"Suppose I were an extraterrestrial", the man said quietly. "Suppose I were several million years ahead of this planet. What one question would you ask me?"
"Why is there so much hate and violence among us?" Benny asked at once.
"It's always this way on primitive planets", the man said. "The early stages of Evolution are never pretty."
"Do planets grow up?" Benny asked.
"Some of them", the man said simply.
"Through suffering enough, they learn wisdom."
Benny turned and looked at his odd companion. He is an actor, he thought. "Through suffering", he repeated. "There's no other way?"
"Not in the primitive stages", the man said. "Primitives are too self-centered to ask the important questions, until suffering forces them to ask."
Benny felt the grief pass through him again, and leave. He grinned. "You play this game very well."
"Anybody can do it", the man said. "It's a gimmick, to get outside your usual MindSet. You can do it, too. Just try for a minute - you be the advanced intelligence, and I'll be the primitive Terran. Okay?"
"Sure", Benny said, enjoying this.
"Why me?" The stranger's tone was intense. "Why have I been singled out for so much injustice and pain?"
"There is no known answer for that", Benny said at once. "Some say it's a chance - hazard - statistics. Some say there is a Plan, and that you were chosen to learn an important lesson. Nobody knows, really. The important thing is to ask the next question."
"What what is that next question?"
Benny felt as if this was easy. "The next question is, What do I do about it? How ever many minutes or hours or years or decades I have left, what do I do to make sense out of it all?"
"Hey, that's good", the stranger said. You play Higher Intelligence very well."
"It's just a gimmick", Benny said, feeling as if a great weight had been taken off him.
"Where did you ever learn to do that", Benny asked.
"From a book on Cabala", the man said. "It's a way of contacting the Holy Guardian Angel. But people don't relate to that Metaphor these days, so I changed it to an extraterrestrial from an advanced civilization."
"Who are you? I keep feeling I've seen your face..."
The man laughed. "I'm a stage magician", he said. "Cagliostro the Great."
"Are you sure you're not a real magician?" Benny asked. (Magick)
Connection to Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: On a Sunday in the spring of 1981 Douglas Adams was typing a letter. "Dear Ken," he began. "Your book was really very useful to me . . ." The thank-you letter from Adams to Australian writer Ken Welsh, author of Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe, continues, "[One evening in 1971] I got frantically depressed in Innsbruck . . . When the stars came out I thought that someone ought to write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy because it looked a lot more attractive out there than it did around me."
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