In many ways, Tyler Durden is the more violent, better-looking Henry David Thoreau of our time. He taught us to live simpler lives, to shed the burden of material possessions, and to purify ourselves by getting beaten to a pulp by our fellow man. If living by his code means looking like that, then maybe he’s onto something. Brad Pitt‘s portrayal of Tyler Durden in 1999’s Fight Club inspired guys everywhere to throw out their khakis, take up boxing, and tap into their inner men. Tyler’s wisdom, however, is universal, and we can all benefit from knowing that we are not special. Here are the best nuggets of wisdom from Mr. Durden.
You’re Not Your F*****g Khakis
One of Tyler’s main mottos is “The things you own end up owning you.” He refuses to be a slave to material possessions, which is evident in the barely standing house he squats in. When the narrator laments that his apartment has blown up, and along with it his Ikea furniture and a wardrobe that was becoming quite respectable, Tyler tells him to forget about his sofa units. “I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve.” Throughout the movie, Tyler reminds the narrator, as well as the audience, that we are not how much money we have, the job we do, or any other material manifestation of ourselves.
Lesson: It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
Prove You’re Alive
Tyler holds a gun to a convenience store clerk’s head and asks him what his dream job would be. When the man answers, trembling, “veterinarian,” Tyler tells him that if he isn’t on his way to becoming a vet in six weeks, he’ll hunt him down and kill him, literally forcing the guy to improve his life. When the narrator can’t understand what scaring the piss out of someone accomplished, Tyler says, “Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted. ” Tyler even goes so far as to crash the car that he’s driving, so that he and his passengers have a “near-life experience.”
Lesson: Sometimes you need to feel death in order to be alive.
Sacrifice For the Greater Good
When Tyler starts his Project Mayhem initiative, he recruits an army of men to organize and implement acts of anarchy. Throughout their training, he reminds them that they are not individuals, they are all just cogs in a machine. “Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” When one of the members gets shot and killed during their mission to blow up a piece of public art while simultaneously destroying a mass coffee chain, Tyler shrugs it off like it’s an occupational hazard.
Lesson: You wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs.
Fighting Is the Answer
Tyler’s creation of Fight Club becomes a kind of therapy for men from all walks of life. In fact, fighting replaces the narrator’s addiction to group therapy. The movie shows that fighting, and even just getting beaten up, can be a means to an end, as Tyler gets bloodied up in order to keep the space for the club and the narrator fights himself to frame his boss and quit his job with pay. Each week, more and more men show up to Fight Club to beat the living crap out of each other, and even though they leave with fewer teeth and black eyes, they also leave with a renewed sense of purpose and self. Like Tyler says, you don’t want to die without any scars.
Lesson: You can’t completely know yourself unless you’ve been in a fight.