(Esquire) Here in a guest cottage at the summit of a high hill in northern California, the tenth stop on a three-continent tour to promote his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson has broached the topic that never fails to move him to tears. The emotional burden he bears as a virtual father figure to millions of wayward young men.
For a moment, he resists, falling silent and still. He looks stricken. “This always breaks me up.” The tension gathers in his weather-beaten face. He flushes. The effort to hold back tears then shifts to the effort to expel them. They flow freely. The cathartic release of emotion sends a subtle tremor through his rather emaciated body. He recovers his speech. “I don’t tell people, ‘You’re okay the way that you are.’ That’s not the right story. The right story is ‘You’re way less than you could be.’”
The encouragement that the fifty-five-year-old psychology professor offers to his audiences takes the form of a challenge. To “take on the heaviest burden that you can bear.” To pursue a “voluntary confrontation with the tragedy and malevolence of being.” To seek a strenuous life spent “at the boundary between chaos and order.” Who dares speak of such things without nervous, self-protective irony? Without snickering self-effacement?
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