It’s been a tough couple of days for my body so for some fun, to distract any emotional upset that it’s been tough, and because I’m easily amused, I’ve been spending time with Deep Thought contemplating the answer 42.
You probably know that Deep Thought is a computer that is a minor character in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Deep Thought is a computer that was created by the pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent species of beings (whose three-dimensional protrusions into our universe are ordinary white mice) to come up with the Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Deep Thought is the size of a small city. When, after seven and a half million years of calculation, the answer finally turns out to be 42, Deep Thought admonishes Loonquawl and Phouchg (the receivers of the Ultimate Answer) that “[he] checked it very thoroughly, and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you is that you’ve never actually known what the question was.”
Deep Thought does not know the ultimate question to Life, the Universe and Everything, but offers to design an even more powerful computer, Earth, to calculate it. After ten million years of calculation, the Earth is destroyed by Vogons five minutes before the computation is complete.
I’m soon to arrive at my 43rd birthday and before I do I’m making the most of these last days of my year of 42 to consider the elusive question, inspired by any random thing that pops up in the day. For example on Tuesday I was told that line dancing is making a resurgence and rather than just using country music it now includes contemporary moves and music. Deep Thought and I wondered then if the answer is 42, could it be that the question is the ultimate number of moves in a line dance?
On Wednesday we discussed whether the question was in fact the distance to your favourite things. A bit abstract, but optimistic. The joy in this little exchange was debating what constitutes a measure of distance. It was fun to look at unusual units of measurement such as the Empire State Building, a horse, a city block, and cow’s grass. As a fan of Mad in my younger years I also liked this one:
In issue 33, Mad published a partial table of the “Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures”, developed by 19-year-old Donald E. Knuth, later a famed computer scientist. According to Knuth, the basis of this new revolutionary system is the potrzebie, which equals the thickness of Mad issue 26, or 2.263348517438173216473 mm
Being a fan of the stars I quite liked this one too:
The siriometer is a rarely used astronomical measure equal to one million astronomical units, i.e., one million times the average distance between the Sun and Earth. This distance is equal to about 15.8 light-years, 149.6 Pm or 4.8 parsecs, and is about twice the distance from Earth to the star Sirius.
And I took delight in perplexing Deep Thought, who frankly I think lacks a little imagination on the topic. I threw him a curve ball, asserting that longing can be a measure of distance.
What did seem to make sense in this imaginary and nonsensical discussion with a literary character, is that you should know what your favourite things are, so in no particular order, and I’m sure there are things I haven’t thought of in this moment, here’s a list of some of my favourite things (and I apologise if Julie Andrews has now taken up residence in your mind and you’re singing about cream coloured ponies and packages tied up with string…personally I’m thinking about the gorgeous Christopher Plumber).
- Time with family and friends
- My muse and men with super powers (my muse has superpowers so I can cheat and cover off two things here)
- Brain Pickings (an inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness, spanning art, science, design, history, philosophy, and more that puts interesting things into my Facebook feed)
- Looking at the sky…clouds and stars
- Crosswords, coffee and contemplation (either done simultaneously, on their own or in combinations)
- Books and reading
- The noise my cat makes when I poke her
- Watching movies and TV series
- Water (rain, oceans, lakes, baths, puddles…wherever it’s found)
- Wind – wearing it and listening to it
- The interwebz – I can stay connected through social media and work remotely
- Exhibitions, galleries, museums, libraries, street walls with art
- Reading all of the words on the signs and labels where things are exhibited or displayed and described
- Baseball and baseball movies…I fantasise about using a batting cage…preferably with Crash Davis
- Communities – belonging to them, contributing to them
- Supporting other people to achieve their goals and desires
- Being a daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, godmother, niece and a cousin
- Music and the art of accapelligo (singing loudly in the car on road trips, without the requirement to sound good)
Okay, so I was going to list 42 things…but you’ll get bored reading them and I think this list helps make the point…that measuring the distance to your favourite things could be interesting! You might need to use paces, light years, meridians, longings…
How Far a Longing
Is it too far to sustain your sight of it?
Is it so close it teases at every moment?
Does it ask that you swim an ocean to reach it?
Or that you go as far as telling your deepest truths?
Is its keenness a slither of light cutting your darkness?
Is its fragility the tautness of a bow?
Does it dwell deep in your belly?
Or crawl about your mouth as you try to keep it stowed?
Is it the length of my arm when I’m stroking your skin?
Is it the loss of time when your soul meets mine?
Does it shorten the space when I look at you?
Or mark how far I can carry the taste of you into the day?
Is it the space occupied by your beauty manifest?
Is it the memory of the distance you’ve already come?
Does it define how we so gently collide?
Or defy the completion of moments forever etched?
How far a longing?
Is it as far as mine?