Tuesday, June 27, 2006
I've finished reading The Da Vinci Code, and now I'm ready to spread some conspiracy theory rumors!!!
Overall it's an entertaining read. Okay, so the characters in the book are pretty flat -- more placeholders to advance the action than people you feel like you've gotten to know. Still, constructing this entire web of evidence for his alternate view of reality -- and then exposing it little by little in the course of a story -- is not an entirely trivial task. And the way the solution to the overarching riddle (exposed in the epilogue) fit with the rest of the mystery was kind of fun.
Also, I liked his use of details from real-life churches, monuments, and works of art. It's the sort of thing that makes you want to go have a closer look at these places and works.
Personally I've walked past the Louvre many times because it's huge and it's right in the middle of Paris. But I've only gone inside once, and that was on my very first trip to Paris. I have to admit that like a lot of Paris tourists, I didn't have anything in particular I wanted to see -- it's just one of those famous places you go because you can't go to Paris and not see it. One of the stations of the cross as it were of the tour of Paris.
Of course when I was visiting the Louvre I didn't bother to go see the Mona Lisa. Everyone always says not to waste time on it because there's a huge crowd and it's tiny and behind so much glass that you can appreciate it better by looking at a good photo of it. So I was patting myself on the back for being in-the-know enough not to follow every Joe Tourist to the line view the Mona Lisa. Yet I wasn't quite sufficiently in-the-know to have any idea of what I actually wanted to see.
The only thing I remember from my wandering aimlessly around the Louvre was happening upon the Winged Victory. That was just luck, and I suppose it was also luck that I even recognized it as famous. It's not like I knew it was in the Louvre or anything.
Still, I remember once taking a one-credit Art History class in college which was an interesting class even though it was taught via projector to a huge auditorium full of students. For a year or so after that class, when various cultured friends would take me to art museums, it was fascinating to see works by some of the artists discussed in the class and notice some of the details I'd learned about.
The Da Vinci Code -- being a lowbrow work that discusses interesting points about highbrow works -- has the potential to get ordinary people like me interested in getting out there to have a closer look at some serious works, and from there maybe learning more about them.
That's the optimistic view anyway.
The more likely scenario is that it will get ordinary people like me all psyched about conspiracy theories!!!
As a cultural Mormon, I couldn't help but find it amusing that Brown sets out to show that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, which is a popular Mormon folk-doctrine that was taught by some early LDS church leaders. It wasn't until I read the whole book in all of its secrets-of-the-Templars glory that I saw how very perfectly the Mormons fit into the world Dan Brown set up!!!
Ask a Mormon why there are so many similaraties between the Mormon temple ceremony and the Masonic rituals. The standard answer is usually that (just as the Masons claim) the Masonic ceremonies trace back to the rituals from Solomon's Temple (throught the Templars), and though their knowledge of the ceremony became corrupted over time, it is based on the true temple ceremony. And since Joseph Smith restored the temple ceremony, naturally there are similaraties.
By the way, I'm just reporting the standard explanation I've heard, I'm not suggesting I think any of it is true. The "Occam's Razor" explanation is of that Joseph Smith was a Mason and he thought the Masonic ceremonies were cool so he decided his new religion should have the same thing.
The fact that some early LDS leaders taught that Jesus was married and had children is almost certainly a coincidence. These guys were very intent on promoting the idea that marriage (especially polygamy) was necessary for exaltation, so naturally they claimed that Jesus was married.
But the connection is too perfect!!!
There are already people who speculate that it was the Masons that killed Joseph Smith for teaching Masonic secrets to his followers (the evidence being that he called out the Masonic distress signal -- apparently seeing Masons among the mob -- yet the mob killed him anyway).
So Dan Brown could have one of his fictional characters find some new fictional evidence that shows conclusively that one of the secrets Joseph Smith was killed for revealing to his followers was the "truth" about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
I don't think it would be particularly beneficial to society or anything to promote such a rumor.
It's just that on some perverse level I think it would be cool... :D