What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our grand purpose? These are questions that philosophers have been proposing for millennia, and I’m happy to say that Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has finally provided them with their long awaited answer: 42! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you right now that the answer to the invisible plan behind our existence is the number 42, just not the way you think.
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we follow Earthling Arthur Dent as he accompanies his long time friend (who he recently discovers to be an alien) Ford Preferct as they travel across the galaxy after Earth is vaporized by an alien species called the Vogon. After being tossed out of the Vogon ship they hitched a ride on, they’re rescued by the Heart of Gold, a spaceship steered by Zaphod Beeblebrox, the “semi-half” cousin of Ford and President of the Galaxy. The ship’s crew – Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, a depressed robot named Marvin, and a human woman named Trillian – embark on a journey to find the legendary planet known as Magrathea.
On Magrathea, the five are taken into the planet’s centre by a man named Slartibartfast. There, they learn that in the distant past a race of “hyper-intelligent, pan-dimensional beings” created a supercomputer named Deep Thought to determine the answer to the “Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything”, which Deep Thought found to be the number 42.
Why is the answer 42? How does that even make any sense? Well, Deep Thought tells its creators that the answer makes no sense because they don’t even know that “Ultimate Question” they’re trying to answer. In other words, they’re presupposing that life has some intrinsic meaning for us to discover, that we’re here for some unknown, cosmic reason, when the reality is that absolutely nothing matters.
I know that may sounds very depressing, and it may fill you with horrifying existential dread, but it’s actually liberating. Nothing has any inherent value, meaning that we can imbue meaning on whatever we personally find meaningful. The answer to the “Ultimate Question” being 42 is a commentary on the question itself, that it’s ridiculous to propose in the first place. Life just came about. We’re all here, so let’s enjoy ourselves while we still have time.