And Experience a Sense of Transcendence, According to Sir Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson
We are blessed that we had the chance to see the late Roger Scruton in discussion with another key thinker of our time, Jordan Peterson. In this dialogue at Cambridge University, the key topic was not gender pronouns, but transcendence, or perceiving a sense of the beyond, as a remedy for 21st century culture of resentment.
We are a product of our culture, but we can do some things to resist if we find the life of constantly complaining about how the hierarchies have harmed us a little unsatisfactory.
Listen to Bach’s Mass in B Minor
The transcendent can be sensed not because you yourself have transcended, but through the empirical. Music is an example of an empirical fact, a part of the natural world that has been redescribed through reason to produce meaning. One experiences the transcendent at an intersect between the empirical reality of the sounds, notes and harmony, and the perceived meaning of the piece.
This constitutes not a 2 = 2, but 2 + 2 = 4. The transcendence is not in the music but what it suggests – something out of this world, something that exists beyond the realm of the profane. No better than to listen to the great composers. Sir Roger suggests Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor.
Read a Great Novel
Once you read something by Fyodor Dostoevsky, says Jordan Peterson, you put yourself into other people’s shoes, but not just an individual that might hypothetically live in the real world. The characters are hyper real – an aggregate of millions of people. They become more than truth. Through reading you allow yourself to be in touch with that truth.
It’s a truth that hits you on a fundamental level. One that is impossible to be cynical about.
Be Competent in Something
Peterson’s best argument against postmodernist’s placement of power as primacy (other than the fact that this too seems to be a “universal narrative”) is that “it’s an all out assault on the idea of competence,” and hence a refusal to see that there are real problems that need to be solved. There’s stuff we need to get done, and it turns out there are some people who are better placed to do it.
Most hierarchies in the modern market are hierarchies of competence. Surely the temporary feeling of incompetence when immediately comparing ourselves to the competent is something we can cope with in exchange for the immeasurable benefit that comes from it. Pick out one thing in your life to do as best as you possibly can in, for its own sake.
Make Something Beautiful
Competence in the world of art manifests itself in beauty. Beauty is something that we all perceive, but it can be intimidating. It’s a standard to which we must struggle to match. If you are inclined to an attitude of resentment, you’ll perceive beauty as oppressive. You’ll say “it’s all subjective anyway.”
Admire beautiful architecture. There is nothing in the inherent empirical nature of the architecture which dictates that it must be that way. A cuboidal concrete slab would work just as finely for keeping the rain off the doorstep as something more ornate. Yet our ancestors were far from satisfied from pure practicality. Learn from what was there before – there’s nothing wrong with beauty.
Look Out for Positive-Sum Games
The inability or refusal to perceive positive-sum games is by definition psychopathic. For the psychopath, every human interaction is a matter of who can lay power over the other. Even the apparently benign relationship, there is a perception that the other’s gain is the other’s loss. Therefore, the one with the most power will or must win out.
The key to getting through to the resentful activist then is to draw attention to relationships in their own lives that are patently positive-sum game. Whether it’s a friend with which they frequent the movies or even a shop assistant.
Even the most cynical of people must recognize relationships in their immediate experience in which they don’t perceive that someone has lost out. But economics tells us that trades can only be made if both parties perceive that they will benefit. When you look, you see that you are surrounded by positive-sum games.
Use those in your life to build an attitude of gratitude instead of resentment.