joseph heller, catch-22, and reflections

“And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways… Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”
“Pain?” Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife pounced on the word victoriously. “Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.”
“And who created the dangers?” Yossarian demanded. He laughed caustically. “Oh, He was really being charitable to us when he gave us pain! Why couldn’t He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of his celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person’s forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn’t he?”
“People would certainly look silly walking around with red neon tubes in the middle of their foreheards.”
“They certainly look beautiful now writing in agony or stupefied with morphine, don’t they? What a colossal, immortal blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess of it he made instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering.”

“Rome was destroyed, Greece was destroyed, Persia was destroyed, Spain was destroyed. All great countries are destroyed. Why not yours? How much longer do you really think your own country will last? Forever? Keep in mind that the earth itself is destined to be destroyed in twenty-five million years or so.”
Nately squirmed uncomfortably. “Well, forever is a long time, I guess.”
“A million years?” persisted the jeering old man with keen, sadistic zest. “A half million? The frog is almost five hundred million years old. Could you really say with much certainty that America, with all its strength and prosperity, with its fighting man that is second to none, and with its standard of living that is the highest in the world, will last as long as … the frog?”

“This is a pretty good tree,” he observed admiringly with proprietary gratitude.
“It’s the tree of life,” Yossarian answered, waggling his toes, “and of knowledge of good and evil too.”
Milo squinted closely at the bark and branches. “No it isn’t,” he replied. “It’s a chestnut tree.” I ought to know. I sell chestnuts.”
“Have it your way.”

What did you learn from Catch-22?
You always have other options.
And every stab of pain and death is worth the ending life, the final triumph over mathematics and axioms and fate and doom and duty to the irration.

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