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The Meaning of Life by Darrell Schweitzer

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

The Meaning of Life is a short story by Darrell Schweitzer published in 1988. The story is part of a larger work called The Meaning of Life and Other Awesome Comic Revelations which includes three short stories totaling 49 pages in length. Since the book is out of print, you'll likely need to track a copy down on ebay if you want to read it.

With that said, the story starts off with a quote by Arthur C. Quark— "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from science." Naturally, this quote is a play on Arthur C. Clarke's Three Laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In Schweitzer's story The Meaning of Life, two brothers— Honorius and Arcadius MacDingus (a play on weak Roman emperors) are quibbling over past issues; both of which may also have "Daddy" issues (their dad's name is Augustus). Arcadius who happens to be in a mental institution tells Honorius that he has changed his evil ways since learning the meaning of life. Honorius naturally does not believe his brother but stays to listen to his story of how he transformed from a llama back into a person thanks to the guidance of a spiritual leader named "Yet So". Honorius gets fed up with the story and the fact that he has to pay 25 cents to find out the meaning of life. As such, he storms off having heard enough of the lunatic.

However, as soon as Honorius leaves the mental institution he is confronted by a little person whose head was replaced with a vending machine. The little person sells him some nuts and bolts and then proceeds to ask him if he wants to buy the meaning of life. He doesn't, and goes home. At home however, "Daddy" tells Honorius that he must buy the meaning of life. Later, Honorius is confronted again by a little person selling the meaning of life in the place called Nowhere. This time Honorius takes the bait and the story gets weird, like tripping on mushrooms weird. No wait, tripping on acid weird.

Essentially Honorius' body is changed by a Dr. Crusoe who comes down from a palm tree. Honorius gets pogo sticks for legs and his ears are stretched and attached to his elbows to act as wings. By jumping repeatedly Honorius achieves escape velocity and leaves the planet to fly through space with the little person attached to his back. In the darkness and the immensities of space, Honorius began to understand how the ancients were "moved to rhapsodize on its lonely beauty, its grandeur.", and wonders if this was a prelude to understanding the meaning of life.

Anyway, after flying around for awhile in space Honorius finally gets to meet Yet So, who was wearing a T-shirt reading "I'M A PERFECT SPIRITUAL MASTERS AND YOU'RE NOT." The little person jumps off his back and Honorius realizes it is actually Arcadius. Shortly after, Honorius receives the following enlightening words from Yet So:

"It's like this, my son. It all derives from the uncertainty principle of the fluctuation of the currents of hypercosmical reality, of cognitive illumination and estrangement, the isness of the beingness of the existential angst of the human condition, which as you already know is karmically charged with positive and negative ectoplasmic impulses)—"

Honorius cuts off the guru here shrieking No! Then proceeds to try to kill the guru exclaiming he never wants to hear about the meaning of life again. The guru eventually turns into Arcadius and the world melts away and becomes again the mental hospital where it all started. Arcadius explains that what they just experienced was reality, and the mental hospital was the dream. In addition, Arcadius notes that while he was a llama, he ate a butterfly who was dreaming he was a philosopher. Before devouring presumably scrumptious butterfly, it explained to Arcadius that "there is always one person who dreams the whole crazy universe into being..." Arcadius gained the butterfly's ability to create the universe after eating it. Honorius then kills Arcadius which destroys the universe. Floating in darkness, Honorius now has the ability to recreate everything, and he does, even bringing his brother and Daddy back to life.

As for the meaning of life? Well, as Honorius explains at the end, he understands it and you don't. But it can be bought for a small price with generous group rates. One might want to check into the isness of the beingness of the existential reality of the hypercosmical...

Did you read the short story? If so, what did you think? Naturally it is impossible to capture the essence of a story in its entirety. As such, it is highly recommended that you seek out the story and read it for yourself. Post your thoughts on it below once you've found it.

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