24 October 2008

Chapter IV: Letter 4.1

Chapter IV
Come Back a Long Way

Hindu mythology tells how a wrathful, avenging god set fire to a glittering pleasure city on the island of Ceylon. Today the exquisite island is called Sri Lanka and it is again aflame with violence.

The mythical demon-god of Ceylon kidnapped Lord Rama's wife from India and imprisoned her in what now is Colombo, and history records that on the island Buddhist Sinhalese kings fought Hindu Tamil kings from South India before and after the birth of Christ.



"...Heller presses his point home by telling us (on the same page) that Catch-22 is like the flies that Orr sees in Appleby's eyes.

"Oh, they're there, all right," Orr had assured [Yossarian]... "although he probably doesn't even know it. That's why he can't see things as they really are."

"How come he doesn't know it?" inquired Yossarian.

"Because he's got flies in his eyes," Orr with exaggerated patience. "How can he see he's got flies in his eyes if he's got flies in his eyes?"

It made as much sense as anything else....

Yathābhūtam na pajānāti: he does not see things as they really are: the phrase -- so typical a Sutta description of the puthujjana, the unenlightened commoner -- is used here by Heller to illuminate precisely the characteristic of being entrapped in a situation. Not only does the puthujjana have flies in his eyes, he does not see that he has them, and he does not see this because he has them. His dilemma is that though he must find a way to see, yet he cannot find that way precisely because he cannot see. Indeed, he cannot even see for himself that this is his problem. And this is the dilemma which, at its most fundamental level, is the specific concern of the Buddha's Teaching. The structure of avijjā, the structure of Catch-22, the structure of "having flies in one's eyes": they are one and the same. Catch-22 is avijjā. The title character in both the novel and in our lives never appears and yet is omnipresent..."

Sāmanera Bodhesako,
from The Buddha and the Catch-22

No comments: