The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
Robert Heinlein and Lazarus Long
Robert A. Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) introduced the world to Lazarus Long, the world’s oldest living human. Robert Heinlein was a prolific science fiction writer whose books were not only entertaining, they touched on, and sometimes smacked, cultural mores. Lazarus Long was a vehicle that he used to express many of his views on life and such matters as Politics, organized religion, and controversial views on sex, including polyamory and incest. Lazarus Long first appears in the novel, Methuselah’s Children In this book he states that he guesses his age to be 213 years old. He is the third generation of the Howard Foundation, an experiment in selective breeding where the offspring of long lived individuals are given a financial incentive to marry, thus concentrating the “Longevity” gene. The experiment is a limited success with members of the Foundation having an average lifespan of 150 years. Lazarus is an exception, he does not die and in the second book where he appears, Time enough for Love, He is well over 2,000 years old. Lazarus himself acknowledges that such a long life time cannot be explained by being the third generation of the experiment. In Time enough for Love one of the characters explains; “A mutation of course, which simply says that we don’t know.”
We learn that his birth name was “Woodrow Wilson Smith” he was forced to change his identity many times to disguise his longevity. He travels to many planets and eventually travels through time. In a later novel World as Myth he travels to fictional worlds including the Land of Oz
Lazarus has a wide appeal across genders and generations. It may be that a large part of the reason for that is because Lazarus Long fulfils two deep desires; one is that he lives forever. There is no doubt that the instinct for self-survival, which is also the instinct by which Humanity itself survives, finds a fulfillment in the life of someone who doesn’t die and doesn’t just live, he truly lives with zest and gusto. The other desire that he fulfils is that part of us that wants to be a rogue, a scoundrel. The ancestor of millions and still producing and, as one of the characters in Time enough for Love says. “If I see someone with a roguish look in their eye and red hair, I hold my wallet close.”
It is to be expected that such a long lived and experienced person would gain wisdom. This is expressed in The Notebooks of Lazarus Long Extracts are taken mainly from Time enough for Love and show the quirky and delightful mind of one of the great novelists of our time.
Extracts from the Notebooks
Always store beer in a dark place.
By the data to date, there is only one animal in the galaxy dangerous to man- man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.
Money is a powerful aphrodisiac. But flowers work almost as well.
Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinions about her children’s beauty, intelligence, goodness et cetera, ad nauseum, keep her from drowning them at birth.
Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors – and miss.
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of – but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
Robert Heinlein, World Science Fiction Convention, 1976
Lazarus and Organized Religion
It is almost impossible to define the actual views of Robert Heinlein on any subject of worth. In some novels he ridicules organized religion, yet in at least two novels he presents the LDS church, which is highly organized, in a positive light. He did not actively promote atheism but some of his works scoff at the notion of God. So instead of trying to figure out what Heinlein really thought, let’s just go with the opinions of Lazarus Long.
The profession of Shaman has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the Shaman is on the level of any other con-man. But it’s lovely work if you can get it.
History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has a rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.
One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.
God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent – it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine atributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash, and in small bills.
Men rarely (If ever) manage to dream up a God superior to themselves. Most Gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
Lazarus and Politics
Whatever your political views, you can find a book by Heinlein to agree with you. Then pick up another book that you will totally disagree with. For example, Heinlein wrote the book “Starship Troopers” that seemed to glorify the military and war. The book caused him to be labeled a Fascist. At the same time he published “Stranger in a strange land” A counter culture classic popular to this day with Liberals of all stripes. In his early days he was, as Isaac Asimov described him, “A flaming Liberal” after he divorced his second wife, his third wife Virginnia “Ginny” was a rock-hard conservative and Heinlein followed suit. His early fascination with the social causes of the liberals now became dominated by the “Look after yourself” culture of the conservatives. He maintained a strong Libertarian streak and his novel “The moon is a harsh mistress” is about the moon being the dumping ground for Earths criminals and ne’er do wells. They form a totally anarchistic society that works very well. Failing again to pin down Heinlein the philosophy of Lazarus Long is easy to understand. Pragmatic, almost Old-Country-Wisdom in it’s style it is simplistic, you get the feel that you always knew this you just needed someone to remind you that an elephant is a mouse built to government specifications;
Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based upon the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again too. Who decides?
When a place gets crowded enough to require ID’s, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.
Those who refuse to support and defend a state have no claim to protection by that state. Killing an anarchist or a pacifist should not be defined as “Murder” in a legalistic sense. The offense against the state, if any, should be “Using deadly weapons inside city limits” or “Creating a traffic hazard” or “Endangering bystanders” or other misdemeanor. However the state may reasonably place a closed season on these exotic social animals whenever they are in danger of becoming extinct.
Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from the highest motives for the greater good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
Lazarus and Sex
Heinlein was always jealous of his private life. He would not even allow speculation on it while he was alive. His books tend to give the impression of a very easy going attitude towards sex and his second marriage was an open relationship. So, instead of trying to fathom out the author let’s stick with Lazarus. He was a rogue, an interstellar lover with only momentary pauses before getting into controversial liaisons. In Time enough for Love he travels back in time to ponder the possible outcome of throttling himself as a small child to then having an affair with his mother while his father is in the military during the First World War. Two women clone him and, by replacing the “Y” chromosome with the “X” create two female twins. Named Lapus Lazuli and Lorelei Lee these clones grow up and yes, he eventually has sex with them both. Leaving him to wonder did he really have sex or, because they were clones, was it actually masturbation. All of the social mores around sex are broken by Lazarus but in a very straightforward way without a trace of hypocrisy.
Sex should be friendly. Otherwise stick to mechanical toys, it’s more sanitary.
Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient and free of any possibility of wrongdoing and you don’t have to go home in the cold. But it’s lonely.
If the universe has any purpose more important than topping a woman you love and making a baby with her hearty help, I’ve never heard of it.
Copulation is spiritual in essence, or it is merely friendly exercise. On second thought, strike out the word “Merely” Copulation is not “merely” even when it is just a happy pastime for two strangers. But copulation at its spiritual best is so much more than physical coupling that it is different in kind as well as in degree.
Yield to temptation. It may never pass your way again.
The Next Frontier, The very best of Hubble.
Don't try to have the last word, you might get it.
Unlike Lazarus Long Robert Anson Heinlein did not live forever. On May 8th 1988 he died in his sleep from emphysema and heart failure. The way he lived his life could perhaps be best expressed by Lazarus Long himself;
“To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for Monks.”
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