(And so this is solstice. A time when humans, over many tens of thousands of years, have devoted themselves to Deep Thoughts. In the spirit of which, a piece that examines the “Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.” That is: 42. An earlier version of this piece rambled on to red here.)
In the cosmology of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the “Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything” is, as determined by a computer that devotes more than 7 million years to the task, the number 42.
The computer then informs its programmers that the precise nature of the ultimate question, however, is still unknown. At the urging of the agitated programmers, the computer then agrees to construct an even more sophisticated computer (subsequently known as Earth), which, after 10 million years or so, will come up with this question. To which the answer is 42.
Unfortunately, the Earth is destroyed by Vogon workmen, constructing a new Hyperspace Bypass, about five minutes before the question is due from the computer to arrive.
Douglas Adams, who came up with this delightful nonsense, always vowed that there was nothing special about his selection of the number 42 as the “Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.” He consistently maintained variations around the claim that he decided the Ultimate Answer “should be something that made no sense whatsoever—a number, and a mundane one at that.” That he lit upon 42 “at random.” That 42 is “a completely ordinary number, a number not just divisible by two but also six and seven . . . the sort of number that you could without any fear introduce to your parents.”
But you know: he could be lying. Because it is a fact that brains lie all the time, and Adams was, so far as is known, an Earth creature, and one with a brain. So even if he was not consciously lying, his brain could have been lying to him.
I’m pretty sure now that this is the case—that Adams, or his brain, knew what the number 42 represented, and employed it as The Answer intentionally. I believe this because of what I’ve found in The White Goddess.