42 : Life, the Universe, and Everything
Science Fiction author Douglas Adams famously told us through his Hitchhiker‘s Guide to the Galaxy books that the answer to ‘Life, The Universe, and Everything’ was the number 42. The answer to that answer was ‘We don’t understand.’ The reply was that maybe the question was not understood. From there, in a way, Earth was brought about to bring about the answer to the question.
There is no real discussion about the subject of Douglas Adams and baseball, however it is known that Adams was an atheist. Therefore, Adams would probably have not looked towards a religious response to ‘Life, the Universe, and Everything.’ There is no real evidence that he would have looked towards a baseball player either. It just makes a fascinating hypothesis. Adams may have just had a little more inspiration in the number 42 than even he knew.
Lets say that the Earth is a giant computer constantly computing billions and billions of probabilities for solving the question of ‘life, the universe, and everything.’ Every single one of these ‘probabilities’ represents a life in and of itself. Of the billions of possibilities, there would have to be at least one that would become a symbol of something that the highest probability of people could actually believe in and aspire to. In that vein, this individual would not be a religious figure due to the potential fracture as well as the divisiveness that is inherent in the multitude of religions. To sort of steal a concept, this is the point where a man would become more than a man. The man would become a symbol.
Whenever you think of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, you think of the best in humanity. When you think of the non-confrontational way in which Robinson conducted himself, you think of some one overcoming the worst of humanity with the best of humanity. When you think of Robinson’s ability, then you think of a Hall of Fame caliber player. Once you know the story, then all you have to do is see the number and be reminded of something that almost every human being should aspire to.
With Mariano Rivera’s retirement in 2013, the number 42 has now been retired by every major league baseball team. This would be except for the yearly Jackie Robinson Day in which any major league player can wear the number. The man and the number has now become a symbol of the best of all of us as well as something to aspire to. Regardless of race, creed, religion, or in this case team; anyone can wear the number 42 in any color, in any jersey and everyone will know what it means. That would be the definition of a ‘universal symbol.’
If you search through the billions of lives with the equation looking for the answer, then you can do a lot worse than a life that became an inspiration to millions as well as serving as a reminder on a yearly basis. There are of course other lives which we could argue for, but even Presidents or Nobel Prize Winners can be a divisive rather than unifying symbol. This is especially true when the Nobel Prize Winner is a President.
There are people who are still irked by the mention of Abraham Lincoln. There are people who will manage to question or slander leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Ghandi. With Jackie Robinson, it is simply not heard. There is near universal agreement that he was the right person at the right time doing the right thing. Robinson was something good, pure, and innocent that everyone could rally behind.
When the answer to life, the universe and everything was found; the answer came back as the shorthand of a symbol. The answer came back as ’42.’ If there is trouble understanding that, then perhaps there is a bit of a problem understanding the question.