“You grok,” Smith repeated firmly. “I am explain. I did not have the word. You grok. Anne groks. I grok. The grass under my feet groks in happy beauty. But I needed the word. The word is God.”Robert A. Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land
Jubal shook his head to clear it. “Go ahead.”
Mike pointed triumphantly at Jubal. “Thou art God!”
I find it ironical that failure to communicate ideas (generally philosophical/religious ideas) always sends me scurrying back into the dusty cupboards of my mind, only to fall upon that phrase in the end.
I don’t think most people read, even the ones who do. I find that I don’t actually read a lot of the things presented to me these days. I mean read as in; take the time to soak up the words. Not just look at their surface, but really understand the meaning of the words as arranged on the page. To grok them, as they exist.
The tons of text presented to us each day in today’s world precludes us from spending time actually thinking about what the words mean, What we mean in the words. So we skim. We assume intent on the part of the writer, trust that the structure will lead a predictable direction, and skip to the ending to assure ourselves our assumptions were correct.
Gone are the days laying on the floor in the sun-illumined dust, turning pages in earnest, breathlessly exploring the bounds of knowledge. Now it’s electronic pre-determinism and endless counter-attack against ideas we aren’t even sure our opponents are supporting, but we think it’s there in the text we didn’t actually take time to read.
Listening to a book isn’t reading it. It is a valuable experience to be read to, I’m not knocking that. I have read whole series of books to my children, some of them more than once. A good reader can add himself to the work, making it more than it was when written. But then it isn’t the work as the writer intended it; just as the movie isn’t the written word, either.
You cannot grok the intent of the writer through headphones, listening while you are doing something else. Suddenly the reader seems to be editorializing on your ability to fold towels, the words interwoven with the task you were performing, the two inextricably interwoven in your memory. When you try to recall the subject, suddenly you feel like doing laundry or walking the dog. Why does thinking about that lecture bring up images from a video game?
To understand the meaning of the words, you have to read the words in the form they were written in, to get a feel for each individual character and it’s placement in the word, the word in the sentence, the sentence in the paragraph, because that is how the idea came to the writer in the first place.
That is how you Grok. But don’t expect me to agree with you, the writer, just because I understand you. That is a whole different set of problems.