In The Hithiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series, there is a device called the Total Perspective Vortex. Here is what the Hitchiker’s Project has to say about it:
The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses. Since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation; every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.
The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.
Trin Tragula (for that was his name) was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot. She would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.
“Have some sense of proportion!” she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.
And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex, just to show her. Into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.
To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot have is a sense of proportion.
I thought of this as I read this eloquent post from Bridgett. I’ve quite recently been though that particular valley of the shadow of death, when thoughts unbidden come to mind about choices, consequences, futures.
Interestingly, my mid-life crisis was short lived. I stared down the demon, and amazingly, I fared about the same as Zaphod Beeblebrox did in the Total Perspective Vortex. He was captured and sent into the machine by an enemy to drive him mad, a fate worse than death. His friends waited outside, waiting for screams of agony as Zaphod was shown just how insignificant he was in relation to the universe.
Instead, he came out a short time later, totally himself. The Vortex had basically agreed with his huge ego that, yes, he was the coolest cat in the universe. (Turns out Zaphod had previously altered his own brain in a way that neutralized the effects of the vortex – he simply could not process the information).
I can relate to that. I was at a dangerous, precarious place; I took a step back and examined where my life was and where it was going. The boy who just KNEW he’d grow up to be president one day was instead a corporate code monkey. Instead of living an Austin Powers batchelor life, with a long string of conquests to look back on, I had one woman. My children did not even share my DNA, some might even say that they weren’t really “mine”.
But like Zaphod, I came out unscathed, in fact, I came out stronger.
If I am honest, I must admit that I’ve lived an extrordinary life so far. Just not framed the way I had dreamed. A person studying my life as lived thus far would not walk away bored. And that’s really, deep down, what I dreamed of all those years ago.
God is funny that way. He gives you what you ask for while you’re looking at what you think you’ve asked for.
It’s been a heckuva ride so far. And, God willing, I’m only halfway done.