Tish Harrison Warren becomes the female Jordan Peterson. And suggest your own “rules for life”!

June 12, 2022 • 1:00 pm

Well, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren isn’t nearly as weird as Peterson, but they’re both religious and they’ve both made lists about how to improve your life and your world. Harrison’s column (click to read) is to fixing the world as a cough drop is to a cough (cough drops don’t work).

I’m starting to realize that Warren is actually not a religion columnist, though she can’t keep Jesus out of her weekly NYT columns, but rather a self-help columnist, commissioned to make people feel better about themselves and the world. She does this like a human Pez dispenser, regularly producing new bromides. There’s nothing wrong with trying to cheer people up, but crikey, can’t she think up something original?

Here’s the lead-in to her column of “solutions for a broken world”, which reminded me of Jordan Peterson’s bestselling “12 Rules for Life” (see below):

Warren:

In Christian liturgical churches, today is Trinity Sunday, which kicks off a long sweep of “ordinary time.” This period — which will last till mid-November — is the longest season in the church year. Ordinary time is what we call the weeks that are not included in the major seasons of feasting or fasting in the church calendar, such as Easter and Lent.

In some circles, this span of months is referred to as “the long green growing season” because the liturgical color of the season is green, but also because it invites us to deepen our roots, to grow.

In his poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” Wendell Berry calls his readers to “Practice resurrection.” That’s how I think of this stretch of ordinary time. During Easter season we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, and in this next season we learn to “practice resurrection” in our everyday lives. We seek those things which bring renewal and repair.

And so, here are Warren’s “eleven small ways we can help mend the world.” (Bolding is hers.)

1.)  Have more in-person conversations.

2.)  Get outside.

3.)  Eschew mobs — online and in real life.

4.)  Read books.

5.)  Give money away. 

6.)  Invest in institutions more than personal brands. (She means “invest time, money and energy into reforming broken institutions and sustaining healthy ones.)

7.)  Invest in children. 

8.)  Observe the Sabbath.

9.)  Make a steel man of others’ arguments. She means engage first with the best rather than the worst arguments of our opponents—advice Dan Dennett dispensed years ago.

10.) Practice patience.

11.)  Pray.  Her explanation, “Because prayer and work go together. And because, ultimately, true renewal requires more than we can do on our own.”  I presume she means we need to communicate with God for true renewal.

Look, this isn’t bad advice, but it’s trite advice, and I, for one, don’t need to pray or observe the Sabbath. What baffles me is why the NYT continues on this hamster wheel of cerebral pabulum.

For comparison, here’s Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules for life as described in the Guardian:

1 Stand up straight with your shoulders straight.

2 Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

3 Befriend people who want the best for you.

4 Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not the useless person you are today.

5 Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

6 Set your house in order before you criticise the world.

7 Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

8 Tell the truth. Or at least don’t lie.

9 Assume the person you are listening to knows something you don’t.

10 Be precise in your speech.

11 Do not bother children while they are skateboarding.

12 Pet a cat when you encounter one in the street.

Yes, some of these are also trite, like #7 and #8, but at least they make you think. And, of course. #12 itself, superb advice, trumps the totality of Warren’s rules!

Now that I’m at it, here are some Coyne Rules for Life. I’ve chosen eleven, like Warren.

1.)  Pet a cat whenever you encounter one.

2.) Button your shirt from the bottom up; that way you never mis-button.

3.) If two people tell you that you’re flawed in the same way, they’re probably right. 

4.) If you are writing an angry email or letter, go ahead and write it, but don’t send it for at least a day. Most likely you will have calmed down and can be more civil in your communication. 

5.) Discover the joys of wine; one of the world’s greatest pleasures.

6.) Read GOOD books. Life is too short to read junk. 

7.)  Never show “respect” for faith unless the situation is desperate (e.g., someone touts their faith while dying). 

8.)  Wash your hands at the times recommended by the CDC, and in the way they recommend. (I haven’t had a cold since the pandemic started.)

9.)  At the checkout counter at the grocery store, have your credit card, cash, or checkbook IN HAND so those behind you don’t have to wait. The check should be filled out as much as possible (i.e., all except the amount).

10.) If you have a lot of groceries and the person behind you has only a few, let them go ahead of you.

11.) If you are a professor and your graduate students writes a paper, do not put your name on it unless you’ve made a substantive contribution to the results (suggesting the experiment or rewriting the paper don’t count). This gratuitous co-authorship, which is spreading, takes credit away from students and gives it to them that already have (the “Matthew Effect“). 

Now you know what to do. Put down one or a few of your own Rules for Life.

75 thoughts on “Tish Harrison Warren becomes the female Jordan Peterson. And suggest your own “rules for life”!

  1. I’ve posted these before, but since you ask. . . .

    “I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad.” –Henry David Thoreau
     
    1.    Read the comics strips daily. Skip the ones with too much talking.


    2.    Avoid watching the news. If something important happens, you’ll hear about it.


    3.    DO what you are doing. Everything else can wait.


    4.    Never take offense, even when it’s offered. If a criticism is valid, do something about it; if not, let it go.


    5.    Don’t rehearse for bad news. Deal with it when it comes. 


    6.    Never be afraid to ask for help. Give people a chance to be generous.


    7.    Don’t fret about your health. It’s bad for your health.


    8.    Ignore name-calling. Better to be a “bigot” than to abandon all semblance of intellectual honesty for fear of being called one.


    9.    Don’t track prices. Your attention is worth more than your money.


    10.  Trust the universe to give you what you need. Keep in mind that it might not be what you want.

    1. Very nice. #4, especially, stands out. Bravo.

      I like this quote from “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat Moon: “The biggest hindrance to learning is fear of showing one’s self a fool.” When I was in graduate school, every time before I knocked on my advisor’s door I’d tell myself, “Don’t be afraid of sounding like an idiot.”

    2. Re: No. 4: Perhaps it’s best not to respond in order “To Keep The Peace,” but one is not obligated to be or remain in the presence of Philistines inclined to give repeated invalid, gratuitous ad hominem criticism.

      Is one allowed to respond with, e.g., “Thank you for your kind, Christian terms of endearment”? Or, as in the military, “Sir, thank you for your inspection and instruction, Sir!”

      I’m reminded of the lyrics of a song from “The King and I”: “Kick us again if you please, Your Majesty.” As if one can’t get enough of it.

      “Whether ’tis nobler to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.

      – Hamlet

  2. My rule number one is “Never let your principles get in the way of doing what is right”.

    Other than that, I definitely subscribe to your number 4 and I definitely do not subscribe to your number 2: I find I’m less likely to button a shirt up wrongly if I start from the top. On the other hand, I always button my 501’s up from the bottom for the same reason.

    Finally, one I bear in mind when writing: it’s not my job to make it possible to understand my prose, it’s my job to make it impossible to misunderstand my prose. Actually, that’s more of an aspiration than a rule for life.

  3. Rule for Life #0.08% +or- 0.03%: When arriving at a rather lively cocktail party a little later than most guests, do not pour the liquor of your choice until it covers the ice. If you do, you should quickly slurp the drink off the ice and add liquor until precisely 7mm of ice is above the liquor. Repeat as many times as necessary for optimal results.

  4. My neighbor’s cats, which spend a lot of time on my property, are skittish and unapproachable, otherwise I’d be happy to pet them. Their dog, however, is a hungry sponge for affection.

  5. I didn’t spend much time thinking about these, but here goes:

    1) When lifting heavy objects, or doing a job where constant bending is required, wear a back brace.

    2) If an ingredient, on its own, is disgusting, don’t think it can make a dish taste “better”.

    3) Meyer lemons are superior to regular lemons, and neither is a good substitute for lime.

    4) If you have the space and like to grow things, get a greenhouse.

    5) Familiarize yourself with classic Rock ‘n Roll from the 60’s and 70’s.

    6) Keep a pet or two (dogs, cats, fish and reptiles are acceptable, but I don’t think birds are).

    7) Every once in a while, give $20 to a panhandler.

    8) Keep the house clean and the yard neat.

    9) BBQing and grilling are acceptable outdoor activities all year, not just in Summer.

    10) Drink and be merry, but don’t drink and drive.

    11) Don’t vote for Donald Trump or anyone who likes him or is affiliated with him.

      1. Every once in a while, I’ll see a homeless person who I feel is really on hard times, and not just trying to get a handout for a quart or a gram. Hard to describe the type of person I “trust” in that scenario (it’s usually a woman with kids). For some people, $20 is a modicum of hope to live another day. Or to put it another way, they need the $20 far more than I do, and for me, that’s worth it. Even if I did just support a drug or alcohol habit, I don’t mind; that’s the definition of “living” for many. Call me an enabler, so be it.

      1. I’ve had birds as pets…mostly budgies and cockatiels. They just don’t belong caged-up. Mine always escaped, probably to die in environments they weren’t suited for. Birds can fly and keeping one as a pet stymies that unique freedom, unless you keep clipping the wings, which I couldn’t do.

    1. 2) If an ingredient, on its own, is disgusting, don’t think it can make a dish taste “better”.

      I beg to differ – just one example : sprinkling a bit of vinegar on strawberries seriously enhances the taste of the strawberries. Some ingredients, through chemical reactions, change the taste of a dish for the better even while not being appetising separately. Chemical reactions are the essence of cooking and affect how things taste.

      1. I was hoping someone would refute that statement and give a good example. I’ll have to try that strawberry trick. Though I like vinegar, and wouldn’t classify it as “disgusting”. But I get your point. 😉

        1. Many people would be turned off by fish sauce on its own but when added to food it can profoundly improve the flavour profile!

    2. When lifting heavy objects, or doing a job where constant bending is required, wear a back brace.

      You’ve clearly never had to do any sort of “manual handling” training – let alone have to do effectively identical courses 4 times in one year for different client’s site requirements.
      The correct answer is “When lifting … is required; redesign the job“.
      With the arguable exceptions of (other people) smoking in the workplace, and travelling to get to work, damaged backs are probably the single biggest cost on the health of employees, and therefore the company’s sick pay bill. Or the recruitment & training bill if your laws allow you to fire the people you injure while you’re employing them.

  6. “1. Pet a cat whenever you encounter one.”

    Glad to see you have your priorities straight! But why leave it to chance? Pursue them.

    One of my own is for self-protection. When someone bends your ear complaining about a personal relationship, nod politely but remember that you are only hearing one side of the story. Even when such people don’t lie outright, the self-delude like crazy.

    1. [Cats]But why leave it to chance? Pursue them.

      As if that’s going to work!
      Talk to them from ~10m range ; if you’re worthy of being scent-marked, they’ll decide and come up to allow you to mark yourself.

      1. I wasn’t trying to imply that you should chase cats that don’t like you. Instead, you should seek those opportunities. Don’t wait for opportunities. Make them!

  7. Each of her suggestions makes implicit assumptions that could easily be subverted:

    1.) Have more in-person conversations – with other extremist gun nuts.

    2.) Get outside – to shoot animals including people.

    3.) Eschew mobs — online and in real life – after all, you could be more effective as a lone sniper.

    4.) Read books. There are lots of books., not all of which Warren would endorse..!

    5.) Give money away – to the NRA.

    6.) Invest in institutions more than personal brands. (She means “invest time, money and energy into reforming broken institutions and sustaining healthy ones.) – Without defining “broken” and “healthy” institutions Warren’s suggestion is meaningless and easily subverted.

    7.) Invest in children – recruit them to your gun club.

    8.) Observe the Sabbath. – Folks leaving a church you disagree with make great targets.

    9.) Make a steel man of others’ arguments. She means engage first with the best rather than the worst arguments of our opponents—advice Dan Dennett dispensed years ago – This suggestion is sound (but not original, as PCC(E) notes).

    10.) Practice patience – especially when you repeatedly miss targets at the shooting range.

    11.) Pray. Her explanation, “Because prayer and work go together. And because, ultimately, true renewal requires more than we can do on our own.” I presume she means we need to communicate with God for true renewal. – “Please God, I really hope they don’t catch me after this mass shooting”.

    Our host’s suggestions, on the other hand, would be much more effective (and less harmful) if universally adopted.

  8. 11.) Pray. Her explanation, “Because prayer and work go together.”

    That’s certainly the roots of gospel music. Maybe Warren would be happy if everyone picked cotton on a plantation while doing call-and-response on old negro spirituals like “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” or “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

  9. I think Hitch had just two rules (which, IIRC, he attributed to Gore Vidal): Never turn down sex or the opportunity to appear on television. 🙂

  10. Set your house in order before you criticise the world.

    Will surely get you busted in politics, and bring a swift end to democracy as we know it.

    Tell the truth. Or at least don’t lie.

    Will surely get you busted in politics, and bring a swift end to democracy as we know it.

    Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

    Will surely get you busted in politics, and bring a swift end to democracy as we know it.

      1. Which article treats “10” as a variable integer between 4 and 11. Which is perfectly fine, but I’m slightly sad to see that nobody has taken the “hex” line and had 10 = 16.
        That article was obviously edited by a member of the wrong group of the 10 types of people.

  11. Regarding Coyne’s rule number 11, when I was a second year graduate student, my advisor (Rollin Richmond) followed it and insisted, to my delight, that I submit it as a single author paper to Nature. It was promptly rejected without review. He refused to accept that and resubmitted it, with a strongly worded cover letter pointing out how the journal had just recently published similar work by authors with “names.” The paper, with me as the sole author, was then accepted without revision. So rule number 11 is a good one, but it doesn’t mean the advisor shouldn’t play a role in its publication.

  12. My Rule #1: Everything matters, all the time.
    (The idea behind it is that your brain absorbs almost every input and your mind processes most of it in at least some sub- or unconscious way, which may influence you in possibly subtle and unnoticeable ways. If you want to be better tomorrow than you are today, even just a little bit, you have to accept that everything you so and everything that happens to you will influence you.)

    My other 39 rules are here: https://publish.obsidian.md/fas-cpb/The+Rules.

  13. So many of the above rules are sensible, empathetic and ethical.

    I can’t add to any of them. So my only suggestion is:

    Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then, when you come to criticise them, you’re a mile away, and you have their shoes.

  14. Here is one of my rules: Never bring a bottle of orange juice to a party. You will have to drink it all by yourself and miss the fun.

  15. Freely translated from my favorite (Hungarian) humorist, Frigyes Karinthy

    “And after thou washeth thine hands, and let water flow upon them, do not raise thine hands, do not vainly elevate them, for then they will spill water upon thine shirt.”

  16. On the whole, I don’t much like general advice for life; I do, however, like Seneca’s advice about being prepared for the worst. I try to avoid telling people not to worry because it won’t happen but, instead, help them be prepared in case it does. It’s probably why people don’t invite me to many parties.

  17. Here another one: When, traveling on the Paris Metro, you find an envelope containing an inordinate large amount of money, don’t hand it over to a Metro employee, even if he shows a lot of gratitude.

    1. I once found nearly $200 in a supermarket car park. I handed it in at a police station and later told a friend that I had bought myself $200 of good karma. She said “You idiot ! You had $200 of good karma and you gave it away”.

      1. About the Paris metro, I was on a train with three friends form my hometown, and one of them who found the envelope, which contained enough money to buy a big car, was quite unexperienced with the world, and he handed the envelope over before to a metro employee before we could intervene.

        1. At least he didn’t have a cartel of cutthroats from Marseilles hunting him down to get its money back and then colourfully murdering him.

  18. I like your rules and will appropriate them where possible. I will pet cats when they let me and the same with d*gs. I’m unfortunately allergic to wine, however. 🙁

  19. “We’re not trying to have any particular experience here. In essence, what we’re doing is just letting go of the attempt to control experience.”

    —ADYASHANTI, FROM “FOUNDATIONAL MEDITATION.”

    “As we allow the content of experience to just be the way that it is, it allows our awareness to stop being so obsessed with the content,” to see it all simply “as the flow of experience.”

    From Sam Harris’ Waking Up email.

  20. As the servant to eight cats, I never have a problem finding one that wants to be petted.

    May I respectfully disagree with your #5, however. As someone who is life-and-death allergic to sulfites, it is imperative that I avoid wine, and also sulfited dried fruit. It was a huge relief to me when laws were passed ending the era of restaurants being able to put that stuff on salads without having to tell the customers. When people who like wine enjoy it, I don’t for a minute begrudge them, but it’s pretty scary from my viewpoint.

    I would add – Always bake with real vanilla extract. Artificial vanilla is a petroleum product.

    L

  21. 1. Not all cats are petworthy; some, in fact will attack and bite your elbow for no reason. Leave these cats alone.
    2. Always check your zipper before leaving the house.
    3. If two people tell you you’re flawed in the same way, tell them “Who asked you.”
    4. If you are writing an angry email or letter, double check your spelling. You might get careless in the heat of passion.
    5. Drink wine every chance you get.
    6. Read whatever books strike your fancy. Life’s too short to read books you don’t really want to read just because they’re “good.”
    7. Never show disrespect for someone’s faith, family or ethnicity. You might get punched in the face.
    8. Don’t be a neurotic germaphobe (like Drumpf!).
    9. Always say “hi” to the retarded bag boy at the grocery checkout counter. It makes him really happy.
    10. If you have a lot of groceries, be prepared to take out a loan.
    11. If you are a professor, don’t hit on your students.

  22. I’m mixed about J Peterson. Not about his intelligence though, he is a smart guy.
    Tish? Sorry, no. And you generally have to look for JP, Tish pollutes the first page of the NYT with her idiotic, cloying drivel.
    D.A.
    NYC

  23. I have a similar list of rules I wrote for my son. Some of them are no doubt trite, but I think many of the most significant truths in life *are* trite precisely *because* they’re so important and universal. That said, here are a few rules from my list, in no particular order:

    1. Don’t join a tribe (political, religious, or otherwise).
    2. Let your natural, default state be one in which you are always creating or learning something of value.
    3. Surround yourself with cheerful people who work hard and like to help others.
    4. Hold onto the good, and let go of the bad. (Trite, but SO important.)

  24. My mom taught me a couple-
    1. Always be looking for an opportunity to help others.
    2. As a parent, say “yes” to your kids whenever you can.

    As for Warren’s list, I think the sabbath thing is not a terrible idea. Not for religious reasons, but because it is healthy to take a day off now and then. That applies especially to those of us who tend to approach projects with fanatical devotion.

    1. “That applies especially to those of us who tend to approach projects with fanatical devotion.”

      Agree here…I do a lot of miniature modeling, and found if I stop creating for a day here and there, the project benefits. The brain needs time to reflect and hover “30,000 feet” above certain projects. It’s very much akin to Jerry’s #4…cool down before proceeding.

          1. I agree, I loved that character! Though he worked on a different scale, and scratch built his pieces. I don’t do a lot of scratch building, most of my models come from kits.

        1. Years ago photos of some of Marks models, dioramas actually, were featured here on WEIT. They were WWII scenes with buildings, soldiers, military vehicles, etc. Very good stuff. He’s really talented.

          No idea if WWII is the only theme he works in.

  25. On the off chance that I am the smartest person in the room I pretend not to be. This works even when I am not the smartest person in the room. Pretending is always best.

    I am old enough to realize I am not required to have an opinion about everything and flexible enough to create an opinion anyway.

    If you want a steadfast friend get a puppy or a teddy bear.

    When your cup is overflowing it is just an illusion. It is still either half empty or half full. Anchovies don’t help.

    Speak kindly but back it up with a vicious stick.

    Be like a river. Never change directions or ask for directions. Try flowing up hill sometimes.

    Take offense because nobody can do it for you.

    Whenever I am caught with my foot in my mouth I pretend I am doing yoga.

    The great Canadian philosopher Mitch Hedberg once said, “I like it when people laugh for no reason…like that lady over there.” You see, it’s not all about you…or is it?

    I wrote the list about five years ago. I am not sure what prompted the list. Perhaps I’d been getting a lot of advice.

  26. 1. Avoid (like the plague) people who don’t like cats
    2. Rescue at least one cat in your life
    3. Never trust anybody named Tony
    4. Never trust loud people (they are loud for a reason)
    5. Exercise at least a few times every week
    6. Get up and go out!
    7. Swear regularly and with enthusiasm
    8. Vote
    9. Never, ever, kill an animal for fun

  27. There are some wonderful suggestions above – but the trite advice I remember best is:

    1) Never eat a sugared donut while wearing a black suit.

    Now you can labour mightily to decode this advice, and you could translate it into “Beware of how your indulgences can appear to other people.” But that would be no fun at all and wouldn’t stick in your memory.

  28. “Ordinary time is what we call the weeks that are not included in the major seasons of feasting or fasting in the church calendar, such as Easter and Lent.”

    I find that interesting, as I can sense something like that in day-to-day life – i.e. the way the schedule plays out, the “feel” of tte day (in the N. hemisphere).

    Somehow, I can understand what “ordinary time” means, and I wonder how much the church power over the centuries has shaped the day to day anyway, for example elementary school, or work schedules, their overlap, etc.

    I mean, _Sunday_, right? Its a different feel than Tuesday! And so on for longer time frames, and periods that repeat on a yearly basis – “ordinary time” feels different from the middle of February – its nice out, for one thing.

  29. Look at your “phone” in public or in company the same way one would smoke at a hospital.

    Let yourself outgrow something from time to time.

    1. Observe how much air you breathe in. Ensure ample air flow, breathe deeply occasionally – and beware of inadvertently practically holding your breath.

  30. “I’m starting to realize that Warren is actually not a religion columnist, though she can’t keep Jesus out of her weekly NYT columns, but rather a self-help columnist, commissioned to make people feel better about themselves and the world.”

    Actually, Jerry, I think you just defined religion quite succinctly in that last clause.

  31. If it doesn’t hurt another person, an animal, or the environment, then it’s nobody’s business.

  32. Wonderful advice on this thread.
    I would add:
    1. As often as possible, catch your children doing something good.
    2. Avoid high heels as much as possible.
    3. Buy clothes and shoes in your size and are comfortable.
    4. Avoid sugar as much as possible.
    5. Practice the multiple Rs, in addition to the 3 Rs of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: a) Repurpose b) Reciprocate c) Reconcile d) Repair broken relationships if possible e) Recognize others’ accomplishments f) Reward g) Restitution – right your wrongs done to others h) Remember and fulfill your promises i) Return stuff you borrow! j) Regulate your expectations k) Respect others l) Rest and relax regularly m) Rescue ducklings and other vulnerable beings in need of help.
    6. Keep your Will up-to-date and cull your junk before you croak.
    7. Keep breathing.

  33. 1. Sell (or destroy) your TV. That enables most of the rest of the things mentioned. (I’m more than a little surprised no one has mentioned this yet).
    2. Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. (*not* original to me ;-))
    3. Strive to leave the world a better place than you found it. Especially with respect to the environment.
    4. Whenever anyone says to you “you should do this,” ask them “Why?”
    5. In my life I have found two things of priceless worth—learning and loving. Nothing else—not fame, not power, not achievement for its own sake—can possibly have the same lasting value. For when your life is over, if you can say “I have learned” and “I have loved,” you will also be able to say “I have been happy.” (again, not original to me).

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