Grok

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To grok (pronounced /ˈɡrɒk/) is to share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity. Author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term in his best-selling 1961 book Stranger in a Strange Land. In Heinlein's view, grokking is the intermingling of intelligence that necessarily affects both the observer and the observed. From the novel:

The Oxford English Dictionary defines grok as "to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with" and "to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment." Other forms of the word include "groks" (present third person singular), "grokked" (past participle) and "grokking" (present participle).

The OED definition is incorrect in that it is incomplete; the given, narrow, definition of this term is beset by the challenges of similar, more encompassing terms such as gestalt and quiddity that reference a much broader frame than we normally recognize.

Heinlein introduced the word 'grok' into our language, for which there is no equivalent. There are a number of (more recent) allusions to it, and the song 'I See You' from the 2009 film Avatar comes close.

To grok something is both to comprehend (relate intellectually) and to apprehend (relate emotionally and spiritually) its quiddity, its essence, its being.

In an ideological context, a grokked concept becomes part of the person who contributes to its evolution by improving the doctrine, perpetuating the myth, espousing the belief, adding detail to the social plan, refining the idea or proving the theory.

Contents

Etymology

Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein originally coined the term grok in his 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land as a Martian word that could not be defined in earthly terms, but can be associated with various literal meanings such as "water", "to drink", "life", or "to live", and had a much more profound figurative meaning that is hard for Earthers to understand because of our assumption of a singular reality.

According to the book, drinking is a central focus on Mars, where water is scarce. Martians use the merging of their bodies with water as a simple example or symbol of how two entities can combine to create a new reality greater than the sum of its parts. The water becomes part of the drinker, and the drinker part of the water. Both grok each other. Things that once had separate realities become entangled in the same experiences, goals, history, and purpose. Within the book, the statement of divine immanence verbalized between the main characters, "Thou Art God", is logically derived from the concept inherent in the term grok.

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