Thursday, July 29, 2010


It can come from strange places. But part of being a good Christian is being open to it, even from an unexpected source, right?


So obviously one of the really difficult parts of IF is figuring out what to do with yourself over the long-term. For example, I am meditating much on my latest home-purchasing notion, and realizing that one true disaster that could result from buying the place would be me getting pregnant. Paying for it and renovating it will require two incomes, for at least a few years. I'm not looking for a real estate opportunity that would incline me to avoid conception (like I would ever waste ten seconds' energy on avoiding at this point), though I can see how people would suspect me of that. But if three years from now, when the renovations would be done, I have no house and no kid, I will not be pleased.

Anyway, something struck me (way too) late last night as I was falling asleep: this ground has been trodden before me, by one who had a lot more unallocated life to fill. And I'm sure his story, beautifully told as it is, contains much that could instruct me. If you've never been exposed to the singular writing of Douglas Adams,* sit yourselves down - 'cause you're in for a treat.
His name was Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. He was a man with a purpose. Not a very good purpose, as he would have been the first to admit, but it was at least a purpose and it did at least keep him on the move.

Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged was - indeed, is - one of the Universe's very small number of immortal beings.

Those who are born immortal instinctively know how to cope with it, but Wowbagger was not one of them. Indeed he had come to hate them, the load of serene bastards. He had had his immortality thrust upon him by an unfortunate accident with an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch and a pair of rubber bands. The precise details of the accident are not important because no one has ever managed to duplicate the exact circumstances under which it happened, and many people have ended up looking very silly, or dead, or both, trying.

Wowbagger closed his eyes in a grim and weary expression, put some light jazz on the ship's stereo, and reflected that he could have made it if it hadn't been for Sunday afternoons, he really could have done. To begin with it was fun, he had a ball, living dangerously, taking risks, cleaning up on high-yield long-term investments, and just generally outliving the hell out of everybody.

In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn't cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2.55, when you know that you've had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o'clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.

So things began to pall for him. The merry smiles he used to wear at other people's funerals began to fade. He began to despise the Universe in general, and everyone in it in particular.

This was the point at which he conceived his purpose, the thing which would drive him on, and which, as far as he could see, would drive him on forever. It was this.

He would insult the Universe.

That is, he would insult everybody in it. Individually, personally, one by one, and (this was the thing he really decided to grit his teeth over) in alphabetical order.

When people protested to him, as they sometimes had done, that the plan was not merely misguided but actually impossible because of the number of people being born and dying all the time, he would merely fix them with a steely look and say, "A man can dream can't he?"

And so he started out. He equipped a spaceship that was built to last with the computer capable of handling all the data processing involved in keeping track of the entire population of the known Universe and working out the horrifically complicated routes involved.

His ship fled through the inner orbits of the Sol star system, preparing to slingshot round the sun and fling itself out into interstellar space.

"Computer," he said.

"Here," yipped the computer.

"Where next?"

"Computing that."

Wowbagger gazed for a moment at the fantastic jewellery of the night, the billions of tiny diamond worlds that dusted the infinite darkness with light. Every one, every single one, was on his itinerary. Most of them he would be going to millions of times over.

He imagined for a moment his itinerary connecting up all the dots in the sky like a child's numbered dots puzzle. He hoped that from some vantage point in the Universe it might be seen to spell a very, very rude word.

*I do not read Harry Potter and I most certainly do not read Twilight. I read science fiction and fantasy when, as they say, they weren't cool, and therefore, I read the good stuff - Terry Pratchett, Terry Brooks, Polk and Williamson, Jules Verne (father of the genre), some C.S. Lewis, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, some Asimov, and, of course, Douglas Adams - requiescat in pace.


  1. You forgot Ray Bradbury! I love scifi :).

    That is one of our favorite audio books, btw - perfect for long, boring car rides. Well, that and Dune - which I think was 60 hours. Talk about perfect for our trip back and forth from New Mexico.

    Insulting the universe is a great aspiration, but I think you can do one better :).

  2. "But if three years from now, when the renovations would be done, I have no house and no kid, I will not be pleased."

    This is what I ponder all the time! I've decided I can no longer make "but what if?" doesn't include kids now so all decisions will be made without taking that what-if into consideration. Want to book a vacation a year out? I'm doing it! Want to buy a not-sensible car? I'm doing it! Want to have a drink during the second half of my cycle? I'm doing it! It's not getting me any closer to having kids, but it's making life more enjoyable :)

  3. OH do I know what you mean! Planning for the future... it's so strange because I often question why I feel so boxed-in right now--we don't have any kids yet, I can do anything, live it up... Yet, I feel paralyzed, unable to make any long-term plans!

  4. C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Anne MacCaffery, Asimov, Douglas Adams, Madeleine L'Engle, OH and John Wyndham - please tell me you have read his stuff! Wonderful stories. But I must admit to being a big Harry Potter fan. I have no inclination to read Twilight.

    I hope you will feel guidance one way or another on the house issue. So many factors just can't be computed at this point - you can only work with the information you have.

  5. If you couldn't manage buying it and being able to live in it - (getting enough rooms to where you can live in them - not to the point where they are a gorgeous as you imagine them), then I wouldn't do it. But if there was a way to stretch the renovations, to afford it, by doing the minimum until you were back to two incomes, I wouldn't let the what-ifs hold you back.
    Not that I didn't already like Douglas Adams, but he said once that the Tattered Cover in Denver was his favorite book store, and any man with that much good sense gets bonus points in my book