The Evolution Gap and Rule Twelve

Aug 17, 2023

Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street

In his book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” Jordan Peterson offers his twelfth rule: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street. On the surface, this advice may seem peculiar and less profound compared to the preceding rules. However, its simplicity belies a deep depth of meaning that ties into the idea of the Evolution Gap. This concept underscores the divergence between our evolutionary past and the rapidly changing technological and societal environments of today.

The Evolution Gap refers to the discord between our genetically ingrained instincts and behaviors, which evolved over millions of years, and the demands and realities of the modern world that have transformed significantly in just a few generations. Peterson’s twelfth rule, in its quiet wisdom, provides a fascinating glimpse into this gap, exploring themes of mindfulness, enjoyment of simple pleasures, and connection with nature.

The rule prompts us to pet a cat when we encounter one on the street. It is a call to appreciate the simple, fleeting moments of beauty and joy that life presents us. This perspective harks back to our evolutionary past when our ancestors lived in much closer harmony with nature and animals. They found joy, solace, and spirituality in their deep connections with the natural world—a stark contrast to the often detached, hyper-digitalized lifestyle many of us lead today.

In the fast-paced, efficiency-driven modern society, we often find ourselves lost in the hustle, focused on the big picture while missing out on life’s small joys. As we race to keep up with the speed of technological and societal changes, we may neglect the simple act of living in the present and savoring the moment—a concept encapsulated in Peterson’s rule. This is where we observe the Evolution Gap; our natural inclination for mindful, in-the-moment presence is at odds with the incessant push of modern life.

The rule also invokes our inherent connection with animals, a link that resonates deeply with our primitive instincts. Interacting with animals, such as petting a cat, can induce a sense of calm, pleasure, and emotional connection. However, with urbanization and technological advancements, our contact with animals has drastically reduced, creating another instance of the Evolution Gap. This rule, therefore, nudges us to reignite that primal bond and, in doing so, enrich our modern lives.

Peterson’s twelfth rule is also a metaphor for embracing life with all its unpredictability. Just as encountering a cat on the street is a random event, life often throws us unexpected challenges and surprises. Rather than avoiding or lamenting these circumstances, Peterson encourages us to confront them, to ‘pet’ them. This attitude mirrors the adaptive nature that has been a cornerstone of our survival and evolution, providing another insight into the Evolution Gap.

In conclusion, the twelfth rule is a gentle reminder to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, reconnect with our natural instincts, and embrace life’s unpredictability. It invites us to address the Evolution Gap by marrying our ancestral predispositions with the realities of our modern world. The lesson lies in integrating these seemingly small but profound practices into our lives, enriching our existence, and bridging the Evolution Gap. By paying attention to the moments of unexpected beauty or joy, being mindful in our day-to-day lives, and embracing life’s unpredictability, we can honor our evolutionary heritage and contemporary existence.

Share This