Grokking the Fullness

There's nothing quite like re-reading a book. Sometimes, it's a disappointing experience as the story just wasn't as exciting as you remember. Sometimes, you pick up on nuances that you skimmed over last time. Sometimes, it's just as good as the first time.

I recently re-read Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. This is possibly the greatest science fiction novel that you've never heard of, which is strange because its 1961 release played a huge part in shaping the hippy-dippy free love spirit of the late 60's.

Its origins are rooted in urban legend. There is a story that Stranger in a Strange Land  was the result of a bet between Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard to see who could create a more convincing religion. Beat. I think we all know who won.

Stranger in a Strange Land is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was raised by Martians, who has never been to Earth or seen another human. The first half of the book is Mike's journey to learn about his species. The second half is about his attempts to teach humanity about the ways of the Martian race.

Coming in at 220,000 words, this book is a behemoth. But there isn't anything excessive about it. That's simply the amount of space that Heinlein needs to properly explain the fascinating Martian philosophy that he's invented. 

It all comes down to the word grok. What does grok mean? Well, lots of things, apparently. To know. To drink. To fuck. Mike explains at one point that to grok means to understand something so fundamentally that the observer and the observed become one thing.

Heinlein borrows from Eastern Religions as he fleshes out his Martian philosophy, as he introduces this concept that Mike communicates as "Thou Art God". Basically, all is one and one is all- we are all matter and we are all connected and we are all God.

One way to celebrate our oneness is to grok and grow-closer. Now, this is what I was getting at with the free love business: growing closer is having sex and there is a lot of sex in this book. But, it's not tasteless 50 Shades of Smut. Heinlein isn't trying to titillate the reader. He's trying to show that love, physical human love, isn't dirty or shameful. It's a physical grokking and a celebration of the oneness of the universe.

Of course, there is much, much more I could write about here. But why read my post about it when you can just go ahead and read the damn thing yourself? Definitely check this one out. I guarantee it will change the way you think about humankind.