“So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”

So, I recently read (only about a quarter of the book, if I’m honest) Douglas Adams ‘s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I must say it’s a little too random for me and I found it impossible to sit through the whole thing. Embarrassed for not having managed to like this super popular book, I decided to watch the movie hoping it’ll help me understand what the deal here is and I can go back to the book again and finish it.
Nope. That did’t happen because the movie only reinforced my belief that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is just not my cup of tea.

Having said that, I think there are two things that I’ll be taking away from it:

1) 42.

Here’s the extract from the book when Douglas Adams introduces 42 into pop culture:

Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and squirming like excited children.

“All right,” said the computer, and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.
“You’re really not going to like it,” observed Deep Thought (the supercomputer).
“Tell us!”
“All right,” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to the Great Question…”
“Of Life, the Universe and Everything…” said Deep Thought.
“Is…” said Deep Thought, and paused.
“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.”

“Forty-two!” yelled Loonquawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”
“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

We chase things without even knowing why we are chasing them. We spend a lifetime looking for answers when we don’t even know the questions.

2) The short existence of the sperm whale & the petunia pot

“Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.
And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.
This is a complete record of its thoughts from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.
Ah … ! What’s happening? it thought.
Er, excuse me, who am I?
Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?
What do I mean by who am I?
Calm down, get a grip now … oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my … my … well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.
Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what’s about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that … wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do … perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What’s this thing? This … let’s call it a tail – yeah, tail. Hey! I can can really thrash it about pretty good can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on. Now – have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?
Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation …
Or is it the wind?
There really is a lot of that now isn’t it?
And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground!
I wonder if it will be friends with me?
And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.
Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was ‘Oh no, not again’. ”

The petunia pot and the whale both has very short life spans and they were both falling to enviable doom. What was different was how the 2 chose to spend that time during the free fall.
The whale chose to be wide eyed curious, trying to find its purpose in life and name everything around it. It was looking forward to living forever and learning more about this new environment. And the petunia pot just sighed, “Oh no, not again.”

It’s the same with us, how we are going to look at life, because much in the same way as those two, we are free-falling towards death with every passing moment.

I know these things are open to interpretation and may be the author had something totally different in mind when he wrote these things, but hey, I (almost) sat though a novel that I borderline hated, so I take what I want to take from it 😉



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