Behind the Words: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Wed, 2017/10/04
Joshua Ferm

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of my bookshelf, there lies a wholly remarkable book. Originally written as a radio show in 1978, "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy," written by Douglas Adams, was published as a book in 1979 and follows earthling Arthur Dent as he is taken from the planet, mere seconds before its destruction, by his friend Ford Prefect. While on this journey, Dent meets President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, Tricia “Trillian” McMillan, and Marvin the Paranoid Android. Prefect then gives him "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy," a sort of, “electronic database that can help you out of any situation.” Dent is forced to join them on their quest to find the “Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe and Everything.” They come across the legendary planet of Magrathea, where custom planet-making is the commodity. They learn from the computer Deep Thought that the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is 42. Deep Thought then states that Earth was created as a computer to calculate the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe and Everything. In charge of that operation is Slartibartfast, who loved doing the fjords of Norway on the Earth Mark I (and won numerous awards for them too). Since the Earth Mark I was destroyed, the Earth Mark II is being created to calculate the question again. Dent, Prefect, Zaphod, Trillian, and Marvin then leave to go on their next adventure, and possibly find the Ultimate Question.

Adams truly did write a wholly remarkable book, but what does it all mean? What is with the ambiguity of the “42” answer? Why is everyone cool with the Earth blowing up, and Arthur is the only one devastated? The answer lies within Adams' moral views. Adams viewed the entire universe as a series of improbable coincidences that guide one’s existence to be so infinitely small compared to the rest of the ever-expanding universe that nothing should matter. Sounds complicated enough, right? It’s actually very simple; the universe is infinitely big, so whenever anything happens to you it doesn’t matter because nothing else is affected and you should embrace this feeling and go around carefree. Along with this comes the very small chance that anything will happen in the infinite universe, and when something does indeed happen, it should mean nothing because the improbability representing that event is so small it’s basically zero. Adams just wanted people to go around being nice to each other and celebrate existing in a world where choices should not matter. I think this is a valuable lesson and, while it should not be taken literally to heart, it can be an example for the human race to find peace and stop constantly fighting.