As you may know, I’m in a bit of a hiatus from my blog project, and I will be back with more, just not yet.
I’m building a concept that includes a lot of what’s in this blog, plus more and once it’s ready I’ll be thrilled to explain it!
However, you can start being part of it s of today, in about 45 mins, that is 9pm CST I will be streaming in the Cultural Deviant Coffee Club in Twitch, about George Orwell and his notorious political fable: Animal Farm! Don’t miss it!
Twitch Link: https://bit.ly/3SbUFVK
I’m thrilled to present to you “The Cultural Deviants Coffee Club”.
I’m a person of the Arts and Humanities, and I happen to believe there are many breadcrumbs to a deeper understanding of the world, which have been left by some of the greatest minds in diverse disciplines like film, and literature, arts, and music.
It’s a delight for me to analyze and interpret the beautiful legacy of great artists, I also happen to believe that if you’re a non-conformist, a person who’s thinking outside of propaganda and cultural mainstream, you’re probably interested in finding like-minded individuals.
My aim is to achieve both things and share them with you, and through this start building a community, an actual “Club” where creativity, connections, projects, and great ideas can spawn in freedom, detached from bullshit impositions around us.
So I say: Let’s do this!
TCDCC will start streaming next week and it will also be recorded and uploaded to my YouTube channel. So here’s the gist:
- Live Streaming on Twitch Thursdays at 9 pm CT here
- Live Streaming on YouTube Saturdays at 9 pm CT here
Yes, yes it is that time my friends, “ground-zero”! Time to fulfill the promise I made in “Welcome to Fight Club” and start my 3-layered analysis of this mind-blowing movie. I know, I know I’m overly excited, so what!
So today, I will present to you what’s probably the most obvious dimension of the movie and that is, the mental state of our friend “narrator” around which the whole movie gravitates. I feel it has to come first because it impacts and links to any other commentary on culture, or society and definitely shapes the nature of the relationships between the characters.
So if you’re a hardcore fan like me, you know saying “narrator” is just an unstable guy having an episode is a seriously simplistic understatement to the wealth and depth of the content presented to us in this story. But before you judge too hard someone who does, let me just say in their defense that the “narrator” himself defines it similarly at the end of the movie, as he attempts to explain the current situation to Marla: “You met me at a very strange time of my life…”
So what’s up with this whole “narrator” thing?
–“Sure, why don’t we start at the very core? It’s not like it’ll end the charm too soon, will it?” LOL.
There’s an artistic reason and a psychological reason, why not only me, but a lot of fans of the movie call Edward Norton’s character “narrator”; now I’m writing this to whoever’s interested this is not segmented for-fans-only, after all, Tyler is a “man of the common folk”, the “all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world” a bucket in which it seems most of us (fans ar not fans) fit equally, in his vision of things.
But, I’m getting carried away here, the more obvious reason is that the movie is narrated by the protagonist, who would occasionally address the audience directly and explain things that are happening; the other reason which I find very eccentric is that throughout the movie, this character is never actually named; moreover, there are very intentional moments in which providing the name is avoided as if Palahniuk is mocking us in our own faces, I already spoke about examples of this in the first article, but indulge me with another one I noticed recently: Narrator’s condo just burst in flames, he picks up the phone and calls Tyler, Tyler asks “who is this?” do you recall narrator’s answer?
“…we met on the airplane, we had the same suitcase? the clever guy…”
I love it, the story author’s genius allows such a transgression to conventions to carry on all throughout the story, and you don’t even care and perhaps didn’t notice it the first time. I’m mentioning Chuck Palahniuk even when I mentioned this posts will take the movie as their only foundation, because of two reasons:
- It’s his mind that brought us this masterpiece
- I came to understand while preparing these articles, that the movie respects a lot of the original lines as they appear in the book
Having made that meaningless clarification, I come back to the original point, besides the artistic eccentricity this entails, there’s a deeper sense to the narrator’s anonymity, it’s precisely the quality of being anonymous and seemingly devoid of an identity that triggers the whole chain of events. So keeping this guy unnamed is a perfect homage to his struggle.
“You wanna see pain?”
So what’s his struggle you ask? Well, I’m glad you ask, this is why I’m writing this entire piece, to answer that very question; in short, our beloved narrator is suffering from a severe philosophical void in his life, he’s nothing, no one, his life is meaningless and the whole world around him is soaked in the same banality, life doesn’t make any sense at all and he’s just too aware of it for his own benefit. But here’s the worst part of the curse: while he’s aware of the condition and suffering from it intensely, he’s powerless, there’s nothing he can do to change the condition of his own life, and don’t even think the world around him.
Now, this manifests in different, more visible symptoms we learn about throughout the movie, insomnia being the key problem in the opening act, yet obviously surrounded by a deep dark depression appropriate to his existential suffering.
As it usually happens, he’s annoyed by the symptom and he’s not fully aware of the dimension of what’s going on inside his mind and soul (can’t really judge him, it’s so hard sometimes, isn’t it?), so he goes and sees the doctor about insomnia. And here’s where the title of this section gets his name, the doctor really reacts with the apathy and mockery ordinary people of our society usually reacts to mental and emotional suffering: “that’s nothing, you need to do some exercise and sleep better”; as narrator replies “I’m in pain”, the good doctor replies:
As an omen of what’s being triggered here, we see the first “subliminal” apparition of Tyler behind the doctor in a glimpse of a second, right in this scene. Now the big turning point here is, where most people would have taken the doctor’s suggestion for what it was: a rhetorical mockery of his patient’s complaint, our narrator actually decides to go to the testicular cancer group. A fateful decision.
Losing All Hope Was Freedom
You think you’ve seen it all in movies until you find yourself watching a guy becoming addicted to support groups, how crazier does it get? – A lot more.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, let me ask you, dear reader, have you ever been in a real-life support group? Lucky you, who can answer without anyone else knowing, I can tell you that I have. Support groups can be a true blessing, and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending them to people who are struggling with addiction, disease, and other conditions; now, they do have their quirks of course, like anything, and such quirks make them a fertile ground for humor.
Now back to our character here, support groups aren’t necessarily anyone’s first choice for relief or socializing, they’re meant to help people undergoing very specific and tough situations. And so we can tell from the whole catalog Marla and the narrator start arguing about, negotiating which one each of them will keep.
So how is it that our tormented friend is able to recover his ability to sleep and enter a place of “peace” while engaging in these activities? Well, he explains it to us rather philosophically: “losing all hope was freedom”.
I find it very concerning, and very telling of the deficiencies in our society to address mental health properly, that a person with a clear pathology needs to find shelter among people with unrelated terminal illnesses or irreversible conditions. His expanded explanation could be: “by surrounding myself with people coping with loss, people who are hopeless about their condition I also feel like I can let go of any need to find a meaning, a reason, a motivation, an expectation from life; I can imitate that state of hopelessness and thus, let go of my anxiety and find it easier to live”.
That’s a primary, very compelling reason for him to become addicted to support groups; and isn’t just a few steps away from suicide? Think about it, when the proximity of death, and the thought process to accept it seems preferable to the anguish of dealing with life, I’d say we’re talking about rather deep depression. Now, interestingly enough, he’s not hopeless regardless of how he’d like to think he is, if he was hopeless he wouldn’t be in such a conflict, he wouldn’t be seeking to feel free, alive, and listened-to among the people in support groups. So there’s also that tension and contradiction, which is very natural and which leads to the next stages of his crisis.
But then, when relief seemed to be at hand:
Why? Why is Marla such a terrible presence in the support groups? It doesn’t have anything to do with being exposed, she’s also a tourist and doesn’t want to be exposed either; no, the problem is that she’s a mirror to him, she’s another desperate, sunk-in-darkness no one who’s constantly reminding him that he’s not really terminally ill, he’s not in acceptance of death, he’s a faker who’s borrowing from other’s the relief he can’t permanently find for his own condition. This sweet relief is now exposed as fake and temporary, doomed to fail.
In spite of the efforts to negotiate a way out, by getting rid of Marla and distributing attendance to support groups between each other, insomnia returns, and his small existential oasis is now invaded and ruined, by someone perhaps too similar to himself (which is something he would deny and despise, of course). There’s yet another subliminal omen of how Tyler’s appearance is close, right after confronting Marla for the first time (found this cool gif version of subliminal Tylers, the last one is the one I’m referring to here):
Honestly, it’s just that this post is getting way too long, and I will need to split it into parts. But I think this is a great moment to stop, because Tyler’s official introduction into the story is what’s next, and this is really the turning point; so thanks for reading me, and stay tuned for part 2 of “Fight Club in 3-D: The Mental Dimension”.
How often do you think you think?
Don’t worry, the whole article is not gonna be some stupid tongue twister, my aim is, as a matter of fact, that the article won’t be stupid at all, but all the opposite.
So it’s a serious question, I’d like to invite you to stop for a moment and let it sink in, try to come up with an answer.
Now, perhaps this is not you, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 90% of people presented with this question wouldn’t hesitate much in saying: “well, every day, I think every day at every hour, it’s just something I have to do”, and I believe 90% of the people would be wrong.
Yes, it is true, that human beings are conscious and self-aware; moreover, we’re capable of abstraction and pondering ideas and concepts that don’t necessarily have an immediate material manifestation. By exercising these capabilities daily, we’re able to work, obtain what we need, and make decisions; but this is not the kind of “thinking” I’m asking about.
Since I wouldn’t like to start a language controversy over the semantics of the word “thought”, I will define what it is for me, and let’s just use it as a convention throughout the articles in this new section so that we avoid getting into the weeds with petty discussions. To think is to intentionally engage in the construction of an idea or concept, through the resolution of one or several problems or inquiries.
Now the word “construction” is key here because thinking is not the same as learning and not the same as deciding or acting. Thinking is creative, it deals with asking questions and seeking to resolve the problems posed by those questions, thus creating something new; that something new could range from something like forming a personal opinion about a subject, or resolving a lack of understanding you had concerning a specific topic by arriving at your own conclusions (not merely adopting those of others as communicated through books or media), up to actually creating a more complex project, idea or invention as the result of the consecutive resolution of problems or inquiries.
Why is this important?
I hope you’re asking yourself this question, it means you’re thinking. So to avoid taking that privilege away from you, I will not answer this question for you, rather, I will tell you some of my own thoughts about the subject:
- Kids are more likely to think frequently than adults: There’s a quality in kids which naturally makes them think frequently, a rather incomplete picture of life and the world. We’ve all been kids and we’ve all been exposed to the fact others are making decisions for us, telling us what’s right and wrong; when we’re little kids that typically leads to that annoying “why” stage where we need an explanation for everything, and once given, the new statement just leads to more questions and the cycle repeats. When we’re growing up and are pre-teens or teens that leads to what adults typically call “rebellion”; so it’s a deeper questioning of our surroundings, of our parents who become the cause of much distress and disagreement, yet remain to be the people providing stability and opportunity (terrible exceptions exist, I’m talking about how things should be); teens feel frustrated and sometimes deceived, the world is not as they parents told them and their body chemistry push them to discover it by themselves. Both kids and teens have in common that they’re aware they don’t have the full picture, they haven’t experienced living by their own means and fully being responsible for their needs and actions and they have the figure of adults who somehow seem to shelter them and provide them the knowledge they need (kids) or hide things from them and limit their wild exploration (teens), I believe teens from healthy families can actually experience a blend of the two since I’m not implying a teen would always hate their parents, they’re just naturally inclined to defy and question what’s established.
- Why are adults gradually losing their habit of thinking?: I’m formulating this as a question on purpose, I don’t claim to have the full answer, but I do believe this to be true, and increasingly in this day and age. It’s difficult not to incur in “common places” while analyzing this, and summon concepts such as “the system” but take it with a grain of salt if you must; I do believe much of the industrial and technological age mankind is living in detachment from the natural challenges of our species. We’re educated to be a part of an order that’s externally imposed, somehow already figured out by our ancestors and illuminated bringers of civilization, people who evolved from tribal and barbaric times of unheard cruelty, health issues, lack of opportunity, and hardships unthinkable to the typical smartphone-bearer of our time, to bring forth a brave new world of cities, electricity, medicine, transportation, human rights and a life which, while not without its own challenges, can be demonstrated to be more comfortable and welcoming to the human race than in previous centuries. If you think this is sarcasm, you’re wrong, it’s not (ok some parts are just mocking the idealistic depiction presented in the mainstream, but for the most part there’s data that demonstrates the average human is doing a lot better!). That’s the interesting part, if I take a look at the historical account of what previous centuries looked like for humans, I’m grateful to be born in 1986 from a working-class family, in most past ages that condition would have doomed me to early death or having to take a way more violent path to achieve something in my life.
- But you’re not answering the previous bullet point!: I told you I don’t claim to have the full answer, but here’s an attempt: if we enter adulthood with a relatively decent job, or career and are able to make a relatively decent standard of living by ourselves it’s indeed possible that a false realization of “completeness” or at least being close to getting the “full picture” of things will come rather early to us. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m talking about a “Maslow pyramid” having its foundations prebuilt for a lot of people, and by no means am I saying this will be enough, as a matter of fact, the price to pay for this is an unnatural void and anxiety that begins to cause social phenomena unseen before the advent of this more comfortable age of mankind. The fact that there are places in the world in which people still gather and hunt their food, don’t have access to what we consider “basic utilities” and that the degree of “civilization” we’re talking about here is not entirely universal yet, allows for contrasting and deriving certain concepts; like that of a system. We tend to judge such populations and villages and societies as primitive, disorganized, and backward, and if we look at it through the lens of what our education programs teach us, they are. But each of these individuals in a village is key to the survival of the group and they know themselves to be; failure to spot a predator, to remove poisonous elements from the food or crops will do huge damage to the whole group. The same cannot be said in the huge city, where adding or removing an individual seems of no consequence, pointless.
- You’re still not answering and now started talking about civilization: I’m sorry, bear with me and it will come together. Back to losing the habit of thinking and its relationship to adulthood: once you feel you got the basics right, you’re able to provide for yourself and maybe even a family, you’re safe in your job, have a place to rest and no immediate threats to your life (that you’re aware of), it’s easy to let your guard down; it seems that somehow this is life and it’s kind of OK no need to further complicate things. And by the way, I think this can happen in our industrial/technological society as much as in the primitive one, let’s not idealize either!
Whereas we may have a false feeling of:
“I figured it out: study, get a job, advance in the job to get more shiny things, shiny things get me perks others don’t have “hurray me!”, maybe built a family (dogs possibly nowadays), maybe build a business (entrepreneurial types), maybe grow old and retire in comfort, maybe I don’t even think that much in any of this shit and just follow the script…”
Maybe in the village, they have something like:
“It is the way the elders taught us: nature will provide the hints and opportunities, we need to seize them. We need to read the rain, the sky, and the forest and we will be prepared, we need to respect the forces of nature, the prey and predator equally and be like the tree that takes from the earth what it needs and provides fruit and shelter to the other beings in exchange. This is what I need to teach my children, we need to breed children who understand these things, and the people will continue to inhabit this land that should be our blanket when we join our ancestors”.
But the truth is, neither the city person nor the village person is entirely right; there are more things, and when you prioritize your anxiety for understanding and completing the picture, over that inner feeling screaming at you that there are missing parts of the puzzle, that’s where you begin to think less and less frequently.
An artificial conclusion
I must, at this stage finish this post, simply because I’m tired and need to refresh before continuing with this topic. So this is an artificial conclusion for the time being, but I want to leave you with an idea: “the more is resolved on our behalf, the less we’re challenged with immediate, tangible problems, and the more our problems and concerns become of a cultural nature (borrowing from Maslow, at the top of the pyramid are aesthetic needs, self-image needs, transcendence needs and those needs that are more concerned with meaning other than with survival, security or quality of life), the less we individually develop our own ideas”.
Now, as I said before, I think this age of advancement and wider access to basic services and solving basic needs is a great place to be, but I don’t see that most humans who are in this position are living up to the possibilities that such a privilege should provide. Why is this? Why is it that instead of becoming more advanced thinkers, we’re neglecting thought and replacing it with something else?
I’ll leave this for you to think about, if you do, I would have accomplished a lot today and I will be very comfortable in my current pyramid position.