Jude's Threshold

A Tapestry Blog of Astrology, Politics, Art, and Social Concerns

A lesson from ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’

Sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein: July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988.

It’s been many years ago that I first read Robert Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ which turned out to be one of my favorite peak moments in literature. I must have been a teenager at the time.

The main concept I remember from the book, the one that most adjusted my own thoughts and behavior, was the Witness being called on to demonstrate to the main character what a Witness’  job is…so when shown a house on a hill, the Witness was asked, ‘what color is the house?’

(In my memory the house in the story was white, and I believe that’s correct. Pardon me if it isn’t – my old copy of the book was borrowed and not returned long ago. Obviously I need a new one!)

So what did the Witness reply, with Truth and professional credentials on the line?

“Three sides are white.”

Today I’ve sassily added a link to the Heinlein Society’s website under the category ‘Writers Write.’ Or you may wish to check it out here for writing contests, Heinlein info, and more:


Now somewhere I still have a copy of ‘The Cat Who Walked Through Walls’ – I hear it purring now….and here’s an interesting critique of the usual critiques of a controversial Heinlein:



2 Responses

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  1. Thanks, Donna! Not sure what brought up Heinlein today…sometimes i just go with inspiration from i know not where!

    You clearly remember the book better than i do so thanks for additional notes…it is definitely on top of my Must ReRead List. jude



    February 10, 2009 at 1:51 am

  2. Hi Jude,
    What brought up the “Stranger in a Strange Land” theme today.
    I, too, read the book — probably 10 years after it was first published in 1961. I loved it, swore I’d always keep a copy, loaned it and it hasn’t returned.

    What stuck with me was the “…concept of God only as ‘one who groks’, which includes every living person, plant, and animal. This leads him to express the Martian concept of the oneness of Life as the phrase “Thou art God.’ Due to his education on a different planet, many human concepts—such as war, clothing, and jealousy—are strange to him, while the idea of an afterlife is something he takes as a given because the government on Mars is composed of ‘Old Ones,’ the spirits of Martians who have died. It is also customary for loved ones and friends to eat the bodies of the dead, in a spirit of Holy Communion. …” (Wikipedia)

    Whenever “grok” comes up in conversation or private thoughts I think of all departed souls leaving an essence, or star stuff, to be used in the creation of new beings. And the more loving we are at death, the more essence of love there is in new births. A cycle of life – not that I would want to eat the flesh of the dead.

    But the whole concept took me to another view of humanity.
    A great book.
    Have you read the unedited version?
    If so, what did you think of it compared to the Putman edition?

    Bearing witness was mentioned as the reporter’s job by a democrat from Minnesota last night at the dinner for the press association last night. She mentioned it as a high calling, that of her father’s, for reporters and the faces in crowd groked the moment. It was wonderful.

    Bearing witness is sometimes mentioned in Christian circles and hearing it said about the journalist last night gave me a little knot in my stomach. I really want to share the truth and bear witness and am so frustrated at the filters information goes through before we get it, from the Associated Press or first hand. I’d like to have a silver chord like Wonder Woman that made people tell the truth as they know it.

    Thanks for the post, as usual.
    Light and Love,
    Donna d


    Donna Davdison

    February 9, 2009 at 8:00 pm

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