Voiceover: It was in everyone’s face. Tyler & I just made it visible. It was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Tyler & I just gave it a name.
Now there was a sense of mission! Exactly what I want to do, though in my own terms. I used to hate violence in movies, before I learned to recognise the point of it, and the various kinds of restraint employed when it occurs in good movies which say something worth saying. The very title “Fight Club” would have put me off when the film came out in 1999. But now I see that it’s all satirical and metaphorical. At least if you’re sane. I hope for the director’s sake this one hasn’t been blamed for inspiring atrocities by the less-than-sane. The oddest thing was that I kept seeing my younger son in Brad Pitt’s character: not my son as he really is today but, as I guess from certain visual clues, the self-image of his inner movie as it played within him not long ago. Or perhaps Brad Pitt in this role makes manifest the inner nihilist in every male teenager, in those cultures where the word teenager exists. So, what with him and Helena, I feel intimately entangled in this film, as if it were based on my own life.
This digression does nothing I know, patient reader, to clarify my sense of mission, or lack thereof, but it does, in my mind at least, show the lengths a male of the species homo sapiens will go, if only in his head, to escape the effete bondage of condos, office jobs and IKEA catalogues. (And where do we end up in life, we men? We retire, we potter in the garden, then our wives retire too, and we wonder who will go first and meanwhile we look at ocean-cruise catalogues, to have some last look at the world before we’re reduced to being shuffling stroke-survivors and dementia-surrenderers.)
This line of thought isn’t going where I had intended, but that’s good. It was crap before, to be honest. I was going to talk about my walk among the municipal allotments, broad vistas, wildflowers and wheat-harvest fields, whilst I flourished in the approving sunlight of my new sense of mission. Mission: a worthy project with substantial challenge and duration, something to believe in, which I feel called to do, as if by some mysterious impulse. The very consciousness of it made everything fall into place, and the good thing was it wouldn’t entail any bloody nose or teeth knocked out, so far as I could see.
My wayfaring expedition itself seemed metaphorical but then, when you’re fired up to a mission, everything seems meaningful. That’s why missionaries become missionaries. For example I followed a signpost down a side road, even though I suspected some vandalistic youth had climbed up the pole to point the sign in the wrong direction. It turned out to be a dead end, just gates and a big house behind. But there was an iron guard-dog outside. I could remember the dog from a previous ramble, but I could not remember going down any wrong turning. The mystery remains, & I still don’t know whether to trust signposts.
The allotments were abundant with growth, yet neat: a pretty good collaboration of man with nature. The same applied outside that fenced area, but in a less intensive way, as the whole landscape had been managed by farmers for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, producing a no less harmonious result, on a larger scale.
I went down the hill to the harvest-fields below, sure-footed and confident in my new intent. The wide vistas competed for my attention with the tiny details at my feet. I can concentrate with fierce intensity, like a guard-dog with its teeth into an intruder’s leg; but it’s my nature also to scan the wide horizons and be distracted by every moving leaf or shard of glass that glints in the sun. Yet there’s always more than meets the eye.
The other day I watched the two Murdochs, father and son, responding to their summons before a Parliamentary Select Committee, to answer to accusations of irregularities in the newspapers they own. One of the questioners used a wonderful phrase, “wilful blindness”. You can picture Admiral Lord Nelson applying a telescope to his blind eye: “I see no ships”. Ah yes, but we are all taught wilful blindness from a young age. It puts a stop to all those interminable “Why?” questions, for we learn that somewhere in the series, the answers stop. The questions remain, hanging silently in the air: but wilful blindness helps us not to see them any more.
We need that blindness the same way that we need clothes in a cold climate: for health and comfort. There are things that most of the time we cannot afford to see. But sometimes the Muse leads me by the hand and shows me things. And tells me that what I have called “wilful blindness”, others call “being reasonable”. Disputatious as ever, I question the reasonableness of reasonableness.
We make ourselves blind to the fact that our lives are not actually ruled by reason. They are ruled by pursuing whatever makes us feel all right. We then apply reason to tell ourselves that what makes us feel all right is “the truth”.