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Opinion psychology

Lesson 6: You Must be Willing to be a Fool to be a Master

Image result for jonah and the whale

The Call to Adventure

In mythological stories, there is the call to adventure. And in Biblical stories, the call to adventure happens to people who are in late age, and are imperfect, and have taken too long to leave their homes. The motif of these myths is always the same. It is better to go out into the world and explore opportunities than rot away at home.

In the 9th Maps of Meaning Lecture, Peterson recalls the story of Jonah.

There was a chaotic city of sinful people. God tells Jonah to help them see that they are stupid and wrong, but Jonah refuses, he hops on a boat and escapes. But then he is caught in a storm with others in the boat. They realize that they are suffering because one of them displeased God, so they drew lots to throw someone over. But Jonah convinces them that it was him that God is not pleased with, so they throw Jonah overboard, and a whale swallows him.

God abandoned Jonah, because Jonah abandoned his destiny. That is what happens in life when you abandon your call to adventure: chaos(the whale) eats you. Finally, Jonah reaches land with a halo over his head. He is an illuminated human. This archetype is: he who emerges from the unknown is illuminated.

Waiting for Godot is the situation that many men find themselves in, they have refused to confront chaos. They protect themselves by doing what is most familiar to them, they refuse the call to adventure, but by doing so, they stunt their own development, they remain children. They may say that they are waiting for the right opportunity, but even if one day the perfect opportunity does come along, they won’t have the ability to recognize it. The refusal to confront chaos does not get rid of chaos, it invites it in.

The Imperfect Ideal

This life pattern is called the “will to stupidity” by Nietzsche.

It is better do something badly than not to do it at all. It is better to be a fool at first, so that you can become a master. Your first plan is never right, since most ideas are wrong, but then, after you act, your false glimmer of light shifts somewhere else as you approach it. You get somewhere, even if it is not exactly where you wanted to go, you have still made progress from where you were. And as you progress, the degree to which you overshoot or miss your mark decreases dramatically.

That is because you will start to get rid of your false impressions about the world, you will get rid of the excess baggage that is holding you down. But that is not enough, after this excess baggage is gone, you are not left with enlightenment, but you are left with nothingness in its place. And so, you continue your journey in the desert, continually. You will keep failing, there is no way around it. But by having an ideal to aim towards, you will continually improve.

A series of failures is not an indication that you have failed in your mission, it is an indication that your mission is difficult.

The Hell You Know

Take relationships, for example. Any relationship is both good and bad. If you were in a bad relationship, and it ended, then you are better off, but since there was also some good to it, you are not only free and happy. You are now burdened by feelings of loneliness.

But by moving forward towards your ideal, even if it is imperfect, it is better than staying in the “hell you know.” It is better than trapping yourself in a miserable situation, just because it has become comfortable for you. The only way to constantly improve your situation is to be willing to be a fool, to be willing to have foolish ideals, but to always move forward with faith and courage.  

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

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