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Jordan Peterson Q&A appearance: Why his show has audiences in tears.

Jordan Peterson will appear on Q&A live from Melbourne on Monday, February 25. 

On a Saturday afternoon a little over a week ago, just after 3pm, a 56-year-old man from Canada stood in front of 3,000 people at the Sydney Opera House and cried.

Dr Jordan B Peterson had been speaking for more than an hour, without so much as a single dot point to keep him company.

“Make the world better than it could be otherwise,” he told his audience, made up of men, women, old, young, liberal and conservative, seemingly only realising the words as he spoke them.

“Move it away from hell – and it can certainly become that – and towards heaven, and that is a good enough goal.”

Dr Peterson’s voice began to tremble as he said, “You need something. Because life is tough. It’s hard. You need something to get out of bed and fight for – against hell and for heaven – that’s something to fight for.”

He paused as the audience, now wiping tears from their own cheeks, applauded.

Dr Peterson is, in the words of New York Times columnist David Brooks, “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.”

His book, 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos, has sold almost three million copies – a figure just about unheard of.

We discussed Jordan Peterson’s best-selling book 12 Rules For Life on Mamamia Book Club. Post continues below. 

His podcast, The Jordan B Peterson Podcast, has a cult following, along with his YouTube channel, which is edging towards two million subscribers.

It was on YouTube that the rise of Peterson took place, beginning with lectures about religion and personal growth and evolving into discussions about feminism and political correctness.

But our cultural discussion about Dr Peterson doesn’t seem to go much further than whether or not we agree with him.

We’re getting stuck there, planting ourselves firmly in one of two camps, stifling a conversation that has the potential to be a lot more interesting.

The more important question is what Jordan Peterson means. And, as he cried at the Sydney Opera House in front of his adherents, evoking the concepts of heaven and hell, it had never been more obvious.

This wasn’t a man delivering a speech. He was delivering a sermon.

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And he wasn’t standing on a stage. He was standing on an altar.

Young men make up the majority of his audience, which can’t be dismissed or belittled as a consequence of ‘toxic masculinity’.

These young men are also, statistics will tell us, the most lost.

They don’t see Dr Peterson as a lecturer, but as their Saviour.

As religious adherence has declined, our questions about why we’re here and what it all means have remained. And Dr Peterson is the exact shape of the hole that religion left behind.

His 12 rules for life are just a new set of commandments, designed to tell us what to do in a world that has abandoned its religious rule books.

What Dr Peterson is saying is not altogether new, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Gathered in a room on Saturday afternoon were 3,000 people who wanted someone to tell them why they are here, why they matter, and how they can make tomorrow better than today.

Isn’t that the same question humans have been asking for millennia?

“We’re giving it 40 per cent,” Dr Peterson said, having taken a moment to compose himself.

“We’re half in [when it comes to life] and half out. And it’s not surprising because life is difficult.

“But what if you were 90 per cent in? You might as well commit yourself to the highest good that you can attain, because why not?”

Dr Peterson concluded by challenging his audience to imbue their lives with meaning.

“That’ll make your life better,” he said. “It’ll make your family’s life better. It’ll make your culture better. Maybe it will make the world better.”

If we want to understand the virality of Dr Peterson – then we need to start by asking ourselves where else we can congregate to reflect on the meaning of life.

Other than religious institutions, where else are the Big Questions being asked? And who else takes the time to attempt to answer them?

“You need a reason to get up,” Dr Peterson concluded.

“A little more heaven and a little less hell. Maybe I can pull that off…”

Watch Jordan Peterson on Q&A at 9:30pm Monday night. 

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