Heller got this down, this catch, that we all too often find ourselves in. He perfected it, peeled it down to its core. Alan Arkin, throughout the film, personifies the horror, despair, and utter frustration (as well as bemusement and amazement) that being caught in a Catch-22 creates.
It's a sick feeling, in the pit of your stomach that rises to your throat, the sensation of tears held back, and the complete and utter helplessness you feel at being in the eye of the storm of Catch-22. It's learned helplessness at its essence.
And yet, Yossarian at both the end of the film and the novel, appears to have found a way around the catch by doing what Kirk would do in the Kobyashi Maru would do: cheat.
It's the ultimate fuck you, I grant: to decide the rules don't apply to you, and that when you're faced with a no-win scenario, you simply upend the game board and quit playing the game.
“From now on I'm thinking only of me.”
Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile: “But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way?”
"Then,” said Yossarian, “I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn't I?”
Anywhere there's bureaucracy, there's Catch-22, and the reality is that we really can't just upend the game board, not really. Whether it's dealing with the military and being medically unable to complete the final PT test and being stuck in limbo for four extra months of nightmarish hell or working out the details afterwards, once a kind and departing commanding officer takes pity on you and personally and privately conducts the PT test, even to the point of running beside you for two miles, and signs off as you passing so that you can finally get out of hell, or the later limbo of trying for a medical discharge...or years later fighting for a diagnosis for your son with the military medical system and then school districts, to the present day, where you try to honor your 11 year old's wishes to go to college NOW rather than suffer another year in the school system, only to find that she can take the placement tests but no path exists for her to enter the college until sophomore year in high school as a dual credit student, or to speaking on the phone with creditors trying to get them to arrange a hardship payment plan...
And that's not all the Catch-22s, either. There's the catch of trying to get off Zoloft and yet having to keep taking it in order to end the endless waves of dizziness and feeling a sinking helplessness at having to take a drug I don't NEED for the condition it was presribed...I may need it for depression if I can't get off of it soon, though...
Catch-22 abounds ceaselessly in my life right now, and not just because six of my seven courses are watching it.
It's everywhere I look, and I'm left laughing out loud while on the phone with a woman who was trying to explain that to even apply for a hardship program, because I made a payment yesterday, I must make a payment in the next seven days in order to apply for the program. But if I can't then I must NOT make a payment and call a few days before my due date to apply for the program again, at which point I must be able to make a payment then, but she cannot tell me how much I must pay until I apply for the program and the computer says what I must pay. But if I cannot make that payment at that time, then even if I qualified for the program, I won't qualify for the program because I cannot pay.
I am not making this up. Not exaggerating. Seriously. What a fucked up world we live in.
I told her she really needed to read the novel Catch-22 or watch the movie, because that was her job. I did! I really did, as I laughed this weird, wounded, fuck-me-you're kidding laugh.
Here I tried to do the right thing, make a partial payment, then call and ask for help last week, but because the payment was pending they could not help me then. I had to wait till the payment was made and then I could call back and they would help me. So I did, and you can see where that got me: laughing and feeling the need to puke over such a stupid, fucked up system.
I share this because as a society we keep the things that rip us up the most hidden from others. We don't share and we end up bleeding internally (metaphorically, although occasionally truly from the ulcer we get from all the Catch-22s).
We'll be fine--we'll get caught up, hardship program or not, and it will all be good, so it's not that big a deal. This is just a momentary glitch that we will take care of.
And Lily, well, she'll study college level material at home with me--it won't count as college credit, but when she's older, she can go in and clep out of that stuff. She can go when she's 15. That's three and a half years, a blink of the eye.
The reality of being constantly in the midst of Catch-22s with the allure of pulling a Yossarian and bolting is sometimes tempting. However, I read Closing Time, and the reality is that no one really escapes Catch-22s.
Not even Captain James Tiberius Kirk...