One day, while mailing a postcard at a post office, I found a card that said, “Dear Optimists, if you look too much on the bright side, you’ll go blind. The Pessimists.” I think that card is outrageously funny. And yet, in some way, it is true: there must be a balance between optimism and pessimism. After reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I perceived this need for balance a little more—thanks to two extremely different but equally annoying robots.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, tells the story of unfortunate Arthur Dent. Arthur is feeling particularly irritated because his house has been demolished to make room for a highway, and the fact that the Earth is going to be destroyed to make space for a new inter-galactic road isn’t helpful. But thanks to Ford Prefect, Arthur manages to survive. After being tortured by poetry, meeting the runaway President of the Galaxy (Zaphod Beeblebrox), and almost killed by mice, Arthur discovers the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. But what are the questions to Life, the Universe, and Everything? The book doesn’t say.
Much silliness inhabits the pages of this book—an enjoyable story, although not terribly profound. Vogons are large, slug-like beings who think evolution is stupid. They write the second-worst poetry in the universe—the worst being Paul Johnstone’s (I read some of his poetry and it’s horrifying). But Vogon poetry is still perilous to listen to—so terrible that one Vogon’s intestine strangled its own brain, attempting to save civilization from its poetry. Yet, however negatively toned the Vogon chapter is, it is simply hilarious.
Marvin and Eddie are two opposing robots that live on Zaphod’s spaceship, Heart of Gold. Eddie is a computer with a really positive personality. Ugh! He spends his days hurrahing and “boosting morale.” And Marvin is terrible. Marvin is a Paranoid Android, the most depressed robot in the world. Once, when feeling lonely, he explained his view of the Universe to a spaceship. The ship committed suicide.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy made my day with its positively ridiculous silliness, and it helped me think about the balance between optimism and pessimism. After reflecting deeply, I find that the best response to the letter from the Pessimists is not a waspish insult, but rather, “Dear Pessimists, just wear sunglasses. The Optimists.”
You can buy this book here.