Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (w/ an examination of what I believe)

Warning: Spoiler Alert!
I can't really talk about this book without discussing its very core - so if you plan on reading it, don't read this or your experience will be ruined.
Its no secret: I love the Robert Langdon series of Dan Brown's books. His ability of take fact and blend it with fiction makes for wonderful reading. Because of reading Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, and now, The Lost Symbol, I not only have a greater appreciation for art and history, I also have learned things. I love novels that teach you. It is the entertainer in me - the prefered method to teach while you entertain. And Dan Brown certainly does that.
Also, some might think this strange, but I find it quite natural, I have also begun to think more about my own personal religious beliefs in relation to the plot points of his books and the controversies that surround them. I remember the big hype that went up around The DaVinci Code and I still think it is utterly ridiculous. However, controversy provokes thought and discussion - which I love. Strangely enough, it is this book which has caused me to think more about religion than the other two have.
It might help to let you know what the book is about.
A truly American mystery. And yet, still universal. This book finds Professor Robert Langdon delving into an old Masonic myth to try and save a good friend of his. The book deals with religion, thought, the origins of the US, science, and of course, mysteries and symbols.
It is a good read. Rather long at points, but still very good. The only down side to Brown's use of intellectual truths is that, sometimes it gets to be a little too much. I never was one for understanding science, so there were a couple times in the book that I was rather bogged down. That being said, it was still a page turner - especially the last fourth of the book. And again, it is a thrilling mystery with a couple of really ingenius plot twist that you just don't see coming.
But the really interesting part for me has nothing to do with symbols and US History. The part that really makes you think is universal. Let me boil it down: the idea that men are gods - that we can be godlike if we can tap our true potential. This crosses in with Noetic Science - which is the science of human thought. Part of it, I believe. I do think the human mind is the best thing about us - and I am sure there is untapped potential there. Growing up Lutheran, I can easily see how many people would have a problem with this concept. If we are gods, then there is no reason to praise our Creator. However - there is also this thought: God is just a word; a name we have given a very powerful something. Even if that something is just a thought - like this book says, thoughts are powerful. And there must be something to it if every culture in the world believes in some form or other of a powerful Being (that may not be the right name for it) We all believe in something greater than ourselves, something .
It is hard to describe what I believe without getting into very controversial grey areas that some people do not appreciate. I know just by talking about some of these things that I would have people damning me and some people praying for my soul. Be that as it may, here goes: I believe in God - a powerful Being, that created all of us. I believe He is all-powerful and all-knowing. I believe He gives us free will because he loves us. And I believe that our belief, or our faith in this Being is most powerful thing we have. I don't really believe in a single God for a single religion, and everyone else is wrong. I don't believe the Bible should be taken literally, but I do believe that the stories and the ideas within them are a guidebook to living a good life; a life that will be rewarded not only in the end, but by its own means. (Basically, I mean that being "Good" is its own reward). I do believe in Heaven and Hell - but I DO NOT believe that mankind has the right, has the power, or should believe that we can influence others in that respect (what I mean is that we don't have the power to damn people or to proclaim them to heaven). That is God's judgement, not man's. As I read over this, I noticed something. Another belief that I have. Something that makes little sense to the pattern I have established above. This is the Christian in me: I believe in Jesus. I don't know if I believe everything written about him in the Bible, but I do believe he was a good man who died for our sins.
I know this is much more than your usual book review - but what good is talking about a book if you don't include a little personal "how it affected me" bit. This is what this book made me think about.
All in all, I love this book, and I will soon add it to my personal library.
4 out of 5 stars

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