Letter from America 9: Dear cuz….
Actually, I was just developing a theory which goes like this: it is probable that I died ten years ago and haven’t noticed it yet. This thing that just goes on and on may be what the ancients described as purgatory. Or heaven. Or hell. Or something. Sigh. So maybe this applies to everyone- ten years ago a comet struck the earth and we were all destroyed and live on in our own imaginations…wait, I’m quite liking this. And then, each person’s “reality” is completely different. In my reality some asshole has become US president – which shows a deep thread of pessimism and an incredible imagination on my part. It also shows what a fucking good Science Fiction writer I could have been had Earth survived the comet.
Which reminds me about the story of the guy who decided once and for all to sort out the real meaning of life. Yes, of course he had read Douglas Adams and knew all about 42. Which in fact spurred him to undertake a similar mission, using all published sources….
A DAY IN THE DEATH
Junius had long suspected that he was right on the brink of working out life’s mystery, and then every time he put all the evidence together, there was always a critical missing piece. Some piece of information, something which would make everything clear…
His lifetime had been devoted to the search since at least the age of twelve when, despite his parents’ pleas, he decided not to have a Barmitzvah. Admittedly they were not observant Jews, but had decided that in case Junius wanted to be Jewish he should at least have the option open to him, by having the official ceremony performed which would, in Jewish Law, be the passage to manhood and an initiation into that arcane religion.
They sent him to Hebrew class. They had the Rabbi teach him the ‘pasha’, the section of the Torah he would recite in synagogue on his day of days.
This whole plan collapsed when Junius read the English translation of the pasha. Years later he explained this to his fifteen-year old nephew who had taken to wearing a skullcap and lecturing people on the right way to behave. “I don’t remember the exact words,” he said, “But they were something like this: ‘I am the Lord thy God. You shall worship me as God of Gods or I shall strike all thy crops. I shall make your women barren. I shall make all thy sheep lame. I shall put a curse on you for generations…’ – Hey, I thought! That’s nobody I would want to worship. Nasty old man!”
“Nonsense,” Nephew said. “There’s no such passage.”
“You look!” Junius said. “Asshole!”
And so, from the age of fifteen, Junius began a program of intensive reading. He read the whole Bible. He read the Tao Te Ching, the Q’Ran, most of the Buddhist Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Tripitakas, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. And for the next thirty years he sought out every living holy man (or woman!) he could find to sit at the feet of and learn from. He read most of the main commentators on the religions.
He took a variety of hallucinogenic and allegedly spiritual drugs, with appropriate shamans. Ahayhuasca. Mescaline. Peyote. LSD. Psilocybin.
And eventually, at the age of eighty, he decided to synthesise every Holy Book into just one, in the manner of Deep Thought, the fictional computer in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. So he appointed a top tekkie to develop a computer program which would put everything the holy books have in common onto a single document.
It took three days. He had budgeted for three years.
And while he expected a few thousand pages, it was one page.
Do you know what it said?
It didn’t say 42.