Friday, January 9, 2009

Self-Improvement Through Self-Immolation

So, I seem to be stuck in a Fight Club kind of mood today. Which is cool, because I really like that movie. It's been a while since I saw it, but for a while there I made a point to watch it every six months or so.

That movie still speaks to me, and it's not because of its existentialist philosophy (to which I partially subscribe) or the fantastic acting of Ed Norton. It's because it helped me through a very rough time in my life, back when I had been dumped by my fiancee (3/21/03, R.M.E., I still haven't forgotten) and it felt like I had lost everything of value in my life. In fact, I felt like I had nothing worth living for, and I would have killed myself were it not for the fact that I knew that doing so would have hurt, in the most terrible and personal way possible, those few people left who still cared about me.

And then I watched Fight Club, and realized something:
  • Evolve or Die.
  • The Universe doesn't care which path I choose.
  • Entropy, however, wants to keep me from evolving, because that's the path of least resistance.
  • Therefore, anything that prevents me from improving myself is my mortal enemy, and I must kill it with fire.
Which is pretty heady philosophy, you must admit, but it's a bit shoddy in practice. I can rage all day long at things which I perceive as obstacles to self-improvement, but it's not at all productive, and if I take that last line a bit too literally it would result in criminal charges.

Prison, I felt, would be a definite hindrance to my own journey of evolution.

It wasn't until later -- years later, sadly -- that I realized the second, crucial, element of this binary philosophy. It began at my Goth club, where I was quite happily depressed, when I noticed that some woman was giving readings of Tarot cards. I decided to get a piece of this action, because there's little I enjoy more than saying "Nope, you're wrong" when someone tries to analyze me.

I went into it blind, with all the arrogance of "If you're a psychic, you already know who I am and what I want." The woman obligingly cast my future, and one of the cards -- I don't recall which one, and I know she wasn't using a standard deck like a Rider-Waite -- had a dragon on it. I do recall that this card was in the "present" position, and she started to do a fairly typical spiel along the lines of the "Striking the Dragon's Tail" scenario.

"That's me," I interrupted her, stabbing the dragon with my finger. "I'm not that stupid farmer. I'm the dragon." I said this mostly because I was getting irritated with the predictability of the reading and wanted to throw her for a loop, but also because I dislike being categorized so neatly.

I was hoping she'd sputter in an amusing manner. Instead, she quietly murmured, "Friend, get out of your own way." I didn't really know what she meant by that, but I knew that whatever it was, it was important. Not because it was Tarot, but because she had hit a very sensitive and vulnerable spot I didn't know I had. I chewed on this for a long time, trying to puzzle it out.

I finally figured it out last year when I realized that I am the source of all my problems.

Of course, I'm not about to set myself on fire. That would be foolishly self-destructive. What I aspire to do, what I have been trying to accomplish for nearly a year now, is to systematically destroy those obstacles in my life which I have placed in my path. And believe me, it's hard going, because while it's very easy to say "I would sure be motivated to make more of myself if I was starving and freezing in a ditch," the human desire for comfort is a very hard thing to short-circuit. I suspect this is because our minds equate comfort with survival.

I guess, then, the entire point of my post is this: 2009 is my Year of the Phoenix. Either I burn away all my dross and am reborn, resplendent, and rise to the heights to which I know I can climb... or I burn out forever, and accept a life of mediocrity.

Evolve or die.

Self-improvement through self-immolation.

Come watch me, my friends. This is the year I burn brightly, and even if I fail, I'll go out like a viking.

It'll be a hell of a show.


  1. Best of luck yo you. I also have more or less dubbed 2009 my own "Year of the Phoenix". Here's hoping we both rise, reborn.

  2. Best wishes to you both. Considering how 2008 finished and ll the uncertainty, the "Year of the Phoenix" is apropos. I'll be rooting for you both while I try to do the same, somehow.

  3. I'd advise against setting a deadline ("I'll change this year or else") to this type of journey. Deadlines are very rigid structures. You can't predict exactly what might happen between now and then, therefore flexibility is necessary. Besides, evolution doesn't have a finish line -- it just keeps going.

    Whatever you decide, Good Luck!


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