It struck a resonance in me even then as a mysterious communion between a person in a special kind of receptivity with the object, concept or place that he or she attempted to incorporate into their reality.
It was more than a simple understanding. It was more than common empathy. It was a marriage between subject and object, a kind of assimilation of fact into self, not so much knowing the thing as in a sense be-ing it.
It was to take a discrete reality that was not self into self. I got that. Then I forgot it–at least on some levels–for decades.
Now, I’d like the term back out of mothballs for my own thinking. I need to grok our human predicament, the blessing and riches we have in each other and the living earth, and the gravity and urgency of the hard decisions we are capable of making. Our culture needs to reject this pernicious private-priviledge notion that we are somehow separate, autonomous, free-agent cowboys in this strange land.
Not much different, in Avatar, is the genuine and complete resonance between two souls: “I see you.”
We desperately need to see each other, to grok our common humanity, now, while there is time to save the future.
Here’s how Wikipedia defines grok:
To grok is to intimately and completely 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:
Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.
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.