Following is the full transcript of clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson’s TEDx Talk: Redefining Reality at TEDxToronto conference. The event occurred on November 14, 2011.
Dr. Jordan Peterson – Canadian clinical psychologist
Hello. I didn’t hear about this conference till about two weeks ago, and then, I think it was: Darius, who was running this whole show, who contacted me and said that somebody in the community thought that I had something to say that might be worth listening to for this TEDx thing, and I thought, “Oh, that’s cool! I know about TED, I should build a talk about something I really think is important.”
And then Darius said, “You’ve got six minutes,” and I thought, “Well, I better scale back.” Then I thought, “No, I’m not going to scale back, I’m going to try something I always wanted to do.” And that was, I thought, I’d try to redefine reality in six minutes.
So hold on to your hats. So, the reality I’m going to talk to you about today, it’s the reality that the people that you’ve listened to today, who were inspired, it’s the reality that they live in, and what I’m going to talk to you about, I don’t believe is metaphysics, I truly believe what I’m going to talk to you about it’s the most real thing I know; and knowing it is something that’s completely changed my life.
I think the people that you listen to today, who’ve changed their life in various ways, and the lives of other people, know this, too. I also think that you will see that what I’m going to tell you, you already know, too, but you don’t know you know it. It’s so great to be able to learn something you already know, so that it can be made conscious and explicit; and that’s what I’m going to try to do. So, there’s a lot of slides, and there’s lot of words, and so… away we go.
First, I believe that people suffer more than they have to because we profoundly misunderstand what’s real. We’re blinded to what’s truly fundamental, by the things that present themselves most easily to our perceptions; thus, we fail to realize what is most genuine and important. We believe that the world is made out of objects; I would like to propose instead that the world is made out of chaos and order, and that the quality of our being is dependent on how we manage the balance between the two.
Chaos – that’s what manifests itself when we don’t know what we are looking at; it’s chaos that we saw when the Twin Towers fell, it’s chaos that looms when the partner you loved for decades reveals a lengthy affair. It’s chaos that engulfs you when a loved one dies; chaos is the unknown, the unexpected, the anomalous. It’s the “mater,” the mother, the Latin root of the word matrix and material; the substance of reality.
Chaos is the fruitfulness of nature and the terror of time. It’s an ocean of possibilities surrounding the territory of human culture; it’s the water of life bringing sustenance to those parched by their own dry preconceptions, and it’s the flood unleashed by an angry God, when the ideas of man warped so badly that they can no longer be sustained. It’s the Yin of the Daoists, it’s the paralyzing horror of the darkness, it’s the treachery of our physical forms, it’s the monster under the bed, and it’s the snake that eternally lurks in the garden.