Fusing the Atoms

“Self-improvement is masturbation. Now self-destruction…”

A quote that I quite like from a film that I love, Fight Club.

It’s a weird line, because the standard way to think about self-improvement is that it’s a form of building yourself up in some way – a level up in life, moving on up in the world, etc. Destruction on the other hand is associated as the removal of breaking down of things. Destroy a building, break a relationship, etc.

One is seen as generally a good thing, the other is seen as bad. I don’t really see it as that way though and have mulled over what it means to self-destruct, at least within the greater context of what the film tends to talk about, which is moving closer and closer to the bottom through increasingly intense, violent actions that act to remove everything we supposedly love in life.

I think the standard idea of improvement is a sound one – we act to enhance our current life in some way and thus increase overall satisfaction. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but the questions of what is being improved, for who and why are also necessary – the latter two being the most important. If you’re working on improving your finances, then why are you doing it and for who? Is it because you actually want more money, or is it because you hold the belief that more money is what you need in order to be a more fulfilled person?

Everything we do has some purpose, but maybe not all the things we do are purposeful for our sakes. A person might stay in a marriage for the sake of his religious beliefs, but maybe he kind of hates his asshole wife and wants to go to Mexico to snort coke off a hooker’s ass. The opposite might be true, too – the wife is in it for the purpose of appeasing the cult of worship on Sundays but really just wants to bang and pop out some kids with Mike the carpenter down the road and thinks her husband is a dork.

So back to the question – improvement for who? Is it really self-improvement if the improvement is based off the expectation of culture, religion, peer pressure, social circles and clubs, or is it just jerking oneself off for the clout gained and showing how devout and on point they are over following the rules they’ve been told are the right ones that lead to salvation and glory?

When we look at ourselves and what we do, we find meaning in things that we care about and call it purpose, but maybe the purpose we find is in pretending we care about the things we say are meaningful, because that protects us from realizing that maybe we’re just bullshitting ourselves and don’t know what we actually want. It’s easy to go with whatever’s been told to you via the environmental cues and advertising rather than to sit idly with the discomfort of a very distracted mind. It is staggering how many people feel incredibly uncomfortable just being by themselves and doing nothing. Try it for 5 or 10 or 20 minutes – do nothing, stare at a wall and drink your coffee. Throw your phone out the room. See what happens and see how potentially uncomfortable it is. Personally, I love it.

So what does self-destruction bring? Well, like anything it’s a tool, and tools need to be used in such a way that end up benefitting you in some way. The best way to think about ideas is pragmatically – is it useful for me? You pick and choose what is effective, and ignore what is ineffective. There’s a moral segment to that too, but I don’t care about that right now. I’m just spitting practicality.

Self-destruction, like self-improvement, is very useful in given circumstances. It helps kill off unnecessary clutter in your physical and mental life, and often comes with some baggage that might take some time to remove. I’ll use a big one – trauma – as an example.

Trauma and letting it go takes self-destruction, but not in the self-harm way. That’s not what I’m talking about. Trauma is complex, but a lot of it is adapted survival behaviors that protected you in some form whenever it had developed. Trauma isn’t a bad or a good thing – it just is. It creates a bubble on some level that keeps you from completely breaking down.

However, trauma inhibits your ability to progress, whether it be consciously or unconsciously. It can manifest in thousands of ways, but basically, it’s your brains way of protecting you from some perceived danger, and a lot of the time it outstays its welcome. Think of it like a poncho. Ponchos cover your body and keep it from getting wet on rainy days, but imagine a poncho that sticks to your skin and stays with you even on the hot and sunny days. It was useful on that rainy day, but it drags you down and overheats you otherwise. Maybe you’ve had it stuck on you for so long that you don’t even notice it anymore, and even when you take a cool shower, you don’t feel much. In fact, you feel a little dead inside and you’re not fully aware why.

That’s trauma, and self-destruction can be a tool to drill down to the core of you and rip the poncho off. It’s a way of actively emptying your basket of eggs – discovering all the things you really find useless, keeping what you find useful, and finding things that you forgot were important.

Paradoxically, it’s a way to improve, but you’re destroying a false self. It’s why I like to say that yeah, I killed myself once. It’s a confusing statement and a little shocking, but the meaning implied is that the suicide was not the hanging of the person, but the hanging of the false character that kidnapped the person. It’s reaching ground zero and improving from there. A theory I have is that this is what’s happening in the mind of some people who are suicidal. They don’t want to die, but they want whatever is haunting them to die. They want the person pulling the strings to take a bullet in the mouth so they can get back to being themselves again. That’s just a theory though.

Fight Club takes the idea of self-destruction to absolute extremes. It’s a film and a story after all, and one of the subtexts behind it is that in the journey to become a free individual that has reached ground zero, one can easily create a new order where people conform again (the space monkeys). It’s the danger of rebuilding yourself – I was once a communist, now I’m a retard with a different flag. Happens all the time, because people are taking the ‘self-improvement’ route by finding better ideas and groups to latch onto that fits slightly better in the gaping hole that is their soul. Deification problem – one without a soul must make other things their god so that a soul may be rented out to them.

This post is pretty abstract, so let me distill it so it’s a lot simpler:

Self-improvement is a useful tool, but ask yourself what you are improving, why and for who. Explore that thoroughly. Sometimes you might realize you’re chasing money because it’s the ‘right thing to do’, or you’re staying in a marriage because ‘it’s for the kids’. I’ll be honest, I think two happy, divorced parents are better than two angry, bitter married ones for the kids. They’re smarter than you think and emulate what we do – but I digress. Explore what you’re improving, ask if you’re doing it for your sake. You don’t owe improvement to anyone but yourself.

Next, write about and consider where the bullshit in your life lies, and work to destroy it. Maybe it’s some simple crap or complex relationship stuff, but throw rotten eggs out. Self-destruction is not about destroying for the sake of it – you use tools with purpose. What do you want to rip out of your life, why, and how are you going to effectively do it so that it has minimal negative effects? Careful not to become your own new cult. The point of destroying things is to leave growth for something new, not to renovate it with another shitty building.

The ending to Fight Club, when the narrator shoots himself in the side of the mouth and Tyler ends up dying is what I think about when I hear “self-destruction” as a metaphor. It’s violent, messy and painful, but it’ll kill the demon that haunts you and you’ll eventually be standing in the end. Use destruction as a tool to wipe out what mental barriers and conditioned obligations hold you back – then pave the way for real improvement.




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