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Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world

COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio - The Philippine Star
Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
Order happens when people around you act based on well-understood social standards, and such actions are sustained with predictability and cooperation.

Order and chaos are the yang and yin of the Taoist image, where two snakes are shown from head to tail. The white, masculine snake symbolizes order, and the black, feminine counterpart represents chaos. The black dot in the white — and the white in the black — signify the prospect of change. The unfamiliar can surface just when things appear safe and sound, or a new order can materialize just when everything seems confused, disastrous and disorderly.

Order happens when people around you act based on well-understood social standards, and such actions are sustained with predictability and cooperation. It’s a world of social structure and familiar ground. In contrast, chaos is where or when something unexpected happens.

In his bestselling work 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos, celebrated psychologist Jordan B. Peterson offers some answers to the difficult question, “What does everyone in the modern world need to know?” His answers debunk old-fashioned norms with revolutionary scientific research.

Peterson distills the world’s wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life that smash the predictable aspects of science, faith, and human nature while ennobling the minds and spirits of his readers.

These rules will help you understand what you already know: that your soul eternally hungers for the heroism of your genuine self, and that the willingness to take on that heroic responsibility is identical to the decision to live a meaningful life:

1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. To do this is to accept the challenging responsibility of life with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of comfortable order. Pay attention to your posture. Quit bowing and stooping. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them — at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze ahead. Dare to be dangerous.

2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. No one understands your darkness better than yourself. Who, then, when ill, is going to be fully committed to your own care? To treat yourself as if you were someone you are responsible for helping is to consider what would be truly good for you. This is not “what you want.” It is also not “what would make you happy.” You need to consider the future and think, “What might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly?”

3. Make friends with people who want the best for you. A good, healthy person is ideal. It requires strength and daring to stand up near such a person. Have some humility. Have some courage. Use your judgment. No matter how good you are at something or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent. And there is not just one game at which to succeed or fail. There are many games and, more specifically, many good games that match your talents, will involve you productively with other people, and sustain and even improve yourself across time. Happiness is always to be found in the uphill journey, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction waiting at the next peak. You only see what you aim at. The rest of the world (and that’s most of it) is hidden. If you start aiming at something different, your mind will start presenting you with new information, derived from the previously hidden world, to aid you in that pursuit.

4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today. Pay attention. Focus on your surroundings, physical and psychological. Notice something that bothers and concerns you, that will not let you be, which you could fix. You can find it by asking yourself three questions: “What is it that is bothering me?” “Is that something I could fix?” and “Would I actually be willing to fix it?” If you find that the answer is “no” to any, or all the questions, then look elsewhere, aim lower, and search until you find something that bothers you, that you could fix. “What could I do, that I would do, to make life a little better?”

5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them. If a child has not been taught to behave properly by the age of four, it will forever be difficult for him or her to make friends. The research literature is quite clear on this. You have two general principles of discipline. First, limit the rule; second, use the least force necessary to enforce those rules. People are aggressive and selfish, as well as kind and thoughtful. For this reason, no adult human being can truly tolerate being dominated by an upstart child.

6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. Have you cleaned up your life? If the answer is no, here’s something to try: Today, stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today. Don’t waste time questioning how you know that what you’re doing is wrong, if you are certain that it is. Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your household, how dare you try to rule a city?

7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient). Aim high. Pay attention. Fix what you can fix. Don’t be arrogant in your knowledge. Strive for humility because totalitarian pride manifests itself in intolerance, oppression, torture and death. Become aware of your own insufficiency — your cowardice, malevolence, resentment and hatred. Consider the murderousness of your own spirit before you dare accuse others, and before you attempt to repair the fabric of the world. You may come to ask yourself, “What should I do today?” in a manner that means “How could I use my time to make things better, instead of worse?”

8. Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie. Such a skill comes in very handy when you don’t know what to do. To accept the truth means to sacrifice, and if you have rejected the truth for a long time, then you’ve run up a dangerously large sacrificial debt. If your life is not what it could be, if you cling desperately to an ideology, if you wallow in nihilism, if you feel weak, rejected, desperate and confused — try telling the truth.

9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t. Carl Rogers, one of the 20th century’s great psychotherapists, wrote, “The great majority of us cannot listen; we find ourselves compelled to evaluate, because listening is too dangerous.” The first requirement is courage, which we do not always have. If you listen, instead, without premature judgment, people will generally tell you everything they are thinking — and with very little deceit. People will tell you the most amazing, absurd, interesting things. Very few of your conversations will be boring. You can tell whether you are listening or not in this manner. If the conversation is boring, you probably aren’t.

10. Be precise in your speech. When things are no longer specified with precision, the walls crumble, and chaos makes its presence known. When you’ve been careless and let things slide, what you have refused to attend to gathers itself up, adopts a serpentine form, and strikes, often at the worst possible moment. It is then that you see what focused intent, precision of aim and careful attention protects us from.

11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding. It’s a good idea to tell the person you are confronting exactly what you would like them to do instead of what they have done or currently are doing. You might think, “If they loved me, they would know what to do.” That’s the voice of resentment. Assume ignorance before malevolence. No one has a direct pipeline to your wants and needs — not even you.

 12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street. Set aside some time to talk and think about issues and problems and how they should be managed every day. And maybe when you are going for a walk and your head is spinning, a cat will show up and if you pay attention to it, you will get a reminder for just 15 seconds that the wonder of being might make up for the ineradicable suffering that accompanies it.

What will you do in the next dire moment? Focus your attention on the next right move. The flood is always coming. The apocalypse is always upon you. That’s why the story of Noah is archetypal. When everything has become chaotic and uncertain, all that remains to guide you is the character you have constructed by aiming upwards and concentrating on the moment at hand.

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