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What the Muses Deign: “There’s never a good time to go”

By Porruka,, May 15, 2001

May 11, 2001. The Earth rotated once again on its axis. Its journey around the sun continued. For the collective societies that inhabit its face, the normal course of events ran unabated. Yet, as is always the case, the devil is in the details and what doesn’t even ripple the surface of humanity as a whole rends great tears through the fabric of sub-communities. In that, we’ve lost one of our own: Douglas Adams.

Pretension in the first degree

I was never privileged to meet the man personally; the closest I came was being in the same room during an AppleMasters presentation one year at WWDC. Why then am I qualified to write anything about his passing? I’m not. I’m still going to share a few thoughts regardless.

Elegance in operation

Mr. Adams was known far and wide – or at least as far and as wide as science fiction circles can go – as a man of elegance. His prose wasn’t simply funny, it was funny in the way that if there were more words, or different words, it just wouldn’t be the same. He was also a man known in those same circles for his love of the Macintosh computer, and whenever he spoke about it, his reasons weren’t dogmatic. Cult of Macintosh? Not to him. Simply put, his fondness for the machine came from its simplicity and elegance of use. In his writings and his life, this core trait shone through.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

So many times, some of Mr. Adams’ biggest fans forget the fact that so much of his work relies on humanity and not just on a twisted turn of a phrase. Given that, it would be appropriate in this time of reflection, to remember that Mr. Adams was always looking out into the real world. Who would have thought that the premise of The Hitchhiker’s Guide would become the genesis for an actual online community, dedicated to chronicling the Universe (at least as much of it as we can get our brains around), and in the process, proving Mr. Adams wrong on at least one count, contradicting Earth’s description as “Mostly Harmless”.

The dolphins may yet win, if they can just develop tactical nukes

“Mostly” is the operative word in the “mostly harmless” description – to the rest of the Universe, I’m certain Earth is still a backwater, hardly able to survive an infestation of killer cockroaches, much less inflict lasting damage on something billions of years older than we can even pretend to be. To ourselves and our immediate environment, though, humans pose a much greater threat. Mr. Adams did all humanity a service by recognizing this in his book (co-authored with Mark Carwardine) Last Chance to See. Rather forward-thinking from someone who started his masterwork with the destruction of the Earth and proceeded from there.

Last Call at Milliways

And so we all lose the master who was Douglas Adams. Those who were entertained by him, those who were enlightened by him, those who identified with his crazy characters, those who looked to him for inspiration for silly things like dedication to writing, creating, dreaming, thinking, and those who loved him (his family who he left behind – his wife Jane and his daughter Polly). We should all reflect on the things that are important and the things that are not, and make sure we’re not confusing the two.

Mr. Adams, thank you for reminding us that we have to make sure we’re well-rounded in the head. After all, we don’t have a spare one onto which we can spread the load.

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