On my flight back from California yesterday I read Fight Club. I've always been a fan of the movie and I ended up reading it straight through in one sitting. Well, maybe there was a nap involved at some point but still.
In addition to the raw, gritty, and neuroticly addictive story of anarchy and self destruction there two passages that I plucked out that stuck with me. The first is early on, just after the narrator's perfectly ideal Ikea apartment is blown to smithereens.
The doorman leaned into my shoulder and said, "A lot of young people don’t know what they really want.”
Oh, Tyler, please rescue me.
And the phone rang.
"Young people, they think they want the whole world.”
Deliver me from Swedish furniture.
Deliver me from clever art.
And the phone rang and Tyler answered. "If you don’t know what you want,” the doorman said, "you end up with a lot you don’t.”
May I never be complete.
May I never be content.
May I never be perfect.
Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete.
– Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club: A Novel (p. 46).
This theme is is echoed by Tyler Durden later in the book:
Tyler says I’m nowhere near hitting the bottom, yet. And if I don’t fall all the way, I can’t be saved. Jesus did it with his crucifixion thing. I shouldn’t just abandon money and property and knowledge. This isn’t just a weekend retreat. I should run from self-improvement, and I should be running toward disaster. I can’t just play it safe anymore.
This isn't a seminar.
"If you lose your nerve before you hit the bottom,” Tyler says, "you’ll never really succeed.”
Only after disaster can we be resurrected.
"It’s only after you’ve lost everything,” Tyler says, "that you’re free to do anything.”
– Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club: A Novel (p. 70).
The phoenix rising from the ashes of perfection, self improvement, and bullshit.
It's a compelling idea.
We all pursue. It's in our nature. Whether wealth, fame, freedom, safety, love, power, we all have our own version of craving.
But often desire takes away from what we have. We consume, we take, we want more but with more comes less. Less fulfillment. Less happiness. More emptiness, confusion.
When you have nothing you're free. When you lose everything, you have clarity.
Imagine you lose your friends. Your family, your money, your possessions. Everything you own. Stripped bare and naked before the world. You're utterly and totally embarrassed. No more career, power, prestige. Empty bank account. Nothing and no one to fall back on.
In that moment of complete lack you are born. There's nothing left.
We cling to our belongings like they are life. As if holding onto them gives us a measure of control over our own mortality. But when all that goes away, when there is nothing left but stark nakedness–the clear reality of you there's no more hiding.
It's past all your fear of loss and pain and meaninglessness that you're free.
What are you clinging to that is making you feel artificially complete?
What possessions do you own that really own you?