Are you looking for a radical way to shake up your life?
Are you bored with the seemingly meaningless way of life The System offers?
Would you like your life to be one big adventure?
If you answered yes to any, or all, of these questions then I have the solution. It comes in the form of a 1999 film that introduced a revolutionary new character with a dark, yet liberating, life philosophy.
I am, of course, talking about Fight Club and Tyler Durden and, by learning from its philosophy, you’ll be able to transform yourself into the person you’ve always wanted to be.
What was the fight club in Fight Club all about? A chance for some blue and white-collar workers to vent their aggression?
No, it was an opportunity for a group of men, totally disconnected from life, to feel alive.
Fight Club was criticised for the level of violence displayed. People said it promoted fascism and misogamy. These critics totally missed the point.
The men in Fight Club were so numb from a life of pumping gas, waiting tables, working in offices and chasing the empty dream of consumerism, that they needed something as extreme as fighting to remind them they were alive.
Remember what led Jack (Edward Norton’s character) to Tyler Durden and the creation of Fight Club. He was an insomniac. His life was so dull, he described himself as living in a state that was neither ‘asleep nor awake’.
What happened when he started attending fight club? He slept like a baby!
The lesson here is that without stimulation, your mind is prone to turning in on itself, shutting down or seeking other more destructive outlets such a drugs, emotional eating or gambling. Therefore, you must engage in, and with, the pursuits, people and activities that make you feel alive. This prevents mental illness, increases your happiness and unleashes your creativity.
‘Hitting bottom isn’t a weekend retreat. It isn’t a god damn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and let go. LET GO!’
– Tyler Durden
Do you find that attempts to control your life often backfire?
Whether a natural impulse, or inherited from growing up in such a demanding society (exams, deadlines, work targets etc.), the need to control is hard to resist. We struggle, push and strain, hoping that if we can exert enough effort, then we can achieve our goals.
But what if there was another way?
Throughout the film, Tyler urges Jack to let go of his need to control. This, he teaches him, is the only way to evolve and be free.
To prove his point, he lets go of the steering wheel while they’re driving on the freeway. Jack immediately urges Tyler to take control of the car. Tyler refuses. Jack’s been questioning him about the exact direction that Fight Club is taking as it transitions into Project Mayhem. He’s insisting that he’s kept informed of all developments.
Tyler doesn’t want to hear this. To him, it’s a sign that Jack hasn’t learned a thing since coming to Fight Club. He doesn’t realise that projects evolve and grow and can’t be micro managed. Sometimes, the destination isn’t clear, but if we’re open to where the journey might lead, we can still achieve the outcomes we desire.
Of course, without Tyler controlling the car, it crashes and careens off the road. It’s an extreme lesson and, for a moment, the viewer is left wondering what it’s about. However, Tyler, in his twistedly brilliant way reveals all, as says to Jack while scrambling from the wreckage, ‘God damn, we’ve just had a near life experience.’
He wants to show Jack what happens when you learn to let go of your need to control. You don’t die. Your world doesn’t fall apart. You don’t lose all motivation and you’re still able to function and perform important duties. However, what does happen, when you stop attempting to control every tiny detailed, is that you are opened to the adventure of life.
Defeats turn into opportunities. A blocked road alerts you to a more interesting path. Being injured or unable to do something, frees up time for you to explore other areas.
The message is that your subconscious mind is connected to a deeper wisdom than your conscious. You can’t possibly control all the millions of outcomes that need to go your way to be successful. It would take too long. At some point, you must let go and trust that everything that needs to happen will occur.
In one of the most powerful scenes of the film, Tyler holds a gun to a convenience store workers head. The worker (Raymond) is terrified. He thinks his store is being held up. However, his terror soon turns to confusion as Tyler starts questioning him about his life.
Raymond has been putting off becoming a vet because of all the obstacles he believes stand in his way.
Tyler views everything Raymond says as an excuse. So, he gives him an option. Either he can enrol in veterinary school and follow his dreams, or, Tyler can re-visit him in six weeks and blow his brains out.
Extreme and cruel?
Perhaps, but Tyler also makes a brilliant point. Far too many of us don’t follow through with the truly important things in our lives. We’re too willing to believe our own excuses and spend our lives focusing on the small stuff we think needs to be done.
The problem is that, unlike Raymond, none of us are faced with a life or death choice. When walking The System’s Path, our decline is slow. We don’t notice the loss of vitality and health until it’s too late. Looking back, we rue the wasted years and regret the dreams we didn’t follow but, at the time, we have no perspective.
When faced with a life and death situation, you see clearly. When threatened with the loss of everything, you realise you’re free to do anything. What else matters? Paying the rent on the crappy apartment you hate? Paying a mortgage to a bank who’s ripping you off? Turning up on time to a job that bores your brains out?
Are you really going to be thinking about these things on your death bed?
No, so why let them stop you going for the life you want?
The lesson here is that living your dreams is relatively simple. There’s nothing stopping you. If someone put a gun to your head and told you to follow through on that idea you have for a business, or pursue your dream to be an actor, you’d do it, and probably be successful too!
In, perhaps, the most powerful speech of the film (or any film), Tyler tells the group of disaffected men congregated at Fight Club, “We’re the middle children of history. No purpose, no place. We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war; our great depression is our lives.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by another great thinker – Victor Frankl – when he wrote this in his best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning,
“Every age has its own collective neurosis, and every age needs its own psychotherapy to cope with it. The existential vacuum which is the mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism; for nihilism can be defined as the contention that being has no meaning.”
At its deepest level, Fight Club is a film about finding meaning. Life seems pointless because you’ve been conditioned to value things that make you feel empty (accumulation of wealth and status). If you can reject this conditioning and, instead, win the ‘spiritual war’ of your soul (obey your inner voice, rather than societies, in all your major life decisions), then the sense of purpose that eludes so many of us, will be yours.
(image taken from Jess’s photostream at flickr.com)
To read more on Tyler Durden and Fight Club, please check out Self-Improvement is Masturbation: Tyler Durden’s 3 Rules for an Exciting Life. With over 3000 shares it’s the sites most popular post.