Today would have been the 61st birthday of Douglas Adams. While in the past I’ve discussed the man and his work on here, I think it only appropriate to do so again. Specifically how he relates to me and my world view.
It’s hard to imagine that there was a time where I didn’t know what a Vogon was or what the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything was. Before my Sophomore year of high school if you had asked me for said answer I probably would have said “Live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse”. Just to be flippant, you understand. Then Mike loaned me the third book in the series. Don’t judge, it’s all he had. I tore through the book and savored every detail. The story was odd, but entertaining and I fell in love with the humor. I read the fourth after that and dug up the first and second on my own and read them. The effect on who I am was astonishing.
My way of looking at humor changed with those books. It’s hard to explain how exactly, but I suddenly truly understood the importance of words and phrasing. I saw how you could take lofty concepts and make them accessible to the normal man.
The most important thing that changed was my world view. I’d studied science in school like we all did, but reading Hitchhiker’s made it personal. The universe wasn’t just something out there. I was a part of it. I was a very tiny little part of a vast macrocosm, but that didn’t mean my place was any less important than it had been. It taught me that my view of the world wasn’t necessarily the correct one and that understanding other views wasn’t just important, it was fun.
I wanted to know more about this man, and the great thing was he wrote about himself and loved to tell stories. Through those stories and making of specials and television interviews and articles I felt like I had come to know this man. I understood his sadness and his thinking. And then he died very unexpectedly.
The last Adams book to be released was “The Salmon of Doubt” and it was a bitter sweet experience. It was loaded with his writings on a number or subjects and it was the last I’d ever hear from him. I treasure the book like a last letter from a friend.
Today, I understand that Douglas wasn’t a perfect writer. He wasn’t the be all and end all of science fiction and comedy. What he was though was a passionate genius, a reclusive mad man, and a force of nature that will continue to touch more lives than he ever expected. So long, Douglas, and thanks. . .