- Catch-22 – From Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, Catch-22; a dilemma from which the victim has now escape
- Ironic/Irony – The expression of one’s meaning by using words of the opposite meaning in order to make one’s remarks forceful; the quality of being so unexpected or ill-timed that it appears to be deliberately perverse.
- Paradox – a statement etc. that seems to contradict itself or to conflict with common sense but which contains a truth.
(Definitions from the Oxford Dictionary)
These three ideas, expressions of contradiction, and phrases of conflict, have been on my mind lately. I’m not really sure why; maybe they’re turning up frequently in the media I absorb on a daily basis – the books I’ve been reading, movies and shows I’ve been watching, and even news broadcasts and podcasts I’ve been listening to.
I know paradox has been a bit of a subliminal buzz word lately. For one, The Paradox of Tolerance is a real thing. Basically, in it’s watered down form, in order for a society to be one of tolerance, it can’t put up with intolerance. Think about that for a minute. It’s dizzying. Google it if you have to.
There’s also an economic theory, The Paradox of Thrift. I only recently heard about this one – and it too deserves a closer look. In it’s watered down form, it’s a self fulfilling prophecy; when we’re worried about the economy we save more, and by saving more, we don’t spend. Not spending slows the economy…
And of course, if you read/watch any, and I mean any, time traveling story, there is always a paradox (or a butterfly effect problem – but that’s for another day). The protagonist has to work out how to save a loved one, or stop a cataclysmic event, without somehow disrupting the timeline – to save their mother from meeting her murderer they need to force her to change her routine on that fateful day; but in doing that, she never meets their father, thereby they won’t exist to go back in time and save her… you’ve seen this one haven’t you? Yet we always watch/read it to the end, don’t we?
Then there’s Catch-22. This term fascinates me, mostly because it was created by the novelist, Joseph Heller; I doubt he ever thought it would became common slang that’s actually listed in the dictionary, especially if you research it and learn that it wasn’t originally a Catch-22. They, Heller and his editor, went through a few other number before settling on the number 22 for the title and atual catch in the novel.
Regardless, Catch-22 has become one of those phrases whose meaning most of us understand, often without having read the novel or even knowing it’s origin. A Catch-22 is that instance when you can’t do B without doing A, but you can’t do A without B. Like in the novel, Catch-22, it’s often cited when one runs into bureaucratic red tape at the DMV or other governmental agency.
But we do use it in reference to non-governmental problems too. One of my favorite personal examples is from an experience years ago in the days before cell phones were common. I needed a phone line installed at my business, so I called the phone company from home. They needed a phone number to notify me that their technician was on the way. I offered my home number, but that wasn’t acceptable because it wasn’t at the location of the necessary phone line. Our conversation went around in circles for much longer than needed in order to resolve this problem.
Or maybe you see that as ironic. Irony’s a tricky one, it’s often misused. Sometimes I’m not sure I’m even using it correctly. Irony isn’t’ bad luck, or coincidence. Irony is much more subtle, much more nuanced.
I’m not even sure if the photo to the left is truly ironic; but at the time, when my shop flooded and the waters were receding, the roof started leaking. I put a pan down to collect the water falling from the ceiling. Maybe the leak wasn’t ironic, but my action was. Like I said, irony can be tricky.
Regardless, Catch-22’s, irony, and paradoxes make for great plot twists and story embellishments – even in real life. How many times have you asked someone about their day and got a “Well, let me tell you!” followed by a tale full of twists, turns, dilemmas, and funny anecdotes?
Maybe that’s why these concepts have been on my mind lately, not because of media, but because I’ve been experiencing so many paradoxes, Catch-22’s, and ironic events in my own life lately. I’ll let you decide which is which.
I do what the doctor ordered, only to have them tell me exactly what I told them would happen if I did what they wanted.
New medicine makes me feel better, takes away the aches and pains, but leaves me too tired to take advantage of it.
Need to spend money to make money – and oldie but goodie.
Writing more often, but finding it longer between blog posts because I’m getting carried away with what I’m writing.
Need classes on my business’s schedule, even if historically, attendance is low in February. Then every one of February’s classes fills up.
Ask The Goat (my hubby) why he always makes triple batches of waffles or pancakes, then get an upset belly and eat leftover waffles, plain, for dinner.
Step in dog poo while cleaning up dog poo.
You get the idea. Right now my life feels so topsy-turvy, inside out, a contradiction with every action. Has anything changed? Not really. Thankfully, there hasn’t been any major climatic plot twist or change in my own personal storyline.
Yet, here I am. Muddling through, trying to move forward but seeming to always fall behind. I try reminding myself that every good story starts with a protagonist dealing with an ironic situation, working out their own Catch-22, or trying to understand a paradox in their life.
We’re all writing our own story. Every author has a unique style, every life a unique story. Some stories are flamboyant, some droll. Some are serious, some just plain nonsense. Some are tragic, some are comedies. Some are common, some are almost unbelievable. Some are short, some long. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the story is written, the life is lived.
Don’t worry about that “happily ever after”, only fairy tales end that way, life isn’t meant to be a fairy tale. Life is more like a 600 page novel, with all the twists, turns, daily bits, and characters that come and go. Life has happy chapters, and sad ones. Life is full of Catch-22’s, paradoxes, and irony.
So, no matter the Catch-22’s you find yourself in, the paradoxes you don’t think you can solve, or the irony you laugh at because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry, keep living and writing your story. Every chapter, every day.