In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a supercomputer, Deep Thought, is specifically built for the purpose of computing the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. After 7.5 million years, the answer turns out to be ’42’ while the Ultimate Question itself remains known. Deeply frustrating for those who designed Deep Thought and waited (im)patiently for 7.5 million years.
A simple number such as ’42’ has attained cult status simply because Douglas Adams chose this number as the Ultimate Answer. While the reason behind his choice continues to remain a mystery, several theories have been propounded in this regard. There is also a certain amount of significance attached to the number in the religious texts of the Jews.
For me, the apparent randomness of the number is merely a confirmation of the fact that there is neither an Ultimate Answer nor an Ultimate Question. For each person, the questions and answers are different depending upon their experiences and choices. So, for me 42 is a constant reminder of the randomness of life, the universe and everything else and that the search for the Ultimate Question and/or Answer is futile. Instead, I need to concentrate on finding the questions and answers relevant to my life and my universe. I have to find what the significance of the number 42 is in my life. Instead of waiting for some guru (or a string of gurus) or a supercomputer to tell me how to live my life, I have to figure it out on my own. I have to take on a more active role. I choose to do so by learning, continuously questioning my beliefs and somehow finding my way through trial and error.
What is forty two?
Update (July 27, 2011): Does the number ’42’ mean something to you? It could be anything- the 42nd line of a song, the 42nd word on the 42nd page of a book, the 42nd country you visited, or the 42nd day of a particular year or even the year ’42. Do share your story.
(Thank you Anna, for sharing your story about the significance of the number ’42’ in your life. That’s what inspired this update.)