Day 42: Life, the Universe, and Everything

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams explained that the meaning of life is 42. That’s what the great computer, Deep Thought, came up with at least. But the answer is 42 what?

Is it 42 pieces of lettuce in my salad?

Is it 42 trips to the Olive Garden?

Is it the 42 lessons we learned along the way?

I was reading the Book of Job last week for personal reasons. I love this book despite never really wanting to read every word of it. In some ways it’s the most human book in the whole Bible, because it’s concerned with suffering and injustice and the inscrutable will of God. It’s also intensely opaque and ambiguous: you could read the book and feel that life is arbitrary, or not. Because what was the point of Job’s suffering? To make him realize what he had, and appreciate it when he got it back? I don’t think so.

It’s ambiguous, like that number 42, in part because it’s hard to figure out who’s right in the book. Most of the text is just Job’s idiot friends yelling at him for screwing up, and Job firing back that he didn’t do anything wrong, at least nothing that he knows about. And we have to agree with Job, that he’s the good guy, except that in the end after God is done telling Job’s friends to make sacrifices because they’re so bad at giving advice–and telling them that He’ll forgive them only because they’re Job’s friends–God turns around and tells Job not to forget his place in the universe.

And that, my friends, is real life. Even when we’re the good guys, even when we didn’t do anything wrong, God still says that He’s the only one who can make those judgments.

It’s like you want God to run down like a boxing referee and swing Job’s fist into the air and hail him the winner of the philosophical bout, but God doesn’t do that. He says Job’s friends are wrong, but Job is wrong, too, for counting himself righteous. He can’t make himself good, God, implies, and neither can anybody else.

It’s dispiriting for those of us who might tend to feel a little self-righteous at times. Why doesn’t God pat us on the back for being so right?

Oh, and one other thing about Job’s story: there’s 42 chapters in it.

Maybe 42 really is the answer.

Item 1: linguine, meat sauce, mixed veggies

Breadsticks: 2.5

Weight: 167

Wait: not long at all

Day 41: Good

When in doubt or despair, these two will cheer you up again and again and again:

When you’re feeling down it’s good to be with the ones you love.

Because they’re the proof that things are good always.

There’s a song by Israel Houghton, I believe, and it’s either called “You Are Good” or “We Worship You.” As worship songs are kind of hard to parse out online, that’s as specific as I’m going to bother to get. However, in this chorus, there’s a mantra that emerges, as you sing:

You are good, all the time,

All the time, You are good

You are good, all the time,

(And) all the time, You are good!

(Note: you’re supposed to repeat that chorus for an hour or two, depending on the enthusiasm of your worship leader.)

Anyway, you’re singing it to and about God, so it’s one of those interesting places where you’re talking to somebody else, but really you’re not, because He already knows what you’re talking about. It’s like when you introduce somebody and say, this lady did this thing, and that thing, and the other thing, and here she is, welcome! but she already knows all that stuff about herself. She hasn’t just read her resume–she wrote it.

So at some point you realize that even though the song is addressing God, it’s really also a way of talking to yourself. And that’s especially true because, even though God is pretty familiar with Himself, we aren’t always. Which means that we get to ponder this simple axiom over and over again and consider what it means.

Whenever I’m going through a difficult time, this song and these verses pop back into my head and start jabbering at me when I’m trying to go to sleep. It’s probably some kind of protective reflex for my psyche, because I don’t want to live in a world where nothing makes sense. But it’s also an interesting study in philosophy. Because if God is good all the time–if He refuses to take any days off from being good–then what does that say about my circumstances?

If God is really good all the time, then is he not in control of the bad things that happen to me? Or if he is good all the time, then are the bad things that happen to me actually good things?

Either way it’s a tough sell, but that axiomatic lyric gets stuck in your teeth. …He is good, all the time, all the time, He is good…

It means you have to think: it forces you to face complications. Like, maybe this terrible thing that’s happening in my life is only terrible from my point of view: maybe it’s necessary to make me into who I need to become. If a good God is allowing evil to happen to me, then maybe it’s not evil after all.

This is the kind of thing you have to think about on your own terms. I would never walk up to somebody suffering and tell him that God was doing a great work through his suffering. First of all, because, I don’t know why he’s suffering, and second of all because I don’t think words like that actually help people who are in pain.

But if somebody asks me about my experience, I can say that somehow, inexplicably, God is good all the time, and all the time, He is good.

Item 1: Linguine, alfredo, meatball

Item 2: Same as above

Breadsticks: 2

Weight: 167

Weight of Glory: infinite