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Fight Club: the Struggle Within

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Fight Club!"Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells 'stop!', goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: the fights are bare knuckle. No shirt, no shoes, no weapons. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight."

The famous quote by Brad Pitt takes one back to the psychological thriller Fight Club, giving one an indication of the philosophy behind pouring blood and violence among the youth in basement parking and empty streets. The cause of violence is mostly due to the increase in level of different masculine hormones such as testosterone mixed with serotonin that enhances adrenaline rushes. Before we move to a very interesting and unique point of discussion here, let us study a bit about the violence and destruction in the movie which is based on the novel by the same name. The movie shows several ideologies of anti-materialism, anti-consumerism, fascism, and many other interpretations, all of which maybe correct.

The protagonist (played by Edward Norton) has a surprising alter-ego (played by Brad Pitt), developed primarily due to his prolonged insomnia. Alter-ego signifies another personality within the same person. The protagonist is soft, flexible, pessimist, patient, a loser, weak, and sensitive, whereas what he reflects in his alter-ego is quite the opposite; rough, rigid, obstinate, strong, a winner and appropriately, a harsh destructive man. Since the protagonist is unable to achieve anything in the materialistic world, his alter-ego believes in the destruction of the society in order to achieve salvation. The protagonist slowly lets his alter-ego control everything, unaware from the reality of what destruction he may cause. Together, he and his alter-ego (both of them being the same) start a fight club where people have to fight each other, letting the masculine testosterone levels run high and let it loose. Winning or losing in these fights did not matter – what mattered was the fearlessness, evolution, and liberty beyond death. Apparently, these fights would give him a unique pleasure of pain, bruise, and blood, leading him not to fear and care about the world and spreading this mentality among others. Fighting in the clubs is followed by another level of destruction, where he goes on a rampage against society and civilization by bombing a credit card office building. As one watches the movie, one can realize the effects of Satan, which is actually the opposite force within the character of the protagonist. The two characters are opposite in the same person, revealing that there exist two forces within that are contradictory to each other.

This discussion can be furthered with some Islamic principles of philosophy. There are two opposite forces which are present in every person: some people see and control it, whereas some people do not see it, and let it control themselves. These two forces can also be explained as Yin-Yang in Taoist terms. Sometimes, when the power of reason fails, people tend to lose against the force of desire, causing destruction in society. The destruction can be spiritual or physical. Similarly, sometimes when a man controls his desire and similar other destructive forces, he elevates his status spiritually and achieves perfection. There exists a continuous conflict and contradiction within the person and society. However, the contradiction is a necessity in the society that is the driving force of this world.

Islamic Philosophy on Theory of Contradiction

Many people say the world is imperfect because of its contradiction in every aspect. The imperfection, they say, should not have been there. People wish that the world should have been full of goodness, light, honesty, love and compassion without any hatred, diseases, sickness, poverty, death, pain, violence or evil. As Martyr Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahhari explains in his brilliant book The Problem of Contradiction in Islamic Philosophy, Allah created the world with duality because if it had one source and one principle, two opposite tendencies would never exist, and the world would have stagnated. All peace and harmony are always followed by death and destruction.

As Quran talks about the variety in this world, "Why do you not acknowledge the magnificence of your Creator, when He made you in so many different hinds?" (71:14)

"He makes the night to enter into the day, and makes the day to enter into the night, and He brings forth the living from the dead, and brings forth the dead from the living." (30:19)

"Among His signs is the variety (difference) of your languages and colors." (30:22)

It can be easily seen that the contrary forces in this universe exist on purpose, and it is our duty to put them in equilibrium. Imam Ali (peace be upon him) explains: "By His creating the senses, it is known that He has no senses. By the contraries in various matters, it is known that He has no contrary, and by the similarity between things, it is known that there is nothing similar to Him. He has made light the contrary of darkness, brightness that of gloom, dryness that of moisture, and heat that of cold. He produces affection among inimical things. He fuses together diverse things, brings near remote things, and separates things which are joined together." (Nahjul Balagha, sermon 185)

As Martyr Mutahhari elaborates, Islamic philosophers are of the view that this contradiction between creatures is a necessity, and the existence of duality is the cause for the continuation of Divine Grace. Hegel's philosophy suggests that the unity of 'being' and 'non-being' exists during the state of 'becoming'. The philosophies of Mulla Sadra, Al-Razi, and Mir Damad as reviewed by Martyr Mutahhari explains that the unity of "being" and "non-being", which is the cause of the necessary changes and transition, does not invalidate the Law of Contradiction, which is also called the mother of all theorems (Umm al Qadaya). "Non-being" can be interpreted as having no independent reality, but its reality is dependent on the negation or absence of "being". In a second interpretation, "non-being" can be granted an independent existence metaphorically, and in this case, it is not the contradictory of "being". The second interpretation can be implied to understand the physical existence of the character of the alter-ego in the movie Fight Club.

Clarifying further, Ayatollah Mutahhari explains that anything that exists has a "being" and a "non-being" element attached to it. When the intermixing of 'being' and 'non-being' is considered, it does not imply a real mixing. Actually, the element of "being" is the real one, whereas the element of "non-being" is a hypothetical one. Therefore, such mixing takes place only in thoughts and imagination, not in the physical world. However, many philosophers seem to debate on the mixing of "being" and "non-being" causing the state of becoming, or otherwise, our understanding would be left open to a poet who says,

The man of reason speaks of being,
While the mystic speaks of nothingness;
In the midst of water and mud of being and nothingness,
I both am and am not."

The Fight Within

The solution does not lie in combating violence with violence, but the solution lies within everyone. Each one of us possesses within a duality of one kind or the other. One may call it the alter-ego, the conscience, the inner voice, the Satan, or whatever. The solution is to make the human in you act according to the reasoning delineated by the faculties provided to you by the Almighty. Each one of us continuously fights with one's own self; thus, a kind of Fight Club is created where one fights with one's alter-ego. When the human within takes control of the contradictory-animal, humanity evolves and progresses to a higher level, achieving true albeit slow perfection. But when the animal within roars and a man gives in to carnal and destructive desires, society faces destruction. When the animalism within overcomes the humanity, one stops fighting and accepts self-destruction, which may even seem pleasurable. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to realize the true behavior of the Satan, who acts very smartly.

Regarding the influence of Satan, Imam Ali has said, "Satan takes charge of him [the servant] and glamorizes the sin to him in order that he commit it, and makes him indulge false hopes of forgiveness in order that he delays it."(Nahjul Balagha, sermon 64) Giving the solution on how to win against Satan, Imam Ali has said, "Increase in your supplication, and you will be secure from Satan's force." (Bihar al-Anwar)

Thus, it is recommended to be steadfast to Allah by thankfulness, reliance, prayer, remembrance, and asking for forgiveness from Him in order to control our actions and win against incorrect influences. Our holy role models have continuously reminded us about fighting within.

The Messenger of God (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said, "The best combat is the combat of one who fights his inner self." (Amali al-Saduq)>

Imam Ali has said," The warrior is the one who combats his inner self." (Al-Majazat al-Nabawiyyah)

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq once again reminds us by his beautiful words, "Consider your heart to be a kind friend and a dutiful son, and your knowledge a father whom you can follow, and your self (nafs) an enemy that you fight." (Al-Kafi)

Therefore, in this Fight Club where one combats oneself, one should stop listening to the desirous animal, and let reason and the laws of God control oneself. It is really up to us to decide whether we succumb to the fight against the Satan and cultivate a seed of destruction in oneself and society, or whether we will make our deeds come in equilibrium with the sins we continuously commit by fighting with the self.

Author of this article: Jafar Hasan
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