camus

231 Fight Club


If you watch the movie Fight Club, you would be amazed by the idea that a small crack in one’s life can lead to an full-fledged anarchy. It’s not just capitalism, not just consumerism. It is, mentioned in the film, civilization that Jack (the protagonist) wants to reject (makes me think of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents). As my taste becomes darker and darker, I am increasingly fascinated by the power of destruction that seems to originate from prolonged sub-optimal life (the life in which you will never say “nothing is better than living”). I want to find out more.

One source is the original novel of Fight Club. Yes, the film was adapted from the novel with the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. A rather short and fragmented novel. Stylish. It feels like E.M.Cioran in action. I have also read his another novel, Haunted, featuring a character, Saint Gut-Free, an abnormally skinny man who lost part of his lower intestine in a masturbation accident. The first story of the novel actually details that masturbation accident, and it is not even among the most thrilling and disturbing stories in the book.

What is the agenda behind all those self-destruction? Is it just a protest against consumerism? Is it even relevant? There is one line in the movie saying (or maybe very similar)

“What you have to consider, is the possibility that God doesn’t like you. Could be, God hates us. This is not the worst thing that can happen.”

The movie never tells what that worst thing is, but the novel gives out some hints.

(Remember, I entertain the notion of God in a broader framework than just Christianity. In fact, I think Christianity makes freely talking about God difficult.)

See this line:

“What you have to understand, is your father was your model for God.”

I think this is probably true even for non-Christian.

“If you’re male and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?”

Or if your father falls short of a role model. But this really depends. It could be that your mother is your personal god.

“What you end up doing, is you spend your life searching for a father and God.”

OK. But what is the worst thing than God hating you?

“How Tyler saw it was that getting God’s attention for being bad was better than getting no attention at all. Maybe because God’ hate is better than His indifference. … Unless we get God’s attention, we have no hope of damnation or redemption”

“Which is worse, hell or nothing?”

“Only if we’re caught and punished can we be saved.”

God’s Indifference. Indifference! THIS is the answer. You may be surprised to find that this indifference has been treated even in atheist’s framework: the philosophy of Albert Camus. This indifference is a key component of the notion the world is absurd. And the awareness of the absurd can lead to anything…

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224 Dreams, Frustrations and the Absurd


The dreams I am going to talk about are dreams in the literal sense, not ambitions or ideals.

For me, dreams can be wonderful, but sometimes they can be extremely frustrating. In fact, frustrating dreams impress me more than wonderful dreams do. One major recurrent theme in my frustrating dreams is being late for school. This is intriguing because I cannot even recall a single instance of being late for school in my real life, excluding undergraduate time of course.

There are two major variants in my being late dream. The first variant is that many things happened to me, preventing me from even getting out of my home, let alone going to school. All kinds of annoying things could delay me, such as not being able to find the textbooks. In the second variant, the situation was ridiculous. The bus I took (in real life I didn’t take bus to school, I always walked) did not arrive at the right station. There were a lot of things on the way distracting me. Sometimes I could not recognized the correct routes to school. Sometimes, the whole city was restructuring itself to work against me! This is plainly absurd! When I read Kafka’s novels, like the Castle and the Trial, I was amazed that the frustrating situations encountered by protagonist resemble to the situations in being late dreams. The short story the Metamorphosis, also by Kafka, provides another good example. The protagonist woke up one day and found himself transformed into a insect-like creature, but he still tried to tackle the situation like he did before. At the end he died.

Those dreams also reminded me of a philosophical concept, the Absurd. While there are many versions of the definition for absurd, I prefer the one used by Albert Camus, in his book The Myth of Sisyphus. (Translated loosely from the Chinese version) The Absurd is the conflict between man’s desire to understand the world and the world’s silent refusal to be understood. This silent refusal sometimes may resemble a invisible hand preventing you from achieving anything significant, like I being kept from arriving on time for school in my dreams. I also like the way Sartre phrased the Absurd. He said, (also translated loosely from the Chinese version) Absurd is a state that there are no sufficient reasons for everything in the world to exist in the way they are; everything is contingent.

The second kinds of frustrating dreams can be roughly described in the following sentences. In the dream, I remembered there were something interesting, such as things and books, in a particular place and I was going there to buy it. When I arrived at the destination, I could not spot the thing I desired. Then I discovered something similar but less desirable, so I continued searching for something better. As I searched, the interesting but less desirable books or the items started to transform something mundane. In the end, everything at the place lost their appeals. I cannot find a word to express my frustrations at that moment. The interpretation of this type of dream is actually quite ordinary. It is just the reflection of my hesitation when facing potentially important decisions.

I just checked the site stats. It is still in the well of gravity, so I offer a bonus to my readers who took pain to go through the paragraphs above. I will describe my most frustrating “spring” dream. I will skip the offensive details. So there were me and another female. We were going to have some action. As I stripped off her clothes, her breasts transformed to a flat male chest before I could even touch them. Similarly, the female genitals transformed into male genitals. Could you imagine a situation which is more frustrating than that?