Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sharing Water with Robert Heinlein


A few hours ago I finished re-reading - perhaps for the fourth or fifth time since I first stumbled upon it in 1970 - Robert A. Heinlein's cult classic of reasonably epic proportions, Stranger in a Strange Land. [Click on the link for a synopsis and if you're keen to read the book, I suggest you look for the uncensored 1991 edition.]

As often happens with vast intelligences that have played a significant role in my mental upbringing, I just discovered that July 7th happens to be Heinlein's birthday. If he hadn't died in his sleep on 8 May 1988, Robert Anson Heinlein would be celebrating his 103rd birthday today.

I don't really know where to begin when it comes to defining the ways I have been influenced and inspired by a consummate storyteller like Heinlein. I'm tempted to describe him as a speculative anthropologist; an ardent observer of humanity who couldn't resist imagining all the different ways being human could be a much more joyous and fulfilling condition - shorn of all the idiocy and hypocrisy implied by the words "polite society."

Among Heinlein's various prescriptions, as dispensed through his prolific output of long and short works - loosely categorized as "science fiction and fantasy" - his obvious delight in satirizing organized religions was matched only by another scintillating intelligence named Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

In honor of a great soul, a free spirit and a boundless imagination that has impacted on at least three generations of readers, here's a selection of wry quotes from Robert Heinlein collected from various novels (Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough For Love, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) by a fellow admirer...

One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.

History does not record anywhere a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help.

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

One man’s 'magic' is another man’s engineering. 'Supernatural' is a null word.

Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.

I’ve never understood how God could expect His creatures to pick the one true religion by faith - it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.

Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense.

A monarch’s neck should always have a noose around it. It keeps him upright.

Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.

The supreme irony of life is that no one gets out of it alive.

Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.

Learning isn’t a means to an end; it’s an end in and of itself.

Specialization is for insects.

Courage is the complement of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous. (He is also a fool.)

“Love” is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.

Does history record any case in which the majority was right?


[First posted 7 July 2010]

7 comments:

PABlo Bley aka Paul Alan Bley said...

I can think of few things that have influenced my own thinking more than the writings of Robert Heinlein, and especially Stranger in a Strange Land. I've purchased and given away dozens of that novel various versions, and shared things from that with many people in my life. All of whom... I consider Waterbrothers (& Watersisters). Thanks for sharing your thoughts about RAH (*Happy Birthday Robert) and Mad Props to those who GROK!

Anonymous said...

Hi Antares

I'm currently reading a book called
"Dictionary of Alternatives". It contains many entries on
alternative lifestyles, utopian communities, communes etc.

I support what you are doing at the Magick River community!
May you and your community grow from strength to strength.

Phua Kai Lit

semuanya OK kot said...

He used the topic of sex relentlessly, laying it on thick in every plot to expose the twisted thinking we now prase as normal and even virtous.

In my view, however, he pales in comparison to (a) Isaac Asimov, an SF master who utilises human interaction with robots, and (b) Kurt Vonnegut Jr, whose searing novels expose the underbelly of progressive society.

Antares said...

PAB = Paul Alan Bley! So simple yet it took me a while to get it :-) Bro, your piano compositions have got me twitchin' with wholehearted admiration and joy. Yesterday I read about the Church of All Worlds founded by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory - the fact that they are still functioning to a degree after 42 years is most heartening. But look at the Roman Church - founded on a total lie and still alive after 2,000 years!

Kai Lit - Thanks for always being so supportive and clearheaded. I feel we are treading parallel paths.

SemuanyaOK - I did attempt to read Isaac Asimov once but for some reason he failed to engage my imagination, although I subsequently discovered he was an ace writer of limericks. Kurt Vonnegut Jr is among my favorite authors and he has influenced quite a few luminaries (Tom Robbins and Douglas Adams, to name but two) - but I found Vonnegut's latent pessimism unattractive as a core belief. What endeared me to RAH was his courageous and positive vision of workable polyamory founded on pantheistic solipsism (which more or less described my own worldview then and now).

de minimis said...

Bro Antares

Heinlein's book was seminal. And, you should give Asimov another chance. Especially the Foundation trilogy and, maybe the Robot series.

Anonymous said...

Hi Antares

Magick River's potential contributions to Malaysian society:

1. How to drop out of the rat race & live in harmony with nature.
Sustainable economics.

2. A haven for artistes and culture creators of all kinds.
A Malaysian "Greenwich Village", if you will.

3. How to combine cultural "radicalism" with progressive politics

Please publish your creative works on sites like
www.lulu.com !

I have visited the Amish community of Pennsylvania. It is incredible how they have resisted being
integrated into the mainstream
dog-eat-dog capitalist society of the USA for a few hundred years!
The price to pay for the individual is religious and social conformity. But they allow their young to decide to stay or to go
at age 16. Those who go will be shunned by the community.

Cheers, brother!

Gerald Wee Eng Kian said...

Aliens in our midst.

Where the book sang to me was how the unfamiliar are treated on any first encounter. Locked up, sedated and chained to the floor. Kind of like making way to new shores and enslaving the native population. I sense that it's an old program running somewhere in the human race.

Have to hand it to RAH for coining a word that encompasses total understanding and empathy. That's basically where he one ups everyone else.