In the story “Fight Club”, the narrator feels trapped in his 9-to-5 job and his routinized lifestyle, causing him to have trouble sleeping at night. He finds solace in attending support groups intended for cancer survivors. When that doesn’t work anymore, he looks for other ways — Even wishing for a plane crash or a disaster, or something to bring him out of the regimented motion of his days — Anything to make his life feel good.
He closely befriends his split personality, Tyler Durden, who is the manifestation of everything the narrator wanted to be : A free man who isn’t leashed by consumerism and materialism.
After a fistfight with Tyler, the narrator finds the same solace as he did in the support groups he attended. Fighting invigorated him, and made him feel alive — And so they have fistfights more often, garnering the attention of more and more onlookers. They eventually form Fight Club, where they regularly meet and fight.
Life can feel like running on a treadmill at times. Time goes by, your energy dwindles down, and sometimes you can’t help but wonder if you’re heading anywhere, as you wish for a new breath — Something exciting to give your days a little more zest.
There is such a thing called “lachesism”, or the desire to be struck by disaster, the longing to know what happens after our world crumbles — Which explains our interest in disaster movies and stories of dystopia.
This desire can come in healthier versions though, such as acting on a strict fitness plan to rebuild your life, or starting over with a new skill.
What you need is a craft, a skill, a hobby to keep yourself challenged and busy with. In it you can find your “flow”, as the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it — An optimal experience where you have no room for thoughts outside the harmony of that activity, when an hour feels like a minute, as you’re having the time of your life.
Well, you don’t actually have to start a Fight Club. And I’m not telling you to cause literal chaos either. By “finding freedom in chaos”, I meant that you need to find something meaningful outside your usual regimented structure. With a craft, you can find spontaneity and expression that you could not in your usual routine — And in that, you find tremendous amounts of joy, almost like you’re returning to how you were as a child : Playful, fun-loving, expressive.
But do note that going too far in this end isn’t a good thing either.
Back to Fight Club, the narrator eventually becomes disconcerted as the clubs begin to form across the country, with new members joining en masse. He later becomes horrified when Tyler turns the Fight Club project into a violent anti-materialist movement, as they perform extreme acts of vandalism — Even planning to eliminate debt by destroying buildings that hold credit card records.
Being engaged in your craft can give you the sensation that you’re in a different dimension, right? While that’s a wonderful experience to have, at the end of the day, you’re still living in this world. There’s a fine line between flow and escapism. And your craft never belongs to the latter category — At least it should never be.
Picasso was obviously great at painting, but once he put his paintbrush down, he was known for being cold towards the people around him. Likewise, Prince would give an otherworldly musical performance, but once the show was done, he was remote and troubled.
It all comes to finding a good balance.
Your classes are important, your job is too. Be the man or woman you need to be. Other times of the day, immerse yourself in a craft — All the while remembering that your craft isn’t a form of escape from your real-life problems. While it does help provide you with stillness for you to find the best solutions to your problems, your craft alone isn’t the solution. You need to put down your paintbrush and take real action.