The other day, I was talking with one of my friends when his Mom called him. But before he left me to my mental solitude, he asked me a deep question which I wasn’t really prepared to answer: “What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.” I was like, “Whoa…” (but I didn’t tell him that, lol).
In this post I will touch on the history of this question, offer my opinions on it, and leave you to decide your answer.
Before you continue, please take a brief moment to reflect and consider what you currently believe to be the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.
So from where did this deep question originate?
Douglas Noel Adams wrote the science fiction novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and published it on October 12, 1979. It was very popular and sold 250, 000 copies in the first three months.1 It was in the book that the famous question was introduced. Here is how Wikipedia says that the question is introduced:
“In…the first novel, a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7 1⁄2 million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. Deep Thought points out that the answer seems meaningless because the beings who instructed it never knew what the question was.”
Here is what the book adds to the question:
“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory mentioned, which states that this has already happened.”
Thus, the question and the answer may never be known together. You may have the answer, or you may have the question. If you discover them both, then the universe disappears.
Here is something crazy to consider: If people find the answer, then all that is involved and contained in the question (life, the universe, and everything) disappears. This would indicate that the answer to the question might, in fact, be the question itself. 🤨
I find this interesting because it makes no sense. 42 makes no sense and there is a reason it makes no sense. People have tried to theorize on why the number 42 was chosen…and theorize they have! People have come up with the craziest of explanations. Here is one of them:
“…When using base 13; 613 × 913 is actually 4213 (as (4 × 13) + 2 = 54, i.e. 54 in decimal is equal to 42 expressed in base-13).”2
This “answer” is almost as shocking as the unexpected question! Just for the record, the author admits to having randomly picked the number. It holds no significance.
To get really picky, “everything” includes life and the universe. Thus, the question is rather redundant and could instead be phrased, “What is the answer to everything” which just intensifies the ridiculousness of the question.
Finally, the so called “question” makes no sense because the “question” is not even technically a question! It is like saying, “What is the answer to your bed?” and then expecting people to be able to find an answer to a question that doesn’t exist.
So what is the answer to the “Ultimate question of life, the Universe, and Everything?” You could argue that the answer is 42, the question itself, or even nothing. But what if one was to slightly rephrase the question so that it said, “What is the purpose of life, the universe and everything?” Now you open a whole new kettle of fish.
My friend said that the answer to this question was choice. What choice? He didn’t mention. But to each of us the answer to this question will differ.
In the New England Primer, there are catechism questions; one of which is, “What is the chief end of man?” I memorized this question and its answer in my early childhood. The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To me, this is the purpose of life, the universe, and everything.