Virtute and I have a confession to make. We’ve both been anticipating writing this episode for some time now. The number 42 has very special connotation in our conversations. It is the number worn by the great baseball player Jackie Robinson. It is the angle rounded to whole degrees at which a rainbow appears. But most importantly it is a number that gets at the crux of this whole Diaries of a Cat Named Virtute project. 42 is of course the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. So this week, Virtute and I spent a few minutes reading through our favourite passage of the Douglas Adams book, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, before reflecting on this important question.
I asked Virtute how a simple number could explain something so complex. He explained, “Well even though most people seem to consider me a very complex character, I tend to live life simply. I enjoy catching the cracks of sunshine when they appear, I appreciate genuine cuddles from the people that I love, and I never miss a meal – especially if it’s chicken! If 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything – and if we are all just living on a large supercomputer called Earth tasked with determining what the ultimate question was in the first place, then I guess we need to start simply.”
Perplexed, I asked Virtute to elaborate. “Well 42 isn’t just a number. It’s an expression of a relationship. We’re all simply expressions of relationships. Some of them are chemical, some are physical, some are spiritual, some are emotional, but they are all relational. Just like the arc of a rainbow or the number on your baseball jersey, we are bound to the relationships that sustain us while we exist within this plane.”
What if we never figure out what the ultimate question is in the first place? Virtute was less certain, he gazed out the window as a rainbow began to emerge in the distance. “Perhaps the problem is not finding a response to our question. Perhaps the problem is the way we have posed the question in the first place. What’s brilliant about the question’s answer, 42, that the super computer Deep Thought solved a long time ago, is not that it provides us with new knowledge that we can attain and use, but rather that it points to the mysterious nature of our relationship to life, the universe, and everything. That mystery is beautiful.”
Even though Virtute was eloquent as always, I wasn’t satisfied and prodded him a little further. What does it mean for us right now? Slyly, Virtute turned around and said, “What does it matter, they’re gonna bulldoze this place for an intergalactic highway any minute now.” He turned back and continued to watch the rainbow arc its perfect 42 degrees. I went to the kitchen to prepare some chicken for Virtute, I figured I might as well nurture this relationship as much as possible.