Fight Club and Belonging.
Humans are glorified monkeys. Glorified because we have bigger brains. Glorified only by other humans in comparison to primitive primates. But when it comes down to it we really aren’t as many rungs up the ladder of enlightened god status as we think we are. Our base drives of procreation, which ensures the prolonging of the species, security and stability, which ensures the survival of the individual. Combine this with an over sized brain and you get feelings, the thin red line of humanity. Every thing humans do can be narrowed down to one thing, safety.
Now safety has many different facets that can be found in sports, sex, friendships, family structure and many other things but the one that appears so prevalent in our lives today is belonging. Belonging or fellowship traces its importance all the way back to when humans hit each other with rocks and used finger paint in caves. Tribes were an effective way to ensure the survival of our species; any one who went out by them self died or didn’t reproduce thus leaving us with the genetic herd mentality etched into our very DNA.
Every one wants to belong, now in today’s society we are not restricted to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle but the aspects of that kind of existence are still with us today. You can watch kids form groups on a playground and if you’re lucky even witness a child’s sacrifice to become part of one, like giving up a very yummy lunch snack to cement a position with a friend or group of friends. This is a very important aspect of civilization because humans will often give up almost everything to be part of a group. Moving on from the playground you can examine boot camp for the armed forces. Recruits are stripped, shaved and deprived of every once of self-confidence to be part of something they volunteered for! The greater the sacrifice to be part of something, the more devout the group.
Moving on from the group dynamic, examine life in its current state. The world is flat. A gigantic global civilization cursed with misdistribution creating copious amounts of wealth in some places and destitute poverty in others. In America its pretty big pickings if you play your cards right out of high school even if that means working at a machine shop, you’re still better off than the staving aids victims in Africa. So what do you do when you have a wealthy surplus in token economy? You seek comfort. It signifies safety. In the words of Tyler Durden “We are byproducts of the lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me is celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear, Rogain, Viagra, Olestra, Martha Stewart.” In very short terms Tyler describes a life style that is defined by shit you don’t need. Now from here we run into a very unique wonder of modern marketing, the consumer identity. The consumer identity is the understanding that you are what you buy; you exist to express yourself in material possessions. This is the curse of the everyday man. Or woman.
Stores like IKEA and car companies like Honda cater to this “consumer identity” trying to sell you lampshades and good reliable cars that can better define you as a person. Even fitness is a product now, in the times before Mc Donalds musculature was the result of labor or combat that meant you were strong physically but you could also cut someone I half with a sword. Now fitness is marketed to try increase sex appeal, which has nothing to do with being a primeval warrior. The goal is to simply look impressive not be impressive. In the terms of Fight Club’s anonymous narrator “What kind of dinning set defines me as a person?... I had it all, a stereo that was very decent, a wardrobe that was getting very respectable. I was close, close to being complete.” This narrator, who I will refer to as Jack is describing the lifestyle obsession by looking for purpose in buying things. Its as if life is a refrigerator full of condiments and no food, you spend money on stuff you don’t need to give the appearance that you have more than you do. But seeing as no one is on such a low level of survival that they literally can only afford food and a sleeping bag, the entire thing is pointless and it becomes an expectancy to have these things you don’t need. Thus we have the basis for more than half of the American man’s budget.
Think about the cell phone. The ultimate portable communication in the palm of your hand. You can take it with you anywhere and you can use it anywhere short of a lead box. If you have one this becomes expected of you, it’s a mobile phone right? So it should be with you at all times. Because of this aspect the phone becomes a constant in what you have in your pockets every day, you need to have your phone with you so you can communicate with all the other people who have their phone with them. Life with out cell phones seems almost impossible with out one now that its such a part of your life. My psychology teacher says, “If your tool is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails.” This applies to many things but in pertaining to the cell phone, if you have one, you use it. If you use it you can use it any where to call just about any one at anytime thus creating a gigantic web of communication through texting and voice mail that is a constant. This is superior to the landline since you can’t just slip your home phone into your pocket and start your day. So returning to the hammer reference, yes if you have a hammer your problems start to look like nails but if you have a nail gun you can take care of a lot more of them! The cell phone becomes the primary means by which you communicate with others making it necessary to have with you at all times.“The things you own, end up owning you” in Tyler Durden’s words. No one owns a cell phone these days; their cell phone owns them.
There is no solution to this pointless consumerism, its simply a byproduct of a competition driven token economy, short of a natural disaster invoking all out anarchy world wide little can be done on a large scale about what you feel obligated to spend your money on. But if you’re looking to find true meaning in yourself as person, the kind you can’t buy with a credit card there’s plenty of solutions: sports, relationships, healthcare, the armed forces and my preference, fight club. For some people sports have rules that can inhibit you really testing yourself to your limits, relationships drag you down and crash, you don’t agree with the wars you’d have to fight or you just can’t deal with the stress of saving a life. Or maybe you can. The group dynamic is the only basis for true self-discovery and testament.
I said earlier that the greater the admission to be apart of a group the more devout its followers are. This is a simple equation of how much people care about what the group offers and does, if the group is a church of cheery kindhearted families that try to show others how to find their happiness and it costs a modest one tenth of your paycheck you are making quite the sacrifice to be apart of this church. Now there are numerous flaws and exploits to that example but the point is that there is a cost to enter any group whether that be your paycheck or your dedication.
Now from a young age we were told to always turn the other cheek, to never strike back and to never pick on those weaker than me. Now not every kid got that speech in their lifetime but take a gamble and say that a lot of them did. Now that kind of approach to life (had it been possible) would create a utopian society that could comfortably cocoon the whole world and all would live in peace and happiness! Fortunately men are born with the capability to create testosterone and thrive with the resulting struggle of competition. Fighting doesn’t solve everything but one thing is indisputable regardless of what you do for fun, most people do anything to avoid a fight. Fights don’t solve anything unless it’s a very specific life or death situation and even then if both parties would declare peace then neither would have to die. General society has adopted this aspect just the same as society has adopted the consumer identity.
In a society that claims the “consumer identity” the ultimate sacrifice in this society would be to disown your projected reputation and put yourself on the line. Now this is frightening to many people and it is a huge part of the reason fights are avoided but by embracing the idea that you are not what you own and you are only what your human hands can do you can free yourself of everything you ever tried to appear as with every punch you give or take. With every black eye earned you can retreat towards something truly valuable and not rely on material signifiers of your self worth. The fighting is a metaphor for feeling, not promoting physical combat. This is where mainstream fighting gets it all wrong from the self worth side of the equation.
Boxing champions collect trophies as symbols of their superiority in combat putting just as much of their self worth into the shiny gold as any soccer mom puts into the string green striped pattern sofa at IKEA. The self worth lies in the confidence you gain from not just doing the damage, but taking it. It’s a give take relationship. By declaring a winner you place all the worth in doing the damage when there’s a lot to be said for the guy that took it. Even if he is knocked out, he took a bigger beating than the winner and is called a loser for that? We learn more from out mistakes than we do from our successes. A super jock football player can be cocky because he’s never fumbled a pass, never failed to deliver 200 yards of rushing in a game but if he’s never failed he has no judgment of self worth and can’t appreciate the entirety of his success because he has no idea what its like not to be number one.
Knowing one’s self worth is not enlightenment, not even close. But it can help you find a small amount of satisfaction you didn’t know you were missing. The meaning of life is consciousness and what you do with it. Get busy. Start a fight club.