I woke up this morning and I was forty-two. So I made a bacon, egg, and cheese burrito to celebrate.
Actually, that’s what I eat most mornings. And Mountain Dew, of course. Can’t forget that. My cat Gray Girl followed me around, trilling at me in hopes of a tidbit. She’s rather fond of bacon. And cheese. She’ll eat egg, too. Especially when it’s soaked in bacon grease.
And I thought, forty-two. I don’t feel forty-two. I’m still eighteen – I creak a little more in my joints, my muscles get sore sooner, I have a tendency to gain weight, I can see wrinkle lines in my face now that weren’t there five years ago – but inside my head I’m still young. My life is still full of experiences I haven’t had, places I haven’t seen.
Then I thought, I’m about to spend a year being forty-two. 42, get it? The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?
Okay, little bit of background, just in case you haven’t read the books. In 1978 an Englishman by the name of Douglas Adams created a comedy radio program called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that was broadcast on BBC4. He published the first book in 1979. It’s a fun little 5-book trilogy that was made into a TV miniseries in Britain, a computer game, a comics series, and in 2005, an American movie. In the story – or maybe I should say, in a story within the story – a race of ‘hyperintelligent pandimensional beings… got so fed up with the constant bickering about the meaning of life which used to interrupt their favorite pastime of Brockian Ultra Cricket (a curious game which involved suddenly hitting people for no readily apparent reason and then running away) that they decided to sit down and solve their problems for once and all.’
So this race created a supercomputer they called Deep Thought, and of it they requested “The Answer!”
“‘The Answer?’ said Deep Thought. ‘The Answer to what?’
‘Life!’ urged Fook.
‘The Universe!’ said Lunkwill.
‘Everything!’ they said in chorus.”
And so Deep Thought marshaled all its massive computing resources for seven and a half million years, and eventually delivered the Answer: Forty-two. When the descendants of the original designers of Deep Thought objected to the answer, the computer said that the problem lay in the fact that they really didn’t know what the question was.
‘But it was the Great Question! The Ultimate Question of Life, Universe, and Everything!’
‘Yes. But what actually IS it?’
And so Deep Thougbt designed the greatest computer of all, so complex that it would incorporate organic life itself, in a program that would require ten million years of computation, to find the Ultimate Question that would explain the Ultimate Answer, and Deep Thought called this computer… The Earth.
(Throughout the rest of the story you find out that the Ultimate Question is actually ‘What is six times nine?’ which indicates something is fundamentally wrong with the universe.)
Like I said, it’s a fun read.
So what does all this have to do with birthdays, traveling, or gaining freedom over your life?
A birthday – the start of a new year – is a natural time to pause and think about the events of the past year, and start looking ahead to what you want to have happen in the new. Being of an undeniably introspective as well as philosophical bent, I started to wonder today if forty-two might just have a real significance in a person’s life.
Think about it. In your forty-second year you’re halfway between high school graduation (eighteen) and the official retirement age (sixty-seven). However painful or joyful, the teen years are long over; the growth of adult skills in an adult world beginning roughly in the twenties has slowed and settled into habits; a person goes from ‘you’ve got potential’ to career stability in their thirties – hopefully in a field they have chosen and have fondness for, because if not it’s daily drudgery; by forty, those who are going to have families have half-to-fully-grown children (oh, and doesn’t that make a person feel old, to see high school classmates sending kids off to college!); youthful vigor has mostly worn off, true, but focus and experience have begun to take the place of sheer energy, blending in a way that will never be possible again.
So why shouldn’t forty-two really be the answer? Okay, maybe not to Life, the Universe and Everything – except as it involves the Life and Universe inside our own heads. And in that world – in this year – I’m going to see what I can make happen – in my business, in my photography, in my relationships with other folk. Forty-two may not be significant on its own, but it’s as good a year as any for excellence – and success.
I’ll keep you posted. And in the meantime – Merry Wanderings!