August 08, 2005

'Grokking' - Heinlein revisited

Reread Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, a Science Fiction classic from the sixties. Liked it even more as an adult than I did when I first read it in high school. This time round the novel got me thinking about what had happened in Waco Texas where David Koresh and his Dravidian Cult brought a fiery death to many in February of 1993. Many such cults emerged since the writing of this novel and that makes me a little wary of Smith and the messiah like figure that he becomes at the end of the novel. Talking of messiahs, Richard Bach of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull fame may have borrowed to quite some extent from the Heinleinian philosophy, especially for his work The Messiah's Handbook.

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Smith, the alien from Mars with the body of a man, is the chief protagonist of the novel. The novel deals with his acclimatization to planet earth where he battles with social isues and institutions such as religion, marriage, sex, and love.

Here are some interesting qotes from the novel which may pique you enough get you to read the book:

"You can analyze a culture from its language."

" A present should show that you considered that person's tastes; something he would enjoy but probably would not buy."

" By choice, spirit grows.....At this point the being sprung from human genes and shaped by Martian thought, who could never be either, completed one stage of his growth....The solitary loneliness of predestined free will was then his ......Here was 'ownership' beyond sale....owner and owned grokked inseparable. He eternally WAS the action he had taken at cusp."

" If God hated flesh, why did HE make so much of it?"

"The culture known as 'America' had a split personality....Its laws were puritanical; its covert behavior tended to be Rabelaisian; its major religions were Apollonian; its revivals were almost Dionysian."

" Abstract design is all right - for wallpaper and linoleum. But art is the process of evoking pity and terror. What modern artists do is pseudo-intellectual masturbation. Creative art is intercourse, in which the artist renders emotional his audience."

" Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."

"The 'code' says ' Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife.' The result? Reluctant chastity, adultery, jealousy, bitterness, blows, and sometimes murder...Any male virile enough to sire a child has coveted many women, whether he acts or not."

"Age does not bring wisdom, but it does give perspective...and the saddest sight of all is to see, ...temptations you've resisted."

And of course this is the book that gave the fan community the word "grok," introduced the concept of the waterbed, and caused the founding of the pan-pagan Church of All Worlds. -- Tasha


SR said...

the quotes and reviews are well and good but what did you think of it. hehe.

shawnalexander48647966 said...
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Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I remember that this was required reading in on eof my grad classes. It was so deep.