Fight Club is one of those movies where it has a bigger impact the second time that you watch it. It’s as if you’re in on the secret and can spend a little more time focusing on the underlying themes and, in this case, the life lessons doled out by Tyler Durden, the alter ego/mentor in anarchy of the narrator.
While explicitly following Durden’s example is, of course, something you shouldn’t do, the guy deserves credit for dishing out advice that’s worth sifting through for nuggets of wisdom. Should you feel that you’re starting to become “your f*cking khakis” perhaps a session with life coach Tyler Durden is in order.
“The things you own end up owning you.”
“Whoa, man, that’s deep,” said every college kid the first time they saw Fight Club. It’s definitely a line that minimalists permanently have etched into their brains. And while it does sound like something that a hippie would utter after taking a giant bong hit, Tyler’s line has a lot of merit — especially in today’s material-obsessed society. It’s a line worth remembering the next time Apple, Nike, or whatever your personal corporate God of choice may be, rolls out their newest golden calf.
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
Tyler, of course, makes this point in the middle of scalding the Narrator’s hand with a nasty chemical. Sort of a no pain no enlightenment thing, I suppose. While he certainly goes about teaching this life lesson in the most whack job way possible, his words do raise an eyebrow. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of excitement and endless possibility that comes from starting from scratch. But while having zero responsibilities to hold you back sounds like complete and total freedom (and it probably is for a little while), that probably comes to a quick end when you realize that your barren lifestyle precludes you from accessing some of life’s simple pleasures. After all, how are you going to buy a cheeseburger if you’ve sworn off money.
“If you died right now, how would you feel about your life?”
Tyler gets even darker than normal with this line, asking the members of Project Mayhem to evaluate their life’s accomplishments. While the quote does have a rather morbid undertone, self-reflection can be a healthy thing and it can often serve as a kick-starter for making needed changes. Taking a look in the mirror and asking some form of this question from time to time might seem scary, but evaluating where you’ve been and where you want to go can be a good thing.
“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.”
Basically, this one is the Tyler Durden version of Hamlet’s “To thine own self be true.” Props to the guy for putting a new spin on ol’ Willie Shakespeare, though. This quote should really be on a motivational poster in the office of every school guidance counselor in America. For most people, adolescence and their early twenties can be a pretty awkward time where you’re trying to figure out where you fit in. This often winds up with people trying to be something they’re not. Should you be feeling the pressure from your significant other to buy that horrible sweater that just isn’t you, toss this line out and let’em know that you gotta be yourself.
“I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”
The Narrator in Fight Club certainly follows this little piece of advice to the T, though mostly not for the better. Tyler also says that “self-improvement is masturbation” which seems a bit contradictory, so let’s focus on the quote above. It can be easy to get caught up in a “keeping up the Joneses” mindset and that sort of outlook isn’t healthy. Every aspect of life is never going to be perfect — and if it is it won’t stay that way for long — so make the most of what you have and appreciate the good things.
“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.”
If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s only a matter of time until a philosophy professor scribbles this on the blackboard on the first day of class. From TV commercials and Facebook ads to highway billboards and magazine covers in the checkout lane of the grocery store, we’re being sold to on a near constant basis. Tyler is all about rejecting the norms and guidelines of society, though going to his extremes might be a little much. Keeping a check on what we actually need and what we only want is behavior a lot of us could probably benefit from.
“You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake, you are the same decaying organic matter as everything else, we are all part of the same compost heap.”
Sure, the Narrator’s alter ego spits a lot of truth throughout the movie, but damn can the guy be a real Debbie Downer. Life is fleeting and we’re all only here for a short while in the big scheme of things. Rather than look at it as life ending “one minute at a time” get out there and make the most of it for yourself and others. We’re all on this planet together, so we might as well make an effort to make the ride a little better for the next guy, right?