Life, the Universe and Everything
...and the answer is not in fact 42, even when you know what the Question is.
Years ago I read "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe", the sequel to Douglas Adams' famous book "The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy" (THGG). Well finally I have read that book too! How did I find it?
In two words, brilliantly pessimistic.
Brilliant in its humour, e.g.
People of Earth, your attention please... Plans for the development of the outlying regions of the galaxy require the building of a hyper-spatial express route though your star system, and regrettably your planet is scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you. - THGG, p.30
Brilliant in its concepts, e.g., the starship "Heart of Gold", propelled by the Infinite Improbability Drive
Pessimistic through and through;
Meaningless, meaningless ... Utterly meaningless! (The Bible, Ecclesiastes Chapter 1, verse 2)
an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. (THGG p6)
If the book's world-view is correct we are nothing but slime, plus time, plus luck. Going mad, going to drink, or suicide, are natural conclusions. What does it matter? What does anything matter? My life has no more significance than the noise of the wind in the trees. Our loves and longings, our art and science, all are meaningless.
Winston Churchill said much the same (though I have not been able to find the exact quote)
What is man, what are we? We are specks of dust that have settled in the night on the map of the world. (to Roosevelt and Stalin, 194?)
Fortunately most of us cannot really accept this; we say "My life, my love, my longings, my creativity, must mean something!" Let me say, there is no need to believe this dismal philosophy at all. Listen to what Francis Schaeffer, one of the great thinkers of the 20th century, wrote:-
Modern man is deeply plagued by the question, "Where to love and communication come from?" Many artists who pour themselves out in their paintings, who paint bleak messages on canvas, many singers, many poets and dramatists are expressing the blackness of the fact that while everything hangs on love and communication, they don't know where these come from and the don't know what they mean. The biblical answer is quite otherwise: something was there before creation. God was there; love and communication were there; and therefore, prior even to Genesis 1:1, love and communication are intrinsic to what has always been. ("Genesis in Space and Time", p12)
The Bible itself answers Churchill's cry
What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honour. (Psalm 8)
We are made in the image of God, and therefore we have real meaning.
Yes, the image is broken now, but not utterly destroyed, and God longs for us, the crown of His creation, to be restored. The band Jefferson Airplane sang in the 60s "You are the crown of creation, and you got no place to go!" They were wrong - we have God and Love Himself to go to. That is why Jesus Christ, God the Son, God in the flesh, came to die, so that we might live. He came to "give his life a ransom for many" (the Bible, Mark's gospel, Ch. 10, v45), and not just to tell us "to be nice to people" (THGG p6).
Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew's gospel, Ch.11 v28)
For the sake of your soul's happiness, get a Bible and read it. Its far more brilliant, and its optimistic too!
This page http://tardus.net/lifeUniverseEverything.html Last published: 11 Feb 2007