A staff devotion I wrote for the thread of purpose we were exploring as a college:
As a young adult in the late 1980s I read a novel that was popular at the time by Douglas Adams called “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. In the story the main character, Arthur Dent roams the universe in a Vogon spacecraft in his dressing gown and towel, after earth has been demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. The story was originally written for a BBC radio show and overtime it has been adapted to stage shows, novels, comics, a television series and a feature film. Anyone who has experienced “The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy” story knows the famous scene in which the computer “Deep Thought” calculates the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. Indeed this scene from Douglas Adams has achieved cult status with people readily acknowledging that the answer to the meaning of the universe is the number 42.
Ever since Adams wrote 42 as the answer to the ultimate question of the universe, people have wondered and theorized why he chose that particular number. If you search online there are copious theories about the significance of the number 42 and Adam’s intention in using it. Some English newspapers have suggested that Adams was paying tribute to the writer Lewis Carol, who was a mathematician. Lewis Carol made use of the number 42 in Alice in Wonderland and other writings. The number 42 is special in mathematics as it is a meandric, polygonal, pronic, abundant, Catalan number and importantly, the perfect score for the International Mathematical Olympiad. Another suggestion as to why Adams used 42 is because it is the number of lines used in the first modern book, Gutenberg’s Bible which had 42 lines of text per page. A third suggestion is that it is an obscure reference to the traditional number of rulers of Tibet. Adam’s close friend and voiceover in one of the movies, Stephen Fry, swore to secrecy that he would go to his grave never disclosing his friend’s reason for choosing the number. But one newspaper report is that Douglas Adams is reported to have said when he was writing the story he wanted to choose a simple number and at the time as he looked out into his garden, the number 42 came to mind.
For me, that goes to show who much we as humanity complicate things. When confronted with deep questions such as the meaning of life and what our purpose is, we can theorize, come up with great conspiracies, unduly wind ourselves up in intellectual knots, when really the truth is much simpler than we desire. When I was pondering these questions last night, I came across this Bible verse from Philippians two verse four. It’s in a section where we are told of the attitude of Jesus in coming to earth and taking on human form. In four words at the start of verse four we are told that “in humility (Jesus) valued others”. That nails the ultimate question of the universe for me. It’s that simple and that basic; in humility value others, in humility we are to value others above ourselves.
As we journey through life, with maturity we learn that we are not the centre of universe, that our mortal lives on earth are short, everything we experience is a gift from God, and meaning is made through having humility like Jesus as we value others and in turn serve them. What is our purpose and the meaning of life, the universe and everything? Some would say its a number 42, I would say its a person who in humility values us so we can value others.
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
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