It’s no secret that I love the movie Fight Club. In fact, if someone asked me to name the salient influences that have shaped the person I am today, Fight Club would be among the top three.
Why? It’s not because of Brad Pitt’s abs, and it’s not because I like watching people pound one another into cookie dough or giggle at the phrase “all-singing all-dancing crap of the world.”
No, it’s because of the deep undercurrent running though the movie/book. The message that our present society, with its obsessive drive to consume and beautify, is hollow and rotting from the inside out.
A McMansion in the suburbs with an SUV in the driveway and a vacation every year sure looks nice, but it’s really not if lurking underneath it all is crippling debt and an all-consuming dissatisfaction. With everything. Because the minute you buy something it’s out of date, and therefore you need to start obsessing about the newer version of it, until you can wrap your hands around it and start longing for something else.
I first saw Fight Club when I was in high school, at Wes’ recommendation. The movie blew my mind. The violence skittered away into the background for me, and the resounding idea I walked away with is summed up in this one quote: “The things you own end up owning you.”
It is that short phrase right there that helped shape the person I am today. It’s the reason I wasn’t dissatisfied during the years when Wes and barely scraped by and I couldn’t afford to buy socks so I just wore the ones I had until they were literally dissolving beneath my feet. It’s the reason I don’t care that my house doesn’t have marble countertops, or that my wardrobe only has four pairs of shoes, or that nearly everything we have for our baby is secondhand.
It’s because I know that what really counts can’t really be bought. If my house burned to the ground, I’d be annoyed to have to replace birth certificates and clothes and stuff, but I probably wouldn’t be terribly bothered. So long as the three of us made it out ok, I’d have everything that matters to me.
Wes and I do not live a fancy life. Our couches are falling apart, our clothes are old and unfashionable, and we get our hair cuts at Great Clips. But. But! We are so happy, you guys. We’re content with nearly everything about our life. Because what we value can’t be ordered from Amazon.
That quote from Fight Club, which I internalized in high school, helped me figure out that cultivating contentness or contentitude or whatever you want to call it separate of whatever stuff you happen to accrue is one of the most important things you can learn.
The reason Christianity is in the title is that Wes and I were discussing this topic on the way to church last Sunday, and then when we got to church Wes’ Dad was preaching about this very thing. He didn’t bring Fight Club into it, but he did elaborate on the idea that, for believers in Christ, our treasure isn’t down here anyway.
He explained how God provides for His children what they need, and that to be anxious about finances or to be panicking at the recession is not really necessary. Chasing money isn’t why we’re here, we’re here to serve God. Wes’ Dad was much more eloquent and concise than I am, but that’s why he’s a pastor and I’m a blogger.
What about you? What have been the salient influences in your life? Do they have anything to do with Brad Pitt’s abs?