42 / by Safia Southey

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Many people know that I am obsessed with the number 42. With it tattooed on my side, it better have some actual meaning. 

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon states that a word, a name, or other thing (in my case, number) that has recently come to one's attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency afterwards, which may explain why I see 42 everywhere

Humans have an inherent need to find meaning in every little thing, and often will attribute anything from poetically intricate to downright ludicrous meanings just to insert significance in the insignificant and simplify our understanding. This sense of understanding and value gives us relief, and for many it's a coping mechanism - while some use God to explain bizarre events and forces, I may use the number 42 to explain beauty or the encapsulation of everything. The importance isn't in the number, but rather the human condition of how we attribute connections and meanings to a seemingly trivial random number.

However, 42 also isn't just a collection of references. In Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the confusion surrounding the number forces the characters to explore what the question being asked actually is. These kind of questions - and answers - are what moves society forward, what encourages people to explore and find answers in what we don't understand. Therefore, 42 is a reminder to me to keep exploring, to find meaning in the meaningless, to establish small ways to spark happiness. 

So, here is a little list I've compiled over the years of some of my favorite references (I'm sorry there aren't 42): 

  • The answer to life, the universe, and everything
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderful has 42 illustrations 
  • 42 dots on a pair of standard dice
  • In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet's death-state poison is supposed to last 42 hours 
  • In Japanese culture, the number 42 is considered unlucky because the numerals when pronounced separately—shi ni (four two)—sound like the word "death"
  • Mark 42 is the featured suit in Iron Man 3
  • There are 42 questions asked of persons making their journey through Death by Ma'at, an Ancient Egyptian personification of physical and moral law, order, and truth, according to the Book of Pass
  • 42 is the value of an essential scientific constant which determines the age of the universe - the Hubble Constant
  • Board game Risk has 42 territories
  • Countries have 42 years to repay the Global Environmental Facility for loans  
  • Tower of Babel occupies 42 agrarian measures according to Mesopotamian tradition
  • Titanic was traveling at 42 mph when it collided with the iceberg 
  • 42 Egyptian gods and goddesses / 42 Naves of Egypt 
  • Gale has 42 tesserae entries in the Hunger Games 
  • 42 is the number with which God creates the Universe in Kabbalistic tradition
  • There are 42 generations (names) in the Gospel of Matthew's version of the Genealogy of Jesus
  • There are 42 elevators in 30 Rock 
  • The Beast will hold dominion over the Earth for 42 months (Revelation 13:5)
  • Doctor House's favorite number in the show house is 42 
  • 42 men of Beth-azmaveth were counted in the census of men of Israel upon return from exile (Ezra 2:24)
  • 42 Odes of Solomon 
  • Fox Mulder's apartment in the X-Files is #42 
  • God sent bears to maul 42 of the teenage boys who mocked Elisha for his baldness (2 Kings 2:23)
  • In Toy Story, Buzz's spaceship is named 42 
  • 42 is generally often a factor in Anti-Christian names 
  • The Gutenberg Bible is also known as the "42-line Bible"
  • The Forty-Two Articles (1552), largely the work of Thomas Cranmer, were intended to summarize Anglican doctrine, as it now existed under the reign of Edward VI
  • 42 is an episode of Doctor Who ~~~ 
  • On the game show Jeopardy!, "Watson" has 42 threads
  • Jackie Robinson's number