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On A Mostly Harmless Birthday

Today, I turn 42. In my family, this number holds special significance.

I learned in my teen years that 42 is the central number to the cult classic the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is the single most important number to far more nerds than it should be. It is the answer to “life, the universe, and everything”, though as the story is told, the question itself is never fully resolved.

Reaching this age is causing me a moment of introspection, wondering what meaning my life, universe, and everything has so far, and whether 42 is indeed the answer. Indeed, this SubStack blog exists in large part to figure out my question.

I grew up knowing that my grandfather, Canadian pilot Jack Ross Graham, passed away from what was then called “pilot’s disease” - a pulmonary embolism as a direct result of his long-distance flying at the young age of 42 — in 1959, before the concept of ergonomics had really taken off. It drove my father, who was ten at the time, to later raise his own children to be as independent as possible as early as possible should he suffer a similar fate, so this event more than 20 years before my birth was in many ways central to my upbringing.

My father reacted to his own 42nd birthday by going to flying school, largely in honour of his own father. Each of his siblings reacted in their own way to reaching their father’s age. Many of the men in the family have also had pulmonary emboli through their 40s, leading us to question which violent 13th century clan of Grahams we are descendants of that we need to clot so excessively well.

My parents often described me as being powered by the “inevitability drive”, a play on the infinite improbability drive, where my primary motivation in getting tasks accomplished is that they are going to get done, so I might as well get on with doing them.

It fit then, with 42 already being such a significant number in my life, that when I was elected on October 19th, 2015, it was to Canada’s 42nd Parliament — where I served for 4 years and 2 days.

In honour of all this, I took one minute out of Parliament’s day on May 11th, 2016 to pay tribute to Douglas Adams and his impact on our culture.

Mr. Speaker, 15 years ago today, with Arthur Dent well established in his new life, Ford Prefect returned to this mostly harmless place for Douglas Adams. Marvin the paranoid android was, of course, left behind.

Anyone who has read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is aware that planet Earth is little more than a computer, built on the orders of mice, to determine the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

While I must wrap up this statement, brought to some of us by our resident babelfish, before it is destroyed to make way for a hyper-partisan bypass, it is a great honour to know that all of our colleagues, brought together here today by the infinite improbability drive, will forevermore have our names listed together on a plaque.

The plaque will be here in Centre Block marked, without ever having determined the question, with the answer to life, the universe, and everything, the number of our Parliament, 42.

42nd Parliament plaque I can only hope that my next 42 years are as interesting as the last 42.

Posted at 01:58 on July 29, 2023

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