Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
The seminal novel capturing the absurdity inherent in war, Catch 22, was written by Joseph Heller. Heller had been a World War II fighter pilot and flew 60 combat missions. In some ways, when you enter the military, you say good bye to all vestiges of logic and reasoning. Paradoxical rules and constant, senseless scenarios are part of the job. For instance, in one of the Forward Operating Bases (FOB) that we were stationed at in Bagdad, fires were constantly burning plastics and everything else close to our living area which undoubtedly put all sorts of toxins in the air we breathed. Smokers had a little alcove outside the door that was nowhere near where anyone lived in the modified chicken shack that was our FOB. The open-air-alcove had a ceiling that was reinforced with sandbags since we were mortared every single day.
Yet the brass came down with a rule that smokers had to move out 50 feet from the building under the desert sky that was filled with toxins far more deadly than second hand smoke, not to mention the mortars that would drop down on easy targets. Yet Phillip Morris never recognized us for our dedication to their cigarettes which put us in double jeopardy. Heller’s novel points out that things like that are par for the course and captures the damned if you do and damned if you don't predicaments you often find serving in war.
For folks with PTSD, trying to regain a sense of humor despite all the blackness and grief is an important undertaking and a step toward healing as there is a lot of truth to the old adage that laughter is the best medicine. If we can rekindle our sense of humor, we can find the light again.
Catch 22 provides a vehicle to see that we really were exposed to insane situations, and in seeing that we realize we need to find a pathway back to mental wellness, and realize it will take some time. Dark humor is a treasured favorite of war veterans because it helps cope with the reality of ruminating about the endless tragedy, rage, and sorrow which are all common signs of PTSD.