Today, we have a chance to really delve into the depths of my omniscience thanks to one of the raddest people on the interweb:
Dear Mr. Dungeon Master,
What’s the meaning of life? Is it really 42?
When I began writing my response to this question, I found myself in a dilemma. This may come as the biggest shock of your life, but I sometimes have trouble being serious. I’m sure it has something to do with repressed something-or-others, breast milk and assorted childhood horrors. Whatever the case, I enjoy making light of everything. So when presented with an opportunity to discuss the meaning of life, I naturally thought, “Oh yeah! Time to trivialize the biggest question ever asked!” But then I realized, as Sarah has pointed out, that Douglas Adams already did this quite well.
So, I was presented with a choice. I could either put my own silly spin on things and do what I always do, or attempt to be serious for a moment. I’m still not sure which one I’ve accomplished.
A great many people have wondered at Adams’ choice of 42. What does it mean? What was he trying to tell us? What’s the big secret? (No, not that secret. Parking spaces are not the meaning of life). Adams himself claimed it was completely arbitrary – a joke and nothing more. He didn’t sit and contemplate existence in order to come up with an answer to it. He simply thought, “Oh, I’ve got it: 42. That’s funny,” but as always, people seek meaning wherever they can, whether it’s in a science fiction novel (L. Ron Hubbard anyone?), or in an ancient hippie nailed to a cross.
While 42 might not have mattered that much, Adams’ choice of an arbitrary, nonsensical answer obviously mattered. But what was he saying? Was he saying that we could never understand the answer? Was he saying that the question was more important than the answer? Was he saying that the whole mess was just a big waste of time?
I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know what Adams was thinking; that’s what literary critics are for (They’re actually trained in psychically probing the souls of dead people. Except I just remembered, science fiction isn’t real literature, so I guess your soul is safe Douglas). But I can still try to guess at his intentions.
For me, 42 represents absurdity in all of its glorious glory. It’s the absurdity of human existence. The absurdity of our undying hopes. The absurdity of our unyielding persistence. The absurdity of being able to point out all of our absurdities and keep on being absurd. It means we don’t know the answer, we don’t know the question, and even if we did know it, we wouldn’t know what to do with it. It’s the most concise summation of Absurdist philosophy there has ever been.
Maybe this is what Adam’s meant, and maybe it’s not. But I’m approaching it from my perspective because that’s all I’m capable of doing. The next question is then: how do I feel about life? Is life really just an absurd tangle of nonsensical mayhem? Is its deeper meaning something never to be glimpsed by the human mind? Does it have any meaning at all?
Do It On Purpose
I could sit here and digress into a bunch of trite nonsense, spoon feed you some inbred philosophies, and claim that I know a bunch of awesome shit (Which I do. For realsies). But I won’t. I respect you all more than that. What I do know is that I’m really enjoying writing this post. I love writing this blog. I love making my webcomic. But what I love a lot more than creating them is sharing them with all of you. I love the communication and the human interaction. I love people.
But also, I hate people.
I am a creator, but sometimes I just want to destroy everything. I want world peace and apocalyptic destruction. I want zombies and utopia. I am at constant war with myself, and honestly, I kind of like it. We can’t escape conflict. When there is no conflict, we seek it out, and we will find it – in others or in ourselves. We thrive off it. Conflict reminds us of what we are, and it gives us a purpose. The most frightening thing in the world to me is the stagnation of my soul.
Would I go as far as to say conflict is the meaning of life? No. But conflict gives us some kind of meaning. Even an “enlightened” monk standing at the top of a mountain, hanging rocks from his penis is in conflict. His penis is in conflict with rocks. And he does it on purpose. We all do it on purpose.
And now that phrase makes sense to me. On purpose. It means more than just “intentionally”. It means we are dredging the depths of our filthy souls and deciding something is important. We decide it has meaning. All we have is the will to decide. So fuck you determinism, and fuck you absurdism. Life might be absurd, but absurdity isn’t meaning. As much as I love Adams, forty-two will never be the answer for me, but it is certainly a way of life.
I’m not sure I’ve really answered anything as of yet, so here’s what I know:
1) Making stuff is awesome
2) I love you guys
3) I hate everything
4) I do what I want
5) You can’t take the sky from me
If you still aren’t sure what the meaning of life is, then go paint a picture naked in the forest, befriend a hobo, start a barfight, have a conversation with that guy next to you on the bus, yell at someone just because you’re fucking pissed off, and then go have a beer with someone you love and/or hate. You’ll figure it out eventually.
The Dungeon Master
We need more questions! Please submit them now!
If you wish to submit a question to the Dungeon Master, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can Tweet me a question by hash-tagging me (#askthedm) in your Tweet. And make sure to review the disclaimer.
You can also see me in action in One Die Short.