I watched a bit of Hitch-Hiker on YouTube a few nights ago in honour of Towel Day, and once again noticed this gem:
“In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.”
You can see the appeal, can’t you? You can see why Arthur Dent was so pleased when his friend Ford showed him this thing – he’d had a terrible day, what with his house being demolished by bulldozers and then his planet being destroyed by Vogons, and all before he’d had his morning cup of tea, so it was obviously really nice to see the words DON’T PANIC, especially in large friendly letters. So what if the Guide had many omissions and inaccuracies? When everything you took for granted has been destroyed, and you’ve no idea where you’re going, it’s pretty natural to be grateful for a bit of reassurance…
Natural, but is this the best for your survival?
If you’re familiar with the story, you’ll know that the reason Arthur got off the planet before it was destroyed (with not even five minutes to spare) is that his friend Ford (1) knew what was going to happen (2) knew a way of escaping (3) did what he could to warn Arthur and to get him off the planet in time.
Ford wasn’t into nice, comforting platitudes. He was blunt enough to walk into a pub and say the world was going to end, and then, when the barman asked him if they shouldn’t lie down or put paper bags over their heads or something, to answer: “if you like”. “Will that help?” asked the barman. “No,” said Ford.
I’m a bit like Ford Prefect, and not only because of the distinct feeling that I must come from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse :) I’m blunt. I speak my mind. I don’t do comforting platitudes. It’s not that I don’t care – it’s that I care very much. I care about you too much to feed you false illusions instead of trying to warn you about the impending danger. Especially because I know the way of escape.
I titled my post “Don’t panic” and then added: no, really, don’t. But my reason for saying “Don’t panic” isn’t because I want you to think you’re not in danger – it’s because I want to encourage you to recognise the danger you’re in and to turn to the one who can save you.
What danger are you talking about, Meirav? Is the world about to end or something? Have the Vogons come to destroy our planet? But you promised that there’d be no Vogons in this post…
Yes, I did. Though I started with a quote from the Hitch-hiker, this post isn’t about fictional characters or events – it’s about what’s real. It’s about the stuff that is very real and very uncomfortable – so uncomfortable that many people bury their heads in the sand and do their best to ignore it, turning instead to all sorts of alternative stories about life, the universe and everything, preferring the stories with “Don’t panic” in nice friendly letters all over them.
There’s the version that says: don’t worry about hell, it doesn’t exist. Or the one that says: God doesn’t really send anyone to hell – he’s soft and cuddly and nice, like Santa Claus. Or the one that says: if you do enough good deeds, you’ll get to heaven.
There are lots of myths out there, which provide people with an illusion that everything is fine – but when push comes to shove, just like lying down with paper bags over our heads when the world’s about to end, will it help? no.
The only way to avoid hell is Jesus.
Don’t just take my word for it – turn to the Bible and read it with an open mind, open to what God has to say. And take him at his word.