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Life, The Universe & Everything: An Introduction


For months, I've had this gnawing urge to put some other ideas down into words. Not the number 42 because they are great ideas but simply because I have to express them.

Maybe it is the writer in me or maybe it is the cancer. It doesn't matter, although one would like to think that someone will come along and say, hey, that's an interesting idea and the original expression will take root and evolve.

There are so many topics that I need to cover, all philosophical:
    God & Religion
    Nature & Purpose of Life

Gawd, what a pompous list! It reminds me of the question put to Deep Thought in Douglas Adams' brilliant and hilarious four-part trilogy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Deep Thought was the most powerful computer ever built and it could answer any question so it was asked for The Answer.

"You know," they tried to explain. "The Ultimate Answer, the Secret to Life, the Universe and Everything. Can you do it?"

Deep Thought mulled and said, yes, he could, but it would take awhile.

How long?

Seven and half million years.

They protested but had little choice. After all, The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything wasn't easy to come by.

So they went about their lives for seven and a half million years while Deep Thought pondered until The Day approached. As it neared, resident philosophers protested and even picketed, complaining that if The Answer was known, they would be out of work.

But The Day came and Deep Thought was asked if he had The Answer.

Yes, he said.

To Life, the Universe and Everything?

Yes, he said, but you aren't going to like it.

It doesn't matter! We need to know!

You sure?

Yes! Yes!

You won't like it!

Tell us! Tell us!

Okay! (long pause) The Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is...




I told you that you wouldn't like it.

Seven and a half million years and that is all you have?

Your problem, Deep Thought finally explains, is that you don't have the question to which The Answer is 42.

Well, they ask, what is the question?

I can't do that, Deep Thought says. That would require another and even larger computer that he will have to build and it will search for The Question.

So he does and the name of the computer is: Earth.

That's a pretty shorthand retelling of only part of Adams' brilliant series. Yes, it is satire but I think it is more than that.

I don't know who it was that said primal truths (as archetypes) cannot be grasped because they are what we use to grasp. Perhaps Jung. An archetype is, in Jungian psychology, a pattern of thought or symbolic imagery that we derive from the past collective experience of all who preceded us. It is what drives us forward, and holds us back.

Because archetypes are what we use to understand the world, they themselves cannot be understood for we would need another to grasp it.

Imagine how the eye can see everything but itself. The ear can hear everything but itself. A finger can touch everything but itself.

In like manner, Understanding can grasp everything but itself and we look into a darkness, wishing we could touch our own creation for that is the one place we cannot.

And so we have other ways of reaching to the source of ourselves, perhaps to touch the very source of our existence, from which we look at the world. One way is myth. Joseph Campbell made that point. Music might be another. Poetry certainly plumbs the depths of our souls. Some turn to religion, relying on another source to grasp why they are here.

Personally, along with Campbell and some others, I like Adams.

I can laugh with the rest but deep inside, something is telling me that he is right and that is why when the humor of the satire passes, something is left, a nagging feeling that he is right.

But how?

And so we -- or some of us -- chase ourselves.

I have been doing it all of my life. It is why I majored in Philosophy and even pursued a PhD. How else could I spend my days in pursuit of understanding?

That journey has carried me into realms that I would wish on no one, but I am not sorry. It has been and is my journey and I take my cancer as merely one more excursion.

We cannot fully control our lives but neither can we control the wind.

But we can trim our sails.

It just depends on where we want to go.

These essays will try to record that other journey.


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This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not replace or amend professional medical advice. Unless otherwise stated and credited, the content of Phoenix5 (P5) is by and the opinion of and copyright © 2000 Robert Vaughn Young. All Rights Reserved. P5 is at <>. P5's policy regarding privacy and right to reprint are at <>.