• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.


The Difference Between Me and Chuck Palahniuk Is That I Don't Pull My Punches

(Warning: contains spoilers if you haven’t read/watched Fight Club.)

Yes, Fight Club is an excellent book, but it pulls its punches.

It’s the equivalent of MMA fighting. The claim is “no holds barred”, but in reality, anything likely to cause real, lasting injury is forbidden. Everyone gets up, cleans up, and goes home to fight again another day. That is the case with the fictional Fight Club in the book, and it is the case with the novel and movie called Fight Club.

Palahniuk spends the first part of the book haranguing us about the shallowness of modern life, and sucking us into a reality in which Tyler Durden is building up a rebellion that will ultimately destroy modern industrial civilization and return us to a hunter-gatherer existence. “In the world I see—you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.”

Remember that speech from the movie? It’s even longer in the book.

And just when we’re starting to feel uneasy—because we’ve been going along and nodding our heads at every awkward truth about ourselves that comes out of Tyler’s mouth—just when we’re starting to confront the basic ugliness and inhumanity that lies behind even the richest civilization in history, which is ours…

…Palahniuk reveals that the narrator and Tyler are the same person, and that Tyler runs the body while Joe/Jack is asleep.

What a relief! Just when we were starting to have to take Tyler Durden seriously, the author lets us off the hook by revealing that it’s all done with mirrors. Tyler is just the narrator’s crazy alter ego—and suddenly the entire story is shrinkwrapped with an airtight layer of “That can’t really happen.” Suddenly we can regard all those awkward truths with ironic distance, suddenly Fight Club is just a book after all, and we can all go back to work without needing to punch our boss or piss in the coffeemaker. The revolution has been televised—on hundreds of millions of DVD players, over and over again.

In contrast, The Gnoll Credo drops us into an apparently fantastic world, with gnolls and orcs and lion-men. But as the book progresses, we slowly come to realize that their world has the same rules as our own—no magic, no gods controlling our fates, and no narrators leading an impossible double life. And as we learn more and more about gnolls, we slowly come to realize that they aren’t so different from humans after all…

And that is where Chuck Palahniuk would have pulled his punch. Just when the reader starts to become uncomfortable, he introduces an unbelievable element that allows us to retain a safe, ironic distance from the events and the message of Fight Club.

I don’t pull my punches.
I follow through, all the way to the end.
Instead of distancing you, pushing you away, I finish the narrative cleanly and without compromising.

Then, in the Epilogue, I pull the reader out of the world of the book and into the present time, confronting you directly with the consequences of what you’ve just read, and forcing you to decide—for yourself—where that leaves us, both as individuals and collectively as a species.

And that is the difference between me and Chuck Palahniuk.

I Am A Ghrelin Addict

I am a ghrelin addict.

Ghrelin is a hunger hormone. Your body secretes it when you haven’t eaten for some time. It makes you hungry, and blood levels plummet once you eat.

Yet ghrelin is so much more than hunger.

Ghrelin is neurotrophic. It enhances learning and memory — in fact, it is “essential for cognitive adaptation to changing environments and the process of learning.”
Ghrelin stimulates the secretion of growth hormone.
Ghrelin increases cardiac output.
Ghrelin increases the concentration of dopamine in the substantia nigra, the brain’s center of reward and addiction.
That is why ghrelin is a rush.

Ghrelin is why hunger motivates us, and why it’s so hard to get motivated to learn or do anything when you’re full of food. Brains are metabolically expensive, and ghrelin sends our brains into overdrive when we need them—which is when we’re hungry.

Ghrelin is one reason fat people get fatter. If you can’t resist hunger—if a little shot of ghrelin just makes you walk straight to the cupboard and grab a snack—you’ll never know the sublime pleasure of feeling your brain kick into overdrive, the hot satisfaction of really digging into a tough problem with all your strength. You’ll just sink back onto the couch and flip channels and get fat.

Ghrelin is yet another sign that humans are hunters, not farmers. Is hunger a useful motivator to plow and sow and weed, when the reward of harvest is months away? No. The only reason for hunger to make us smarter is that we are hunters, and our minds must be honed to a sharp edge in order to find and kill big, dangerous animals and defend our kills from the other predators, and that is what ghrelin does—but only when we’re hungry, because we didn’t co-evolve with refrigerators.

I am a ghrelin addict.
I dance on the knife edge of keen mental acuity and dopamine rush.
The rush cannot last forever. If I am smart I simply eat, and accept the lull. If I am not smart, I push it too far and crash into starvation and depression.
I am not anorexic! I love to eat, and I eat like a warrior, and I have never purged, ever. But in order to do my best, most inspired work, I must dance on that knife edge as long as I can.

The hunger gnaws at my insides until I can feel my gut twisting itself into knots. Yet I gladly suffer the pain in order to wield ghrelin’s power. It is my cursed sword and its power is terrifying and intoxicating and it exacts its price from me, and I pay that price with an evil grin, because it is a power I could not wield any other way.

I am a ghrelin addict, and this is my story.