Beyond a mundane declaration of befuddlement, it is also the title of a novel by Joseph Heller — his second novel published some 13 years after the successful first one that most people remember him by: Catch-22.
It lacks the surrealism of the first novel; the absurdity of tragic events unfolding distinguishable from the logical and sequential manner in which we see the world, turned upside down by images of madness countering the reality of the insanity around. The genre of the absurd — depicted in such movies as “Life is Beautiful” and in works such as Catch-22 — attempts to unveil the underlying insanity beneath the veneer of a world acting as if normalcy abounds.
Other movies that attempt to portray the absurd might include Sophie’s Choice, where the main character (played by Meryl Streep) keeps going back to the comfort of her insane boyfriend because that is the more comfortable reality she knows, having survived the insanity of the Nazi death camps.
But long before the genre of the absurd came to the fore, there was the brilliant short story by Cynthia Ozick entitled, The Shawl, which has been noted for bringing out the horrors of the holocaust through a medium — the short story — that captures the essence of absurdity and the surreal in a mere few dozen pages. The story is a small bundle that reverberates so powerfully that it overshadows any subsequent attempts at depicting life’s absurdity.
Catch-22 elevated the absurd to a consciousness that brought further self-awareness of the unreality of the real — the Vietnam War — and tried to unravel the insanity amidst a world that tried to explain the event as something logical and sane.
Something Happened — a book about a character who engages in a rambling stream of consciousness about his childhood, job and family — is perhaps more emblematic about the life most of us live: seemingly logical, yet interspersed with events, reminiscences and memories that are faulty at best, and far from perfect. The title itself shows a greater awareness of our befuddlement — of not knowing “what” happened, only that it did, and the inability to control the events that impact our lives.
Medical conditions tend to be of that nature — of an event that we have no control over, and yet, we are aware of its “happening”. For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who have come to realize that something happened — a medical condition; a chronic illness that simply will not go away; a traumatic event that has had residual consequences which are continuing to impact; whatever the “something”, the “happened” part still resides.
Such recognition of the “something” will often necessitate the further recognition that it is now time to prepare, formulate and file an effective OPM Disability Retirement application, to be filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in order to secure a future that is presently uncertain.
Consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in getting Federal and Postal employees Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and take the necessary steps to ensure that the “something” that “happened” is not one more tragedy in this tragic-comic stream of consciousness we call “life”.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire
OPM Medical Disabilities Retirement Attorney