Here I was, getting all excited/depressed about turning forty, when it seems I was a little premature in my celebrations; as Douglas Adams quite rightly pointed out, the answer to life, the universe and everything is, obviously, 42. So let’s explore why this year is my special birthday.
Happy Birthday to me
Two years into the Kettle List, and still so much to do – or not, because it is isn’t as if a Bucket List is in anyway compulsory. I have ticked off #14 Visit Japan and the #58 Volunteer one, which I really need to write up. I have been doing parts of the cumulative tasks too, like making cranes, (#40) so it is all adding up,
As I have a four-day weekend, I got to have a lovely chill day on Friday- involving an aromatherapy massage, a manicure, and a chance to read some more of my book. Today I have a birthday breakfast – which I sadly struggled to eat as I have a really sore throat, which is threatening to become an ear infection, but I am bossing through it – I am about to pop to Pat’s for cake (or to look at cake, if I still can’t chew!) as well as dinner at Rin’s – by which time I really hope I can eat things!
Nothing planned as yet for tomorrow, but out for lunch with Pat on Monday. Apparently 42nd birthdays are all about food.
So what is with number 42?
According to Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, “The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.” Many ideas have been posited since as to why this might be.
There is the mathematical:
In a 3 x 3 x 3 magic cube, where the numbers 1,2,3,4 all the way up to 27 are all written at an intersection point, each column, row, and pillar adds up to 42. I, of course, have no idea what this means or why it would have any baring in literally anything… i am a social scientist, not a mathematician.
Clever Greek chaps like Plato and Pythagoras, of triangle fame, believed numbers to contain innate symbolism and magical powers.
According to the study of numerology, number 42 is’ a nurturing number and is primarily focused on individuals, family, and community.’ Apparently, ‘the number 42 represents an energy that is is idealistic, but also pragmatic.’ I am really not sure how these traits are assigned to numbers, as if they were tangible things, or how it impacts on the universe, or, more selfishly, me, but the ideas that were circulated regarding ’42’ were not limited to maths. How about some physics?
“Two physical constants in the universe are the speed of light and the diameter of a proton. It takes light 10 to the minus 42nd power seconds to cross the diameter of a proton.”
Clever geek sorts have spent just as long trying to come up with meaning, but the true solution, as is often the case, is somewhat disappointingly underwhelming.
“The answer to this is very simple,” Adams said. “It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat on my desk, stared in to the garden and thought 42 will do. I typed it out. End of story.”
So, all a bit ‘something and nothing’ then?
Well, of course, there is no true answer to life and how we should live it – although I feel I am at a point tin my life now where I am more clear about what I want to do, more so than I ever was when I was younger. I have been reading wider, discovering new ideas and really have, for the first time, plans and goals as opposed to just dreams.
I finally have some savings, my house is slowly coming together, I have signed up to study my TEFL course, I’m learning to drive and have a few trips away planned.
While looking up articles on the number ’42’ apart from the science, maths and mystic numerology ones, I came across an article about Brian cox from 2011. At the time he was 42, as was Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters fame. The piece goes on to explain how both of them, have now, in their forties, established themselves as household names. It is even considered the best age for an astronaut according to NASA! So maybe making my way into my forties isn’t so bad after all, and technically I am not even middle-aged yet. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, which states that middle age is between 45 and 65.
Having said all that, there is one compelling reason why 42 may still be the answer to the life, the universe and everything…