Monday, January 30, 2017

Review of Introducing Heidegger

I liked the cartoony style of the book which kept it semi-interesting, but I ended up deciding Heidegger is hardly worth the effort.  I'm sure he helped move some thought along in his time by loosening terms and experimenting with idea-games, but I'm not convinced he did much more to earn his place as one of the fathers of existentialism. I'll be honest and say that his Nazi sympathies and lack of post-war remorse was the final straw for me, but he also struck me as a academic playboy vying for first-chair in the philosophy department.  The very fact that "Being And Time" was practically unfinished and rushed into publication so he could fill the vacancy left by the former chair of his department, Husserl, tells me just about all I need to know about him. No wonder he makes very little sense...he didn't have to! Is this an Emperor-with-no-clothes kind of thing?

It wasn't all a waste, I suppose. I like the idea of 'Da-sein' (human beings defined as 'there-being'--better translated as 'being-there') as a deconstruction and broadening of the idea of what it means to be human--that humanity is a more complex first-principle than what religions, sciences, and philosophies have reduced it too. The idea of Da-sein as being in-the-world is a reminder that Da-sein can't be separated from it's environment, and that it is always Da-sein itself that is considering itself as separate object while not being truly capable of separating itself as idea or object from the environmental fabric with which it is partly identified. The world and even time itself is 'bent' by Da-sein (a foreshadowing of Einstein's rather unoriginal idea) and can therefore only be understand as part of the holistic picture with no beginning/end.

Heidegger expanded on Husserl’s Time-Consciousness which expanded on Bergson’s work. "Husserl believed that time ‘appeared’ in consciousness in much the same way that a musical melody is known. The melody is knowable only through the simultaneous operation of three acts of consciousness:

  1. Retention: notes which are no longer sounding have to be retained in memory
  2. Attention: a ‘primal impression’ of each note, as it sounds, must be gained
  3. Protention: the auditor must ‘listen ahead’ and construct expectations of what might or might not follow.
Time must be viewed in the same way. Not linear, but simultaneous consciousness of all principles at once."

There ya go. The rest was gobbleygook. Well, not really, but it did feel like a spiral into meaningless theology (which I admit I can no longer stomach in the least), politics, academic pedantry, wishful thinking, and ice cream I want ice cream. Plus, he was a friggin Nazi. So...

Well, it was nice to met you Heideggar, but I'd like my sanity back now. As one redditor said about a completely unrelated subject (and I have no idea why I remember this): "Ride free into the scintillating frog sunset, you mad bastard."

Credit for frog sunset quote:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Review of Utopia by Sir Thomas More

More’s Utopia is a reminder that every human, utopian dream has a short shelf-life. Stories of perfect worlds and heavens are told by imperfect, limited, and selfish people. What were they thinking? It’s actually fairly depressing to think that we don’t know what we want, and even our most beatific visions end in suffering and boredom for someone at first, and eventually all of us, especially the creator. But the attempt itself is delicious! Who but humans would try such an impossible feat? It’s not like any higher or lower life that we know of can do much better. The highest cerebral function of the chimpanzee, our nearest relative, is to toss butt brownies at his atavistic chums. So, yeah, imagining a better world and doing something—anything— to actualize our hopes pretty much buries the competition in their own fecal fancies.

Even setting the idea of progress aside, the willingness to try something great in spite of risked failure is a triumph in itself. And then there’s always the hope that something, however unexpected, will turn out. I love the words of Percy Shelley, “[We] hope, until hope creates from its own wreckage the thing contemplated.” Utopia is a wreck in many ways, but it’s another step towards better, more hopeful wrecks! Utopia’s puritanical morality, metaphysical expectations, and political simplicity are native to the early Renaissance mindset and augurs a worse world by some first-world standards, but it was still far better than the murderous rat-holes that many lived in at the time. And as a dream, it sparked new dreams and new ways to express those dreams.

You cannot read works like this with the same outlook as you would a modern work of creative fiction. As n historical work removed from our political/economical milieu, it does not speak to us with like-mind as it spoke to the people of its time. We have to understand their problems and hopes before we can understand their brave attempts at a solution. Only then can we find the analogy between Utopia and our own utopian strivings.

“Verily, my brother, if thou knewest but a people’s need, its land, its sky, and its neighbor, then wouldst thou divine the law of its surmountings, and why it climbeth up that ladder to its rope” (Nietzsche).

Since the second half of my edition of the book (Norton Critical Edition) was filled with several examples of utopian stories from other writers in other cultures, and essays from literary critics and historians about Utopia and its ramifications, I was able to distill a few more lessons from More’s Utopia. Like trying to read Dante’s Inferno without understanding the thousands of literary allusions to his contemporary society that makes the work all but opaque to modern readers, I would definitely read a reference work or cliff notes along with Utopia to get as much out of it as you can.

On the other hand, reading it for the pure enjoyment of watching old sand-castle-heavens crumble to make way for the newest, dated heavens isn’t a bad way to spend an evening.

Review of On the Road by Kerouac

I know Jack Kerouac regarded himself as a ‘dumbsaint of the mind,’ but this work felt more dumb than saint. Yes, yes…I’m sure he’s a genius. But what an extraordinary waste of time and talent this book represents…and I’m talking about the time/talent it takes to read it, not to mention write it!

Okay, that was fun. But in all sincerity, where did this young dumbsaint go wrong? As a writer he seems enamored with wastrels and good-for-nothings. I found myself wanting to sing him the old protestant Christian Hymn, “Come home!” If there’s anyone who needs a solid come-to-Jesus moment, it’s young, will-less Sal Paradise and his permanently fork-in-the-road friend, Dean Moriarty.

How the bloody hell could anyone like this book? Seriously. If you’re reading this review and you actually liked the book, I would love to know why. Leave a comment. And then slap yourself.  I suppose the virtue of the work could have been the way it gave the establishment the finger, or the way it celebrated middle class opportunity and rebellion, or the way it demonstrated the knee-jerk and reckless ingenuity of vagabonds bred by good ole ‘Merica. To be honest, those are interesting subjects to me; but Kerouac’s style is too rambling, repetitive, mundane, and even at points thrilling for all the wrong reasons. I could find no redeeming value in any of it. The characters were all pieces of shit in the strictest, dictionary sense of the terms. I’ve gone back to the book several times since reading it, wanting—nay…aching!— to find some glimmer of value. Nothing. Maybe it was just a tad too long? Maybe I’m too immature to appreciate the nuanced high-culture from which Jack scrutinized and baptized low-culture? Maybe the feeling of reader-futility was Jack’s exact point? Maybe. Or maybe the book is for dumbsaints.

If you haven’t read it, or even if you have, grant me the honor of summarizing. Sal is a spoiled brat, a supreme example of delayed adulthood, who is always looking for a rush and can’t sit still long enough to get some steady work and stop bumming money off his aunt who keeps sending him money because she’s always afraid he’s going to die as a result of his dumb-as-saint choices. This mindless dolt chases around Dean Moriarty, the only person stupider than himself, and literally follows off every cliff Dean jumps off. Dean is that ‘friend’ which every parent in every home ever has warned their kids about in that phrase, “if they jumped off a cliff, would you?” Yup. Little boy Sal would. I swear that the Darwin Award—conferred on every imbecile who ever killed themselves and thus mercifully removed their genes from the human gene pool—was created just for idiots like Sal and Dean. If one of those boys came after my 13-year-old daughter—after all, they chased pre-teens in the book—I wouldn’t blink to grind their cognitive functions to a halt with an aluminum baseball bat. In self-defense of course.

The only way the ending could have been better would have been if both of the protagonists were publically flogged while being forced to declare, “We are pieces of shit that don’t deserve our privilege of going around stealing, bumming, drinking, drugging, lusting, humping, nearly-child-molesting, women-beating, and pretending to appreciate the life we disgustingly squander as if it’s just another cheap beer!” Yes indeed, that would be a good ending and might nearly redeem the story. I don’t ask for much. Unless the option of them killing themselves was on the table. In which case, I’ll take that.

I really do wish Jack would have been wise enough to use this as some kind of moral fable instead of a play-by-play of his blended experience and fantasy. It was written in a spirit of levity no doubt, but I could hardly stomach the cyclical, spiraling ignorance and unconscious sensualism that seemed the real heart of the story. The literary style displayed all the panache and flourish of a staggering drunk. The theme was so self-destructive, but with accents to try and make it somehow romantic and hilarious. Maybe if the character splurged like that for a day. That might be funny. But for years upon years of adulthood?

Question. What kind of country doesn’t let people like that starve to death? Letting such prodigals eat better than pigs is a crime. Sarcasm aside, there are people who do live and die like these characters. And it’s much less handsome. How is this funny? I mean really funny? Not as in the “they’re stupid” kind of funny, but as in the “this is cool” kind of funny? I consider myself fairly progressive, but let’s not celebrate stupidity as artistry. Stupid people are not artists; they are the art of artists.

For the love of God, don’t feed the dumbsaints.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Film Review: Swiss Army Man

Summary: A tale for only the lowest- and highest-brow intellects, Swiss Army Man sticks its dirty finger on the peeled flesh of raw human friendship and introduces us to ourselves in all of our fetid charm.

This is a movie with a prodigious amount of farting. And, yes, I thought most of the farting was funny. And yes, I also thought the idea of a corpse being ridden as a jet ski was downright hilarious, especially when Hank pulls down the corpse’s drawers to allow its bare butt to go full-throttle. Yes, that really happened, and yes, I laughed so hard that a stray French fry remains lodged in my sinuses to this very day.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, here is a quick, spoiler-free synopsis: Hank is stranded on an island contemplating suicide when he sees a male corpse wash up on shore which turns out to be weirdly half-alive though nearly immobile, and the two develop a friendship as the duo—Hank and Manny—try to find their way out of the jungle by utilizing Manny’s rigor mortised limbs as wood choppers and methane-producing, versatile bum as a jet-ski and fire-starter; leaving plenty of time for Hank to teach Manny about life, opportunity, love, farting, courage, and fear until Hank finally ends up exploring his own internal landscape—‘unlearning what he has learned’—and recognizing his true self as he comes to terms with the reality and/or delusion (I’m not spoiling it!) of his experiences with Manny which appear to go back-and-forth between psychosis-lucidity-psychosis-lucidity until Hank ultimately releases his inhibitions, expresses his desires, and accepts and affirms himself despite the confusion and possible rejection of his society.

Deep breath.

This movie was a bromance of the highest order with full-on hugging, dancing, rugged survival, avowals of life-long loyalty, drinking of torrential spit from each other’s mouth, and a random underwater kiss that ignited the butt-farting (again) and saved their very lives. Farting. Vindicated.

The question many might ask themselves upon finishing the movie is best phrased by one of the character’s exclamation upon an encounter with this strange scenario, “What the fuck?” We in the theater all nodded our heads in agreement with this sincere and apropos question. There was no overt answer to the question in the movie, but I believe that there is a strong point to the movie though it degenerated quite willingly into complete and utter nonsense at times. But despite this decoy, it returned to its motifs with a more solid punch for every twist.

This story of a man and his corpse explores two themes: 1) bro friendship, and 2) self identity.

1) Bro Friendship

Manny: “If my best friend hides his farts from me then what else is he hiding from me, and why does that make me feel so alone?”

Many men aren’t comfortable with their feelings for their homies. Back in the day, Arabs consummated deals by placing their hands curiously close to the other party’s ball-sack. Socrates and his ilk had no problem proclaiming love for their brethren by wrestling naked. Aristotle went so far as to say that a friend is “a second self.” Christianity’s Apostle Paul—St. Homophobe himself—declared that men should “greet each other with a holy kiss” (with the understanding of course that “the tongue should lie dormant in such blessed mouthing lest his Lordship Caesar should learn of it and want to ‘get up on it’” (I Thessalonians 19 something). Walt Whitman made male bonding even more socially acceptable by cloaking it in his reverence for Lincoln and a Grizzly Adams persona by which he became widely considered as a man’s man with “ne’er a proclivity towards ass-washing.” That brings us right up to the era of buddy films like Good Will Hunting and Lord Of the Rings. The rest is history and mostly legal: guys can like guys, and guys can really like guys.

So it’s all cool, bro-love, right? Well, not yet apparently. People of the modern age are in general still struggling to understand their complex natures, not to mention complicating that search for identity with the multiplied problems of fathomless dimensions of societal relationships with other fucked-up people. If it takes a lifetime or more to “know thy fucked-up self” as Socrates put it, it will take many more lifetimes to “know thyself in the context of other fucked-up selves.” But we don’t have much time, and life gets thick, quick. Guys aren’t always sure about how to connect best with other people, not to mention other people with penises. Watch Fight Club. And for the record, girls aren’t sure about these things either. Watch Bridesmaids. And everything in-between. There, I don’t think that oversimplifies things at all.

Manny: “Girls must be so nice to let guys do all these things to them.”

When we say ‘bro’ most people probably refer to males, but the word ‘bro’ is a reference to a type of friend-relationship that is like family and ideally unselfish. Bros are bros to bros who don’t need them because they have a gaping hole to fill (just in case you didn’t catch that….no pun intended). Bros need bros to just be bros and nothing else. Bros are there when the going gets tough, and bitches be bitchin, and bastards be bastarding. Sometimes a guy (gender neutral) just needs another guy (gender neutral) to be a friend and not require them for ulterior motives or sexual intimacy.

In a nut-sack, that’s what the whole bro thing means. We all want to have at least one pure friendship with loyalty and love that’s not about—what Manny referred to as—“boobs, vaginas, butts.” Or penises for that matter (“Manny, I think your penis is guiding us home!”). Or any of the other parts of the body that human erotica transmogrifies into something to lick or ejaculate on. Bromance is about keeping things completely Platonic so that both parties are bringing something to the table, and leaving each other alone at the end of the day. It’s not sexual, or parental, or dependant, or enabling, or parasitic, or domineering. It is true, secure friendship of separate selves.

Manny: “I'm scared because I fear if I die I might really miss you.”
Hank: “Oh you're the worst.”

So, this film is NOT about farting. Merely. I mean, it’s definitely about farting, but it’s not JUST about farting. There’s more. Lot’s more.

2) Self Identity

Manny: “Oh God I'm disgusting. My body is disgusting.”

Homo Sapiens are gross. And not even in the immoral sense always, but just in the ‘plain nasty’ sense. Movies, meta or method as they often are, still cannot quite approach the metallic taste of reality. Our Victorian puritanistic toilet paper and pretended virginal innocence to our rank crevices and odors are much more absurd than anything in this movie, and our false-piety is a complete denial of our physical grotesqueness, office gossip, barstool confessions, church hypocrisy, and political selfishness. Oh, we are mostly fine being oblivious to ourselves. Joseph Campbell— that great mind that unified myths and stories from around the world and condensed them down into recognizable, recurring themes—believed that even our most horrific stories seldom wish to plunge into the inhumanity of our existence. “Generally we refuse to admit within ourselves, or within our friends, the fullness of that pushing, self-protective, malodorous, carnivorous, lecherous fever which is the very nature of the organic cell.” We’re gross.  And because we are disgusting, and because we don’t like smelling our own excrement, we mold our excrement into devils, ghosts, zombies, hitlers, trumps, step-parents, cool kids, and Teletubbies. According to Campbell, the ogres in our stories are “reflections of the unsolved enigmas of our own humanity.”

But is critical and necessary that we come to terms, to some extent, with our humanity and inhumanity. We must, at some point, explore our dark places if we are ever to find our way. The poet W. S. Merwin wrote that all light gathering leaves are the direct result of roots saturated with darkness, and that humans must grow by “touching the darkness of their whole story from which their leaves open.” The coexistence of beauty and ugliness, good and evil, love and hate, life and death has fascinated people throughout history. Why? Because we can’t seem to escape our fears and filth which dwell side-by-side with our most wholesome traits and cherished hopes. This is so damn hard to admit to ourselves. So we shroud our self-confession in story which helps to soften the blow by a forced, though unconscious, dissociation. Cognitive dissonance and dissociation can be a healthy defense against the bombardment of pessimism and nihilism, but it must be transcended frequently for the sake of a unified self and an honest look at our situation which affords an opportunity to change things for the better.

That’s why farts. Cuz us.

There may be a Nietzschean flare to this whole caper. Friedrich Nietzsche’s character, Zarathustra, sympathetically carried around a friend’s corpse for a while in Thus Spoke Zarathustra until he came to the conclusion that he was finished with “corpses, herds, and believers” in favor of companion-creators. Jesus himself told his followers to “let the dead bury the dead” as a way of embracing a life free from the dead-weight of people-problems (what a dick). Moving on from the corpses—dead-ends and fruitless appendages— of our lives is certainly a recurring archetype in many cultural narratives. But the larger arc of this story would indicate that the ‘adventures of Hank and Manny’ is a simple story of friendship, even if a tad apparitional at moments. Their world’s rules often seem to change from one scene to another, but the writers are under no obligation to be consistent. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” (Emerson). Come at me.

Manny: “I have a lot of questions about all the things you just said.”

It is, on the surface and near the bottom, a story about a bro being allowed to love a bro. Hank’s neuroses prevent him from enjoying masturbation, being able to accept his mother’s death, expressing his feelings of affection, and farting in front of people. He doesn’t know himself or accept himself. But his stiff friend changes all that. You can watch the film to discover if Manny is real or just another Wilson (from “Castaway”), but the scenes are clearly illustrative of how friends accept each other, mirror back to each other traits that only a friend can disclose, provide a safe place for the risk of exposure, become each other’s compass when lost, wipe each other’s tears, drink each other’s spit, and accept each other—farts and all. Well, most of that.

We are a lot of things to each other including resource, support and reflection. We are each other’s Swiss Army Men and women. We bring each other to life.

“My name’s Manny and this is my best friend Hank. I used to be dead and he brought me back to life.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review of Ada Limon's "Bright Dead Things"

I first read Limon’s poem How To Triumph Like a Girl in a magazine called The Sun—a weird little creative writing periodical that was sent to my home probably by accident, and in which I connected with very little until I stumbled upon Limon’s masterpiece. If you haven’t read it, you need to.  The poem, not The Sun. God, not The Sun. The poem had an emphasis on woman-power, but as a man I felt equally inspired and in awe of human strength and self-belief.

I read a lot of poetry, but this little beauty stopped my world's rotation for a few minutes. So simple and profound. I nibbled on it for days like a sustaining trail mix in a hostile jungle.  Poetry as condensed, creative, and courageous words are important to those of us who feel like we don’t have enough genius or time to catch all the ideas and feelings that run like water through unconscious fingers.

Wait a minute. That was genius. I want to thank my family, my editor, the Academy, and any one of the gods of the top ten religions.

So, I bought the book. Many of the poems in this book delivered the same seismic wallop as “How To Triumph...” Limon is great at appreciating life while complaining about the sucky stuff in a way that doesn’t completely coagulate into mere bitchiness. It’s crude enough to be authentic, but even when it gets a little weird (e.g., squatting to pee in the poem “Service”), it feels like it was about time for someone to piss on the rules. (Pardon the phun…I did mention I’m a certified genius, write?)

I loved Limon’s criticism of the evasiveness and self-loathing of many constricting forms of religious belief. Life is inscrutable but beautiful, and life lived with open-eyed hopefulness—“the sweet continuance of birth and flight in a place so utterly reckless…How masterful and mad is hope”—is infinitely preferable to adopting a traditional faith by which one can pretend to “fix their problems with prayer and property.”

The benefits of her humanistic/naturalistic/agnostic life include:

“…[a] new way of living with the world inside of us so we cannot lose it, and we cannot be lost.”
“…nesting my head in the blood of my body…I relied on a Miracle Fish, once…that was before I knew it was by my body’s water that moved it, that the massive ocean inside me was what made fish swim.”

The coup de grace to fundamentalist religion arrives in a description about a time in her life when she tried believing in prayer as tradition suggests, but she couldn’t make it work.

“There was a sign and it said, This earth is blessed. Do not play in it. But I swear I will play on this blessed earth until I die.”

Sounds like a good idea.

The play part. Not the die part.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review of Humans of New York

This is not a coffee table book. It looks like one, but it’s not. It is a masterfully simple summary of modern human experience and the current evolutionary status of homo sapiens in photos and short stories. It is not a coffee table book in that it ought to be taken seriously and read in earnest by all serious readers. But I guess in one sense it IS a coffee table book in that it ought to be, and can easily be, read by anyone no matter how much they normally read.

I have to admit, I was surprised at how gorgeous-ugly-provocative it all turned out to be. Searching might even be a good word for how it works on the reader. You can’t read it all through in one setting—or maybe you can, but shouldn’t. You have to put it down to digest, and keep coming back. Otherwise, you miss it. I was moved to tears several times. It’s not that the entire thing is profound. Rather, it was a perfect blend of the trivial and mundane, hysterical and hilarious, trite and bizarre, insane and beautiful, horrific and courageous, and sickening and inspiring qualities that make up the still-undefined and open-ended question of what it means to be human. I was actually surprised at how finely tuned its poetry and portraiture was. I don’t know how Stanton does it so well. I imagine that it’s not as easy as it looks. I doubt that even 10% of his interviews or portraits made it to print. It couldn’t have. Every line seemed surgically cut and pasted with tweezers, needles, and magnifying glass to give the impression of effortless storytelling and to get the letting-life-tell-its-own-tale look so precisely. I found myself reading out-loud to my family, sending people texts of some of the pictures and stories, and planning to use it for group discussions.

Stanton doesn’t force the stories to paint the loveliest picture of life at any cost. His humans come across as hopeless, depressed, evil, and oozing with tar and darkness. But they also come across as courageous, loving, pure, hopeful beings of light. There’s something in the book to sicken even the most optimistic; but other things to fill even the most nihilistic with joy. The unresolved dilemma of human meaning might be one of the most unsettling features of the work. Reading it, we’re not sure if humanity is a good thing or a bad thing. This is where Stanton is genius. He offers no solutions. He lets it play out. All the loveliness and horror do their own work in each reader. No doubt he believes that the light will prevail against the dark, but the conflict is real and at times very disheartening. I still can’t shake the memory of the guy who said that he had to get used to spending life alone because he was obese, relating that his first few therapy sessions were filled only with crying. Or the principal who made each of her students stand up in school while she told them one by one they mattered. Or the boy who said that he’ll always remember the day when no one showed up to his 10th Birthday party. Or the old woman who cheerfully noted that today there were ducks instead of pigeons eating the bread she threw.

The book runs through the dizzying spectrum of human emotions in all their colors and shades; and we’re left feeling a rich, deep, wounded, but purposeful sort of acknowledgement of the value and vicissitudes of life. It’s as if Stanton is documenting our joys and pains and saying from his individual but validating presence and work, “I see you, and your experience if valid.”

Or something like that. Or maybe his message is something more like, “You’re not alone.” I’m reminded of Robert Frost’s Question:

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

Somehow Stanton’s work leaves us with an impression that the scars aren’t too much to pay for birth. Not by a long shot.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review of Catch-22

My advice to anyone who wants to glimpse the brilliance of Heller in half the time and twice the concentration: read Vonnegut.

The irreverent and critical style of Heller is amazing in some ways, especially considering the uptight milieu in which it gained ascendance, and at times it was quite hilarious and illuminating, but unfortunately too much  of it amounts to 500 pages of low-hanging puns and cheap shots to slog through to unearth the gems. Some of his one-liners make his works worthwhile though, and while reading I stay reasonably convinced that he knows what he’s doing and I just need to lighten up. Even so, it is convoluted and laborious for the most part, and I found myself wanting it all to be over after the first hundred pages. I would be embarrassed to say how many days this went on for me, and how many books I started and finished before I put this one to rest. I only hope some of the quotable quotations I put in my back pocket get used in this lifetime, because it is my only justification for the book.

All in all, there just too much great literature that’s current and probably more impactful for someone to waste too much time on this. Hate saying it, but it’s probably past its prime and ready to take its rightful place as one of the ‘classics’ that everyone knows about, but nobody reads.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Some of the best lines from the book:

And if that wasn’t funny, there were lots of things that weren’t even funnier. (17)

He had decided to live forever, or die in the attempt. (29)

‘You mean there's a catch?'
'Sure there's a catch,' Doc Daneeka replied. 'Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy.'
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
'That's some catch, that Catch-22,' he observed.
'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed. (46)

Like Olympic metals and tennis trophies, all [military awards] signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else. (72)

Clevenger was dead. That was the basic flaw in his philosophy. (104)

People knew a lot more about dying inside the hospital and made a much neater, more orderly job of it. They couldn’t ; dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave. They had taught her manners. They couldn’t keep Death out, but while she was in she had to act like a lady…People bled to death like gentlemen in an operating room, or expired without comment in an oxygen tent. (166)

“I’m cold, Snowden had whimpered. I’m cold.”
“There, there,” Yossarian had tried to comfort him. “There, there.” (166)

There were billions of conscientious body cells oxidating away day and night like dumb animals at their complicated job of keeping him alive and healthy, and every one was a potential traitor and foe. (172)

He could start screaming inside a hospital and people would at least come running to try to help; outside the hospital they would throw him in prison if he ever started screaming about all the things he felt everyone ought to start screaming about, or they would put him in the hospital. (172)

Each day he faced was another dangerous mission against mortality. (175)

General Peckem even recommends that we send our men into combat in full-dress uniform so they’ll make a good impression on the enemy when they’re shot down. (219)

You put so much stock in winning wars…The real trick lies in losing wars, in knowing which wars can be lost. (245)

There was no way of really knowing anything, he knew, not even that there was no way of really knowing anything. (The chaplain, 266)

Did it indeed seem probable…that the answers to the riddles of creation would be supplied by people too ignorant to understand the mechanics of rainfall? (285)

He wished that he could be young and cheerful, too. And it wasn’t their fault that they were courageous, confident, and carefree. He would just have to be patient with them until one or two were killed and the rest wounded, and then they would all turn out okay. (regarding Yossarian’s hardened, military cynicism beside the buoyant, courageous young recruits, 349)

He felt awkward because she was going to murder him. (394)

When you added them all up [the good people with the bad] and then subtracted, you might be left with only the children, and perhaps with Albert Einstein and an old violinist or sculpture somewhere. (413)

He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in the entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. (440)

When I look up [for ideals] , I see people cashing in. I don’t see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every human tragedy. (445)