Tuesday, April 01, 2008

theology according to Yossarian

I'm a big Joseph Heller fan. So much so that I refer lovingly to a friend of mine as "Yossarian" based on his striking resemblance to the character of the same name from Heller's book, "Catch 22". As I'm rereading it for the third time in my life, I have been amused almost to the point of reprinting the whole thing here. Since that would be awfully time consuming and probably illegal, even with proper crediting of the source... I'll just share this tidbit from pags 176-178 of my paperback version dated 1990, printed by Dell Publishing. And if all that's not enough to properly credit Joseph Heller with the following excerpt from his book "Catch 22", then let me reiterate that the following quote is NOT originally written by me.

Yossarian speaks about God:

"And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways," Yossairan continued, hurling on over her [Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife] objection. "There's nothing so mysterious about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about -- a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. 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 diving system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatalogical 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 upon 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 doorbel 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 foreheads."

"They certainly look beautiful now writhing 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 He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. It's obvious He never met a payroll. Why, no self-respecting businessman would hire a bungler like Him as even a shipping-clerk!"

Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife had turned ashed in disbelief as was ogling him with alarm. "You'd better not talk that way about Him, honey," she warned him reprovingly in a low and hostile voice. "He might punish you."

"Isn't He punishing me enough?" Yossarian snorted resentfully. "You know, we mustn't let Him get away with it. Oh, no, we certainly mustn't let Him get away scot free or all the sorrow He's caused us. Someday I'm going to make Him pay. I know when. On the Judgement Day. Yes, that's the day I'll be close enough to reach out and grab that little yokel by His neck and--"

"Stop it! Stop it!" Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually aout the head with both fists. "Stop it!"

Yossarian ducked behind his arm for protection while she slammed away at him in feminine fury for a few seconds, and then he caught her determinedly by the wrists and forced her gently back onto the bed. "What the hell are you getting so upset about?" he asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. "I thought you didn't believe in God."

"I don't," she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. "But the God I don't believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He's not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be."


Little Bald Bastard said...

I love that part of Catch-22, although it's almost all genius.

That bit it even funnier if you know a little German.

Dach said...

Too bad your friend doesn't really behave much like that anymore. Gues life has this bad habit of slowing people down.

Busplunge said...

That's some catch, that Catch-22.

It's the best they got.