… but don’t panic.
You see, somewhere in the middle, a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demanded the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything…
They even built a super-computer named Deep Thought that computes the answer in only 7½ million years!
“The Answer to the Great Question… Of Life, the Universe and Everything… Is… Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.”
“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”
“But it was the Great Question! The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything,” howled Loonquawl.
“Yes,” said Deep Thought with the air of one who suffers fools gladly, “but what actually is it?”
A slow stupefied silence crept over the men as they stared at the computer and then at each other.
“Well, you know, it’s just Everything … Everything …” offered Phouchg weakly.
“Exactly!” said Deep Thought. “So once you know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”
… for reasons not discussed here, this leads to the manufacturing of a planet named Earth…
“Most of the people living on Earth were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.”
… In fact, it was a fellow named Arthur Dent, who like the other ape-descended life forms muddling around the planet, held several incorrect assumptions about the universe…
“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
… and so when Earth is about to be destroyed to make room for a new interstellar highway, the Dolphins politely escape and say,
“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
… and thus begins the main adventure, which sounds something not entirely unlike this…
“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”
“If I asked you where the hell we were,” said Arthur weakly, “would I regret it?”
Ford stood up. “We’re safe,” he said.
“Oh good,” said Arthur.
“We’re in a small galley cabin,” said Ford, “in one of the spaceships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet.”
“Ah,” said Arthur, “this is obviously some strange usage of the word safe that I wasn’t previously aware of.”
“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”
“Why, what did she tell you?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”
“Come on,” droned Marvin, “I’ve been ordered to take you down to the bridge. Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cos I don’t.”
“I think that door just sighed.”
“Ghastly, isn’t it? All the doors on this spaceship have been programmed to have a cheery and sunny disposition. It is their pleasure to open for you, and their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done.”
Marvin trudged on down the corridor, still moaning.
“…and then of course I’ve got this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side…”
“No?” said Arthur grimly as he walked along beside him. “Really?”
“Oh yes,” said Marvin, “I mean I’ve asked for them to be replaced but no one ever listens.”
“I can imagine.”
“Funny,” he intoned funereally, “how just when you think life can’t possibly get any worse it suddenly does.”
“Sorry, did I say something wrong?” said Marvin, dragging himself on regardless. “Pardon me for breathing, which I never do anyway so I don’t know why I bother to say it, oh God I’m so depressed. Here’s another one of those self-satisfied doors. Life! Don’t talk to me about life.”
The Nutri-Matic machine provided Arthur with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.
“Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”
“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”
“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
“If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.”
[on the existence of the Babel fish… the thing you stick in your ear to instantly understand every language in the universe]
“Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.
The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,'” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
“But,” says Man, “The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”
“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is 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.”
“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”
“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
“I don’t want to die now!” he yelled. “I’ve still got a headache! I don’t want to go to heaven with a headache, I’d be all cross and wouldn’t enjoy it!”
Arthur got up and walked to the top of the crater. He walked around the crater. He watched two suns set magnificently over Magrathea.
He went back down into the crater. He woke the robot up because even a manically depressed robot is better to talk to than nobody.
“Night’s falling,” he said. “Look robot, the stars are coming out.”
The robot obediently looked at them, then looked back.
“I know,” he said. “Wretched isn’t it?”
“But that sunset! I’ve never seen anything like it in my wildest dreams … the two suns! It was like mountains of fire boiling into space.’
“I’ve seen it,” said Marvin. “It’s rubbish.”
“We only ever had the one sun at home,” persevered Arthur, “I came from a planet called Earth you know.”
“I know,” said Marvin, “you keep going on about it. It sounds awful.”
“Ah no, it was a beautiful place.”
“Did it have oceans?”
“Oh yes,” said Arthur with a sigh, “great wide rolling blue oceans …”
“Can’t bear oceans,” said Marvin.
“Tell me,” inquired Arthur, “do you get on well with other robots?”
“Hate them,” said Marvin. “Where are you going?”
Arthur couldn’t bear any more. “I think I’ll just take another walk,” he said.
“Don’t blame you,” said Marvin and counted five hundred and ninety-seven thousand million sheep before falling asleep again a second later
Arthur slapped his arms about himself to try and get his circulation a little more enthusiastic about its job. He trudged back up the wall of the crater.
“Do you find coming to terms with the mindless tedium of it all presents an interesting challenge?”
“I was created to fulfill a function and I failed in it. I negated my own existence.”
“…they discovered only a small asteroid inhabited by a solitary old man who claimed repeatedly that nothing was true, though he was later discovered to be lying.”
“I’m looking for someone.”
“Who?” hissed the insect.
“Zaphod Beeblebrox,” said Marvin, “he’s over there.”
The insect shook with rage. It could hardly speak.
“Then why did you ask me?”
“I just wanted something to talk to,” said Marvin.
“Pathetic, isn’t it?”
So, how are you?” Zaphod said aloud.
“Oh, fine,” said Marvin, “if you happen to like being me, which personally I don’t.”
Marvin,” Zaphod said, “just get this elevator to go up, will you? We’ve got to get to Zarniwoop.”
“Why?” asked Marvin dolefully.
“I don’t know,” said Zaphod, “but when I find him, he’d better have a very good reason for me wanting to see him.”
Well,” the [elevator’s] voice trickled on like honey on biscuits, “there’s the basement, the microfiles, the heating system . . .er. . .”
“Nothing particularly exciting,” it admitted, “but they are alternatives.”
“Holy Zarquon,” muttered Zaphod, “did I ask for an existential elevator?” He beat his fists against the wall.
“What’s the matter with the thing?” he spat.
“It doesn’t want to go up,” said Marvin simply. “I think it’s afraid.”
“Afraid?” cried Zaphod. “Of what? Heights? An elevator that’s afraid of heights?”
“No,” said the elevator miserably, “of the future….”
“The future?” exclaimed Zaphod. “What does the wretched thing want, a pension plan?”
Modern elevators are strange and complex entities. This is because they operate on the curious principle of “defocused temporal perception.” In other words they have the capacity to see dimly into the immediate future, which enables the elevator to be on the right floor to pick you up even before you knew you wanted it, thus eliminating all the tedious chatting, relaxing and making friends that people were previously forced to do while waiting for elevators.
Not unnaturally, many elevators imbued with intelligence and precognition became terribly frustrated with the mindless business of going up and down, up and down, experimented briefly with the notion of going sideways, as a sort of existential protest, demanded participation in the decision-making process and finally took to squatting in basements sulking.
“Shee, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.”
A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox’s table, a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have been an ingratiating smile on its lips.
“Good evening,” it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, “I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in parts of my body?”
Its gaze was met by looks of startled bewilderment from Arthur and Trillian, a resigned shrug from Ford Prefect and naked hunger from Zaphod Beeblebrox.
“Something off the shoulder perhaps?” suggested the animal, “braised in a white wine sauce?”
“Er, your shoulder?” said Arthur in a horrified whisper.
Zaphod leapt to his feet and started prodding and feeling the animal’s shoulder appreciatively.
“Or the rump is very good,” murmured the animal. “I’ve been exercising it and eating plenty of grain, so there’s a lot of good meat there.”
“You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?” whispered Trillian to Ford.
“That’s absolutely horrible,” exclaimed Arthur, “the most revolting thing I’ve ever heard.”
‘What’s the problem Earthman?’ said Zaphod, now transfering his attention to the animal’s enormous rump.
‘I just don’t want to eat an animal that’s standing there inviting me to,’ said Arthur, ‘It’s heartless.’
“Better than eating an animal that doesn’t want to be eaten,” said Zaphod.
“May I urge you to consider my liver?” asked the animal, “it must be very rich and tender by now, I’ve been force-feeding myself for months.”
But I’m quite used to being humiliated,” droned Marvin, “I can even go and stick my head in a bucket of water if you like. Would you like me to go and stick my head in a bucket of water? I’ve got one ready. Wait a minute.”
“Er, hey, Marvin …” interrupted Zaphod, but it was too late. Sad little clunks and gurgles came up the line.
“What’s he saying?” asked Trillian.
“Nothing,” said Zaphod, “he just phoned to wash his head at us.”
“The first ten million years were the worst,” said Marvin, “and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million years I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.”
“The best conversation I had was over forty million years ago,” continued Marvin. …”And that was with a coffee machine.”
It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.
“How can I tell,” said the man, “that the past isn’t a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate physical sensations and my state of mind?”
“Since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt the leaf as legal tender, we have, of course, all become immensely rich.”
Ford stared in disbelief at the crowd who were murmuring appreciatively at this and greedily fingering the wads of leaves with which their track suits were stuffed.
“But we have also,” continued the management consultant, “run into a small inflation problem on account of the high level of leaf availability, which means that, I gather, the current going rate has something like three deciduous forests buying one ship’s peanut.”
Murmurs of alarm came from the crowd. The management consultant waved them down.
“So in order to obviate this problem,” he continued, “and effectively revalue the leaf, we are about to embark on a massive defoliation campaign, and… er, burn down all the forests. I think you’ll all agree that’s a sensible move under the circumstances.”
The crowd seemed a little uncertain about this for a second or two until someone pointed out how much this would increase the value of the leaves in their pockets whereupon they let out whoops of delight and gave the management consultant a standing ovation. The accountants among them looked forward to a profitable autumn aloft and it got an appreciative round from the crowd.
“I would like to say that it is a very great pleasure, honour and privilege for me to open this bridge, but I can’t because my lying circuits are all out of commission.”—Marvin
The renewed shock had nearly made him spill his drink. He drained it quickly before anything serious happened to it. He then had another quick one to follow the first one down and check that it was all right.
“Freedom,” he said aloud.
Trillian came on to the bridge at that point and said several enthusiastic things on the subject of freedom.
“I can’t cope with it,” Zaphod said darkly, and sent a third drink down to see why the second hadn’t yet reported on the condition of the first. He looked uncertainly at both of her and preferred the one on the right.
He poured a drink down his other throat with the plan that it would head the previous one off at the pass, join forces with it, and together they would get the second to pull itself together. Then all three would go off in search of the first, give it a good talking to and maybe a bit of a sing as well.
He felt uncertain as to whether the fourth drink had understood all that, so he sent down a fifth to explain the plan more fully and a sixth for moral support.
“On the way back they sang a number of tuneful and reflective songs on the subjects of peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of all other life forms.”
“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”
“He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.”
Hold stick near center of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion.
“It seemed to me,” said Wonko the Sane, “that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a packet of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane.”
Anything that happens, happens.
Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen.
Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again.
It doesn’t necessarily do it in chronological order, though.
“I’m sorry, did you just say you needed my brain?”
“Yes, to complete the program.”
“Well, you can’t have it, I’m using it!”
“Cheeky mouse… “
“Freeze? I’m a robot. I’m not a refrigerator.“
“You go ahead and kill yourself, don’t worry about me.”
“Anything that thinks logically can be fooled by something else that thinks at least as logically as it does.”
A fragrant breeze wandered up from the quiet sea, trailed along the beach, and drifted back to the sea again, wondering where to go next. On a mad impulse it went up to the beach again. It drifted back to sea.”
“Zaphod felt he was teetering on the edge of madness and wondered if he shouldn’t just jump over and have done with it…”
“Hey slim, are you wearing my underwear? ‘Cause I’m wearing yours, and they’re not doing the trick.“
If you enjoyed this article, you will love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
Seriously, check out the reviews on Amazon… Thousands of people agree that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is the greatest masterpiece ever written.
… but hey, if you’re a cheap bastard, I’ve got something else for you to enjoy ABSOLUTELY FREE…
… and that’s not all!
I’ve got Not Really Marvin locked in my basement. Find out how you can ask Not Really Marvin anything, he won’t enjoy it.