Intellectual Fight Club

"If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight."

Every evening, the city that never sleeps raises from its nine-to-five slumber. Weary bodies trickle, flow, then surge into congested pathways of the city, embarking on journeys to life’s next destinations. For most of the crowd, the ensuing journey looks the same: fall by elevator down to earth, follow the dots, and ascend by elevator back up again—more elegantly said than done.

Obscured by the regular commotion, an irregular destination has recently emerged, and shifting tides of traffic indicate that indeed, something new graces the city. The city has become well-acquainted with the old news: the fever of underground fight clubs—a craze born years ago in Wilmington, Delaware that has since proliferated across cities nationwide. With fight clubs flourished a revolution glorifying bodily destruction and the undefeatable nature of that which does not fear, but relishes, its own annihilation. Tonight, as the fight club crowds descend into their venues for violent face-off, another crowd ascends somewhere unusual. Another club has established itself above the city, refusing the “Fight Club” label, or any denomination for that matter. Yet, it conducts itself as a fight club, operating by the same rules that originally brought fight clubs widespread notoriety. The factor distinguishing this mysterious club from the rest is that, instead of body against body, fights are fought mind against mind, identity against identity, world against world.

On this particular evening, an unfamiliar character weaves his way toward the new destination: an aspiring novelist named Joseph who, guided by literary hopes and ambitions, recently relocated to the city. He walks in stride with racing thoughts, unceasing mental simulations preparing him for any case, whatever tonight may happen at this uncertain meeting. He knows only what he infers from an exchange overheard earlier—the name of the place and one daunting rule that looms over the rest: “If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.”

Joseph arrives at the supposed address, passes through the towering building’s vacant lobby, finds an awaiting elevator, and begins the ascent. He continues worrying, ruminating about the characters he may face and the preparation his worldly experience has provided him. He figures his life is about a quarter of the way through, and he takes comfort knowing his time has been rigorously productive. He assumes that unlike most figures he will meet tonight, his life has always been an investigation—a search for truth to lead him forward through uncertain decisions and to develop an objective view of the world. He reflects on his childhood, how it surrounded him with religions based on stories, historical events, and facts about the world. Yet, driven by an authentic desire to live a good life, whatever that may mean, Joseph had always operated by strict criticism and quickly discovered the futility of these quasi-rational religious systems. Eventually, as his frustrations mounted, he concluded that every rational system is riddled with paradox and recognized the hopelessness of attaining reasonable confidence in any theory within a lifetime. So, he sought transcendence of the rational, the scientific, and he found it in Love. Now Joseph knows that Love is the answer—unconditional Love, beyond all notions of rational and irrational, right and wrong, good and evil. Yes, Joseph thinks, if rational answers evade us, we are left with one choice: to recognize our shared, irrational human condition and confront it with empathetic, unconditional Love.

The elevator announces Floor 29, the halfway point of the ascent. Joseph’s optimism grows as he recounts his intellectually rigorous journey to Love. Certainly, he knows the notion will remain intact, even as the wittiest minds of this mysterious club try to pull it apart. He feels Love around him as an armor—an armor that no unconsidered fact or difficult question can puncture. How everyone will thank him, and praise Love, when they realize the beauty and the firmness of the notion!

The elevator dings Joseph good luck and its doors slide open, revealing a square rooftop encompassing a ring of chairs. Most of the seats are already occupied. The thirty or so chairs encircle two more seats arranged at a standoff in the middle. The geometry confirms to Joseph the nature of the club just as he had imagined it. As he walks around the circle to find a seat, his eyes trace the ground. He confines his observations to himself, avoiding the intimidating looks from strangers.

Seated in the circle opposite the elevator, Thena watches members arrive one by one, observing the curiously patterned manner by which they fill the seats. She immediately notices the new face when it arrives and hides her surprise when its owner ends up seated next to her. First-timers typically distance themselves from Thena, most likely intimidated by her sharp features—the business attire she wears and the blue gaze she wields. Her features betray a secret arsenal of analytical weaponry—a set of intellectual, conceptual and verbal faculties that can turn any system inside-out, initiate its collapse under its own weight, or trigger its fall into its underlying axiomatic abyss. Yes, Thena thinks, all beliefs are susceptible to death. Truth is merely an instrument of destruction—whatever one of its hands may create, the other will destroy.

In everyday life, Thena handles her weaponry with delicacy and caution. They typically find employment only in self-defense. In fact, her success in business stems from rational temperance and a wisdom distinguishing theories that ought to be destroyed from theories that ought to be preserved. To Thena, the preservation of a theory depends only on its utility. But each night, when minds across the city congregate on that fatal rooftop, Thena suspends her discretion. She unleashes what they desire: salvation by destruction, severance from ideology, freedom from false idols that bring souls farther from life and closer to death. Had Joseph courageously looked up while finding his seat, peaked for a moment into Thena’s homicidal eyes, perhaps he would have sat somewhere else, far away.

But no arrangements will keep them apart any longer. For Thena has set her sights, and now, the glorious event is in motion. Tonight, Joseph will meet Thena in the ring, and the world will witness how deep the blade of reason sinks into the flesh of Love. As two souls collide, an infinitely-sharp knife will slash an impenetrable armor, and blood will demarcate the rightful boundary between Truth and Love. Joseph’s hopeful eyes will stare directly into the void for the first time—he will see pure reason. Thena’s dissecting hands will feel a pulsing heart for the first time—she will touch pure hope. And all in a glance, nothing more than a moment, a whole man will be broken, or a broken woman will be made whole.