Heros, Community & Voluntary Suffering (excerpt)

One of the things I've learned about the hero mythology that I really, really like, is seen in the figure of Christ. Two things are conjured up in that story.

There's two kinds of heroes: There's the hero that goes out into the chaos, confronts the dragon of chaos, gathers the treasure as a consequence, and then shares it with the community. That's one. The other form of hero is the hero who stands up against the corrupt state, rattles the foundation of the state, has it collapse, and then reconstructs it.

The two great dangers to human beings are sssected exposure to the catastrophes of the natural world and subjugation to tyranny. Those are the two major dangers. So the ultimate hero is the person who reconstructs the structure of the state by using the information that he gathered by going out into the unknown. That unites them both.

Here's the rub, as far as I can tell. A structure, a center, has two risks associated with it: one is that it will degenerate into chaos, and the other is that it will rigidify into tyranny. It'll degenerate into chaos even if it just stays doing what it's doing. So if it stays doing exactly what it's doing, and it doesn't change, it will degenerate, because things change, and if it doesn't change to keep up, then it gets further and further away from the environment, and it will precipitously collapse. The then, if it just changes willy-nilly, so that nobody can establish a stable, centralizing aim, then it degenerates into chaos immediately, and no one can get along.

There's a rule for belonging to a community, and the rule has to be that you have to act in a manner that sustains the community and increases its competence. That's the fundamental moral obligation for belonging - and obviously so. Why would you walk into a clubhouse that was on fire? That's just not smart, right? If you decided that being part of the game was worthwhile, you've also decided - even if you didn't notice it - that you have to work to support that game. By deciding to play that game, you said that it's valuable. And if it's valuable, then obviously you should work to sustain and expand it, because that's the definition of having a relationship with something that's valuable. That's the criteria for membership in the community.

That's partly why, if you regard the cross, say, as the symbol of voluntary suffering - there's another element of that, too, that's worth thinking about. The reason that Cain gets so out of hand is because he's suffering, and he won't accept it - he certainly won't accept responsibility for it. He's angry and bitter about it, and no wonder. We have to be realistic about these sort of things. All of you people are going to suffer at some point in your life, to the point where you are angry and bitter about it. You're even going to think, 'well, it's no bloody wonder that I'm angry and bitter about it - everyone would be - and things are so God-awful that there's no excuse for them to exist'. That's a powerful argument, although its ultimately self-defeating. That's kind of the moral of Cain and Abel.

What that symbol means, instead, is that, even under those conditions of relatively intense suffering, you have to accept it voluntarily. Otherwise, it turns you against Being, and then you start to act in this terrible manner that makes everything worse. It seems, to me, that there's a contradiction, in there: if the reason that you are complaining is that things are bad, then it isn't reasonable for you to act in a manner that makes them worse. It's no wonder that people do that, but it's a degenerating game.

Part of the idea of the cross - and the suffering that it represents - is that, if you can accept that voluntarily, regardless of its intensity, then you wont become embittered and resentful and vengeful, to the point that you pose a danger to the stability of the community - or to your own stability for that matter. It might be your own stability, the stability of your family, the stability of the community, and he stability of the world. It might be all of that. And, increasingly, I think it is all of that.

[Excerpt from Section 3 of Biblical Series XIV: Jacob: Wrestling with God by Dr. Jordan Peterson, 2018]

Read the full transcript at https://www.jordanbpeterson.com/transcripts/biblical-series-xiv/