A giant supercomputer, in one of Douglas Adam’s books in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, bellowed that 42 is the answer to life. Those familiar with the book often get a chuckle at the mere mentioning of the number 42. The irony, of course, was that the supercomputer didn’t know the actual question. I think that the computer may have miscalculated. 40 may in fact unlock the key to life. Or 57. Or 28.
I usually don’t listen to my older brothers. In fact, I’ve made it a life time habit to not listen to them. That’s an important responsibility of being the youngest of five boys. Not listening. Going a different road. Someone wrote a pithy poem about that once. Choosing a different road. I chose the different road and it made all the difference. Obviously. If you choose something different, you get something different. Well, at least sometimes.
If I didn’t just turn 40, I would tell you off the top of my head who wrote the poem. But being older and more mature, I now know that memorizing lots of details is impractical. Not just because I’ll forget that Robert Frost wrote the poem, but because I can google just about anything. I guess it’s a matter of knowing that I don’t know everything, can’t know everything, and that it’s more important to know people that know things that I don’t know. Did you know that? When you’re studying for an exam in college, you can’t simply write down as answer, “This dude Kyle I work with knows that.” And sometimes Kyle calls me. Because I might know something. That’s how real life works. When you turn 40, you might get that. Or maybe much sooner than 40.
My older brother Adam told me to throw a party for my fortieth birthday. Partly, I think, so that he could practice his German on people who don’t actually speak German and really know less about Germany than say Sweden. Even if Germany has the largest economy in Europe and plays a critical role in international politics, Swedes write more popular music. Dancing Queen. Only sixteen. And Swedes appear as cute characters on the Muppet Show. I did. Throw a party. Listen to my brother. And know that about Germany. Not become a dancing queen or appear on the Muppet Show. A good party reminds me how many cool people I know. How they all know a lot of stuff that I don’t know like popular sayings in German to wish someone well when they’re pregnant.
One of the gifts of being 40 is that you don’t care what grade you got on the exam in that history class anyway. It was 20 years ago. Half a lifetime ago. I don’t even remember what the grade was or why I took the class. However, I do remember that if I rocked back and forth a little in the chair, it made a squeaky sound. I remember other important things from college, like which cheap pizza places have issues with cockroaches, caffeine does not make up for a good night’s sleep, how to make apple pie from scratch, and be kind to people working in retail because it’s a sucky job that doesn’t pay very much. Though some people don’t seem to learn these lessons or they’ve never worked behind a cash register.
The process of life itself may be the supercomputer. Each person traveling on a road less travelled by billions other people. Though for $49.99 you can get 12 easy lessons on how to be as successful as millions of other people at traveling the road less travelled. Maybe you’ll discover your answer when you turn 28. Or 57. Or 40. Just throw a party with your friends and family who know stuff. They just might have the answer. If they don’t, you can always try googling it.