or worse, this is his approach to life, business, and now, to international politics.
Critics would do better to understand the power of kayfabe, and supporters would do better to understand its dangers.
Chris Pratt just received a generation achievement award from MTV so he decided to preach a sermon.
It’s not really a sermon because he had to make it funny, too. He went all Jordan Peterson on us and gave “Nine Rules from Chris Pratt, generation award winner”. The nine rules consist of 33% jokes (#1, #4, #7), 22% life advice (#3, #5), and 44% gospel lesson (#2, #9, #6, #8).
He mixes in the jokes with the gospel and even explains what he is doing (rule #4 is to trick a dog into taking his medicine by putting the medicine in a little piece of hamburger… which is exactly what he is doing.
Here’s his “gospel lesson.”
(#2) you have a soul, be careful with it.
(#9) you are imperfect.
(#6) God is real, he loves you and wants the best for you.
(#8) Learn to pray. It’s easy and so good for your soul.”
He even alluded to patriotism and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ when he said “grace is a gift. Like the freedom we enjoy in this country that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted.”
Beautiful work from Chris Pratt.
Here’s all the lessons in order:
Number one: breathe. If you don’t, you’ll suffocate.
Number two: You have a soul. Be careful with it.
Number three: Don’t be a turd. If you’re strong, be a protector and if you’re smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons and do not wield them against the weak. That makes you a bully. Be bigger than that.
Number four: When giving a dog medicine, put the medicine in a little piece of hamburger and they won’t even know they’re eating medicine.
Number five: Doesn’t matter what it is, earn it. A good deed, reach out to someone in pain, be of service, it feels good and it’s good for your soul.
Number six: God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.
Number seven: If you have to poop at a party, but you’re embarrassed because you’re going to stink up the bathroom, just do what I do. Lock the door. Sit down, get all the pee out first. Okay? Then, when all the pee’s done, poop-flush-boom. You minimize the amount of time that the poop is touching the air because if you poop first, then it takes you longer to pee and you’re peeing on it, stirring it up and the poop particles create a cloud that goes out and then everyone at the party will know that you pooped. Just trust me, it’s science.
Number eight: Learn to pray. It’s easy and it’s so good for your soul.
Number nine: Nobody is perfect. People are going to tell you you’re perfect just the way you are; you’re not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there’s a powerful force that designed you that way. And if you’re willing to accept that you will have grace and grace is a gift. Like the freedom we enjoy in this country that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted.
God bless you. Please get home safely.
My own idea, for what it is worth, is that all sadness which is not either arising from the repentance of a concrete sin and hastening towards concrete amendment or restitution, or else arising from pity and hastening to active assistance, is simply bad; and I think we all sin by needlessly disobeying the apostolic injunction to ‘rejoice’ as much as by anything else. Humility, after the first shock, is a cheerful virtue.
– C. S. Lewis
Cheerfulness is a choice. Or rather, it is downstream from a choice. We can choose to focus on the good, to be stubbornly grateful for the gifts we have been given, and to notice beauty whenever it arises.
We cannot avoid virtuous empathy for the suffering. We cannot avoid virtuous contrition for our own failings. But we can and should avoid almost every other form of sadness: sadness for wrongs done to us, or for our own ill fortune, or for the world not going the way we want it to.
Those who rejoice, and those who don’t, will see the consequences appear in the very lines and contours of their faces.
I recently stumbled across a Facebook group compiling Jordan Peterson “character assassinations”. It requires some scrolling to read all the articles, so I decided to put all the links into a single list.
Why? As a Peterson fan, it’s useful to consider these critiques, to hear the other side. Secondly, it’s also amusing to read the more unhinged and vitriolic hot takes people keep writing. Thirdly, if you’re not a Peterson fan, these articles might help you articulate your criticisms.
You’ll notice a smattering of articles from November 2017 through April 2018, followed by a rapid uptick of articles in May. Will June bring have another flood of articles or not?
Without further ado, a (fairly complete) list of articles criticizing JBP:
November 2017 - February 2018
- “Jordan Peterson is causing problems at another university now”. By Drew Brown. Vice. Nov 20, 2017
- “The Professor of Piffle – The dangerous underside of Jordan Peterson’s crusade against the humanities” by Ira Wells. Nov 27, 2017
- “The Jordan Peterson Paradox: high intellect, or just another angry white guy?” by John Semley. The Globe and Mail. January 31, 2018
- “Jordan Peterson’s Bull***t.” by Harrison Fluss. Jacobin Mag. February 2, 2018.
- “The Right’s Favorite New Intellectual Has Some Truly Pitiable Ideas About Masculinity – why does anyone take Jordan Peterson seriously?”, by Jacob Bacharach. Alternet. February 13, 2018.
- “Why Are So Many Young Men Drawn to Jordan Peterson’s Intellectual Misogyny?” by Grant Maxwell, APA Online. February 20, 2018.
- “A Serious Man”, by John Ganz. The Baffler. February 7, 2018.
- “Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism”, by Pankaj Mishra. NYR Daily. March 19, 2018.
- “The Intellectual We Deserve”, by Nathan J. Robinson. Current Affairs. March 14, 2018
- “A Messiah-cum-Surrogate-Dad for Gormless Dimwits: On Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life””, by Houman Barekat. LA Review of Books. March 8, 2018.
- “How Anti-Leftism Has Made Jordan Peterson a Mark for Fascist Propoganda”, by Noah Berlatsky. Pacific Standard. March 2, 2018
- “Sorry, Jordan Peterson: rage isn’t a great look for a self-help guru”, by Nesrine Malik. The Guardian. March 23, 2018.
- “A (Scorching) Review of 12 Rules for Life”, by Richard Poplak. Johannesburg Review of Books. April 4, 2018.
- “Thus Spoke Jordan Peterson – The best-selling psychologist isn’t leading young men to salvation — he’s delivering them to authoritarianism.” by David Livingstone Smith, John Kaag. April 4, 2018.
- “Is Jordan Peterson Enabling Jew Hatred?”, by Ari Feldman. Forward. May 11, 2018
- “Jordan Peterson Exposed as Globalist Operative…” by Shane Trejo. PB News. May 14, 2018.
- “How white male victimhood got monetised”, by Damien Walter. Independent. May 16, 2018.
- “Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy” by Nellie Bowles. New York Times. May 18, 2018.
- “The New York Times Enters the Icy Domain of Jordan Peterson, the Incel’s Intellectual”, by Whitney Kimball. Jezebel. May 20, 2018.
- “Jordan Peterson Revealed as a Men’s Rights Activists”, by James S. Fell. Body for Wife. May 22, 2018
- “Jordan Peterson Seems Like a Terrible Therapist” by Jonathan Foiles. Slate. May 22, 2018.
- “Why Reasoning with Jordan Peterson Fans Can’t Work, Or: Privilege is a Feeling State”, by Matthew Remski. May 21, 2018
- “Jordan Peterson and the Rise of the Cargo Cult Intellectual”, by Helen Lewis. New Statesman. May 23, 2018
- “Jordan Peterson may be a ‘public intellectual’, but his latest theory isn’t very clever”, by Hadley Freeman. May 23, 2018
- “Jordan Peterson’s moment of fame — and the dangers of patriarchal pseudoscience”, by Jared Yates Sexton. Salon. May 22, 2018.
- “Don’t Fall For The New, Well-Groomed Alt-Right. It’s Still The Alt-Right”, by Max Koslowski. Junkee. 23 May 2018.
- “Solo: A Star Wars Story shows us the hero all feminist men have been waiting for”, by Damien Walter. Independent. May 23, 2018.
- “Jordan Peterson Is The New Chief Lobbyist For ‘Nice Guys’ And Incels” by Davide Mastracci. Huffintong Post. May 31, 2018
- “I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous”, by Bernard Schiff. The Star. May 25, 2018.
- “Jordan Peterson is the Flat Earth Society of psychology and philosophy” by Caitlin Cohen. Dead State. June 2, 2018.
- “Jordan Peterson’s Anti-Christian Vision”, by Nirmal Dass. Hedge Accordingly. June 3, 2018
- “The Fundamental Errors of Jordan Peterson”, by Scott Oliver. Vice. June 4, 2018
- “Christ on a bike – the strange case of Jordan Peterson”, by Richard Cooke. The Monthly. June 6, 2018
- “A feminist philosopher makes the case against Jordan Peterson”, by Sean Illing. Vox. June 6, 2018.
I’ll update the list if this post is useful (just leave a comment if so). But for the most recent examples, join the Facebook group!
I just finished “reading” (i.e., listening to the audio books of) a few Dostoevsky novels and stories, hence my reading queue had an opening. I decided to finally return to the Prose Edda, a 13th century collection of Norse Mythologies and one of the great classics of Scandinavian literature.
It’s rough going at points. Lots of Icelandic names. That’s one of the reasons I’m listening to it on audio, as I do with Dostoevsky, rather than slogging through the text.
Anyhow, I’m stumbling through the Prose Edda, minding my own business, when I come across a remarkable passage I want to share with you Tolkien fans.
The surprising passage is from the second part of the Prose Edda, titled “Gylfaginning”, which is about the adventures of Gylfi.
In this passage, Gangleri is quizzing Harr about what he knows. Harr is then showing off his knowledge of gods and nature. At the end, Harr explains how the “dwarves” were made under the earth.
The first two long paragraphs I include to give you a flavor. Then notice the names of the dwarves at the bottom.Read the rest...
There was a big fight tonight… Congratulations are in order to Ukraine and to its champion boxer, Lomachenko.
It was a beautiful fight. English has its Alexander Pope, tennis has its Roger Federer, boxing has its Vasyl Lomachenko.
Back in 2017, I wrote about this Orthodox Christian boxer, praising the musicality of his performances. He is a musician as much as a boxer. Rhythm, rhyme, repetition, syncopation. It’s beautiful to watch.
On May 11, I mentioned that the fight was coming up and predicted that “take down his next opponent and become a three-weight-class world champion. His fighting style is, as of now, unstoppable.” Although Lomachenko got knocked down in the sixth round he showed class by thanking Linares for teaching him a lesson.
He also showed his humility by giving credit to his father and trainer saying, “My father told me to go for the body in the final rounds, so I did.”
This is perhaps best single Peterson interview so far. In it, Peterson develops a host of related big claims. He states and concisely explains no less than the following:
- an account of the evolution of morality (that leaves open the possibility of divine intervention) as iterated games over time
- an account of the evolution of social hierarchies
- a defense of the Enlightenment
- an explanation of why Christ is the “king of kings”, the hero of heros
- the difference between Sam Harris and Peterson
- an interpretation of Genesis
- a break down and criticism of identity politics
- a response to critics
- a defense of cleaning your room.
My only complaint is that Shapiro keeps nodding and saying “uh huh” and “right, right” when he should just be quiet and let Peterson talk. Other than that, it’s a good interview.
6 years ago today my father passed away.
Six years ago today, I sat holding his hand, still warm, trying to comprehend that he was dead.
I arrived at the hospital a little after 10pm, just minutes after he breathed his last. Thank God I had not gone to sleep! My brother and sister were there.
The transition from this life to the next, like the transition of a baby from inside the womb to the wide world, is a sacred transition. A liminal space. Something supernatural. The nurses cleaned him up because death, like birth, is messy. It’s organic. It’s not clean or neat or Hollywood. It’s a rending. He looked like himself only his mouth was open. He knew he would pass soon, for he silently removed his wife’s hand from his chest, signaling to her that it was time for her to let him go.
Just that morning I had asked him for permission to bring the family to my church and pray the Orthodox Christian prayers for the departed, after he had passed. He said, “of course, Keith.” 40 days later, the family did come to my church and prayed. I was so glad to have his blessing.
Weeks before, I recorded poems for him from his favorite writer, Robert Frost, and sent him the audio files to listen to while in the hospital. He enjoyed them because he said they weren’t morbid or sad, just delightful. He said that visitors often wanted to visit him and be sad or share sad stories, which he was fine with. But he clearly preferred to live in the (happy) moment.
He joked to the end. He always quipped the old joke, “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Yet we have to be there when we die.
He was courageous. He had pancreatic cancer for two years. It’s not a merciful cancer; normally diagnosis is followed by death within six months or so. But he survived and even finished a book, continued his radio show, and spent a lot of quality time with us. My sister learned a saying that “cancer is the gift of time.” In other words, when someone has cancer, you feel the clock ticking and you press in for time together. I had two great years with my dad, two of the best we had together in 27 years. And I thank God for that time.
At the hospital, it was hard to comprehend, as I held his hand and felt the warmth slowly fade, that it was real. Just like imagining your baby before he arrives, it’s almost surreal when labor actually starts. But so it is. It’s real. So I tried to stay in the moment with my siblings and my other family members. We each had our own reactions. But we agreed on sacred silence.
After about 30 minutes, each of us took turns being alone with him. The male nurse was empathetic, professional, and cooperative. During my turn I poured out my heart to him. I told him about my best times with him and my worst times. I told him I would pray for him and love him and try to make him proud.
Now, six years later, I ache to think he hasn’t met my children or seen our life transitions or walked my sister down the aisle (that was my brother’s honor). But I honor him, his life, and his courageous death.
Interview with English professor and CS Lewis scholar Louis Markos Real virtue wins out every time.
Interview with pastor, author, and classical education pioneer Douglas Wilson PITTSBURGH – June 24, 2017. About the future of classical education. It was filmed at the Association of Classical Christian Schools national conference, “Repairing the Ruins.”
“Life is Suffering”, and other Jordan Peterson quotations We don’t understand the world. I do think the world is more like a musical masterpiece than it is like anything else. And things are oddly connected.
Reflections on Graduate Student Stipends – Now that I am a postdoc scholar at the University of Kentucky (Go ‘Cats!), I am reflecting back on my experience as a Teaching Assistant. One thing that was hard to discover, perhaps understandably, was the expected “stipend” of graduate teaching assistants at other universities I applied to. For what it’s worth, I saved the information about our stipend. My department preferred that it not be public. But count your lucky stars you aren’t as poor as I was in 2012.
This Classic Text Explains why Classical Education is Best – If you haven’t read the Yale Report, it is very good. The “Yale Report of 1828” is one of the “most influential documents in the history of American higher education” according to R.J. O’Hara. It is still a pleasure to read, and its influence should not wane.
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