A few days ago I had to think about the movie Fight Club.
I had a very lively discussion about life, purpose, job and that stuff. It somehow made me think about the movie Fight Club. I had one particular quote in mind that already made me rethink my life a few years ago.
So I decided to watch it again. The last time I watched it was probably five years ago or something like that. I just finished watching it. And there were so many great lessons about life in it that it almost blew my mind.
There are some very obvious things the movie wants to teach us and some not so obvious things.
I don't want to focus on the obvious ones, such as the crazy things people are willing to do when they are depressed, upset, lonely, in trouble, hopeless, unhappy and they are being exposed to group dynamics and powerful leaders.
What I want to focus on are the more subtle lessons.
The lessons that one can easily miss in all the brutality of the countless fights happening in the movie. If we listen closely (and I did and also took some notes), this movie tells us a lot about life, society and the way things are going these days...
Here's a list of the things I wrote down while watching it:
When Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt) walks around in the filthy basement where they started the Fight Club and welcomes the new members he holds a very impressive speech. A speech about how we're all wasting our potential. How we're waiting for that one thing to magically happen.
How we're pretty much waiting our lives away.
“This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time”
How we're some of the strongest and smartest species on this planet earth but we're squandering our lives doing shitty jobs, pumping gas, waiting tables, being white collar slaves and buying stuff we don't need.
That we're children of the history without any real purpose or place. Without any great wars. Without a great depression. The wars we fight are spiritual fights. Our great depression are our own lives...
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In one scene Tyler walks into a grocery store, grabs the cashier, puts a gun in front of the guy's head and asks him why he works such a shitty job. The guy tells him that college was too hard, too many hours. Too exhausting. So he quit and took the easiest bet.
Then Tyler asked him what he wanted to be in life when he was younger and the guy said he wanted to be a veterinarian. Tyler took his ID, told him he'd come back in six weeks and if he's not on his way of getting a veterinarian he'd be dead....
What goes around comes back around. Others call it karma. Be nice to everybody because you never know when you're going to see that person again. Treat everybody equally, especially the ones you might feel superior for whatever reason.
That's pretty much what Tyler told the police officer when they were threatening to kill him in a restaurant's bathroom. Here's what he said:
“Remember this. The people you're trying to step on, we're everyone you depend on. We're the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you're asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.”
We're constantly trying to control everything. Everything needs to be under control. If we have everything under control we'll have a safe life. A stable life. A predictable life. A happy life.
So we try to constantly control our own lives, other people's lives, our emotions, the economy, the stock market and so on.
And then all of a sudden something unexpected happens.
We lose our jobs, our spouses, gf/bf, our house or what not. And then we get depressed and upset about it. We pictured having such a nice and comfortable life. Only to figure out that all of this was just a dream. That we can't control anything. Expectations.
We just can't predict the future. We suck at it. So instead of trying to control things, live in past and/ or future memories we should let go. We should let go and live in the now instead...
After the first fight between the movie's two main characters, Tyler and Edward Norton they sit on a sidewalk in front of a bar. Blood running all over his face, Edward Norton then says to Tyler that they should do it again soon.
And that was the birth of the Fight Club and many fights followed after that scene.
During the movie Edward Norton also tries to explain why they're doing such a crazy thing and fight each other. Fight with people they know. Fight with their friends. With colleagues. With relatives.
It's all because his current life makes him feel so dead inside. A life with no real purpose. With no real goals. And no real perspective. Having a shitty job, a mediocre life and all the daily routine just somehow makes him feel dead inside. It kills him.
And these fights are the first thing that made him feel somehow alive in quite a long time.
"You weren't alive anywhere like you were there."
This somehow reminded me of a post I read on Medium a while ago where the author said that being an entrepreneur doesn't make him any happier but it gave him the feeling of being alive, of not being dead inside...
“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”
At one point Tyler asks Edward Norton why the hell he knew what a duvet was (it's actually some sort of blanket).
And Edward Norton responds to him it's because we're all consumers.
Byproducts of a lifestyle obsession. We're not concerned about murder, crime and poverty. All we seem to care about is a TV with 500 channels. Some guys name on our underwear. Viagra and some other BS...
When Tyler talks about his dad he tells Edward Norton that his dad pretty much told him what he had to do. He had to go to college because his dad never went to college.
Then he asked his dad what he should do after he graduated. His dad told him to get married.
That's when Tyler realized that he was living a life that didn't mean anything to him. He was living someone else's life. And that's when he decided to quit his current life.
Until the age of 25 I did pretty much everything people expected me to do. I went to school and graduated. Then I went to university and graduated. And then I went for a job. But then all of a sudden I realized that the stuff I was doing didn't really mean anything to me.
So I quit my job and am ever since trying to do more meaningful things (whatever that might be). And that's exactly one of the reasons why for some of us (especially my generation) our lives have become our own great depression.
Why the only fights we fight these days are our own inner fights. Fights about our own spirituality...
“You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”
Bob, the guy I mentioned earlier had a very stable life. A happy family. Two kids. A lovely wife. Just a few months after he got diagnosed with cancer his wife left him and his kids don't talk to him anymore ever since...
The movie kicks off with Edward Norton trying to fight insomnia.
He started going to these self help groups where he learnt how to let go. He cries in the arms of a guy that grew breasts (Bob) because he lost his testicles due to cancer. He had to take testosterone and to balance his hormones his body released too much estrogen.
And that's when he realized that letting go, having lost everything he had (he lost his house and all his belongings) and loosing all hope helped him to discover freedom. That he's now free.
Free of all the stuff he owned that started owning him, free of expectations, free of everything that was holding him back. Free of the people that were holding him back to raise above the clouds. Of living a life he truly and deeply cared about.
I made a similar experience at the end of last year, where I came to the realization that you have to really lose yourself to find your true inner self. To be finally free. To find freedom...
After Edward Norton's apartment burned down he took a leap and called up Tyler (who he just met on a flight earlier that day). He wanted to crash his place. So they went to a bar, had a few pitchers of beer and then Edward Norton wanted to get a hotel room.
Too scared of being rejected he never really dared to ask the question. To ask Tyler to help him out. To offer him a place to sleep. He just couldn't do it. He wasn't able to ask for help. Something was holding him back.
Tyler, smart enough to understand the situation asked him what he was so afraid of. He knew that Edward Norton called him to find a place to sleep for the night.
I can totally relate to this.
Asking for help is probably one of the hardest things for me. Even though my mind knows exactly what I should be doing, my body just won't translate my mind's thoughts into proper words. I just can't...
“When people think you're dying they listen to you, instead of waiting for their turn to speak.”
There were a lot of other things that just blew my mind. But I got tired of writing down more things. If I think about it, this movie might be a great first stepping stone to live a better, more meaningful life and reach some sort of enlightenment (putting aside all the brutality)...