Q: What is the meaning of life?
A: To live, and do your utmost to enjoy every moment.
“I expected more,” you say.
Fair enough. Read on and I’ll explain my reasoning.
You’ve won a lottery that, statistically, is impossible to win. Look at the odds:
Every pair of eyes that read these words belong to someone who is insanely lucky. Something that difficult to win has to be glorious. Right? Damn right.
Therefore, to endure life rather than enjoy it seems wrong to me. Use the fear of death to motivate you – be aware it will happen and experience as much as you can before it does. Find positivity and embrace it. It's warm, cuddly and likely to make you smile.
For example… I write because I love it. It makes me feel content. The more I experience, the better my writing becomes. The more I write, the happier I am.
Once I understood this simple concept, I felt less stressed and started to make intelligent life decisions. I took steps to create balance in my life. Less work, more fun. Less negativity, more opportunity. Less stress, more happiness. Admittedly, I still have some way to go, but I’m taking steps to make it happen.
There is only one person who can make you happy.
Don’t let yourself down.
Apparently, the point of view expressed above makes me a humanist. I found this fabulous video by Stephen Fry entitled ‘How Can I Be Happy?’ It helped me understand my own thoughts and explains the philosophy in words you can easily understand.
How Can I Be Happy? - a video by Stephen Fry
You can learn loads more about humanism at the British Humanist Association website.
I write humorous stories, so I’m a big fan of Douglas Adams. I felt unable to write this page without mentioning his answer.
The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything = 42
I like that answer. The first time I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it made me laugh. Then it made me think. It’s made a lot of other people think too. Personally, I think some of them have read too much into the joke. Still, Douglas's answer inspired me. I simply thought about it and found an answer that worked in my mind; an idea I could relate to and understand.
This page contains very few words. You could argue that I’m putting forward an overly simplistic answer to such a deep and profound question. That may be true. I’m a fan of minimising word usage. It means I achieve more and it allows me to put a point across clearly (I hope)**.
Still, if you have an opinion on this fascinating subject matter, I’d love to hear from you via the comments below, using as many words as you deem suitable!
Please get in touch, whatever your opinion.
** I remember my father asking me to draw a poster using the slogan ‘Keep it Simple’ when I was a child, so he could put it up in the offices he worked in. That memory has stayed with me. Thanks to my dad, I’ve learnt more from those 3 words than I have from the rest of my schooling.
Cécile wrote to me after reading this post, telling me it had inspired her to write a short story. She subsequently entered it into my To Hull & Back humorous short story competition and received a special mention, having missed out on the shortlist by a proverbial whisker. As the story was inspired by this post, I asked her if I could publish it on the site.
She very kindly said, "Yes."
You can read her story below. It also appears on Cécile's website here.
"The number 42," she said.
"What about it?" He sighed sinking deeper in his chair noticing he was almost out of beer.
"I read it on a blog from a writer. It made me think."
"Who's the writer?"
"Never heard of."
"Not so uncommon, nobody ever heard of me, yet."
"So whats with the 42 then?"
"It’s a Douglas Adams thing."
"Who the hell is he?"
"Douglas Adams, also a writer."
"Repeating myself: Never heard of."
"No, you never read a decent book so you won’t know him."
"I do read a book, sometimes. I just prefer good newspapers. What did this Adams guy write so far?"
"The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. And he’s dead now."
"The Hitchhikers Guide… oh, never mind. I liked The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul even better."
"Cute titles. What was he, a nutcase?"
"Aren't we all?"
"Speak for yourself, I’m quite normal."
"The fact that you perceive yourself as being normal, indicates the dangerous level of your abnormality."
"No, I’m perfectly normal with a perfectly normal life doing perfectly normal things every day."
"How utterly boring."
"No it’s not."
"Yes it is. Haven't you ever heard what Goethe said?"
"Oh I know him, poet."
She sighed. "Amongst a whole load of other things, yes. He said, 'Escape the insult of an ordinary fate.' I intend to do just that."
"You are a nutcase."
"Yes, but a functioning one so quite harmless. Do you still want to know about number 42?"
"Will I be able to stop you?"
"No. Number 42 is supposed to be the answer to the meaning of life."
"42 is the answer to the meaning of life? That’s ridiculous."
"Well, do you have an answer then?"
"There is no meaning. Do you think your dog thinks there’s a meaning of life? He doesn't. He just wants to eat, shit, play ball, sleep and then eat again. We’re just like that. This whole idiotic, spiritual idea that there is supposed to be a higher meaning for humankind, infuriates me. Nowadays everybody checks their horoscopes, gets their palms read or their chakras put right. I’m getting sick and tired of this world of tea-leaf reading and fork bending. Just live, make the best of it and then die, preferably not too old."
"Why not too old?"
"Because with everybody getting so old these days our whole system of national health is going down the drains."
"You are a cynic."
"No I'm a realist. And 42 is not an answer, just a joke or something."
"The writer himself said it was a joke, yes, or just something that he made up."
"Well there you go; he explained it himself. Simple solutions are always the best; Occam’s Razor, I’m not entirely stupid."
"Adams also wrote that reality was frequently inaccurate."
He let out a snort. "His reality might have been."
"Did you know they found many coincidences with the number 42?"
"42 coincidences, I guess."
She ignored him. "It was a whole article in the Independent."
"God, that's supposed to be a not-completely-trashy paper. Are they spitting out this sort of rubbish these days?"
"Haven’t you read it then? I thought you read newspapers instead of books. Anyway, 42 also featured in the Valenzetti equation."
"I thought you were a scientist? According to Wikipedia, the Valenzetti Equation is the mathematical equation developed by the Princeton University mathematician Enzo Valenzetti. Its creation was the result of efforts made following the Cuban Missile Crisis by the United States and the Soviet Union to find a solution to the hostility and danger of imminent global disaster created by the Cold War. The equation was secretly commissioned through the UN Security Council and is used to predict the time of human extinction."
"I like the sound of that. Everybody dying at 42 so why don’t we?"
"Oh shut up. The Valenzetti Equation are the numbers 4+8, 15+16, 23+42 and may have some sort of physical meaning. The numbers may be the predicted date of the end of the human race, and as the final moment nears, they become increasingly common in the most unexpected places. Apparently there are six specific ways that would lead to the end of Humanity. The specific numbers may refer to the amount of time there is left before that particular form of extinction occurs. 4 corresponds with 'nuclear fire', 8 with 'chemical warfare', 15 with 'biological warfare', 16 with 'conventional warfare', 23 with 'pandemic', 42 with 'over-population'."
"Over-population is a problem. That’s why we have to stop becoming so old."
"And if you look up the Angel number 42," she continued, "it says that you are looking for your divine purpose in life. Angel number 42 is a message from your angels about pursuing your passions and life purpose. When you do things you love, and put your heart and soul towards achieving your goals, the angels give you guidance."
"Don't go tea-leaf reading on me. I hate that and you know it."
"No tea-leaf reading, just the Internet and why do you hate it so much? Scared it might contain a bit of truth? Facts are the only truths you care about."
"I trust my senses."
"Right, can you actually see electricity? Or what about magnetic fields? And you can’t see the Internet for that matter."
"You see things that aren't there."
"There are things you don't see."
"Now you’re going to tell me that Stonehenge has 42 stones, the Twelve Apostles were actually with 42 before they started to drop in the ocean and we secretly have 42 world wonders."
"Elvis Presley died at 42 and cricket has 42 laws."
"How profound. And what happened in your all important year of being 42?"
"I crashed my car and had to buy reading glasses, but that’s beside the point."
"You’re suffering from apophenia you know."
"Apophenia has been defined as the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data," she retorted.
"Wrong. Apophenia is known as a type one error – the identification of false patterns in data. It may be compared with a so-called false positive in other test situations. Nothing meaningful or interconnecting in that."
"Whatever you say, number 42?"
"You are insufferable. So how did this incredibly boring number become this huge answer in that book with the ridiculous title?"
"42 was the answer of a large computer called Deep Thought especially designed to answer The Question."
"What was The Question actually?"
He looked at her incredulously. "They forgot? You're saying an actual newspaper published an article on this and you started a whole discussion knowing it was a futile one in the first place?"
She shrugged. "Be happy, I just proved your point: life is meaningless. Might as well live it, want another beer?"
Cécile lives in Holland. You can read her biography here.