“I’m not a disciple of Dr. Peterson’s. But he has inspired and helped to heal me with his words, and I admire him most for the example that he’s set with his own life: the courage to stand up, with shoulders back and face the darkness.”
Merion West article “The Best Argument For Jordan Peterson: My Friend, Fred.”red Hammon, a sixty-five-year-old bass player and mechanical engineer living in Los Angeles, was the subject of Tony D. Senatore’s November, 2019
Hammon discovered Jordan Peterson by chance on the Internet one day, while caring for his wife who is suffering from Frontotemporal dementia. Upon seeing Peterson’s lecture where he describes how his father-in-law lovingly cared for his wife during an illness, Hammon was particularly struck by Peterson’s advice to, “…stand up straight and fully face the darkness, and what you discover is at the darkest part is the brightest light.” Hammon describes this as a transformative moment for him, which led him to re-center his own approach to taking care of his wife and dealing with his own sadness at witnessing the state of his wife’s health.
Hammon, who self-identifies as a “centrist liberal” and was influenced by the counterculture movement of the 1960s, does not consider himself a disciple of Peterson’s. Rather, he simply finds some of his Peterson’s lessons and advice to be intensely helpful in his own life. In light of the discussions generated by Senatore’s article about Hammon, as well as Jordan Peterson’s own recent health issues, Hammon joins Merion West to provide more background on his relationship to Jordan Peterson’s work.
Mr. Hammon, you were the subject of a widely-read Merion West article in November about how Jordan Peterson personally helped you so much. Can you briefly explain how Jordan Peterson’s work has been so impactful in your life?
From when I first was exposed to Jordan Peterson, I liked him. Sometimes, of course, it’s hard to know when someone is mirroring your own thoughts but just saying it better—or is actually providing you with new information in a way that resonates and inspires. As far as helping me, I’m going through the most difficult chapter of my life so far. My wife is suffering from and ultimately dying from the advanced stages of Frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
I had been living in fear and hopelessness, as well as from guilt for not being able to save her. I had pretty much shut down in many aspects of my life and started drinking a lot in order to avoid the day-to-day terror. If you read the article in November, you already know the story about me hearing Jordan talk about standing up and facing that horror head on with courage and seeing a brightness beyond. I believe him when he says that what it is that I need to find is to be found precisely there. It has helped to pull me out of my despair. I’m functioning much better and looking for value, as opposed to throwing in the towel and dying along with wife.
I realized that I can be of no real use to her if I continued to circle that drain. I now think more about how I can help her on her journey and find sweetness and value along the way. It still isn’t easy, but I’ve managed to crawl a good way out of depths of that hole that I was living in, and hearing Jordan Peterson’s advice was very important for doing that.
In a sense, Tony Senatore, the author of that article, asserted that so many criticisms written about Jordan Peterson are academic or theoretical; however, the fact of the matter is that Peterson’s work is practically helping many people—and that latter point ought to take precedence. Is this a view you share?
If you mean that “the proof is in the pudding” so to speak—I suppose. People listen to Jordan Peterson, and they find him inspirational in positive ways. I’m not an academic; I’m not in a position to judge Jordan Peterson along those lines, and neither, for that matter, are most of his critics. Beyond that, if you take the time to review his lectures and debates, he answers a lot of the questions posed by his critics, if people would listen. He spends a lot of his time answering tough questions. I wish he weren’t so ill at present. I enjoying hearing him debate his detractors.
From a football blogger citing Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll as problematic because of having invited Jordan Peterson to talk to his team, to efforts to draw a connection between Peterson and Nazis, to the vitriol Peterson received when his recent health problems came to light, what is driving this anger towards Peterson?
This is asking me to understand the mind of some people on the Left who get angry and highly emotional towards anyone who holds an opinion just to the right of theirs. When he gets slammed by university humanities professors like the one who was gloating over his illness, my first reaction is: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” It’s as if they fear that they can’t defend themselves against his arguments using reasoned language, so, instead, they express hatred and vitriol towards him.
As we have learned recently, Jordan Peterson has, unfortunately, been undergoing a number of health issues in the past few months. Is there anything you would say to other people who—like you—have found Peterson’s work so impactful and are trying to deal with learning about his health issues?
Jordan Peterson is human, and, therefore, he is both vulnerable and fallible. He has never—in my recollection—ever claimed to be anything other than that. He often sounds like he thinks that he’s right all the time and comes off with arrogance, but then he admits to changing his mind mid-lecture sometimes after hearing his own thoughts said out loud. It happens in debates too, in real time, when he is presented with a better argument. I’ve seen it.
The man is intellectually honest, in my opinion, which doesn’t mean that he’s right. He’s been open about his depression and health issues. How can he not be seen as anything other than courageous or, at the very least, admirable given, what he’s been doing with his life: both helping people who need help, as well as courageously being open about his own health issues?
In addition to the points you already mentioned, are there any other lessons from Jordan Peterson that you think have the potential to be particularly helpful to other people—and not just young people—but perhaps people of all ages?
I’m not a disciple of Dr. Peterson’s. But he has inspired and helped to heal me with his words, and I admire him most for the example that he’s set with his own life: the courage to stand up, with shoulders back and face the darkness. The first time I ever noticed him, he was doing precisely that. He’s not perfect, and I would warn anybody against those kinds of perceptions. It’s his own life. That doesn’t take away from his good examples and advice.
I’m a pretty good bass player now, and I might even inspire some younger bass players locally; but, there will become a point when I’m not as good. Having said that, I wish Jordan the best on his recovery, and I expect more lectures and writings from him. No pressure.
Editor’s note: If you would like to share an account of how Jordan Peterson has helped you, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org