Flight Club

fight spirit religion faith reason truth love

By Joel Benson

Image generated with OpenArt.ai

Every evening, the city that never sleeps raises from its nine-to-five slumber. Weary bodies trickle, flow, then surge into the congested pathways of the city, embarking on their 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, then ascend 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 these fight club crowds descend into venues of violent face-off, another crowd ascends somewhere unusual. Another club has established itself above the city, refusing the “Fight Club” label, defying all nomination for that matter, but it conducts itself as a fight club, operating by the same set of rules that brought the original 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 hope and ambition, 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 he had overheard: the name of the place and one daunting rule that looms above the rest: “If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.”

When Joseph arrives at the purported address, he passes through the towering building’s vacant lobby, finds an awaiting elevator, and begins his ascent. He continues to worry, ruminating about the characters he may face tonight and about the preparation his worldly experience has provided him. He figures his life is roughly a quarter of the way through and takes comfort in knowing that 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 some sort of truth that would guide him through life's uncertain decisions and that would provide him with an objective view of the world. He reflects on his childhood, how it had surrounded him with religions based on stories, historical events, and facts about the world. Nonetheless, driven by an authentic desire to live the good life, whatever that may mean, Joseph had always operated with a strong critical faculty and quickly discovered the futility of these quasi-reasonable religious systems. Eventually, when his frustrations mounted, he concluded that every rational system is riddled with paradox and he recognized the hopelessness of attaining a confidence-beyond-doubt in any theory of everything within his lifetime. So he sought transcendence of the rational, the logical, the scientific, and he found it in Love. Now Joseph places faith above knowledge; faith 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 dings to announce Floor 29, the halfway point of Joseph's ascent. His optimism grows as he recounts his intellectually rigorous journey to Love. He is sure that the beautiful notion will remain solid, even as the sharpest and wittiest of minds at this mysterious club attempt to break it apart. He feels Love surrounding him as an armor that surely no unconsidered fact or difficult case could puncture. How everyone will thank him, and praise Love, once they come to accept 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, which chairs were by now mostly occupied. The thirty or so chairs encircle two seats arranged in standoff position in the middle. The geometry confirms the violent nature of the club as Joseph had imagined. His eyes trace the ground as he walks around the circle to find a seat. He confines his observation to himself, avoiding the intimidating looks of 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 notices the new face's arrival and hides her surprise when the face's person ends up seated next to her. First-timers typically distance themselves from Thena, 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 to turn any theoretical system inside-out, initiate its collapse under its own weight, or push it off into its underlying axiomatic abyss. Yes, Thena thinks, all belief is susceptible to death. Truth is merely an instrument of destruction; whatever one of its hands may create, the other will later destroy.

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

But no arrangement will keep the two apart any longer. Thena has focused her gaze on this stranger, setting the glorious event into motion. Tonight, Joseph will fight Thena in the ring and the skies will witness how deep the blade of reason sinks into the flesh of love. In the collision of two souls, an infinitely-sharp blade will slash at an impenetrable armor, and blood will mark the boundary between reason and love. Joseph’s hopeful eyes for the first time will stare directly into the void, he will witness pure analysis, and Thena’s dissecting hands for the first time will feel a pulsing heart, she will touch pure hope. Then all in a glance, in nothing more than a moment, love will be broken or reason will be made whole.