Tyler Durden’s Top 5 Tips for Living
Being a typical Generation X male, it’s no wonder I’ve always loved the movie Fight Club. Here we have Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden, all lean muscle and crazy blue eyes, smiling like a shark, raging against the great dark plagues of his generation:
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy [things] we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history… No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war… our great depression is our lives.
Tyler was insane, of course – anyone who has seen the movie instantly understands that emulating Tyler Durden would involve psychosis, a padded cell, or life in prison, but that’s not really the point.
The point is that Tyler Durden symbolizes our outrage against the darker version of the American Dream: the endless parade of television commercials, consumerism, and materialism; the lack of meaning and purpose; the rat race; the great spiritual vacuum.
I do not pretend to be an expert on David Fincher’s remarkable movie or the Chuck Palahniuk novel from which it sprang, nor will I attempt to examine Fight Club’s themes comprehensively. I’m just a fan of the movie. Nothing more. And this is my attempt to capture what I affectionately call Tyler Durden’s Tips for Living: filtered for sanity and common sense by yours truly and brought to you in Tyler’s (or his alter ego’s) own words.
1. Don’t be a Mindless Consumer
We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.
The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue. You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.
You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank.
You are not the car you drive.
Reject… the importance of material possessions.
2. Do Something Meaningful
This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.
Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments?
What would you wish you’d done before you died? You have to know the answer to this question!
If you died right now, how would you feel about your life?
3. Think for Yourself
Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think every thing you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want?
4. Transcend Temporary, Unfulfilling Relationships
Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends.
5. The Path to Enlightenment is Hard Work
I don’t wanna die without any scars.
Hitting bottom isn’t a weekend retreat. It’s not a… seminar.
Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.
And then, something happened. I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom.
It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
Ironically, Tyler himself would hate having his knowledge pre-packaged as a self-help article, as he suggests in this slightly modified quotation:
Maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer…. Maybe self-destruction is the answer.
But thankfully for me, Tyler’s a fictional character (in more ways than one), and is unlikely to show up on my front stoop bloody-knuckled and ready to brawl. And to be honest, this isn’t really Tyler Durden’s Tips for Living. It’s a list of tips derived from Fight Club, heavily filtered by my own notions of self-improvement, and dredged for sanity and common sense.
I suppose I could have made this article about 2 pages longer by adding exposition and analysis to Tyler’s quotations, but why? The Internet is already overflowing with such analysis.
Given the tremendous cult-following that this movie enjoys, I’m quite sure someone will pop in here to tell me how I’ve misunderstood the movie or misinterpreted Tyler’s intentions. Fair enough. Just know this: fan of the movie or not, I’m not planning to throw any real-life punches anytime soon, so we’ll have to restrict our debate to the comments section of this Website, if it’s all the same to you.
And for those of you who haven’t seen the movie and who might consider doing so upon my recommendation, know this: the movie is vulgar, violent, sexual, bloody, and brimming with ideas that some people struggle to understand. According to the director, the movie was intended to be like a sharp stick in the eye. And it is.
But for so many members of the lost generation, what a wonderful and welcome stick in the eye it turned out to be.
August 31, 2007 Friday at 3:23 pm