Young women today are distracted and over-scheduled. They are confused and made anxious by our modern turmoil. Rarely do they find time to ponder the deep things of life. Yet, a powerful book, read in youth, can shape a life and calm a stormy heart.
This summer let’s encourage our daughters to read and to read deeply – not shallow and meaningless literature, but a book that will make them see the world anew. For years I have given Mere Christianity to graduating seniors. I have had a few of my young friends write me years later telling me about the book’s impact on their perspectives.
Below is a list compiled by Lucinda Grow, 18, of her most loved books. Lucinda is my niece but is also one of the best-read, deepest-thinking, and well-rounded women I have the pleasure of knowing.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery is a cute romance story about emerging into emotional womanhood. This is my favorite romance book because the main character changes drastically. She is walked over and ignored by everybody until she becomes a woman who takes up a role in the world.
Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a fantasy novel following a young girl named Meg. The story is about the battle between good and evil and the ultimate triumph of God’s love.
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald is a beautiful child’s fairytale on the surface but has allegorical elements that point to the unseen truths of the Kingdom of God. The story left me feeling more thoughtful about how faith influences daily life.
The Light Princess by George MacDonald is a fairytale romance about a cursed girl who lost her gravity. The actions of the heartless girl display the necessity for sorrow in order to deeply experience both love and joy.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini as he lived through becoming a pilot during WWII and a prisoner of the Japanese Navy. The themes of dignity, resilience, redemption, and forgiveness are powerful and profound. Humor and amazing historical facts also make it compelling.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is written from the perspective of an older devil guiding his nephew as he leads a mortal man to Hell. The ways in which sin is disguised by the demons and made excusable to the mortal man have helped me become more conscious of the importance of daily commitment to God.
Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis lays out the logical necessity for the existence of God and the divinity of Jesus Christ. This book helped me fully realize that logic and reason are in harmony with faith in God.
What Men Live By is a short story by Leo Tolstoy about a shoemaker named Simon who helps a freezing man on the street. This act of selfless compassion is shown to be true Christian love through which God is able to bless His children.
John Scott’s Treasured Volume is an anthology of poems that were once popular with the American public. Reading a couple of poems when I was too busy to commit to a book gave me a daily dose of philosophy and beauty.
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss is the account of a girl’s daily life as she matures and develops a relationship with God. This book taught me to be more patient with my own imperfect efforts toward being more Christlike.
There are few men I respect more than Dr. Jordan Peterson. Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I have written many pieces relating his work to motherhood and femininity. I have listened to and followed him regularly for years. While I don’t agree with all his views and am aware of his flaws, I still find myself often amazed by the brilliance and depth of his wisdom, compassion, and intellect. Through my website, I have tried to introduce more women to his insights. I hope I have been successful and I hope I continue to be.
However, I am disappointed in Dr. Peterson. Two days ago he tweeted out an image of a model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition – she was much heavier than most models featured there so this cover is controversial. His tweet was simple “Sorry, not beautiful. And no amount of Authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.”
When I saw this tweet I wasn’t confused by his meaning – I knew immediately that he was getting a deeper philosophical point. In conversations with Stephen Blackwood, Roger Scruton, and Bishop Barron he has delved into the philosophical idea of “beauty”. He has discussed the parts played by postmodernists and Marxists as they attempt to tear down all traditional and objective measurements – creating a world of pure relativism. I agree with many of the points made by all these men and have written on these topics. I believe that beauty is real, I believe there is objective truth, and I have seen how brutalist architecture and postmodern art have turned what was once a beautiful and glorious, artistic creation, into a narcissistic charade.
I also know that this woman, in posing for a magazine cover should perhaps expect such treatment. I would never want my daughter or anyone I love to pose for a magazine like this and I wish she hadn’t. I know that likely she was chosen as part of a larger ideological push to redefine or leave undefined any human ideals.
And yet. There in that image was my fellow woman, my sister. I might not agree with her choice to be on the cover, but she is precious nonetheless. His words burned. Even knowing his thoughts were deeper than his statement..still, as a woman, I expected better.
Truth and Goodness
Some may say – well that’s just your feelings. Look at the facts, look at how destructive all this culture-shifting has been! To that, I say, As we seek truth should we cast aside our love and consideration for one another? We certainly shouldn’t affirm what we don’t believe or accept, but he could have said nothing or phrased his critique in a less personal way. Should we be “stupidly” honest and lose hold of those few open-minded souls left, those who in seeking truth expect it to be accompanied by goodness? What of Christian charity? Truth untethered to goodness, with no concern for the individual, will not change hearts and minds.
Should we speak the truth in a pitiless way so it is rejected before being considered? JBP has taught me to always consider the alternative view, and to be humble enough to assume I am wrong. Often we hear the famous Ben Shaprio tagline “Facts don’t care about your feelings” and it rings true. Too often the concern over feelings have meant a trampling of truth. But for a man of great sensitivity like Jordan Peterson, he knows that feelings still matter. Positive reinforcement of good behavior is always more successful than harsh criticism.
The Beauty of A Soul
His statement – “Sorry, not beautiful”, while likely not actively chosen to insult this real woman, was it actually true? Is she, because she is overweight, really not beautiful?
Peterson is a deep person – he sees things from many angles and states that he “is very careful with his words”. He knows that the “beauty of a person” cannot be lumped into the same category as the beauty of architecture, art, or music. A person was not designed under postmodern philosophy or Marxist ideology – people have souls, and they are complex, and beautiful in many ways. Imperfections of the face or body can be miraculously forgotten as the beauty of living souls come forth. But I also believe there is a more subjective preference for physical attractiveness than Jordan Peterson is admitting. The woman pictured surely had a beautiful face – is that to be discounted because she had larger thighs? Do we paint her with an ugly brush because she doesn’t meet every criterion of beauty?
If we look at this woman and say – she is overweight, she can never be beautiful- we are exposing a materialist view of the world. This view sees us all as worthwhile only by our position in a hierarchy, and our ability to succeed by some evolutionary measurement. Those with excess weight are at the bottom of the beauty hierarchy. This is certainly one way to view the world, an increasingly common one. The materialist view obscures every woman and man’s true worth and true beauty, it is sterile and unfeeling. The materialist sees each person as a mechanism among mechanisms – more or less productive than others.
Yet much of Jordan Peterson’s appeal is his ability to speak so beautifully and clearly about an alternative view, a more holistic, spiritual, and perhaps feminine view of the world. The view that sees the Divine worth of every soul, that says we all have value – despite our weaknesses and imperfections. As women, we should not be, and rarely are, ignorant of social standards and hierarchies. We should seek out improvement in our physical lives. There are emotional and social benefits to seeking to improve ourselves, Jordan Peterson often advises us on how we can improve through small and consistent efforts. Yet I believe, and Christianity teaches us, we should gain our worth from a higher plane that performace or outward beauty. Transcendent truth acknowledges the beauty of our soul.
The Cross Women Bear
Women give birth to new life – we raise precious spirits and, if we are mothering properly, we don’t let their standing on a hierarchy alter our love and concern for them. If our little girl has ears that stick out, or our son has a big nose – they are still beautiful. This feminine perspective is what encourages us, imperfect beings, to progress. It should be integrated with the more masculine concern for competence and action. An integrated world is not found on Twitter – so we should not be surprised by brutal criticism of a woman’s body unleashed there. There every post seems to be quickly defined as leftist or alt-right, ultra-feminist or misogynist. So we shouldn’t be surprised by a statement like – “Sorry, not beautiful”. I just didn’t want it to come from Dr. Peterson.
Perhaps what I felt most disheartening about his tweet is it portrays Dr. Peterson as a cruel man, and he is not. While Dr. Peterson has never claimed perfection and few but his most ardent supporters would make such a claim – we could always count on him to care. He is brought to tears when speaking of the struggle of others. He takes time with anyone that stops him on the street. His years of providing therapy, working with students, and struggling with his own depression have made him empathetic and kind-hearted. But here was an image of a woman, a real person – and he opted for, “Sorry not beautiful.”
Women are not naive to the standards of beauty. We all know that thinner is generally more attractive. There is certainly a push to change these standards, because “ideals” are judgemental – and none of us want to be judged. Some of our pushing away from ideal standards of beauty may actually be beneficial to women – considering only a handful of women actually look like pinup models. However, perhaps this cover is too far – it seeks to ignore the natural preference and attraction to those we view as “healthy”. The editors were likely leaning into the realm of domineering social engineering. The hypocrisy of Sports Illustrated is quite alarming. Their swimsuit edition has been objectifying women and setting up a false and unattainable standard of beauty for years, one plus-sized model will not correct that. We should look to other sources as we seek out beauty.
Women want to be beautiful. But rare is the woman that is not plagued with self-doubt about her “beauty”. We never seem to feel good enough, pretty enough. This is a cross we must bear. But crosses can be made lighter by the brotherly love of others, they are made heavier by their condemnation. This is a cross Dr. Peterson could certainly make lighter through his empathy and wisdom. Yesterday he made it heavier.
Finally, I am saddened because now fewer women will trust Jordan Peterson. Calling a woman ugly to an audience of millions will have an effect. Unfortunately, in one hasty statement he confirmed the lies his critics say of him – he is a misogynist, he has no compassion, and he is ideological. But none of that is really true. He is so much better than that tweet. He is not some internet troll. I wish we didn’t live in a world where people can take one tweet and turn it into a sign of your true character. It was a moment of haste and I believe he likely sees the error in it.
So why write this essay about a silly tweet? Because even in errors I think we can learn a lesson from Dr. Peterson. We can learn that even the wisest and compassionate among us may at times get caught up in their own intellectual web. Even the best of us may forget the humanity of those we label our ideological adversaries. Jordan Peterson is a good man and he is doing good work. He has flaws, he is impetuous, and perhaps not fully in tune with the feminine perspective – but he has much to teach. I just hope that perhaps – as he has taught me so well – he will remember to “be precise in his speech” and perhaps look in the fog from which this tweet came – and bring that shadow into the light.
As the world becomes more materially prosperous and safe we, strangely, see a rise in pessimism. We doubt the good-will of our neighbors, we look back at our history with disdain, we fear bringing children into our chaotic world. Cynicism and doubt are often justified, but do they tell the real story? What follows are the thoughts of some wise thinkers that may help us as we contemplate the proper orientation towards life: optimism or pessimism?
“Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy. It is when for some reason or other good things in a society no longer work that the society begins to decline; when its food does not feed, when its cures do not cure, when its blessings refuse to bless.” G. K. Chesterton
“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.” James Branch Cabell
“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” Antonio Gramsci
“A pessimist is a man who thinks everybody is as nasty as himself, and hates them for it.” George Bernard Shaw
“If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?” Arthur Schopenhauer
“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute.” George Bernard Shaw
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Oscar Wilde
“They cannot indulge in any detailed or merely logical defense of life; that would delay the enjoyment of it. These higher optimists, of whom Dickens was one, do not approve of the universe; they do not even admire the universe; they fall in love with it. They embrace life too close to criticize or even to see it. Existence to such men has the wild beauty of a woman, and those love her with most intensity who love her with least cause.” G.K. Chesterton
“My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it’s more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is the reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. People first paid honor to a spot and afterward gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they loved her.” G.K. Chesterton
“Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when Joy is the fundamental thing in him, and Grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive state of mind; Praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; Joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.” G.K Chesterton
“The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
As we see our society become increasingly divisive, intolerant, and materialistic we see a rise in mental and moral weakness. This weakness comes in many forms. The mentally weak find it hard to cope with the intrinsic difficulties of life. But a moral failing is growing alongside this fragility of the mind, an inability to empathize. Many, rather than feeling concern or empathy, turn in judgment upon the “snowflakes”. Rather than seek solutions, they condemn them and criticize their sufferings. When things fall apart we need people to step up, show concerned-strength, and help fix it. This clip gives a short overview of one man demonstrating this concerned-strength, Jonathan Haidt. He has researched and written extensively (The Coddling of the American Mind, The Righteous Mind) on the trend of increased fragility in young people. I want to recommend this YouTube Channel, Dad Saves America, which has great resources for those, particularly men, who want to do more than judge our world, but help it.
I was asked to do a series of articles on Jordan Peterson and Women. This week’s article for Public Square Magazine was published yesterday and is my personal story of finding a friend in Jordan Peterson when I desperately needed one. Over the next few weeks, the series will continue on Public Square.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Unfortunately, we live in a time where all “creators” fear the day they will be prohibited from sharing their work. It seems the Philosophy of Motherhood has been targeted. Two days ago one of my pieces was taken down from Facebook for several hours for promoting “human exploitation for personal gain”, without any indication of how it did so. (I will let you be the judge of the piece.) My only guess is that the phrase “Life isn’t Fair” was deemed inappropriate. And considering the fact that my site makes no money, ‘I’m not sure what “personal gain” I could be reaping). I was locked out for two days and now I have several strikes against me, with reduced distribution. Facebook has warned me that at any time they may delete my page. I now have 5,000 followers on Facebook and it has become my main avenue of spreading the work of Philosophy of Motherhood.
I hope my readers will agree that I try to be balanced. I do not believe in being vindictive or personal in any arguments. Most of my writing is an attempt to dig deeper into philosophy and ancient wisdom for the benefit of mothers and all my readers. I am generally skeptical of many conspiracy theories and the general paranoia prevalent today, and perhaps all this was a misunderstanding. However, the experience has been an eye-opener for me.
“Ideologies are substitutes for true knowledge, and ideologues are always dangerous when they come to power, because a simple-minded I-know-it-all approach is no match for the complexity of existence.” Jordan Peterson
It seems that anyone who shares the belief in the reality of objective truth, the benefit of traditional or religious morality, or who questions modern postmodernism or materialist philosophy is now at risk of being kicked off social media platforms. I do not see the attack on free speech as a left-right issue. It is human nature to want to suppress what we see as dangerous. Honest attempts at discovering the truth can be seen as dangerous when they threaten others’ worldviews. But we must be allowed to look outside our own limited perspectives and preconceived notions. Progression can only occur when we can freely exchange ideas and question one another. ++
Yet, this is the world we live in and we must prepare and be ready. If you find our site beneficial please do the following:
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I will stop publishing my long-form articles in their entirety on Facebook. I have done so for ease of viewing but will now simply add excerpts. The main piece will be found on the website, with added resources. I hope readers will take the time to click the link.
I pray that the Philosophy of Motherhood will continue for years to come. If it is God’s will, we will find a way. This site has always been dedicated to researching topics that may help young women, mothers, and all parents look deeply at the meaning, value, and purpose of life and parenting. We will continue in that endeavor. Thank you so much for your support. Any suggestions you may have on how to secure the future of our site are welcome.