Feeling Somewhat Martian Today

December 15, 2016

I just finished rereading Stranger In A Strange Land the other day, a few things stick out to me.  I talked about the novel to some extent when I opened it back up a few weeks ago, but now it has been refreshed in my mind I feel I’ve grokked a few things more thoroughly lately than I have.

One of the more interest aspects of the story is the inclusion of Doctor Mahmoud–or “Stinky” as his friends refer to him–a Muslim who is part of the crew that first encounters Michael Smith on Mars and becomes one of his first “Water Brothers”.  There are two points he makes about Islam that stick out to me.  One is the translation and interpretation of the Koran.  Over the course of the novel, it is made fairly clear that Martian does not necessarily translate well into English words or concepts.  A fairly direct comparison made in the novel is how difficult it is to translate the Koran.  Mahmoud and Jubal discuss concepts of the Koran but are quick to point out that there are nuances lost in translation.

The other point about Islam is when Mahmoud points how the Prophet never stated that his words were the final gospel or that he was the last prophet.  It fits a point I’ve been kind of trying to make about Islam in that it is a relatively young religion and that there is still potential there.  The “needs seasoning” metaphor is one of the more overt points made in the course of the novel and Mahmoud’s comments about the Prophet fit that.  You have to take some ideas of any religion–even your own–with a grain of salt.


The overall concept of grokking and growing closer is the other thing I think I’ve come to grasp a bit more thoroughly now.  Like our billion names for “God”, we seem to be coming up with a billion different names for sexuality.  Heterosexual, Homosexual, Bisexual Transsexual, Pansexual… and so on… Sometimes it feels like we need all these terms just to make us feel closer to grokking ourselves than we truly do.  It is all human.  I grok that and there is beauty there.   I guess I’m rambling now, I probably should go to sleep.


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