When I need to disconnect from the world, I play Runescape (which, believe it or not, I first parsed as “run – escape”). I always play on world 42, which is the “role-playing world”. I don’t know how to role-play (I always think of J. Edgar Hoover), but I play there because of Douglas Adams.
Douglas Adams is the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a science-fiction satire that was recently mashed up as a movie. The premise of the movie is this: an anxious alien race designs a computer to calculate the answer to “life, the universe and everything!” The computer first calculates the time required to produce the answer, then goes into millenium-spanning hibernation. When the instant arrives, a huge throng of ecstatic onlookers is treated to the result.
Now Adams says that this was a completely random number: just the number that came into his head while out in the garden.
You can imagine our disappointment.
The alien race complains that the answer doesn’t mean anything, and the computer explains that it still has to calculate the question. The mood of the crowd brightens as the computer announces that it will design an even bigger computer to calculate the question.
In the end, it turns out that the computer is the Earth. The hero of the series is ultimately trapped with the representatives of the alien race, manifesting as mice, who threaten to cut open his brain to get at the question.
Now, as a literary critic, I have to say that this entire story line is absurd. The question was already asked: “What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?” So the problem was that they didn’t understand the answer. The answer is here on earth. So let’s see, what can we make of 42?
Well, 42 = 6 x 7. In Genesis, ‘6’ is the number of man. ‘7’ is the number of god. “seven times six” can thus be read as “god elaborated as man”. In other words, the answer to “the meaning of life” is the little baby Jesus!
Douglas, were you entirely innocent in bringing this wisdom to the world?
Merry Christmas everybody!
Just don’t ask me to explain what this means with in re: the recent book by W and the Clinton presidency.