Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief by Jordan Peterson is one of few challenging books, yet full of great insights that evoke more questions than answers. Even though it is hard to read, I have found a few areas where I identify with Peterson. He writes intriguing concepts worth exploring.
Humans explore their environment out of fear of the unknown.
Whether my inspiration came from the voices I was listening to or God’s Spirit pressing it in my heart, it is left for the observer to decide. The genocide in Rwanda happened around the same time Nelson Mandela and his fellow South Africans were modeling the fantastic power of forgiveness and reconciliation. As a relatively young believer, I thought if I put together a team of Bible believers to spearhead Biblical Reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, lasting peace and stability could be realized quickly. It wasn’t long before I started to see the real challenges involved in the kind of mission I had embarked on.
Maps of Meaning speaks the reality of an author who struggled with fears and found ways to do something about it. Peterson tells of his first encounter with the fear of Nuclear Weapon and what they could do to his environment. “My concern with the general social and political insanity and evil of the world – sublimated by temporary infatuation with utopian socialism and political machination – returned with a vengeance. The mysterious fact of the Cold War increasingly occupied the forefront of my consciousness.”
The author’s claim above might have influenced him to become great at what he is doing as a cultural critic and a professor of psychology.
The great societies of the world were feverishly constructing a nuclear machine with unimaginably destructive capabilities. Someone or something was making terrible plans. Why? Theoretically, normal and well-adapted people were going about their business prosaically, as if nothing were the matter. Why weren’t they disturbed? Weren’t they paying attention? Wasn’t I?
Like Peterson, the evils of Rwanda and the region have not left the forefront of my consciousness. The genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the horrible injustice that I witnessed as a child refugee left me with no better prayer than education and to hopefully contribute to change in one way or another. I had seen millions of Rwandans engage in the slaughter of fellow humans, not distant strangers or enemies in any way, shape, or form but countrymen and countrywomen, speaking the same language and sharing the same cultural and ethnic background.
Caged Rats and Humans
Peterson spoke on his experience in Prison, where fear had engulfed him after he had been separated from his supervisor. Prison Chaplaincy has allowed me to understand what happens inside prison walls than I thought while on the outside. It is expected to find people who have spent so much time inside to the extent that life outside becomes unbearable. Some of the men and women that I serve become so nervous towards the time of their release, and some will get out and commit other crimes to return home to their familiar environments.
If you place a rat in a new cage, its first reaction is to freeze. The rat is afraid – and understandably so. After all, grave danger could lurk in this new, unfamiliar territory. The rat will only begin to explore its new surroundings – sniffing, licking, and scratching its way through the cage. The more it gets used to the new environment, the calmer it becomes.
People enjoy stories
“Whether you’re talking about the ancient Greek gods, fairy tales, or Star Wars – narratives that include courageous heroes have always captured people’s attention. That is true since the beginning of civilization.”
I agree with Peterson that stories are delightful, and it doesn’t matter what language or who tells them. We find ourselves captivated by a good story, especially when it touches our emotions in one way or another. Since ancient times, shared stories about the sun and stars, gods and kings, heroes and monsters have been essential to human culture. Great myths like those in Egyptian cosmology or Greek/Roman mythology belong to this category, as well as Christian passion tales.
 Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (New York: Routledge, 1999).
 Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning, Blinkist Summary (Blinkist), accessed November 9, 2023, https://www.blinkist.com/en/app/books/maps-of-meaning-en.
 Jordan Peterson.
 Jordan Peterson.