Is the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything in it 42?

Is the answer on the road?

Is the answer on the road?

Recently, after returning from an overseas trip, I found myself standing at a taxi rank on a sleet driven, cold Melbourne night. It was past midnight and the usual gaggle of yellow cabs was off in the city awaiting the club crowd. The 20-minute wait was bracing after 30 hours in a stuffy plane.

Finally the taxis started to flow, to the relief of the 60 or so people in the queue. My driver, when he arrived, was annoyed. He’d been looking for a fare for more than an hour and couldn’t understand why the controller hadn’t called through. He was on his way to McDonald’s for a coffee when he decided to tour the airport to see what was what.

He was a talker too. Wanted to know where I’d been and whether for business or pleasure. I gave him brief answers, not wishing to evoke conversation. He decided instead to tell me about the depressed market, working 7 days a week and how much he missed his family in India.

He questioned the worth of it all, or perhaps the futility, before asking ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ His pause suggested this was a real rather than rhetorical question. Having already told me he was a practicing Sikh, I thought he’d be in a better position to answer than me.

‘What do the 10 gurus have to say about it?’, I asked. ‘Would not a belief in a life of perpetual optimism be accompanied by a belief that life did, indeed, have meaning? Perhaps living for equality between all people is the purpose.’

Maybe he just enjoyed complaining about his life, maybe he was making conversation, or possibly it was a rhetorical question after all – because he changed tack and started to play with his radio.

We think of the quest for life’s meaning as a journey along a road, or through time, which leads us to the Oracle, a mysterious source with all the answers. But, like the Cheshire cat said to Alice, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going then it doesn’t really matter which way you go.’

Are we willing to take the chance and live a life without direction, hoping to find answers at the end, or does finding our purpose require more work, thought, trial and error? To put it differently, is there meaning to be found along the road?

If the meaning of life isn’t some esoteric piece of wisdom that, once discovered, unlocks the secrets of the universe and ends our quest for understanding, then what is it? And if it’s not, then how do we answer the similar question, ‘Why am I here?’ Are they the same thing? Is the meaning of life about where we came from or where we’re going? And how does what we do today influence our destination and how quickly we get there?

Big questions for a weary midnight taxi ride with a suddenly silent Sikh.

Let’s not over think it. Perhaps the answer is nothing more (or less) than 42 – as good an answer as any (from a clever but lighthearted book).

Did you know that 42 is also the number of illustrations in Alice in Wonderland?

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2 Responses to “Is the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything in it 42?”

  1. paulhassing Says:

    Nice one, WLB2. I do like it when you craft blog posts around your experiences. This one was fully Sikh! Kind regards, P. 🙂

    • WorkLifeBankBalance Says:

      Thanks Paul, very nice! I was fortunate to have a lady at work explain it to me just teh week before or I wouldn’t have had any idea about Sikh beliefs. A little knowledge is dangerous!

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