Thomas Merton, St Joseph, and Tyler Durden

I was thinking today about what sort of man I want to be known as. My answer was “strong”. But then I realised, that this is my false self (in the words of Thomas Merton) speaking. How do I know? Because it looks at how I’m seen, not how I am.

I was reminded of St Joseph’s great silence in the Bible. Joseph was a good and righteous man, and didn’t care what others thought. He fathered God, but never made a big deal of it. He simply got on and did his duty, or equivalently, did God’s will for him.

St Joseph is the dreamer, but doesn’t fulfil his dreams by words, but by humble, consistent, grueling work. He never sought glory, but was content to contribute to the glory of God, whether he was seen or unseen. I pray God let me imitate my namesake in this [Ignatius is my confirmation name, and Joseph my baptismal].

I also remembered a very different character, with different wisdom: Fight Club’s Tyler Durden said, “Self-improvement is masturbation. Self-destruction on the other hand…”

I absolutely love this quote.

Self-improvement is masturbation because it’s self-pleasing and doesn’t bear any fruit. It’s infantile and revolting. It’s a waste of life to please yourself by becoming “better”. Stop pleasuring yourself in public!

Self-destruction on the other hand… liberates us. Fight Club is about men abandoning what Jesus calls, “the world”. Tyler Durden is captivating because he’s almost St Francis, who was almost Jesus. He recognises and abandons the emptiness of the world, of the self. But in chasing his self out, he is still stuck chasing his self.

Why? Because he believes God doesn’t care about him; his self is all he has. There is nothing beyond his self to be reached.

But St Francis, (and even more truly, Jesus) can totally destroy his self and be free, because the destruction of his self, through all his mad penances and lifestyle, is in the love of God. The falsehood of the self that Tyler Durden could see so clearly, can only be destroyed by the Truth that is God.

God bless you!


  1. Well, that’s thought-provoking! I have never had any interest in watching Fight Club… You’re making me rethink that….

    I think what you’re talking about here, though, is that self emptying does have different forms. I can’t comment on the movie character, but there are some Eastern Non-Christian thoughts that hold nothingness as a kind of divinity, as The Divine. Christian self emptying, on the other hand, isn’t about nothingness but, rather, fullness – the fullness of God’s love.

    Sooo difficult to do, though! …Or is “do” not the right way of looking at self emptying??


    1. It’s an amazing film on many levels, but I must warn that there’s a little bit of sex & nudity (not gratuitous, but physio not “tasteful”). Still, it’s an incredible, deep, and really important film, and I would recommend it.

      Yes! Exactly. That’s a really interesting comparison… My understanding is, that in at least some Eastern philosophies/religions the Sacred Nothingness is simultaneously a Fullness. It might be similar to how for us, God is not a thing, and if we can think of it, it is not God, so we can truly say God is no thing, or God is silence, or similar statements. I would say that self-emptying for the sake of a nothingness still has a positive motive, but Tyler’s self-destruction is essentially negative.

      That is a damn good question. My guess is we do “do” it, but also, it is Christ living inside us that crucifies us.

      Thank you for your thoughts, and making me think more.
      God bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

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