Though violence tends to make me a bit squeamish, I devoured Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club this past week. The vivid images he creates of fights, of the wounds inflicted, are easier to digest in words than they will be in images. I am one of the few who has not seen the blockbuster based on the novel, though the big “shocking” revelation was ruined for me. Despite knowing the secret of Tyler Durden, I fell into the world and lost myself in the violent freedom that is Fight Club.
The narrator drew me in with his utter restlessness. There is nothing wrong with his life and, yet, there is nothing not wrong with it. When he meets Tyler, his “life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.” There is a stagnation, albeit in a comfortable home and job, that can lead to insanity. The apathy somehow is intricately tied to rage. I say this not as some refined literary critic, but as someone who knows this.
Typically a “guy’s book,” this one is so familiar to me. Not in the blood filled basements and mayhem, but in the restlessness. There is a deep need to release all that builds up in the ordinary life. I have a gratitude for my life, appreciation for my fortune and blessings, but also a desire to break things down. I don’t know if it is about power, or anger, or just a need to release energy, but somewhere in the most animalistic recesses of my brain, I can identify with that need to hit, to break, to destroy. He explains, “If you’ve never been in a fight, you wonder. About getting hurt, about what you’re capable of doing… Tyler explained it all, about not wanting to die without any scars…” Now, I have perhaps the lowest pain threshold on earth and absolutely no desire to get into a physical altercation, but I understand the desire to know. I understand what he means about wanting to feel it, to experience this moment in life, to see how you hold up. I don’t know what my correlating experience might be, if not a fight, but I do know that this made as much sense to me as one plus one equalling two.
While there are so many brilliant things that Palahniuk wrote about, the other thing that has stuck in my mind is Tyler’s justification for Project Mayhem. He explains, “You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need. We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression.” I know these words ring a little less true since the War on Terror began and the economy took a dive, but they still resonate. The war is divisive, not something the nation rallies behind like they did in our history. The economy seems to breaking spirits, but not building character. They are not drawing us together. They are not mobilizing us. They simply hurt, making life harder. We want to feel passion, feel something is worth fighting for, or against. We want to move, to be strong, to defend and protect. We just need something to call us.
So we fight. Life is easy and comfy, even when it’s hard. We move in slow motion and need anything to pull us into real-time, to be uncomfortable. We fight the haze that covers our day-to-day life and want nothing more to see the sun, in its blazing, burning, blinding glory. It’s a fight to live, instead of just exist. I get that. I understand the desire to be pulled into the moment, out of the past and future. I want to know how it feels to stand when I think I can’t, to bear the marks of my battles for others to admire. I want scars to prove that I went through it, I fought and took blows, but I came out the other side; I am stronger than anything they threw at me.
“What I’m gonna live for/ What I’m gonna die for/ What you gonna fight for/ I can’t answer that…” –Bryn Christopher, “The Question”