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A WORD FOR TODAY, September 8, 2023
“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.” Psalm 104:24-26, WEB
Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe” is the first in a series of crazy stories about a human from earth who gets caught up with a reporter for a guide for a book designed for beings who hitchhike across the universe. Adams created a funny and incredible universe where people can travel from planet to planet and even galaxy to galaxy. I read these books when I was younger, but recent conversations have led me to read them again and I’m surprised with every new experience how creative he was when he wrote these books. I am creative, I make paintings out of my imagination, but I shake my head in wonder that anyone could think this madness into existence.
I read a lot of sci-fi fantasy writers, but none even come close to Adams’ insanity. They create new worlds that are usually based on places that exist in our world. They create situations that parallel historical events. Even their people have characteristics that fit real people. I often read those books with half a mind trying to figure out the basis of the story, and they sometimes tell the real stories in their epilogues. The real stories do not include the sci-fi fantasy aspects those authors use. There was no magic or time slips in medieval England, but there was intrigue and drama in the royal courts, fear and poverty in the common population. Sci-fi writers have come up with incredible creatures and planets, but they usually do so according to the rules of science and reality that we know, but Adams did not think the far corners of the universe had to stick to those rules.
I am an artist at heart, so I often have an off-the-wall idea of what might be fun. When I was in school I took a couple years of French as my language and though I did not speak fluently I had a working knowledge of the language. I decided it would be fun to use French for my answering machine message. This created a number of problems both for those who dialed a wrong number and those who know me intimately. One friend’s response on the machine was, “I’m pretty sure I heard your last name in that message, so if this is Peggy call me back.” The problem was magnified when it came to Bruce. Since he was living in England, he had to dial a country code to make a call to America. When the answering machine spewed a message in French, he thought he had made a mistake and dialed the wrong country code. When he got the message again, after carefully dialing, he realized it must be my phone. After causing him to make two overseas telephone calls I realized it would be better to keep my message simple and informative.
One of my favorite creations in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is the “Babel fish.” At present it is estimated that there are over seven thousand languages in the world. Imagine how many there would be in a universe filled with inhabited planets! Travelers in Adams book put a small fish in their ear that automatically translates any language in the wearers’ brain so that strangers can understand one another. It isn’t quite so simple in the real world, though with the internet it is getting much easier. The first major online translator was called Babel Fish, which lead to many other translation programs.
The wonderful thing about the sci-fi fantasy genre is that many of those creative ideas in older stories have come into existence in today’s world. Would Babel Fish been the name of that translation program if it hadn’t been for Douglas Adams? I imagine we would have cellular technology even if there hadn’t been similar objects used in “Star Trek”? I’ve seen several memes that show the prophetic nature of the cartoon “The Jetsons” who had robot vacuums and big screen televisions long before they were a reality.
No matter how creative and how imaginative we can be, we are reminded that God is even more creative and imaginative. We don’t know what truly exists in the universe. Sometimes I like to think that there are other inhabited planets with people doing things even crazier than we can imagine. I think about the scientific rules of our planet and wonder why those rules would have to fit another place beyond our ability to reach. Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to travel at the speed of light and visit beings a million light years away?
I don’t think Douglas Adams ever meant his writing to be a prophetic word telling us what might be outside our own little corner of the universe, but we can look to our God and imagine so much more than we see and know from our own limited experience. God has done great things and there are still aspects of our own world that we are still discovering today. The craziness of the Hitchhiker’s Galaxy is not the real, but it reminds us that there are aspects of God’s universe both spiritual and physical that we may never really know because God is bigger than our brains can even imagine. This is a good thing, because if we could know and understand God, then He wouldn’t truly be God.
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