The curse of being ahead of your time is that you can end up not being around to say “I told you so.” It’s towel day and the geekier amongst us remember the impact that Douglas Adams had on the world. As I look about me, from the screen I am tapping my fingers on right now that has access to the entire world to the blithering idiot in the white house and I think the same thing, over and over again. How can the world make any sense to anyone who had not read any Douglas Adams? It’s not as if they are very long books, and they aren’t exactly hard to wade through but without them, the world makes no sense at all. When he created the ideas of the electronic book with the entire universe at your fingertips, the rest of the planet were chuckling at being able to type 80085 on their pocket calculator and it reading as boobs. When people read about the soul purpose of the role of president being to distract from where the power really lay and that an idiotic, sexist, egomaniac like Zaphod Beeblebrox being the perfect choice, Donald Trump and George Dubya weren’t heard of. From environmental catastrophes, politics, economics to technology, Douglas had it sussed.
Like Swift before him and Pratchett after, Adams was a keen observer of human nature, documenting it’s endless optimism and absurdity.
Every day I still think about the B ark, the giant spaceship that sent The Useless Third of a planets population out into space, only to populated what would become the planet earth. When I look about at all the people doing the most utterly pointless things and taking themselves so seriously in the process, I can’t help but smile at the stupidity of it all.
Probably the most fascinating character to me appears in one of the later books, she is a wise old woman living in a dark, dank, cave that reeks of bat shit on the planet of philosophers. She hobbles around, prematurely aged and half mad, muttering to herself before producing a collection of photocopied pages to hand to the protagonist. What she gives him is a detailed list of every decision in her life that led to her sad ending in a cold, damp, smelly hole in the ground so that he would not make the same bad decisions that she did. The sad truth is that, sometimes, a person’s sole purpose in life is to be a reminder to others on how not to screw things up, the trick is not to be that person.
Although I am quite sure he expected to have many more than the precious few 49 years he understood how fragile and precious that time was and used it well, leaving a too small but extremely dense legacy for the rest of the world.
If you have not read A hitch-hikers guide to the Galaxy, please do, the world makes absolutely no sense without it.