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FIGHT CLUB is director David Fincher's biggest risk, a film that is filled with as many immoral characters as it is with intriguing ideas and theories. Fincher has trotted down the road of moral ambiguity with SEVEN and with his latest opus he does it again. The film is based upon Chuck Palahniuck's 1997 novel of the same name. I have yet to read it (waiting for the bookstore to ship me my copy) but the author describes it as a what-if scenario. He isn't suggesting that we go out to do any of the stuff the characters do in the story but instead wants to present us with a view of the world according to someone caught in its deathlike grip.
The People of Fight Club
There are two main characters in FIGHT CLUB: The Narrator (Ed Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). The Narrator is a nameless man in the story (so let's call him Jack). He is a gen-xer that has grown to the point of despair. He can not sleep. He has to have every little clever trinket that he sees. The only way he finds happiness is crashing support groups for those with terminal diseases. He says it is amazing how much people care when they think you are dying.
Durden on the other hand is a man with little scruples. He is not an evil man. He just wants to wake people up from the perpetual dream world that they live in and he will go to any lengths to achieve his vision of setting people free. He lives in an old house that was most likely condemned a century ago. It sits in front of an old factory. His nearest neighbor is a mile and half away. Tyler makes and sells soap. He also has other jobs that afford him time to do not so pleasant things such as urinate in soup at high class restaurants and splice objectionable images into family films in major theater chains.
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The two men are exact opposites. Where Jack wonders what sofa he is, Tyler wonders why anyone actually cares about that stuff. When Jack says that he lost all of his belongings that were his identity in an apartment accident, Tyler sympathizes by saying "Ah Shit...and now it's all gone."
Tyler is not worried about crime, poverty and murder. Instead what worries him is the fact that we are told how to act and live by corporations such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Tommy Hilfiger and Guess. Jack soon realizes that the same things as Tyler also distress him. And so they create Fight Club. A place for men of every race and age to come together to let out frustration with the world in general by beating each other up. Who you were in Fight Club was not the same as who you were in the real world. It was a place to learn who you really are and what you are made of. When we have no lows to measure against our highs we become disillusioned. It's always "What's the next high." In this society we never are given lows. We aren't allowed to have them. Fight Club exists to give a meaning to men who are out of touch with this "high" trip everyone is on.
Tyler subscribes to the theory that you cannot begin to live until you have hit rock bottom. Rock bottom says that you have hit the worst possible place in the human psyche. The only place you can go is up. Rock bottom says that you have to know and accept that you are going to die. You should not fear dying. Until you have no fear of death you are useless to the human race. Rock bottom says you are the all singing, all dancing crap of the universe. You are not a special and a unique butterfly. You are the same decaying matter as everyone else. We are all part of the same compost pile. When Tyler and Jack are in a car accident, Tyler says that they just had "a near-life experience."
Tyler also will take any measure he can to convince someone to get a move on with life. His greatest accomplishment would probably be his Human Sacrifices. He takes an average citizen at gunpoint and forces them onto the ground. Then he takes the person's wallet and takes out the driver's license. He then questions the person on what he/she wants to do in life. If the person is not on his/her way to doing that in six weeks, he/she will be dead. Pretty good motivation huh? But beyond that Tyler makes a point. The next day will be the most beautiful day of that person's life. His/her breakfast will taste better than any meal we have ever eaten.
The Truths of Fight Club
So now that I've given you a rundown of some of the philosophies and observations in FIGHT CLUB, I come to a point where I will hopefully relate them to the average Christian. Oh and what I say has most definitely been said before but it always helps to have a new view on the matters at hand.
As a young man in this world I totally sympathize with Jack. I do live in a world that is constantly telling me how to live and how to figure out what sofa I am. And that does not apply just to young men. It applies to young women, old men and women and even your parents. Yet for a person who does not know Jesus there does not seem much that you can do. The lows, society will tell you are not good enough. You must strive to fly higher. Be all that you can be. Tyler is echoing what society tells us when he says we are not special. Except when he says it he wants us to hit rock bottom so we can live, whereas society says it so that we can feel like we are living. What's the answer?
Well as a Christian I could sprout off a scripture about how we are not part of the world. We should not be part of it. That leads to sin yadda yadda yadda Shut up. We've all heard it. Some even try to use it to guilt trip people into Christianity. Yes, there is nothing better than the Christian guilt trip. What we should be telling people is that there is an answer. You can say "Jesus." Or you can say, "Let me show you."
What's the difference you may ask? Well by saying Jesus there is a chance that you will turn people off. In this postmodern generation people are looking for a new spirituality. They want to break free of the consumerist ideas that they have grown into. Shopping may get you high for awhile but after awhile you probably are going to realize that you are not your Star Wars collection. Organized religion doesn't exactly light anyone's fire these days. It seems that the church has done some damage and people are still bitter about that. But when you say, "Let me show you," people will become curious. No longer can you just invite a friend to church, now you must show him/her God for him/her to come. And that involves actions, loving words and most importantly friendship. Is the drug addict going to respond better to the person that says "Jesus will help," or to the person that says, "I will help."?
Now onto the theory that you cannot truly live until you have hit rock bottom. Interesting theory. And in some ways it is true. I think for some people that it is true. Look at the apostles. They were tortured, stoned and cursed at, yet they were more alive than anyone else at the time was. They had a reason to live and a reason to die. I can tell you for a fact that I don't live my day to day life with that kind of fervor. In our society a lot of Christians can tell you that the fire of God comes in waves. I've sometimes felt more alive than ever before but other times I have felt like God is nowhere to be found.
Does everyone need to hit rock bottom to live? Nope. For some of us we could have been having the time of our lives and then we met God. He made our lives even better. Then for some he tested and made things miserable but they stuck with it and he rewarded them. But there are still a billion plus more people out there who are constantly hitting rock bottom and they can't get back up. They have hit low and as they try to get back to a high that they once had they realize they can't. These also are the people that we have to reach out to. We need to show them the door. But as Morpheus said in THE MATRIX "I can only show you the door. It is up to you to walk through it."
I know we aren't supposed to be friendly with the world according to scripture. We are not supposed to embrace what the world embraces. I won't lie. I've embraced the world from time to time. I love pop culture. But I refuse to believe that I am what the GAP tells me I am. Airwalk tells us we have to be unique. I wear GAP and embrace the philosophy of Airwalk. But more importantly God tells us that each and every one of us is unique. Even if you think you are not special in this world of lemmings, God is there to set the record strait. Believe that.
As for HUMAN SACRIFICES, well an interesting notion and the intention is good. I would love for people to see how beautiful life is but I don't think I'd go to such extremes to get my point across. I think that in the end God is the only one who can show a person how life is really worth living. Lester Burnham, Tyler Durden and John Coffey will try but only God will succeed.
So what was true in the beginning is true in the end. As Christians we need to evaluate our lives. What do we live for? Is it for the next high? Or is it for God, who will give you an eternal high? FIGHT CLUB is just the movie that Christians can use as a template for reaching out to people. It sells us a picture of freedom in one man's eyes and now it's time to show people what real Freedom is all about.
There are many people who fear death today because they are unsure of where they will head when it's over. People want to know that after this there is more. And remember what Tyler Durden said. "You were looking for a way to change your life You could not do this on your own."