Sometimes I think I should start a blog concerned with nothing beyond the movie Fight Club and the philosophies and thoughts contained within it. I would never argue that it is the best movie ever made, but I have learned more from it than from any other film. If you have not yet noticed, many of the posts in this blog reference or explicitly quote the film in one way or another. This post is no different. Bear with me.
One of my favorite scenes from the film is known as Human Sacrifice. Before we go any further, please click the link and watch the scene. Thanks. Now we can continue. While Tyler Durden's thought process is questionable and his results are debatable, perhaps the most important part of this scene is a voiceover the Narrator (Edward Norton) gives in passing as the two men leave the convenience store: "No fear, no distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide."
I cited that statement over social media earlier this year and was quickly presented with this (likely rhetorical) question: "How do you do that?" Simple question, but certainly relevant. I do think there is something to find, otherwise I wouldn't look. That said, here we go.
Before searching for what this all means, I think it is important to begin by identifying the assumptions that have to be made before we continue. I have a sneaking suspicion that identifying assumptions will lead us directly to what the Narrator meant, and perhaps allow some measure of understanding.
The first assumption that has to be made is the belief that there is a difference among things - that some things do matter while some others do not. In order to let that which does not matter truly to slide, some things must matter more than others (and some not at all). Why is this an important assumption to identify? Because often it seems that we refuse to create a line between things that matter and things that do not; we pretend that everything matters, that every situation and relationship is essential to a positive future. How is this manifested? Through constant people pleasing, through anxiety concerning relatively inconsequential everyday dealings, etc. Getting worked up over traffic or yelling at the television during a football game (guilty). We all treat things that do not matter as if they are much more important than they truly are, and let that dominate the way we live. By spending time focusing on inconsequential things, not only do we lose focus on the things that do matter but we also trick ourselves into believing that those inconsequential things are not inconsequential.
The second assumption is that there are things which are so important that they deserve to be focused on. Without question, some situations and relationships are unique, necessary and essential. To let these things go or slip away would be to lose that which is most important in life. What are these things? Relationships with family, a close knit circle of friends, central beliefs and dreams, among other things. To deny that these are essential would be to deny that purpose exists in life; as I have written before, to lose purpose is to lose the very reason to live.
Here is what we have established thus far: first, there are some things that truly matter, which are so important that it would be harmful and regretful to let them slip away; second, there are a number of things which we hold onto in our daily lives that are not only unessential, but serve as distractions and prevent us from focusing on that which truly matters.
That seems fairly intuitive, pretty obvious doesn't it? Like a basic algebra problem. If we take those assumptions to be true (which I do), the finished product appears to be quite simple: hold onto the important things and let the distractions slip away. Unfortunately, anyone with half a brain knows how difficult it is to actually make that happen. Why, you might ask? Because it becomes tougher and tougher as time goes on to identify which things are essential and which are part of the periphery. One of the ideas I hold onto most is the idea of grey: that absolutism is a recipe for disaster, and instead everything has an exception or some element of uncertainty. That fact makes this idea of slide increasingly abstract and difficult to get a handle on.
To make this work, the idea of slide must be combined with another idea I have written about in the past: consequences be damned. If I try to focus on only the things that matter while ignoring that which does not matter, inevitably I will mistake want for importance or desire for need. But the key thing to realize is that this is okay. Failure is something that must be accepted, if not encouraged. Sure, there will at times be negative consequences to failure. But to live in fear of failure and of consequences would be a terrible way to live. While I discuss much of this in a previous post, I feel the need to touch on it again. In short, recognizing the relationship between consequences be damned and slide is essential to being successful at the latter. Slide requires being willing to make mistakes at times, understanding that at times the wrong choice will be made. And that is okay.
There is a great measure of freedom that comes with being willing to make the wrong choice from time to time. If we act in hope - in the name of truth - then it becomes easy to make a determination of what matters and what does not, and to let that which does not matter slide. Slide means living without regrets. Slide means accepting imperfection and grasping the reality of our present situation: broken people in a broken world, scratching and clawing each day to turn lemons into lemonade. Slide means continuing down the path before us rather than focusing on the path behind us. No fear, no distractions.
And so on...