Everyone who’s hip likes Fight Club. Even if we didn’t quite understand the ending (why didn’t he die again… never mind). But over all the classic down-with-the-man quotes and scenes from the movie, one subtle line has stuck with me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about it. Here’s the scene (it’s towards the beginning of the movie, so it’s pretty spoiler-free):

The exchange that interests me starts at around 0:54. “It’s very clever, How’s that working out for you?” Tyler says.

This 13 year old quote has made me wonder how much time and effort I spend trying to be clever. In some ways, I think cleverness has replaced “class” as the quintessential virtue for a post-modern Western cultured young adult. Think I’m wrong? How about everyone who has ever spent more than a minute carefully crafting in your head the perfectly worded Facebook status update or Tweet, please stand up. See?

And what Tyler Durden makes me wonder is: what exacty does being clever get for us?

We joke about “internet points” such as likes and comments on our Facebook updates or how many retweets we get or sites like Reddit that actually keep track of how many points you have. Joking aside, this never-ending race for instantaneous likability is really starting to change the way we think.

As Donald Miller once pointed out our sarcasm and cynicism are often protective measures we put up in place of deeper longings and needs. They also prevent us from forging more intimate and empathetic relationships.

When I think of the mentors and heroes in my life, they cared very little if at all if people thought they were clever. Instead these people were driven, passionate, and compassionate.

So I’m challenging myself (and maybe you) with this thought: if my best attempts at being clever paid off, and I pursued that road for as long as I live, how would that work out for me? What greater, deeper dreams would be lost? What virtues should I pursue instead?

The Cost of Being Clever


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