There’s a scene in the movie Fight Club I can’t shake out of my head. Fight Club is a dark movie, based on a dark novel, but has some revelatory aphorisms. Maybe the most known one coming from a life driven by a materialistic worldview: “The things you own, end up owning you.”full quote “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”
There is a scene deep into the movie when the jaded, mysterious character approaches a convenience store and his anxiety-filled friend follows him. “What are we doing?” The friend asks.”Human sacrifice.” The mysterious character tells him while reaching for a gun in a backpack.
The narrator drops another aphorism while the scene transitions: “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
The mysterious character drags the convenience store clerk to the back alley outside the store. He makes the man drop to his knees, turn away from him, and informs him he’s going to die while pulling the hammer back on the gun. The man sobs incoherently.
But the mysterious character doesn’t shoot the clerk. Instead he engages in a line of questioning led by items found the clerk’s wallet. His ID says his name is Raymond K. Hessel. An expired community college ID leads to questions that reveal the clerk was studying to become a veterinarian but stopped because it was “too much school.”
The gunman replies, “Would you rather be dead? Would you rather die, here, on your knees, in the back of a convenience store?”
The mysterious character puts away his gun and tells the clerk he’s keeping his ID. He’ll check on the clerk in 6 weeks to see if he’s on his way to becoming a veterinarian. If not, he’ll be dead.
The clerk runs away sobbing.
The anxious friend expresses disgust at the whole encounter and says he feels sick.
The gunman responds, “Imagine how he feels. 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.”
Here is the clip (warning: language)
This line is actually quoted by Coach Beard (the most well read character in the show, in Ted Lasso) during the season 2 Coach Beard episode.
At the end of the scene the anxious character checks the gun and finds it was never loaded.
People do change course, people do pursue the different. But in most cases it takes a catalyst. A single event that finally gets you to tune into the voice in your head that’s been telling you what to do all along. It’s the getting passed over for a promotion that drives you to leave a company, the brazen request from an emotionally immature friend that leads you to let the friendship dissolve, the hitting rock bottom that gets you to change your diet or stop drinking. Changing course, pursuing the different without that catalyst is very rare.
But when that catalyst arrives, will you pay attention to it? Will you go back to community college to be a veterinarian even though it’s “too much school”? If you let enough time pass, it won’t matter how big the catalyst is or how loud that voice in your head becomes. You’ll ignore it. You’ve hardwired yourself to do that, so is it any surprise?
Once I was at the cancer center getting my vitals checked before an infusion, and across the room I saw an elderly gentlemen getting his vitals checked. As he bent down to adjust his seat I could clearly see a pack of cigarettes sitting comfortably in his breast pocket.
For him, it didn’t matter how loud the bell was ringing, or even if he’d had a gun to the back of his head. He’d tuned it all out long ago. What about you?