Somewhere around the time I was in High School my mother introduced me to Heinlein, and one of the first things I read was A Stranger In A Strange Land. And, I think it impacted me even more than I realized at the time. I’m almost finishing rereading it now, and reflecting on some interesting paralels between the characters and myself. While I could never prove it, it seems that as I changed from a “nestling” into an adult I took on the morals of Valentine Michael Smith and combined them with Jubal Harshaw’s way of thinking.
Michael’s morals aren’t too far from the norm, with some notable exceptions, so it’s not something you’d particularly notice in me, but I do share them, for the most part, even in the exceptions. Jubal, on the other hand, had an ability that is exceedingly rare. He could think about things separately from the morals of the society he lived in. He was able to contemplate them for what they were inherently. For example, our society says that orgies are bad, but when the topic was discussed Jubal spoke of them for what they were; a group of people making each other feel good, and noted that some societies had no problem with them. Just because the morals of our society deem something “bad” doesn’t mean it actually is.
I think I learned that lesson most strongly from Jubal. He, more than anyone else, taught me to judge things for their own worth, and to not accept what “everyone knows” without question. And my ideas on religion and family have come, in no small part, from Michael’s views on the same.
The more of his novels I think about, the more influence I can see on decisions I have made in my life, and how his teachings influenced the way I think. So thank you Robert Heinlein, Valentine, Michael Smith, Jubal Harshaw, and all the other fine characters who helped to shape my life. Many authors have entertained me, and made me think, but I can only think of one that has really changed my life.