Literature | The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

3 Sep

A few weeks ago, I was having an existential crisis.

“I’m having an existential crisis,” I told a friend. “I feel like I’m stuck in a Woody Allen film on repeat, being played by Woody Allen. I think it’s because of facebook.”

“Your existential crisis is because of facebook?” my friend humored me.

Maybe. Think about it. Constant externalization of self instead of internalization of reality; existence pending upon recognition by others through wall posts; one’s actions reduced to meaninglessness by clicking “clear” on status updates. It just all yields this unbearable lightness of being. So, yes–facebook.”

At which point my friend suggested I set aside my glass of Pinot. A few days later, my well-meaning friend produced a dog-eared copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

My first response was a sneer as I was thrown back through the recesses of time and memory to my freshman year in college. At one particular party, a young man with wild eyes raved about The Hitchhiker’s Guide before a paranoid look crossed his face as he nervously proclaimed that my pizza resembled a dead goat. I wasn’t eating pizza, and have, since then, written off The Guide as the psychedelic-addict’s book of choice.

And perhaps it is.

My friend, however, insisted that The Guide is not only brilliant but brilliantly funny, and I reluctantly acquiesced. It’s either this, I thought, or keep waiting for Godot.

I don’t mind being wrong if it’s in my favor, and deliciously wrong I was. I’ve devoured the five volumes like a black hole devouring time and space. Indeed, it is brilliant. And oh-so-funny.

As we travel with the hero, Arthur Dent, through the infinite crooks-and-crannies of the universe, we realize that perhaps we can’t escape our human condition or the question of the meaning of life. Gift or curse as it may be, it’s a sign of intelligent life.

Another sign, however, is a sense of humor. Examining the weight of existence through comedy, then, is often the panacea to counteract the heavy volumes lining one’s bookshelves. And what else but brilliance could be expected from an author hailing from the country that gave us Monty Python, the original Office, and other comedic examinations of our human condition?

Why it took me so long to stumble upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide, I know not, but I don’t want to ponder the timing of circumstance. For now, I’ll just thank the author and my friend for the gentle reminder that sometimes it’s necessary to lay aside the tomes of philosophy, look the Absurdity of Existence in the face, and laugh.

Perhaps all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and really, there’s no need to panic.

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5 Responses to “Literature | The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

  1. Noelle September 4, 2009 at 2:53 PM #

    True that!

  2. Gavin September 5, 2009 at 1:26 AM #

    I'm so happy you picked it up! I loved reading your first-time reaction. It's one of my favorite books/series, and I love talking to people about their takes on it. If you find yourself in another existential crisis, I recommend Douglas Adams's The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. And, as a writer, I always find myself inspired after reading The Salmon of Doubt.

    Great post. Thanks for writing it!

  3. Salman Ahmed September 12, 2009 at 3:50 AM #

    Just make sure you always have a towel. 🙂

  4. Metal July 24, 2011 at 7:36 PM #

    I have this habit of jotting down lines I find interesting, every time I read a book. Over the years this has given me a bunch of diaries I can go back to and read and wonder. Needless to say, every time I feel as if my life doesn’t make any sense, I read the lines I wrote from HHG2TG, and I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. Here’s one-

    “There is a theory which states that if ever anybody 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 which states that this has already happened.”

    Cheers
    Abhinav

    • Anaka Johnston July 29, 2011 at 4:34 AM #

      Oh, how I love this line from HHG! And too many more. I need to re-read it. Oh so brilliant and funny. Best of all worlds…

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