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Essay from the Abyss: Fight Club and Enlightenment.

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Essay's from the Abyss. IT IS LONG!
Hey everyone. This is a little essay on the nature of fight club and deconstructionalism that I whipped up when in the rat maze. Enjoy!

Deconstructionalism is a confusing concept that to the uneducated would seem to have been developed in the  abyssal pit of hades by the Greek god of death, who we name not. I feel this is evident since the concept is like the tale of Tantalus in ancient Greek legends (Benet, 987.) As punishment for his various crimes against the gods Tantalus was chained and placed inside of a lake in hades. It was here Tantalus was forgotten about and suffered a his eternal torture. Whenever he would bend to drink and quench his thirst the lake around him would dry up, when he would reach for bough of a nearby tree bearing fruit the bough would lift out of way and a nearby boulder would threaten to crush him (Benet, 987.) And so it is true with Deconstructionalism. No matter how much the audience feels that they have attained a true feeling from a piece of work they are watching their feeling is deferred and therefore not true. Their desire to attain fulfillment from the piece of work is never fulfilled as they will not attain a genuine feeling from something that is not genuinely happening. Just as Tantalus will never quench his thirst or sate his hunger and will be forever bound in that lake of hades, so is the audience according to Deconstructionalism. They can never attain a truth no matter how much they try for it. Those who seek the truth when examining Deconstructionalism will never attain it.

   Another example is the five dollar bill on the string with a jerk at the end pulling it away from the person chasing it. They will never actually get the truth from chasing the dollar bill and is a kind of “Heads I win, tails you lose” predicament. The system of Deconstructionalism cannot ever prescribe a system of good or evil since it is about unpacking a concept and looking at parts and concepts individually so that an otherwise confusing or outlandish work of art can be analyzed and understood. Works that are structuralist are often taken from older texts and adapted in instances such as Hamletmachine or Medea Play. The structuralist movement points out that semiotics and phenomenology have it backwards and that we cannot attain true feeling or truth from a sign or piece of art. We will always be like Tantalus, struggling to reach the signified when the delay of signified is omnipresent. For instance when someone says “Do not think of a Kangaroo.” One cannot help thinking about a kangaroo. This is true with the delay in the system of broken signs that our society operates upon. Deconstructionalism works to point out the lack of truth in the system. I have chosen the perhaps most outlandish but realistic movie I could find in my collection for analysis called Fight Club. I will use Deconstructionalism to unpack this film. Looking at the individual concepts and how they are presented as the plot progresses to see if I can find the hidden meaning of the text and its roots in other works. Rather than examining the film as good or bad I will look at the pieces critically. From there I will draw conclusions of where it came from as well as how it was shaped by our society and popular culture.

   First I will look at the film by based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk called Fight Club. The plot of the film is about an everyman man called Jack suffering from dissociative personality disorder brought on by his social isolation in modern society. This leads him to create an anarchist terrorist personality called Tyler to be his best friend.  Tyler subsequently founds fight clubs that grow into terrorist cells. Tyler then begins controlling his life without his knowledge and seeks to bring down the isolationist power structure so that people can be freed from capitalism and greed. This piece of work is great because it has so many layers. At the top is the anti-capitalist system aspect of the film. Another way of looking at it could be that the reason Jack creates Tyler is out of going mad and it is simply a film about the dangers of unchecked mental illness. I believe there is something much deeper to the film and far older than anti-capitalist Marxist sentiments or mental disease. I believe the film is about the soul of humanity and is about the attainment of enlightenment.

   Jack is an everyman who becomes in contact with a greater mind. An altruistic one that sees the corruption of the capitalist system and will go to any means to bring it down. That material wealth and the desire for physical stuff to replace love in ones life is a cancer eating at society. The chronic insomnia perhaps could be interpreted as a cycled of rebirth in the concept of Samsara by a soul that is lost to the pleasures of life and unable to reach enlightenment due to its love for this material wealth. He seeks treatment and is told to seek true pain. So Jack goes out and finds people who are suffering and dying. He walks amongst them and he steals their pain and he makes it his own. Eventually he attains rest and soon after Tyler appears to him. A greater mind or perhaps a god of ruin to guide him. At the beginning of the film Jack loves money and is a slave to this isolation that he needs to endure to support his life style of creature comforts. However it is through the transformation and rejection of material goods that he finds a calling, underground fighting clubs. He meets a kindred soul in the groups called Marla who is not diseased but is seeking the same thing that he is. He sees something in her that reflect his own self and is disgusted by this. He deems her unworthy of love despite the fact that he does infatuate over her. Tyler, his second soul sees past this and shows her his sensitive side but is constantly in turmoil because of his pride. He still feels himself superior to her and doesn't allow himself to love Marla since he still considers himself below him.

   Tyler and Jack head about their work trying to free other people from the chains of society. This can be looked upon as the duty of a Bodhisattva to free the minds of the masses to enlightenment. To save the world if you will. They evolve from the boxing clubs that teach people about pain to the much greater idea of Project Mayhem. Project Mayhem is to show people that their material goods are meaningless in the greater scheme but is about taking down the system of indulgence and decadence that forces people to stay in the system of isolation. It is about freeing the world from the chains of Samsara so they might all attain enlightenment. The idea is to open the peoples eyes that they can attain peace from the cycle of pain and the pursuit of material goods if they would simply abandon the system that is supporting it. At this point Jack “dies” for the first time in a car accident and Tyler his second soul leaves him to pursue the rest of Project Mayhem.

   Tyler leaves Jack as he is not yet ready to undertake the journey. Jack is empty and listless trying to stop something that he doesn't want to happen. So Jack retraces Tyler's adventure going to all the cities and bars he had gone. This leads Jack to the point in the film where he realizes that he is Tyler or that Tyler is him after completing this journey. He goes and tries to stop the mass enlightenment from happening however to no avail as he has already freed to many people from the fetters of Samsara and is foiled at every turn by either himself or someone he has helped. In the film Jack finds out it is the destruction of the major credit card mainframes so that the debt record would reset and create anarchy. It could be interpreted that through the entropy of this act he expects people to stop the continuation of the system and embrace enlightenment. Finally Jack and Tyler are reunited at the top of a tower where they have a final showdown. Jack realizes he cannot stop people from becoming freed from their chains and that the system is indeed broken and in this hopeless pain he decides to take his own life.

   However this act only kills his second soul. He finally has the altruism that he lacked through out the entire film and instead of dying, he survives and is made whole. Not splintered between two selves but united as one that realizes that this has to happen and he cannot stop the inevitable. It is here at the finale of the film that Marla is brought back to him almost as a final test. He lets her tend to his pain, she lets her heal him through her love and care. While she is doing this there is an explosion and the towers of the main credit card companies come crashing down freeing the population of earth. He takes her hand and finally gives in to love. In that way it is the search for love and enlightenment. I feel is the best of interpretations since it covers so much and goes so deeply into the film's superficial pop cultural appeal that makes us interpret is as just being about mental illness and macho anarchists.

   The play has overtones of homo-erotism in several places. It is said as one point that perhaps another woman is not the answer. That a lover is just another matronly figure that leads to attachment and desire, therefore trapping the person in Samsara with physical want. This is perhaps suggested to advance the idea of self love and logical platonic love, not to the narcissistic extreme but to the point where one might be accepting of oneself and others so they might be able to attain enlightened. Once one is freed from desire you can interpret the mysteries of life and death no longer wearing the blinders that we force ourselves to wear so we can function in the system of greed. I feel that this idea that love is a trap only applies to erotic or lustful love. The desire for sexual pleasure without attachment or care is indeed a trap. However the altruistic love that Jack displays for Marla at the end of the film is the love that frees the soul. It is about being humble and accepting another as they are, so you may free them from the pain of rebirth and death and attain Nirvana.

   The film is a lovely example of eastern ideas being presented to an audience that changes them and scopes them into the western world view. I do not subscribe to the belief espoused by the some that it is as simple as “An office employee and a soap salesman build a global organization to help vent male aggression” (IMDB, NP.) It isn't even about rejecting the Bourgeois lifestyle that we have become accustomed to striving for again doing this is using our western prejudiced view to judge the film by values that it doesn't have. I feel that the film is so much deeper than Marxist theory can present it as. Only through the use of Deconstructionalism we can find the hidden deeper meanings that are present in it. Can we attain catharsis or truth through the viewing of the film. No, and this denial of feeling this calls the viewer to go forth and change their own life in the same way existentialism calls them to do so. Just as one cannot attain enlightenment just from someone telling them how easy it is, they must go out and seek it themselves. I am not suggesting that if you see this film you must make yourself go insane and blow up buildings while destroying the capitalist system of waste in our society to attain proper truth or feeling as there is none. It is the acceptance of the lack of this final contentment that pertains to enlightenment. That one must realize that you will never have enough money, sex, pleasure or power and be freed from the pursuit of this. It is this truth that you will never attain the final truth that you can see the freeing aspect of Deconstructionalism.

   Work Cited

   Benet, William R. The Readers Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell    Publishers, 1965

   Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. 1999. DVD. 20th Century, 2000.

   Fortier, Mark. Theory/Theatre: an introduction. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2007.

   Internet Movie Database. 1999. 7 Feb. 2008 <>.

It is looooooooong! And good too.

That's what she said?

East Coast Hustle:

Mmnnnnrrrrrrg.  Can't bring myself to read it.


*Groan* Exxxcerrrptssssss.... *groan*


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