Douglas Adams—49—Much Too Young
There's a delightful Google doodle this morning, reflecting the brilliance that was Douglas Adams. You may know him as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He passed much too young on this date in 2001, at the age of 49. Coincidentally, the same age my father was when he died. The same age my husband is now. Hmmm. Uh… Moving on.
Many years ago, I stumbled across his final collection of writing, The Salmon of Doubt. The book is all the pieces of manuscripts gleaned from his computers after his passing. Douglas Adams was creatively childlike, and found humor all around him, but in himself, first and foremost. Take his view on his nose, for example:
"My mother has a long nose and my father had a wide one, and I got both of them combined. It's large.… As a boy I was teased unmercifully about my nose for years until, one day, I happened to catch sight of my profile in a pair of angled mirrors and had to admit that it was actually pretty funny. From that moment people stopped teasing me about my nose and instead started to tease me unmercifully about the fact that I said words like 'actually,' which is something that has never let up to this day."
Douglas Adams also had a brilliant view of our human existence here on earth.
"Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise."
I share his view of a lack of a creator. (But, I do not insist anyone else adopt this view along with me.) And his view of evolution.
"If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a nonworking cat. Life is a level of complexity that almost lies outside our vision; it is so far beyond anything we have any means of understanding that we just think of it as a different class of object, a different class of matter; 'life,' something that had a mysterious essence about it, was God given, and that's the only explanation we had. The bombshell comes in 1859 when Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species. It takes a long time before we really get to grips with this and begin to understand it, because not only does it seem incredible and thoroughly demeaning to us, but it's yet another shock to our system to discover that not only are we not the centre of the Universe and we're not made by anything, but we started out as some kind of slime and got to where we are via being a monkey. It just doesn't read well."
What we view as normal is more than a little jacked up.
"There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world.The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be, but we have done various things over intellectual history to slowly correct some of our misapprehensions."
I could go on and on pullinig wonderfully rich quotes from this man. But you can google him yourself if you're so curious, which I hope you are.
Thanks for reading,
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Good juju-spreader, speaker, graphic designer. I'd love to hear from you!