An Extraordinary Thing Happened At Jordan Peterson’s Indianapolis Performance.

Mockarena, Co-Founder

Y’all know I’ve been intellectually crushing on Jordan Peterson for months now, basically ever since I discovered him via the Lindsay Shepherd story back in December.  And then, when he mind-spanked Cathy Newman in that Mother Of All Interviews back in January?  Well, that was it.  I was hooked, and I’ve spent many hours binge-watching his videos since.  He is currently on a speaking tour, promoting his book, “12 Rules for Life” – which is a must-read.

When I discovered he was coming to Indy, Mr. Mock and I were pretty stoked.  We bought tickets, and spent a little extra on VIP passes so that we could meet him and attend a smaller Q&A session with him.

You guys, I was really struck by the youth of the audience.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but while Mr. Mock was parking, I stood inside the Murat and people-watched as folks made their way into the theater and through the security lines.  I’d venture to say that the vast majority of attendees were younger than 30.  The theater seats 2500, and it was close to sold out.  I saw many gay, male couples.  I saw tatted-up biker-like folks.  I saw spectacle-wearing, book-carrying student-types. It was as diverse a crowd as I could have imagined.  And I loved that.

When Dr. Peterson made his way onto the stage, you’d have thought you were attending a rock concert.  It wasn’t the expected polite applause you’d imagine might be appropriate for a lecture of this sort.  It was full on, raucous, whooping and hollering cheers.  We were in the 5th row, where it was easy to see Dr. Peterson’s facial expressions, and as he looked at the audience – smiling humbly and nodding slightly – taking it all in, it seemed to me that he wasn’t altogether used to this kind of reception.  I expect he receives it often, but it seemed like something that still surprises him.  It reminds me of how Daisy and I are still shocked when someone is all excited to meet us.  You’re simultaneously delighted and humbled all at the same time, that you have a palpable level of impact on another person. It’s overwhelming, and for us at least, it’s not something you get used to.

He spoke for just over an hour, and you guys – I was RIVETED.  We all were.  He’s incredibly soft spoken, and even though he’s mic’d up, and even when you’re sitting up close, there’s this urge to lean forward and turn your ear towards him, so as to not miss a word.  It was part story-telling, part university lecture, and part pep-talk.  It related to his book – yes – but much of his discussion was about perception vs. reality – and how people see what they value, but often miss what’s truly important, and how we can approach life in a way that best reflects our most important values.

After his lecture, he briefly left the stage and the returned with a laptop.  People had submitted some questions on line in advance, and he spent 20-30 minutes reading and responding to these questions.  One that was particularly amusing was the one from someone who asked (I’m paraphrasing), “How do I know, as I follow your lectures and videos, that I’m not getting sucked up into a cult?” I loved his answer to that one.  He said everyone should be skeptical of ANYONE they follow for all sorts of reasons, but that we could all rest assured we weren’t part of a cult, because:

  1.  He’s not an authoritarian figure
  2.  He doesn’t encourage or suggest that people only associate with other Jordan Peterson followers.
  3.  He doesn’t discourage independent thinking – in fact he does just the opposite.
  4.  He doesn’t encourage a dissociation from your closest family and friends by asking you to place more value on his teachings than you do on them.

It was a funny question, and he approached it with humor, but he also kindly recognized the legitimacy of it, given how easy it is for people to become star-struck and sucked in by people who they view as larger-than-life.

And then came the question that stayed with me throughout the rest of the evening and even haunted me still when I woke up in the morning.

Dr. Peterson warned the audience that he was about to read a serious question.  He even seemed reluctant to read it at all, but after a few seconds of quiet reflection, he then decided to go ahead.

He read, “I plan on taking my life very soon. Why shouldn’t I?”

You could have heard a pin drop.

I wish I could have recorded Dr. Peterson’s answer for you in its entirety, because there’s no way any summary I could attempt to give you would do it justice.  The guy’s a clinical psychologist, so obviously this is something he’s experienced with.  But not all clinical psychologists have a way of showing the kind of compassion, sternness, and thoughtfulness that he did, particularly as he simultaneously gave measured, common-sense, logical reasons why the person asking the question shouldn’t take his own life.

He spent quite a bit of time answering the question, and one of the things he said was that there was simply no rush.  At the very least, he suggested, put it off a day, or two days, or more. He advised the person to talk to someone close, to check into a hospital, to try anti-depressants, to think through the impact that his absence would have on others.  And he told stories of people left behind by people who’d taken their own lives, and the guilt they felt.

I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but it was hard for me to get over that question.  I couldn’t help think about the fact that someone in the same audience, the same room, had reached a level of desperation that prompted him to reach out to Dr. Peterson in the way he did.

Let me come back to that in just a second, because what happened later was pretty remarkable.

First though, let me just catch you up on the rest of the night.

So after the Q&A, VIP ticket holders were asked to stick around for a quick meet and greet with Dr. Peterson, a professional photo, and then a more intimate Q&A (although given that there were probably around 200 VIP ticket holders, perhaps “intimate” isn’t the right word!)

Here’s my pic:

I had like 20 seconds with him, so I basically was able to say what a treat it was to meet him and since I’d watched him getting photos with a bunch of people ahead of me, I knew he was totally cool with side hugs, so as you can see it was a good grasp.  πŸ™‚

I was excited to get called on during the Q&A – because there were LOTS of hands up during the 30 or so minutes he spent with our group.  Many folks used the opportunity to ask for specific advice about their own relationships, their parenting, etc.  But my question was really more about Dr. Peterson himself.  I asked, since his star was on the rise, and he’d faced such harsh criticism from people who twisted and misinterpreted his words, what he felt he’d been most misunderstood about, AND whether or not he’d heard from Cathy Newman since their first encounter, and whether there’d be a round 2.  He said he’d been most misunderstood about “forced monogamy” and that in fact, he’d reached out to Cathy Newman not long after the interview, suggesting that they have a second conversation.  She’d responded that she wanted to wait until the dust settled, but now even months later, he hasn’t heard from her. πŸ™‚

All in all, the evening was one I won’t forget.  And I woke up in the morning with the question from the person considering suicide heavy on my mind.  Something compelled me to look at Dr. Peterson’s twitter feed, where I saw this:

I clicked on it, kinda holding my breath, and saw this:

After Dr. Peterson’s response to him, Chad wrote him again:

And then I chimed in:

And Chad responded:

I followed Chad, he followed us, and I decided to ask him if I could share his question when I wrote my recap of the evening.  And so I direct messaged him, and you guys, you need to see this exchange.

I am just overwhelmed by this entire experience.  If you have an opportunity to see Dr. Peterson live, DO IT, you guys.  It’s not just a talk, not just a lecture, and not just a “performance.”  It’s an experience.

And for some folks, it’s life-saving.

UPDATE 6/17/18:  Dr. Peterson tweeted this story to his followers, and I’m happy to say that Chad is now receiving dozens and dozens of messages of support.  And I’m happier still to tell you that someone captured audio of the question and Dr. Peterson’s response.  Here it is!