I stare at the eyes
Starin’ at my face
It always ends in a tie
There is no needing the divine
I cry at the joke explained
* * *
The number 42 is, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”, calculated by an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years. Unfortunately, no one knows what the question is, but the answer is 42.
My own answer to life, the universe and everything is 54.
That’s the number of cards in a deck– when the two jokers are included. I’m often the joker, but 54 has been, for at least the last twenty years, my haunting answer to a well-worn question for another, scientifically validated, reason.
54 was the age of my father when he died. 54 was the age of my father’s father when he died. I don’t know how old my great-grandfather– my father’s grandfather– was when he died but, the odds are good, he was 54.
This is the year I turn 54.
I do not know how my great-grandfather died. My grandfather reportedly died of a heart attack when I was but 4.
My father died of a specific heart-related disease called Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. It’s more than possible that my grandfather– and his father before him (and maybe even his father before him)– died of this very same disease as well, but science had not identified it yet.
As civilization evolves we will all know more specifically how we will die but we should be using that same formula to live!
54 is my answer.
“How long do you have to live?”, is the question. The answer is not a fact but a statistical probability. But like 42, 54 is a random answer to everyone else.
Were the question, “how do you live?” the answer could be more universally useful.
I live rationally.
I make the most of each moment.
I am kind to those requiring kindness.
I am contemptuous of ignorance.
I leave things better than I found them.
That is my motto and my only commandment. If you always make an effort to leave every situation, person and event better than it was before you interacted with it you’ll find a liveable answer to the meaning of life. Make things better, improve civilization, advance humanity…
I still have confidence that civilization can evolve past superstition but, right now, less than a month before I turn 54, the pendulum is swinging powerfully in the other direction. When it swings back– and it will– we all have to jump on it… grasp logic, lift up science, defend facts, embrace reality.
We are living in glorious times and the real actual secrets to the universe are literally at our fingertips.
The supernatural hasn’t delivered on a single promise and it never will. You can convince yourself of anything but you can never provide empirical evidence whereas, if all of civilization resolved to leave things better than they found them; be kind to those requiring kindness, celebrate intellect, beat down ignorance… embrace reality, we could usher in a brilliant new age of prosperity for the earth and everyone on it.
Or, we can continue on thinking we’re superior because the sperm and egg that made us did so on a certain part of the planet and we’re better because the archaic myths where we place our beliefs are preferable to those believed by people whose sperm met with an egg on a less fortunate part of the planet.
The reasons why people choose to believe are not complex– people want simple, painless answers. But humans are not simple. Life is not painless. It’s often complex, usually painful and bloody short! Magical thinking is deluding reality and inhibiting global problem solving.
The next part of my life includes convincing more people that reality is the righteous path.
The universe needs our answers.