Rogan & Jordan Peterson on The Meaning of Life

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That that optimum that you were talking about so I’ve really been interested in the
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neurophysiology of the of the sense of meaning because
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Neurophysiology. Yes. Yeah because the meaning the feeling of meaning is an instinct, right? It’s not a thought
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It’s not a secondary consequence of rational processes. It’s way deeper than that. It’s something that drives rationality itself
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So now you was just very amongst people definitely
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Yeah
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But it varies in this way as far as I can tell so that so imagine as you said that there’s an optimal load
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Right you exceed that and to your detriment
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Yeah, and you see that in the weight room you pull a muscle you hurt or you’ll hurt yourself
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you can injure yourself very badly right you can take yourself out for the count, but
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And then if you if you work too little while then there’s no gain in it. You have to find that thin edge
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Where you’re competent at what you’re doing, but you’re pushing yourself
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That’s gonna be where meaning lies
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That’s what meaning tells people. It says you’re on the edge where you’re competent and and out of undue danger
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But pushing yourself enough so that you’re continually developing
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That’s the instinct of meaning and that looks to me like it’s a consequence of the interaction between the right and the left
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hemispheres and a consequence of the interaction between the negative emotion systems
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anxiety and pain that regulate you that protect you from harm and the
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Exploratory and play systems that drive you forward. You want the exploratory and play systems to drive you forward
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But then they’re regulated by these negative emotions so you don’t hurt yourself and if you get that optimally right then that’s the maximal
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That’s the point of maximal challenge and that makes you really alert because your positive emotion is functioning. That’s what’s driving you forward
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This is worth doing and your negative emotions are alert to saying yeah
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But be awake and be careful and you know what that’s like in the weight room if you know, you’re lifting something
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That’s at the edge of your ability
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you’ve got a spotter you want to push and you can barely do it and you want to make sure that you’re not gonna like
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Pull your arm down and rip the hell out of your muscle
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but you you’re right on that edge and that’s the place of maximal gain and that sense of meaning that’s what puts you on the
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border between chaos and order right because too much order means you’re just practicing what you already know and
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Then you you stultify and stagnate and too much chaos means you better look out because you’re gonna hurt yourself
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You’re pushing yourself beyond your limits. You stay right on that edge. That’s where there’s maximum meaning and then you and water for that edges
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Push it to push it. Yeah. Now one of the things I recommend to young people especially true for people in their 20s
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Is that you should push yourself beyond your limits of tolerance in your 20s to find out where it is
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How much can you work how discipline? Can you become like can you work 12 hours a day?
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Can you work eight hours a day? Can you work three hours a day like flat-out?
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Where’s your limit? And
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How much how much work can you do and how much?
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Socialization you should find out push yourself past and then back off to that point where it’s optimally sustainable
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That’s what a lot of people do isn’t it? I mean they party too much when they’re in the twenties
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They make a lot of mistakes what it’s it’s what they’re doing and I would say in sort of a haphazard way
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Right because there’s that there’s that instinct to go out there and do more right and but it’s did
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unregulated and it’s not it’s not as
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Self-conscious as it might be it’s good to know that there’s it’s good to think about that as a goal
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It’s like you’re trying to discover what your limitations are when you’re when you’re in your 20s so that you can hit that edge
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So that you can sustain yourself across the decades and so yeah
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Because you don’t you don’t want to you don’t want to have too much fun
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All right too. Much fun takes you out. You don’t want to be the oldest guy at the disco
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you know, it’s not it’s not fun being the 40 year old at the singles bar precisely so
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You want to make sure that what you’re doing is age-appropriate
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and you want to push yourself in every direction that you can but you should be doing that with an aim in mind just like
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You’re trying to make yourself and do a better and more competent person. And so some discipline along with the fun is a good idea
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so to take care of yourself and the people around you that’s a
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One of the things I recommended to people and I’ve had quite a few people actually tell me that they’ve done this interestingly enough
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I said well one thing you could aim at if you had any sense when you were young is to be the most worth
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you could be the most reliable person at your father’s funeral and
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So, I think that’s a good challenge and I had a bunch of people come up to me in this last tour and tell me
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That that’s exactly what they did
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These were often young guys, you know, like before 20 said my dad died suddenly or you know
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He died after years eldest and it was just taking me out and no wonder you know
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He said they said I was listening to your lectures
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You said you want to be the most reliable person at the funeral because everyone else is grieving and what the hell else
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Are you gonna do he said that’s what they tried to do and that got him through it. So
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no, that’s part of that picking up that load as far as I’m concerned you get a little self-respect out of that too in a
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Real sense right because you know, you’re this sort of sad suffering creature that’s capable of a fair bit of malevolence
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but if you find out that you can
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carry
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A heavy load and take care of yourself and have a little left over for some other people then you can wake up at 3
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In the morning and think well, man, I could be worse and this is not a political perspective
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This is a positive constructive way of looking at how to navigate the world, but when you break down
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these sort of behavior types whether it’s the people that
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generally support socialism or socialist ideas, or there are anti competition versus people that are
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Pro pushing yourself they fall into these right wing left wing sort of paradigms in this really weird way that I mean,
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Especially there I think that’s especially true on the radical ends
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But I think you get that on the radical right too because usually people who are who are collectivist in their fundamental orientation
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You know and they’re they’re trying to take undue credit for who their racial ancestors were or they’re okay
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But what I would say with the with the political issue is that I think that you can build decent
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responsible people who are on the middle right of the spectrum and the middle left, you know, because I think that you can have
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left-wing political beliefs that are genuinely aimed at aid to the dispossessed without being resentful of the
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hierarchies and without
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Contaminating it with jealousy for the successful
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It’s hard, right?
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You know you have to because when I worked for the NDP when I was a kid when that was the Socialist Party in Canada
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The leaders some of the leaders were people like that
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Like a lot of the low-level party functionary types. They were the activist types that you still see today, and they’re mostly resentful
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I didn’t like them at all. But some of the leaders were genuinely
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Genuine advocates for the working class, you know and they they had their flaws obviously
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but but they’re they put their money where their mouth was and they were trying to ensure that the
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Hierarchies were open to advancement for for let’s say the common person
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So to speak the person who stacked up at the bottom or for their children, which might even be more important, you know
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so that the hierarchies remain open to
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genuine competition based on competence
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Which would be a perfectly reasonable thing for the left to insist on right is that let’s bloody well make sure that it’s a fair
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game, and so that people don’t get locked out of movement forward because of arbitrary positions of power
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Right, and that’s and that’s that’s a reasonable. That’s a reasonable part of the discussion
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so I think if you build better people you can build better people on the left and on the right and people that are going
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To appreciate that rules to the game are better for everyone. They’re better for the people that win
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They’re better for the people that are coming up. They’re better for every yes if you have real structure and real rules
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Yes, and that you’re better off being a guy like Wayne Gretzky. Yes better off being a guy who’s respected
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It plays the game correctly and just does his best and really truly become a champion and loved by all because of it you’re better
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Off in every way. Right? Right, and that’s the most state the other thing. That’s so cool about that
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So imagine this this is the antidote to moral relativism. Okay. So the first thing is is that
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There are real problems and and hierarchical organizations can offer real solutions
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Socially and personally so you can confront the problems courageously and you can solve them
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So that’s real and ameliorate suffering and limits malevolence
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And so there’s nothing morally relative about that. The second is that sense of meaning that we discussed that’s not some philosophical
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second-order consequence of thinking it’s way deeper than that that sense of meaning tells you when you’re
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Vygotsky Russian psychologist called that the zone of proximal development
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Which I believe is where the phrase the zone came from and so in the zone of proximal development
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This is what adults do with children little kids that are learning to talk
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Adults automatically talk to little children who are learning to talk at a level that slightly exceeds their current vocabulary
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They do that without even knowing it and that puts those kids in the zone right because if you just talk baby talk to kids
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Then all they learn is baby talk and if you just talk like an adult then they don’t understand a word you’re saying
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So you’ll find this happy medium in between where the kid mostly
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Understands what you’re talking about and that you’re pulling them forward so that puts them in the zone and that’s a meaningful zone
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And so you can feel the operation of that zone in your own life
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That’s what the Daoists are on about because they say well you Dow is the way right and that’s the pathway between chaos and order
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That’s meaning and you can feel that in your life when you’re deeply engaged in something like we have deeply engaged in conversations
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Okay
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which is part of the reason that we keep having them and I think why they’re popular and
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we’re not paying attention to how the clock is ticking or how time is flowing or even to the fact that we’re doing what we’re
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Doing we’re just having a conversation and it’s meaningful. It’s engaged. It keeps our eyes focused and our senses
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Concentrated on what’s happening
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And the reason for that is that there’s enough information flowing between us so that we’re being slightly
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Transformed as a consequence of the discussion, right? So we’re both comfortable
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We trust each other we trust that the conversation is aimed at something that’s of mutual benefit
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we had trust each other to tell the truth to the
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degree that we’re capable of doing that and then when you engage in this exchange of information and to the degree that it’s
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Breaking you down a little bit and building you up in a different way. That’s a little death and rebirth
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There’s constant little deaths and rebirths in a meaningful conversation
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then that keeps you alive and functioning and that that focus is like
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that that speaks to you so deeply that that focus happens without any consciousness and
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That’s meaning and that’s that line between chaos and order and that’s real that has nothing
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It’s it’s a it’s and I would say here’s another thing that’s cool. So that line between chaos and order
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That’s the same thing that’s happening when you’re playing a game properly
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Right because you’re in the game and you’re you’re exercising your skill, but you’re pushing it, but you’re pushing it in a way
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that’s also a benefit to your teammates and to the
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Progression of the game as such and to being a better general player
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You’re doing all that at the same time and you’re evolved with enough natural intelligence
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So that the sum total output of your nervous system says to you
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you’re in the right place at the right time doing the right thing and that’s what makes your life meaningful and that’s real and then
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I think it’s more real than anything else
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I think it’s more real than suffering. I think it’s more real than malevolence because it’s the antidote to both of those
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And so the whole moral route moral relativism issue for me is a non-starter. It’s just wrong
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There’s lots of ways of interpreting the world but there aren’t very many ways of interpreting it
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Optimally and you can feel when you’re doing that
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It makes you stronger and then the people that come to me after my talks and say well, you know
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I’ve been putting my life together. I’ve developed a vision. I’ve been trying to be more responsible
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I’ve been trying to be more honest and put my relationships together
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They’re all sparkly eyed because of this or crying sometimes
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Because it’s really had an impact out the money on them at a deep level. They think oh, wow this actually works
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It’s like yeah, it actually works
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It’s real it’s real and I would say as well that that’s associated with the idea of the deep Western idea of the logos
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Which is meaning in action and speech
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So, you know if we have a conversation that’s meaningful, then that’s a manifestation of the spirit of the logos
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and that’s the thing that
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destroys and and and
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Recreates at the same time because you learn something. It destroys something
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It destroys a little presupposition that you had that was erroneous and replaces it with something. That’s healthier and
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Every time you have a meaningful conversation that happens. It’s like a little tweak now
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It wasn’t quite right here kick that moves and something new takes its place
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so and that’s a little death and rebirth instead of
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the catastrophic death and rebirth that you might have to have if you weren’t paying attention, so
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Now it’s all tied together
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It’s all tied together with that phenomena of meaning and that’s the same as the adoption of responsibility that all ties together
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So not so nicely
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There the concept of meaning like what is important that it’s so it’s so huge to people but so fleeting
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It’s so difficult to like what is meaning. Well, you know, there’s a simple ones right like family and loved ones and
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Companionship and community and finding something that you enjoy doing that, you know, you can do that
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It seems bigger than you or bigger than yourself. But but meaning like the meaning of life
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What is meaning this it’s one of the things that gives people so much
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existential angst and I think is the cause of a lot of despair because there’s
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Well, you can question it. Yes, but the thing is is that that’s one of the dangers of rationality
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Is that see the Egyptians?
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associated the Catholics did this to some degree – they
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associated ration
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rationality with a proclivity to malevolence
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partly because rationality tends to fall in love with its own productions intelligence has this like inbuilt arrogance and
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the Egyptians in particular were really
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Insightful, they tried to replace the idea of intelligence as the highest virtue with the idea of attention as the highest virtue
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This is something eldest Huxley knew he wrote a book called island
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The island was an island that was populated by
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Had a lot of birds on it and the birds could talk and all they did was say pay attention
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To remind everybody on the island to pay attention all the time
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But you you can undermine your sense of meaning and you can question it
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but the best thing to do is to actually pay attention to when it manifests itself because it’s a it’s a phenomenon like
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Like color or like or like love or like beauty? It exists. It isn’t something you create
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It’s something that you discover and you can discover it. You just have to watch like you’re ignorant about yourself you think okay?
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well, I’m gonna I
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Told my clinical clients to do this and my student says watch yourself for two weeks
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Just watch like you don’t know who you are and notice when you’re doing something that you’re engaged in
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It’s like you’ll see it
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Maybe it’s only 10 minutes because your life is pretty out of balance, but you’ll see that oh, man
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I was engaged in something there for 10 minutes. It’s like why what was what did you do?
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That was right that engaged you you were in the right place at the right time doing the right thing for a few minutes
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What was it? What were the preconditions there’s this line in the New Testament?
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Christ says the kingdom of God is spread across the earth, but men do not see it
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and
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That’s what it refers to is that you you you wander into paradise now
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And then when you’re engaged and you’re deeply engaged in something, but you don’t notice it
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You don’t think oh, look I’m in the right place and everything’s working out right now
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it means I’ve got it right somehow and then I need to practice being there more and more and more which is
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Well, that’s the appropriate thing to try to practice and that’s to make that’s to come to some negotiated
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What would you call it? It’s do it
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it’s to come to a
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Negotiation with that intrinsic sense of meaning to realize it as a fact rather than then just as an opinion or or something
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that’s secondary because it’s no eyein concept for people that would be so aware of who they are and what they’re doing that they could
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Recreate that
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Hmm. So when they do feel that feeling of meaning that they could figure out a way to get back into the state and what
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Were all the extenuating
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Circumstances and where where’s my head at? What caused me to have this this feeling like things were right. Yes
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Well, it’s like someone gives you a gift and you think well, I’d like that gift again. It’s like yeah
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Well, you have to figure out what it was that you did to deserve it
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So to speak and yeah, I know it requires a fair bit of it requires a fair bit of careful reflection
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But it also requires that ignorance is you have to think well, I don’t know who I am
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I’m gonna find some things meaningful. What are they? They might not even be things you want to find meaningful
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they might be things that you might even be ashamed of, you know, because sometimes people are
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interested in things that they don’t think that they should be interested in like maybe
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you’ll have a guy who was who was this kind of a cliche, but who was
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You know socialized to be real tough guy and he finds out that he’s kind of interested in art or aesthetics
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It’s like while he’s ashamed of that because maybe it’s too feminine or whatever
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well, it doesn’t matter because that’s actually speaking that that’s actually something that’s speaking to him from the core of his genuine being he’s gonna
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Have to pursue that or you might find you know that someone who’s really agreeable and kind of a pushover
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stands up to someone just
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Once at work says what they really think and then they realize afterwards
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Wow, you know that was exactly right then they think oh my god, you know I’ve decided when I was a little kid
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Maybe they had a harsh father and they decided when they were four. I’m never gonna be angry in my whole life
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There’s something wrong with aggression
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So they’ve gone out of their way their whole life to be free of conflict
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then they find out the one day they stand up for themselves that that whole domain that they’d parsed off as
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Inappropriate is actually contains exactly what they need to put themselves together
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Or do you find what you need where you least want to look?
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That’s the old alchemical dictum in sterk wiliness infinite or right?

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