Monday, April 23, 2007

Who is This God Person Anyway? (Fit the Fifth - Biscuits)

Readers familiar with the Hitchhiker trilogy will probably remember the story of Arthur Dent's biscuits. It's a story he tells Fenchurch, about an encounter with a stranger and a packet of Rich Tea at a railway station. You can find it in Chapter 20 of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, but to summarise:

Arthur was waiting for a train, sitting at the table with the Guardian on one side, a coffee on the other, and a packet of Rich Tea in the middle of the table. Sitting opposite him was a perfectly ordinary businessman. He didn't look as if he was about to do anything weird.
But he leaned across the table, picked up the packet of biscuits, tore it open, took one out, and... ate it. Arthur ignores this in his usual English manner, right up to the point of trying very hard not to notice that the packet was already mysteriously open when he came to take a biscuit himself.
The two of them went through a packet of eight biscuits, each taking one in turn, until only an empty packet was left between them and the stranger left to catch his train. And when Arthur's train was announced, he finished his coffee, stood up, picked up the newspaper, and, of course, sees his own packet of Rich Tea, unopened.

Douglas Adams always claimed that this was based on something that actually happened to him, although that claim may well be apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate.

Wherever the story started, it seems to have developed a life of its own. Being overfamiliar with Douglas Adams' version of the story, I had to have an ironic chuckle when I heard evangelist J John give his version of the story - the crux of which is that God owns all the Rich Teas. We may think he's mean, expecting us to share our Rich Teas with the church, with this or that charity, or with Joe next door who is running a bit short on snacks this month, but if the time comes that we really need more Rich Teas, he will provide them. Like the stranger in the station, we are called to share, and not necessarily receive any thanks.

It's not quite as good as seeing it in person, but there's a transcript of a J John sermon including his take on the biscuit story here. (The biscuit part is about two thirds of the way down, and has a man eating doughnuts in the airport.)

More Deep Thoughts from the Hitchhiker trilogy next week.

1 comment:

Mirtika said...

I read SO LONG when it was first published here, and I can't remember a thing in it. (Yes, my memory sucks THAT bad). So, it was nice reading this and going, "Oh, yeah, that is familiar." :)

Prayer for today:
Thanks for all the tea biscuits, Lord.

Mir<--whose never had a Rich Tea biscuit, but would like to try one now...