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Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Updated 15 May 2005

Anyone who has never read all five books of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy is -- in the grander scheme of things -- illiterate.

In addition to an innovative and endearing satire of most things British or modern (i.e. not biting satire, but delightful fun), the Hitchhiker’s trilogy provides us a host of ethics, including: 1) nothing is impossible, 2) nothing is unchangeable, and 3) nothing is immune from laughter.  The arrow of time and the dimensions of space are easily surmountable, nothing done has any more relevance than imagined fantasy, and one of the greater moral precepts is to have a good meal -- along with, perhaps, some stimulating conversation.

FLASH!!!! The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy MOVIE finally arrived! The Opening Date was April 29, 2005. Hopefully, everyone remembered to bring their towels!


The Hitchhiker’s Guide was written by the late Douglas Adams, who is perhaps best known for his analysis of the three stages of civilization, which Adams suggests are best represented as: 1) Survival, 2) Inquiry, and 3) Sophistication.  These three stages are, in turn, personalized by the three questions: 1) How can we eat?, 2) Why do we eat?, and 3) Where shall we have lunch?  [The answer to the third question might be The Restaurant at the End of the Universe -- the title of his second volume -- or Shey Lunar Bistro’s, a restaurant located on Earth’s only moon, which has a marvelous gourmet menu, but, alas, has absolutely no atmosphere.]

Despite the untimely death of Adams, his website, http://www.douglasadams.com, continues to prosper, along with a host of other websites which demonstrate the impact of an original, albeit far out thinker on the rest of us. 

In addition, other science fiction authors have joined in The Anthology at the End of the Universe [7] a collection of twenty articles which extol the multifaceted wonders of the Hitchhiker's series. In the process, these Hitchhiker inspired authors consider such revelations as:

Humor may be a sophisticated form of philosophy, but one which is not limited by the need to be true -- humor need only be entertaining.

"What makes the Hitchhiker's Guide fun... are the digressions; the factoids, the parenthetical commentary, the completely twisted and self-referential threads and the putative excerpts from the guidebook which cheerfully hop and skip across half-baked links to every topic under several dozen suns, along the way drawing improbable but hilarious lines of connection and causality between bad poetry, civil servants, existential philosophy and anthropomorphic mattresses." "The Hitchhiker's Guide was Internet entertainment before there was an Internet."

"The Total Perspective Vortex is probably the most brilliant Zen teaching tool ever invented since the day the Very Wise sat under the Bodhi tree and was himself enlightened."

"If life is going to exist in a universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion."

"There are very few genuine sources of everything you really need to know. It just so happens that Hitchhiker's is one of them."

The reason for such laudatory undertakings by Adams' SF peers is manifold. For example:

Hitchhiker’s Guide is famous for the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.  The answer turns out to be “42”.  There is still, however, the need to fully understand the question, as Adams’ hero, Arthur Dent, asks in the third volume, “...the question I would like to know, is the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.  All we know about it is that the Answer is Forty-two, which is a little aggravating.”

One of Adams’ characters, Prak, someone overdosed on truth serum, and legally bound to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- like he means the whole truth! -- replies, “the Question and the Answer are mutually exclusive.  Knowledge of one logically precludes knowledge of the other.  It is impossible that both can ever be known about the same universe.”  But Adams appears to relent in a later volume, where there is a growing suspicion that the Question is, “What is six times seven?”

It has been noted by several authors [7] that at one point in the narrative, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect try to determine the question whose answer is 42. The answer -- that is, the question -- they arrive at is "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?" This, of course, pretty much blows it for the characters, but as it turns out, six multipled by nine in a base thirteen system actually equals 42! It makes you wonder if our numbering system might be better suited to base 13 (instead of base 10). And then, lo and behold, you discover that the Mayans had a sophisticated calendar which, among other things, depended upon the number 13 as a critical element.

It might be easy to dismiss the Hitchhiker’s Guide as a frivolous, unbridled science fiction farce.  But this would only indicate a serious lack of insight and intelligence on the part of the dismisser.  Adams’ imagination apparently knew no bounds, but on a profoundly philosophical level, there is no reason to believe or evidence to suggest that any bounds actually exist.  The art of Creating Reality is not limited or bound by any rules or prior conceptions of what is possible and what isn’t.  Furthermore, Adams was well versed in a variety of modern sciences, including aspects of Connective Physics, homeopathy, and mathematics.  There is the strong tendency for his writing to be reminiscent of the Far Side, but Adams is in reality writing outside the box.  WAY outside the box!

Any world leader on the way to a summit -- assuming they have any appreciation of the pitfalls of Leadership -- would be well advised to prepare for such by listening to Douglas Adams read all five volumes of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  In so doing the troubles of the world might be solved in a fortnight.

At the time of Adam’s untimely death in May of 2001, there was in process the apparent development of a movie (or a series of movies) with Disney.  The question is whether or not Disney has the wit to recognize the financial and intellectual windfall of carrying through on this project.  If Peter Jackson can be brilliantly successful with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy (which inexplicably is contained within only three volumes -- and despite the lack of appreciation of Tom Bombadil’s critical importance to the story), then Disney should be capable of producing a non-animated series of five enlightening (i.e. humorous) Hitchhiker’s movies.

Apparently, they have now made the first movie! And based on its success and excellent quality, one can only hope that the next four (or five) will be quick to follow.


In the interim, or in addition (inasmuch as the movie is never the same as the books), we may have to be content with audio downloads from Amazon (amazingly cheap, if you have a CD writer or the equivalent) of Douglas Adams reading his stories.

We might also recall some of the more classic sections:  

            The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying.  There is an art, it says, or, rather, a knack to flying.  The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.  Pick a nice day, it suggests, and try it.

            “The first part is easy.  All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it’s going to hurt.  That is, it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground.

            “Most people fail to miss the ground and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.  Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.

            “One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally.  It’s no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won’t.  You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you’re halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground or about how much it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

            “It is notoriously difficult to pry your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal.  Hence most people’s failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.

            “If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momen-tarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

            “This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration.” [1]

Adams goes to note several words of advice for the lucky person who finds his or herself bobbing or floating; for example, to not listen to what anyone says to you at the critical moment, and also, “DO NOT WAVE AT ANYBODY.”  The curious part, of course, is that the advice is metaphysical plausible.  If someone distracted by an emergency situation can lift an automobile that they otherwise could not possibly have done, then it appears as if the idea of flying is not exceptionally more difficult.  Clearly if one were to throw themselves at the ground, and then have a vision of a supreme deity...

Meanwhile, there is the recorded announcement of a planet called Magrathea being closed for extreme privacy reasons.

            This is a recorded announcement, as I’m afraid we’re all out at the moment.  The commercial council of Magrathea thanks you for your esteemed visit... but regrets that the entire planet is temporarily closed for business.  Thank you.  If you would care to leave your name and the address of a planet where you can be contacted, kindly speak when you hear the tone.”

            [As the intrepid travelers press on...]  We would like to assure you that as soon as our business is resumed announcements will be made in all fashionable magazines and color supplements, when our clients will once again be able to select from all that’s best in contemporary geography.  The menace in the voice took on a sharper edge.  Meanwhile, we thank you our clients for their kind interest and would ask them to leave.  Now.

            [With the visitors forging on...]  It is most gratifying that your enthusiasm for our planet continues unabated, and so we would like to assure you that the guided missiles currently converging with your ship are part of a special service we extend to all of our most enthusiastic clients, and the fully armed nuclear warheads are of course merely a courtesy detail.  We look forward to your custom in future lives...” [2]


            “The Encyclopedia Galactica has much to say on the theory and practice of time travel, most of which is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t spent at least four lifetimes studying advanced hypermathematics, and since it was impossible to do this before time travel was invented, there is a certain amount of confusion as to how the idea was arrived at in the first place.  One rationalization of this problem states that time travel was, by its very nature, discovered simultaneously at all periods of history, but this is clearly bunk.  The trouble is that a lot of history is now quite clearly bunk as well.” [3]


            “The history of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of idealism, struggle, despair, passion, success, failure, and enormously long lunch breaks.” [4]


            “He had thought about what his position actually was and 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 onto the bridge at that point and said several enthusiastic things on the subject of freedom.

             “‘I can’t cope with it,’ he 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.

            “He felt uncertain as to whether the fourth drink had understood all that so he sent a fifth to explain the plan more fully and a sixth for moral support.”  [1]


            “The longest and most destructive party ever held is now into its fourth generation and still no one shows any signs of leaving.  Somebody did once look at his watch, but that was eleven years ago now, and there has been no follow up.

            “The mess is extraordinary, and has to be seen to be believed, but if you don’t have any particular need to believe it, then don’t go and look because you won’t enjoy it.

            “There have recently been some bangs and flashes up in the clouds, and there is one theory that this is a battle being fought between the fleets of several rival carpet-cleaning companies who are hovering over the thing like vultures, but you shouldn’t believe anything you hear at parties, and particularly not anything you hear at this one.

            “One of the problems, and it’s one that is obviously going to get worse, is that all the people at the party are either the children or the grand children or the great-grandchildren of the people who wouldn’t leave in the first place, and because of all the business about selective breeding and recessive genes and so on, it means that all the people now at the party are either absolutely fanatical partygoers, or gibbering idiots or, more and more frequently, both.

            “Either way, it means that, genetically speaking, each succeeding generation is now less likely to leave than the preceding one.

            “So, other factors come into operation, like when the drinks are going to run out.” [5]

Finally, there is the scene on Earth at the beginning of the saga, where Arthur Dent is bemoaning the practices of the local council planning department (i.e. a local bureaucracy not unlike those anyone having business with might have experienced).

            “... ‘You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them [the plans to destroy Dent’s home and run a bypass through his land] had you?  I mean like actually telling anyone or anything.’

            “‘But the plans were on display...’

            “‘On display?  I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.’

             “‘That's the display department.’

            “‘With a torch [flashlight].”

            “‘Ah, well the lights had probably gone.’

            “‘So had the stairs.’

            “‘But look you found the notice didn’t you?’     

            “‘Yes,’ said Arthur, ‘yes I did.  It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of The Leopard’.’” [6]  

One might want to also check out <http://www.faqs.org/faqs/douglas-adams-FAQ>, if only to gain a proper appreciation for Douglas Adams.  Don’t forget to come back here, however.  We would miss you terribly.  


Five Paths         The Fool’s Journey         Bozo-Sattva

Abraham         Curiosity         Gnostics         Wisdom         Synthesis

 Or forward to:

Douglas Adams


Babylon 5

Desiderata         Love N’ Death         They Went Thataway



[1]  Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything, Chapter 9.

[2]  Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 17.

[3]  Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything, Chapter 15.

[4]  Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything, Chapter 17.

[5]  Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything, Chapter 19.

[6]  <http://www-personal.umd.umich.edu/~nhughes/dna/faqs/quotedir.html>

[7] Glenn Yeffeth (editor), The Anthology at the End of the Universe, Ben Bella Books, Dallas, Texas, 2005.



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