Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hit Bottom With Me

"The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club."
- Tyler Durden

I just finished reading the book Fight Club. Can't decide what I liked better, the movie or the book. Regardless, both have amazing one-liners. The book has more than the movie, although the movie is a bit easier to follow. Lessons can be gleaned from any book you read - whether they're life lessons, lessons on how to build a bomb, or lessons on how not to write a book - Chuck Palahniuk fulfills the first two. Did you know if you drill a hole in a light bulb, fill the bulb with gasoline, plug the hole with wax or silicone, then screw it back in, you've just created a bomb? All it takes is a thrown switch.

But, for obvious reasons, that's not the lesson on which I'd like to direct my focus. The life lessons in this book we call "Fight Club" are pretty all-encompassing. Sure, Tyler takes it to the extreme by killing the protagonist's boss and the mayor's special envoy on recycling (not in the movie), plus blowing up buildings...you know, stuff like that. But as crazy and far-fetched as the man may be, I think he represents a little bitty piece of all of us, lying hidden deep in the recesses of our tumbling synapses, that just wants to say "Fuck it all."

I won't go into my rant on the slaves some of us can be made into by society and its expectations, but I will highlight 10 of my favorite "Fight Club" quotes that I feel represent various parts of our tiny lives.

(NOTE: My end-thoughts on all this are at the end of the post, so if you get bored with the quotes, skip on down to the "In summation" portion.)

Quotes that make you want to quit your job

"You do the little job you're trained to do.
Pull a lever.
Push a button.
You don't understand any of it, and then you just die."
- A little depressing, I'd say, but aren't we all just trained, through education or some other avenue, how to do a job that will make us money that will let us live a "normal" life?

"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."
- Do you really need that $300 Coach purse, that $2,500 50" plasma television with built-in digital and analog tuners, or the couch cushions with the strinne green stripe pattern?

"Getting fired is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we'd quit treading water and do something with our lives."
- Think deep and hard about this and ask yourself if this is true of you...

Quotes that make you want to "hit bottom"

"One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection."
- This is one of the best lines in the book and happens when the protagonist meets Tyler Durden (he didn't meet him on the airplane). Don't buy into that bullcrap where people tell you "life is perfect." It's not. Get used to it. Even one of the Buddhists' key mantra is "life is suffering." Get over the fact that your life will not be one long, continuous stream of perfection and you'll find yourself a little bit happier more and more often.

"Losing all hope was freedom."
- Don't knock it til you try it. You'd be surprised how true this is. Learn to not expect anything and you'll always be pleasantly surprised.

"If you don't know what you want, you end up with a lot you don't."
- Valid.

"Only after disaster can we be resurrected.
It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything."
- The best quote in the movie and the book, bar none.

Quotes that make you ponder death

"You melt and swell at that moment. For that moment, nothing matters. Look up at the stars and you're gone. Not your luggage. Nothing matters. Not your bad breath. The windows are dark outside and the horns are blaring around you. The headlights are flashing high and low and high in your face, and you will never have to go to work again."
- Stop fretting about the little, inconsequential shit in your life and look around.

"This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time."
- Tick, tock, tick, tock...

"Raymond K.K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you've ever eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your entire life."
- A very memorable scene in the movie where Tyler takes a mini-mart cashier and threatens his life unless he starts working toward his passions, this quote defines that scene, although a little bit of the quote is changed in translation to the silver screen. Raymond's dinner will taste better because he realizes he might not have been eating it had he been shot outside of the mini-mart. Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of his entire life because he is finally on the road toward doing what he loves, not lying stagnant in a dead-end job where his passions become fruitless and his creativity is stifled, leaving him an empty shell of a human being, whose only signs of life are the fact that he walks, eats and breathes. Our life is one long epic battle against stagnation.

"If people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention."
- If only people really realized that we are all dying and that exact moment may be the last one you spend with the person...cliche, but likewise valid.

"Marla's philosophy of life, she told me, is that she can die at any moment. The tragedy of her life is that she doesn't."
- Just brilliantly written.

Quotes that make you want to tell society to screw off

"For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil.
And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born."

"Project Mayhem will force humanity to go dormant or into remission long enough for the Earth to recover."

"Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you."
- In the movie this turns into the bar scene quote where Tyler says, "The things you own end up owning you."

Other memorable quotes

"Until today, it really pissed me off that I'd become this totally centered Zen Master and nobody had noticed."

"I just don't want to die without a few scars, I say...someday I'd be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice condo and car."

"After you've been to fight club, watching football on television is watching pornography when you could be having great sex."

"Ever since college, I make friends. They get married. I lose friends."

"What Marla loves, she says, is all the things that people love intensely and then dump an hour or a day after. The way a Christmas tree is the center of attention, then, after Christmas you see those dead Christmas trees with the tinsel still on them, dumped alongside the highway."

In summation...

I met a guy at the Westlake YMCA locker room tonight. He works at a nearby Nissan dealership and is serving at his post 6-7 days a week, selling people hunks of steel, leather and rubber all day long. He asks me, "So what do you do? You seem too mild-mannered a guy to be a black belt teaching people how to snap vertebrae." I laugh heartily, thoroughly humored by the misconceptions and Paul Bunyan theories cast upon me over the years. I tell him he knows how to break a neck just as well as I do - the American cinema is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

I tell him he should join. He seems eager to do something more extracurricular and I can tell I've piqued his interest with just my uniform...but he barely has time to make it to the gym as it is, he says - he had just gotten there and had to leave in 20 minutes. The demands of work and a family keep him pretty tied up. He got this look of sorrow and resignation on his face that made me want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him as hard as I could, waking him up to a more conscious life than he's living now. Sounds a bit harsh, I know :). But he can come to my martial arts class if he wanted to - he's just afraid to change his routine. He feels trapped. People like that need to feel empowered to make a change in their lives. We all need to feel empowered. Not power over others, just power over our own actions, over own lives. If we are powerless to control our own lives, we are slaves.

I, for one, refuse to be a slave.