One of my earlier blogs (5 Tethers We Need to Cut) touched on our excessive reliance on technology and the constant connectivity between us, our friends and our devices. This blog, taking inspiration from both that blog and the movie mentioned in the title, will expand a bit further into the recesses of my brain. My intent here is to share some of my favorite quotes from the movie, why I love them and what they mean to me.
Fight Club is a fantastic movie and from what I have read so far, an excellent novel as well. I would love to meet Chuck Pahlanuik and see what type of guy he really is (call me!) and how his brain works day to day and as it pertains to writing. I think many people (myself included) were introduced to the movie first and a lot of the depth gets overlooked in the first few viewings, getting lost behind the dazzle and flair of the movie and the personality of its characters. The movie is lead by two Oscar nominated actors (Edward Norton, Brad Pitt) the latter of which is arguably my favorite male lead (call me!) and supported by an equally strong cast. It is eye candy and easy to miss subtleties from start to finish.
So my recommendation (which contradicts this entire post) is to watch the movie several times if you haven’t already. Also, I suggest really opening your mind to the concepts presented to you. I do NOT suggest becoming a violent activist or you and your friends beating the stew out of each other. Focus on the ideas and not the implementation. In fact, here is my interpretation of a few of them, with a little help from Tyler. Who may or may not condone my use of technology to create and share his message.
1. This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time. -The Narrator
Truer words are not often spoken. These words are simple, powerful and direct. There is no room for interpretation here; the meaning is the meaning and that is that. What there is room for is application of meaning. I would wager that most people who see this movie don’t give this line the slightest consideration the day after seeing the film. I don’t understand this. When Jack said this it struck a nerve with me, got my attention and forced me to consider it.
Sure everyone knows that their life is THEIR life. Sure everyone also knows that they someday will die. But have you ever stopped to consider that from the moment you are born, you begin dying? Have you ever thought about the fact that every minute you live is a minute less remaining in your life?
Stop it Stephen, I don’t want to think about all this right now!
This is exactly why you NEED to think about it. Right now. We live our lives on autopilot, taking everything for granted. From the simplest things like the smell of flowers or a beautiful sunset to the people we love (I miss you Mom. I wish you were here to see me finally start to grow up). We ignore the fact that the worst COULD happen at any given moment and everything we thought or knew could change in an instant. Or it could change one minute at a time. It is your life, live it, before it ends.
“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” -The Narrator
2. The things you own end up owning you. -Tyler Durden
One of the reasons we live so autonomously is our obsession and reliance upon the devices which guide (nay, control) our everyday lives. We have devices to help us sleep, wake us up, make our food, help us get ready for work, get to work, work, get home from work, sleep…repeat. We have devices to help our devices. I wonder, could you make it through one day without help from electronic, computer controlled equipment?
Not to mention our obsession with our things. We coordinate decorative items to complement our functional items. Our functional items are hand selected to appeal to our sense of aesthetics first and our actual needs second. When did form become more important than function to the point of owning so many items with no function what-so-ever? I am as guilty as anyone of being possessed by my possessions. If you look to Xbox or Netflix you will see where my time is
spent wasted. I could be learning another language, a martial art, cultivating relationships or any number of other useful things but instead I close the door and hypnotize myself as days at a time disappear.
” Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don’t need.” – Tyler Durden
4. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very p*ssed off. -Tyler Durden
This is one of the MANY problems with my generation and the ones following after it. Ironically, most people in those generations will read that quote and feel like they SHOULD be pissed off because they AREN’T millionaires, movie gods or rock stars. What they should be p*ssed off about are the mega-corporations feeding on everyone’s desire to be all of the above. Everyone wants to be the big fish in the little pond and suit-and-tie America wants to sell you the dream.
You can be the idol in the dreams of the world if you buy their product. It makes you run faster, jump higher and smile whiter. Everything you have ever wanted is at your fingertips for the mere cost of your soul. Become a slave to your belongings and you can be the center of your social circle. You can be the admiration of all if you are willing to spend every waking hour at the office, missing life, one minute at a time. This is what they don’t tell you. You have to be willing to give up your time and money and even then you will only get a postcard. You will never actually make it to stardom. You will just have the same living room suit as those who did make it, but with less money in the bank and minutes to enjoy it.
” Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” -Tyler Durden
4. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. -Tyler Durden
I wouldn’t have believed this had my marriage not failed. I thought I was free. I really did. Then one day she didn’t come home (emotionally) and I was like a dog in the back yard waiting for my owner (sadly, this analogy is more accurate than I would like to admit). Sure the gate was open, but I missed her. After I while I began to miss her less and wonder what the world outside the gate was like. Gradually I began to explore further down the road while still coming back home for safety and comfort. Until one day when I realized that for quite some time my home had not provided me with any real feelings of safety or comfort. It was a shell. It was an optional illusion, I could believe it as long as I wanted to. Suddenly home wasn’t home. The fence wasn’t safety. Maybe my owner never really did love me.
Epiphanies like this can hurt down to your bones but they also provide an unbelievable sense of freedom. Knowing that things aren’t what you thought they were sucks but it allows you to quit having tunnel vision and see the world as it is. Which in turn allows you to let go of so many things you thought had a hold on you when in fact it was you holding onto them. Once you let go you can get more than an arm’s distance away. Once you are that far away you can quit looking back to make sure you still have a firm grip. It is at this moment, the one where what is behind you doesn’t matter, that the world becomes available to you, perhaps for the first time.
The key is honesty. You can’t pretend to change. You can’t tell others or yourself things are what they are not. You must take your loss and find the freedom in it. You must accept both the loss and the freedom, and grow. Only through acceptance, honesty and growth can you truly do anything. You CAN NOT fake it ’til you make it.
“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” -Tyler Durden
5. I am Jack’s wasted life. -The Narrator
This line means more to me than any other line in the movie. It isn’t the line you expect to hear when you hear it. It almost seems out of place, which makes it stronger, more powerful. He says it after freeing himself from his job, blackmailing his boss into full financial sponsorship of Fight Club and overall reaching a point he had been striving for up to this point. This is when you realize he wasn’t doing these things for himself. This is where you see that as he builds something for someone else he still feels like he has wasted his life up to that point. Nothing he has done was worth doing. Not for him or anyone he has done things for.
It didn’t really hit me at the moment, instead it rang true later and since. It made me question what I have done that I thought was worth doing. It made me wonder what I should be doing that would be worth the effort. Both lists were short:
Done – My daughters.
To do – Write, learn, share, grow.
I’m not great at much but that shouldn’t keep my effort from being great. I may never be a rock star or movie god but that shouldn’t make me want it any less. I just have to keep my expectations accurate. I have to know that the world will promise me stars and give me candles. That is okay, both can light my path. I have to get p*ssed off, but not because I may never be the next big thing, but because companies I give my money and loyalty to try and sell me dreams, but hope I will never achieve them. What they don’t realize is that their idea of what my dreams should be are worthless while my dreams themselves are priceless. Most people are not a beautiful or unique snowflake, but only because they choose that truth. A better truth would be that they can be as beautiful and unique as they want if they weren’t so worried about their possessions being beautiful and unique. Grow yourself not your possessions. It shouldn’t take a near-life experience to open your eyes. Think about the minutes gone by; wasted. Savor the minutes remaining. Imagine yourself as Raymond K. Hessel, running from an unknown armed assailant, only left alive on the promise that you will follow the dream you left behind so long ago.
“Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.” -Tyler Durden
In summation; don’t let this be you. Use the things you own to accentuate your life, not define it.
Closing thoughts provided by Tyler Durden:
“I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God d*mn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very p*ssed off.”