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Notes Psychology

Rule 12: Pet a Cat when you Encounter One on the Street (12 Rules For Life)

Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

People cooperate in groups to gain security, safety, and company. And competition within the group promotes personal growth and status. The size of the group matters, though.

If a group is too small – it has no power or prestige. And if it’s too large, then the chances of making it to the top of the group is very low. It might be for that reason that people identify with groups willingly. It allows them to organize and protect themselves and gives them a higher likelihood of thriving. Favoring their own group helps people thrive. After-all, climbing the hierarchy of a failing group is not useful.

Suffering and Limitations

The idea that life is suffering is a tenet that is present in every major religious ideology – including Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism. These belief systems acknowledge that humans are intrinsically fragile, and subject to the limitations of aging and loss.

In Dostoevsky’s Novel, The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan, the handsome, articulate, intelligent brother of his less sophisticated, monastic brother Alyosha makes a remark about injustice.

Ivan says, “It’s not God I don’t accept. Understand this, I do not accept the world that He created, this world of God’s, and cannot agree with it.” He then tells his brother about a small girl who was punished by being locked in a freezing outhouse overnight. “Can you just see those two snoozing away while their daughter was crying all night?” says Ivan. “And imagine this little child: unable to understand what was happening to her, beating her frozen little chest and crying meek little tears, begging ‘gentle Jesus’ to get her out of that horrible place! … Alyosha, if you were somehow promised that the world could finally have complete and total peace—but only on the condition that you tortured one little child to death—say, that girl who was freezing in the outhouse … would you do it?” Alyosha demurs. “No, I would not,” he says, softly. He would not do what God seemed to freely allow.

As Peterson sat with his client, who discussed her husband’s progressing illness, they discussed the fragility of being and the nihilism brought about the by the prospect of death. His client asked, “Why my husband? Why me? Why this?”

Peterson replied by telling her an old Jewish story that begins with a question. “Imagine a Being who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. What does such a Being lack? The answer? Limitation.” Without limitation, there is no story. And without a story, there is no being. This idea helps with dealing with the fragility of life. And while this does not make things significantly better, there is utility in recognizing the eternal connection between limitation and existence.

Though thirty spokes may form the wheel, it is the hole within the hub which gives the wheel utility. It is not the clay the potter throws, which gives the pot its usefulness, but the space within the shape, from which the pot is made. Without a door, the room cannot be entered, and without its windows it is dark Such is the utility of non-existence.

Tao Te Ching

When Superman was first created in 1938, he was portrayed as an indestructible force of nature. He could withstand nuclear explosions and move entire planets. He could fly faster than light and had super-hearing and X-ray vision and could blast rays from his eyes. And he would instantly recover from being hurt. He was invulnerable.

Eventually, as the writers made superman boring by endowing him with all these strengths and virtually no weaknesses, the fans of the comic rebelled in anger. Being requires limitation.

But what if the limits of being caused so much suffering that the best thing to do would be to end the entire project?

In Notes from Underground, Dostoevsky represents this idea through the voice of the protagonist, “So you see, you can say anything about world history—anything and everything that the most morbid imagination can think up. Except one thing, that is. It cannot be said that world history is reasonable. The word sticks in one’s throat.”

The remedy to this question may not be found in thinking. Nietzsche and Tolstoy tried to do that, but it led them “inexorably to the abyss.” It might be that something supersedes thinking, despite its incredible power.

“When existence reveals itself as existentially intolerable, thinking collapses in on itself. In such situations—in the depths—it’s noticing, not thinking, that does the trick. Perhaps you might start by noticing this: when you love someone, it’s not despite their limitations. It’s because of their limitations.”

Of course, it’s easy to say that “being requires limitation” when things are going well. But what about when things are going wrong?

When the things are good, you can plan for tomorrow and next month and next year. But when “your leg is clamped firmly in a crocodile’s jaws”, thinking about the future is not an option.

“Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof”

Mathew 6:34

Many people interpret that as meaning “live for today, without thinking about tomorrow”, but that’s a false interpretation. Instead, you should consider its underlying context. On the Sermon on the Mount, ten “Thou-shalt-nots” of Moses’ commandments are summarized into one “Thou shalt.”

Christ calls on his followers to put their faith in “God’s Heavenly Kingdom, and the truth”, the injunction is to “presume the primary goodness of Being.” That is a courageous act. It is the same message told in Pinocchio. Aim high like Geppetto. Wish upon a star, and then act properly, in accordance with that aim. Once you are aligned with the heavens, you can concentrate on the day.

Read 12 Rules For Life 

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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