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Douglas Adams on wandering souls, disposession and guilt

The entirety of the original 1978 BBC radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy can be downloaded from archive.org here. Recommended.

Arthur Dent, a man whose planet has been blown up, has been having a remarkable effect on the universe. And the most remarkable thing about this is that the only remarkable thing about him as a person is that he is remarkably unremarkable in all respects other than that of having had his planet blown up.

And this of course is the nub of the matter, because most of the things which stir the universe up in anyway are caused by dispossessed people. There are two ways of accounting for this. One is to say that if everyone just sat at home nothing would ever happen. This is very simple.

The other is to say, as Oolon Colluphid has in his book, “Everything You Always Wanted to Ask About Guilt, But Were Too Ashamed to Ask,” that every being in the universe is tied to his birthplace by tiny, invisible force tendrils composed of little quantum packets of guilt. If you travel far from your birthplace, these tendrils get stretched and distorted. This compares with an ancient Arcturan proverb: “However fast the body travels, the soul travels at the speed of an Arcturan Mega-Camel.” This would mean, in these days of hyperspace and improbability drive, that most people’s souls are wondering unprotected in deep space in a state of some confusion, and this would account for a lot of things.

Similarly, if your birthplace is actually destroyed, or in Arthur Dent’s case, demolished, ostensibly to make way for a new hyperspace bypass, then these tendrils are severed and flap about at random. There are no people to be fed, or whales to be saved. There is no washing-up to be done. And these flapping tendrils of guilt can seriously disturb the space-time continuum…

Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Fit the Tenth

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