Mark twain famously stated that “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”. The 1999 film Fight club illustrates this concept in an anarchic depiction of a depressed insomniac becoming the person who he truly wanted to be. Whilst the events of the film appear to be destructive, there are ideas within the flick which run parallel to modern day society. Additionally, lessons which can provide a useful guide to live a more fulfilling life.
What is your purpose? A question which has undoubtedly caused all of us to rub our temples. The film explores the idea of purpose through its lack thereof. A memorable line states ‘we’re the middle children of history. No purpose or place. We have no great war or great depression…our great depression is our lives’.
In a time where western society has given us everything, there is no longer any struggle, no overarching battle or fight. The generations that preceded us did had struggles, whether it be the threat of Hitler and Nazi power, Civil rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam war. Even as far back as the Norman conquest. It appears that there was some opposition, something to do.
Today the opposition is our own lives. Like the main protagonist, many of us are stuck in positions which we hate. We are faced with the fight to overcome the monotony that we somehow accepted as part of ‘growing up’. Many of us have abandoned the skills, talents and ambitions we once enjoyed, in exchange for cheap thrills which give us the false sense of euphoria which we crave. In this sense the feeling of displacement has deadened our emotions.
These fleeting pleasures are merely masks for our true feelings. For example, in the film the main protagonist attends a number of meetings for people with ailments (though he has none) e.g. cancer just so he can feel some sort of emotion. It is an interesting concept as it causes one to think of the motive behind our actions. Think back to that friend you know who looks forward to getting a ‘buzz’ on overpriced alcoholic beverages every weekend. The guy who dowses himself in cologne in the hopes of bringing someone back on a night out. The person who constantly plasters themselves on Instagram. Fight club highlights the fallacy of our lifestyles and makes us face the uncomfortable questions which we avoid. Who are you?
Do you really need that? Another gift in this film is its utter rejection of consumerism. A memorable line states ‘the things you own end up owning you’. Moreover, its disdain for vanity, ‘we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like’. What is a significant take from this concept is that consumerism is a liability to living life in the way you want. In the film, the main protagonist loses all his worldly possessions in a house fire caused by a gas explosion. It was within this loss, that he became the man he always wanted to be.
The quote ‘out of darkness cometh light’ comes to mind in this circumstance. To place it into today’s context, there’s always something new to buy. Whether it be the new iPhone, new beats headphones, new car, new watch, all these products are at the tip of our fingers. Additionally, adverts constantly bombarding us doesn’t make our situation any better. Today it is incredibly easy to attaint material items in and in return feel good and included. Therefore, it is also easy to let these items become our identity.
What the film aims to teaches us is that we are not defined nor should we place so much value on material things as they can be lost in a second. Who you are and what you stand for is a much more valuable commodity than a pair of apple ear pods. Now I do not promote you throwing away all your stuff, but what I promote is acknowledging the finite nature of these things. Instead channel your resources into things which contribute to your purpose or its discovery.
Overall the film is not just about hypermasculine men punching each other out of frustrated egos, it is about an awakening to live your life to the fullest. All great people took risks. The fact is what you accept in life is what you get. Some things are unavoidable like a flat tyre or your cat dying. However, the things you can control, must be controlled as to become the best version of yourself. As you are reading this you are a moment closer to death than you were at the start of this article, what you make of yourself after this is entirely up to you.
By: Temi Adedeji
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