19 May 2005

Traveling the Universe

Renee, my wife, woke early this morning, so I didn't have time to compose something new for this entry. I've attached the following passage from my fourth poetry journal log:

I watched the film version of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a couple weekends ago. The film contains the scene where the Infinite Improbability Drive aboard the spaceship Heart of Gold turns two pursuing missiles into a bowl of petunias and a sperm whale. The whale comes to terms with his existence and makes up names for things like his tail and wind, remarking that those names sound good enough.

In addition to the arbitrary nature of language, the whale seems to just come to terms with language before his life ends in one big ground splat. Is this a reflection on humanity, that by the time we truly start to understand language we die? Or perhaps, he meant to reflect Sartre and Lyn Hejinian’s idea that to name something is to kill it, to keep it from further expansion.

I love the entire Hitchhiker’s Trilogy (actually five books), and can’t help but feel it may possibly stand as the representative book of the latter half of the twentieth century because it reflects quantum theory’s belief that all things are possible although highly improbable, reflects language theory through persistent wordplay, and reflects an anthropocentric attitude (a.k.a. superiority complex via technological advances — “[…] they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”). Am I stretching here?

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