by Chuck Palahniuk
He is so Zen
Okay, now that all the cards are laid out, we can talk about the more Tyler-esque parts of our narrator's personality.
When our narrator first meets Tyler, he's "naked and sweating, gritty with sand, his hair wet and stringy, hanging in his face" (3.79). And yes, that was an intentionally ambiguous pronoun. What's important here isn't who's naked, it's the nudity itself. Aside from the images of a young, naked Brad Pitt trashing through our heads, there's nothing sexual about this nudity. No, it's spiritual and pure.
Plus, he's building a wooden hand on the beach so that "for one minute [he can sit] in the palm of a perfection he'd created himself." (3.98) Palms and meditation are all very Zen. Our narrator would mock this, saying, "HELLO! I am so ZEN. […] Everything is nothing, and it's so cool to be ENLIGHTENED. Like me," (8.8) but that side of his personality fears calmness and creation. The Tyler side embraces it.
Rock Us, Sexy Jesus
No, no one would ever call Tyler Durden a Buddha figure, and not just because he doesn't have the curvy figure to pull it off. All that violence and bloodshed surely goes against the Buddha's teachings. Although, despite the violence, he doesn't manage to pull off the literary Jesus thing. By that, we mean that he has quite the savior complex. Check it out:
(1) Jesus wasn't much for worldly possessions. Neither is Tyler: "I'm breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions [...] because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit" (15.29).
(2) Just as Jesus spread Christianity, Tyler Durden spreads fight club across the country, leaving a mass of followers and wise apostles—like the doorman and the mechanic—in his wake.
(3) Then there's that whole crucifixion thing. Tyler is all about self-sacrifice and the subsequent resurrection: "Getting fired [...] is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we'd quit treading water and do something with our lives" (10.43).
(4) And how about the fact that our narrator all but prays to Tyler, saying at one point, "May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect. Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete. (5.84-5.88).
While the means he uses to achieve his goals—fists, bombs, and urine—might not be the most virtuous, in his heart—if a psychotic projection of a neurotic insomniac's deepest desires has a heart—Tyler really has good intentions.
New World Order
But good intentions don't always pan out—you know what they say about the road to Hell. And Tyler gets a little out of control near the end of the book. When the narrator finally finds out that he is actually Tyler Durden, Tyler confesses, "Every time you fall asleep [...] I run off and do something wild, something crazy, something completely out of my mind" (22.19). It might be completely out of Tyler's mind (again, as much of a mind as a schizophrenic projection can have), but it's all part of the narrator's mind. The two parts of our narrator's brain combine like water and lye into an explosive concoction.
Ultimately, the new society that Project Mayhem is trying to achieve turns out to be a lot like our current society—just with a different person in charge: Tyler Durden. Instead of an army of mindless corporate drones working for the benefit of soulless, faceless corporations, an army of drones is working for the benefit of Tyler Durden.
And there seem to be a lot of benefits to being the head of a society in which everyone—men, at least—is supposed to be living up to their fullest potential. We guess when you feel like you don't exist, whether it's because you're just a nameless cog in the machine or a figment of someone's imagination, you try extra hard to get some attention.