You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Chuck Palahniuk’ tag.

I always give pause when these two…

…find themselves in some sort of agreement on a matter.

Listen to Tyler Durden soar to idyllic heights:

“Imagine,” Tyler said, “stalking elk past department store windows and stinking racks of beautiful rotting dresses and tuxedos on hangers; you’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life, and you’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. Jack and the beanstalk, you’ll climb up through  the dripping forest canopy and the air will be so clean you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn and laying strips of venison to dry in the empty car pool lane of an abandoned superhighway stretching eight-lanes-wide and August-hot for a thousand miles.”

This was the goal of Project Mayhem, Tyler said, the complete and right-away destruction of civilization.

This is really one of the most prominent themes in Fight Club: self-destruction as a means towards a new reality, “Maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer…Maybe self-destruction is the answer.” The entire notion of a fight club involves the desire to explore the possibilities of ruin. But here Mr. Durden reveals an internal motivation for all his mayhem: peace. A peace that Durden (that is, Palahniuk) believes will come with the inception of a Thoreau-goes-green sort of simplicity, “Project Mayhem will force humanity to go dormant or into remission long enough for the Earth to recover.”

Imagine my surprise when I found a similar sentiment in some lines of verse by the esteemed Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis. The lines are from his poem, “Pan’s Purge,” (c. 1947) found in Poems.

Lewis begins with the death of Pan, Greek god of nature, which is precipitated by “the planning of peremptory humanity”:

But the lion and the unicorn were sighing at the funeral,
Crying at the funeral,
Sobbing at the funeral of the god Pan.

The poet lingers over the mourning for another stanza before turning to the vengeance hinted at in the poem’s title:

No longer were they sorrowful, but stronger and more horrible,
It had only been a rumour of the death of Pan.
The scorpions and the mantichores and corpulent tarantulas
Were closing in around me, hissing Long live Pan!
And forth with rage unlimited the Northwind drew his scimitar,
In wrath with ringing scimitar
He came, with sleet and shipwreck, for the doom of Man.

A falling of fire and brimstone like something out of John’s Revelation commences, leading the poet to conclude:

It was the end of Man;
Except where saints and savages were kept from his ravaging,
And crept out when the ravaging
Was ended, on an empty earth. The new world began.

Perhaps I’m just a naive post-modernist, but I can hardly imagine a more fitting visualization to these lines than the cataclysmic ending of the cinematic adaptation of Palahniuk’s Fight Club:

And here is where an eerie similarity in the post-apocalyptic vision of Chuck Palahniuk and C.S. Lewis becomes apparent:

A small race – a smiling heaven – all round the silences
Returned; there was comfort for corrected Man
Flowered turf had swallowed up the towered cities; following
His flocks and herds where nameless, untainted rivers ran,
Leisurely he pondered, at his pleasure wandering,
Measurelessly wandering…
Clear, on the huge pastures, the young voice of Man.

The rural swallows up the industrial. The organic survives the mechanical. Patches of green grow atop the factory’s grave.

Now, what cannot be done at this point is to pave over all the other glaring differences between Palahniuk and Lewis. Because they are legion. What I’m doing here is playing the part of the archaeologist who has discovered the same religious artifact on opposite sides of the globe. Or different planets, for that matter.

In both Palahniuk and Lewis, there is a longing for something here. What is it?

A new creation.

Lewis loved his outdoor walks. It is obvious that they had a spiritual dimension. They allowed Lewis to behold the beauty that pointed him to its Maker. “Pure white magic,” Lewis once said in the midst of some English woods. I believe this juncture between the spiritual and the pastoral is illustrated well by one of Lewis’ walks, as recorded by George Sayers in his biography of Lewis, Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis. On this walk, Lewis and his brother, Major Warren Lewis (or “Warnie”), encounter the famed Tintern Abbey. Lewis comments on the sight:

Anything like the sweetness and peace of the long shafts of sunlight falling through the window on this grass cannot be imagined. All churches should be roofless. A holier place I never saw.

Some read Genesis and say that all the world was made a sanctuary. I think Lewis would probably agree. But nature is not the only holy place, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” “God’s temple is holy,” he continues, “and you are that temple.” New creation. We want to see it in nature. Ironically, nature wants to see it in us, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Palahniuk and Lewis longed after the same thing. Palahniuk explores this longing with the literary device of a fight club, a kind of resurrection of medieval flagellation, where one tries to force a new creation within the self through clenched fists and violent pain. But this is like the child who thinks he can measure the moon by eclipsing it with a quarter. All the revolutions in the world can’t save the soul of a man.

“Truly, truly, I say to you,” says the Son of Man, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

There will be an end of all things…

…but at the center of the new Jerusalem is a tree of life, the leaves of which will be “for the healing of the nations.”

“Behold,” announces Christus Victor, “I am making all things new.”