This evening I finished reading Jordan Peterson’s latest book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life.
In the last chapter, Rule XII: Be grateful in spite of your suffering, Peterson mentions that he has repeatedly suggested to his various audiences “that strength at the funeral of someone dear and close is a worthy goal” and he notes that “people have indicated to me that they took heart in desperate times as a consequence.”
After a worldwide book tour and many other public appearances, Peterson has had the opportunity to test and play with his ideas with many audiences. And it is interesting to read his thoughtful reflections based on his careful observation of the reactions of persons in the audience.
Earlier in the book, he mentions, as he has said elsewhere, that he sees people’s faces light up whenever he speaks about responsibility. Peterson is keenly aware that people have been raised with a greater emphasis on rights and the corresponding sense of entitlement that ensues with this focus. Yet, a sense of responsibility is what ennobles and fills persons with a sense of their proper dignity and capacity.
Accordingly, this challenge to have strength at funerals is an extension of his usual exhortation to responsibility.
I have been suggesting to my viewers and listeners, for example–particularly those currently burdened by the mortal illness of a parent–that it is useful to consciously take on the task of being the most reliable person in the aftermath of the death, during the grief-stricken preparations for the funeral and the funeral itself, and for the care of family members during and after the catastrophe. There is a call to your potential in doing that.
To understand clearly that you are morally obliged under such circumstances to manifest strength in the face of adversity is to indicate to yourself–and, perhaps, to other people–that there is something in you of sufficient grandeur and power to face the worst forthrightly and to yet prevail. That is certainly what people need to encounter at a funeral. There is little to say, explicitly, in the face of death. Everyone is rendered speechless when they encounter the infinite expanse of emptiness surrounding our too-brief existence. But uprightness and courage in such a situation is truly heartening and sustaining.
A person who undertakes such tasks in the face of tragedy affirms the goodness of existence and the value of others, living and deceased.
In this closing chapter on gratitude, Peterson stresses that it takes courage to affirm the goodness of the world, in spite of loss, pain, grief, etc., etc. Gratitude is the triumph of hope over despair.