For the entire month of June I’m planning on writing a series of blog-a-day posts based on a set series of open-ended questions to myself. This is one of those posts.
June 28th // Something You Want To Break
There is a scene in one of my favorite movies, Fight Club (yes, really) where the Brad Pitt character says to the Ed Norton character “How much can you possibly know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” I call the movie one of my favorites not because of the fighting, so much, but because the movie — and the book, too — is a character study of the dualism of people in society. It asks can we be many types of things at once, while simultaneously meeting the expectations we have for ourselves and the expectations others have of us. Or will that kind of duality, if such duality is required, tear us to bits. And because of scenes like the one quoted, of course.
There is a scene in one of my favorite novels, Anathem by Neal Stephenson, where the character Lio takes the main protagonist character, Erasmus, out into the woods so that they can practice punching each other. This isn’t really a thematic element of the novel, really, but the point of the exercise is that Lio is the type of guy who isn’t wanting to practice the punching part, but the guy who (by request) wants to be the recipient of the punching. He is of the mind that in doing so he will prepare his mind and body in the event of receiving a real punch, and thus possibly have a better chance of dealing with said punch when it might (and eventually does) arrive. Getting punched for the first time, he argues, is the hard part. Subsequent punches get easier since the body knows how it will react. It’s not so much the punch that hurts, he further seems to suggest, as it is the fear of the unexpected hurt.
I’m not really suggesting that I’d like to practice being broken, but I think there might be a life-lesson to be learned in the experience of these things. In fact, I’d like to know if there is research on the subject. And as much as I’d hate it, I might actually be able to reconcile a broken… well… something, by this logic.
The thing is, I’ve never really been broken. I’ve been in the hospital a couple of times for minor burns and stitches. I’ve been admitted for reacting poorly to medication and for an acute case of appendicitis. And I’ve had my fair share of knocks to the head, nose, chest, and other sensitive subjects, particularly as a result of being a parent. But, I’ve never had a major accident. I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve never punctured, ruptured, or severed anything. And I don’t know that I’ve even been honestly punched in the face.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want these things to happen. I’ll avoid them if I can. But there is something academically interesting to me in the idea of a broken femur or a severed finger — upon myself — and the psychological and physiological lesson that might be learned, just as in the pop-culture references above.
And, not that this needs to be said, this wasn’t an invitation.