November 2009

An article in the NY Times — Evolution of the God Gene, by Nicholas Wade — lays out nicely and concisely the evidence that we’re hard-wired for religion. On a personal level, I read it and thought, “No wonder I can’t stop trying.” What I still say we really need is a workable modern mythology, science-based, revering natural life-giving processes, and acknowledging the power of focused human intent and the possibility that the universe is loving and intelligent — sort of like the God’s Gardeners cult in The Year of The Flood, by Margaret Atwood.

Jay Griffiths articulates what it’s like to live in modern techno-time better than anyone else I’ve read on the subject, and gives a sense of what we’re missing — no mean feat to write so eloquently from both inside and outside one’s own culture. She is by turns brilliant, say, when describing forest time, and exasperating, devolving at times into diatribe and rant. She is lucid bordering on genius in picking out the historic strands of the cultural shift toward linear clock-time. It would be very difficult to read this book quickly or to digest it all the first time through.

Hmmmmm. OK, for the first 3/4 of the book, I happily suspended disbelief and enjoyed the well-paced narrative. But there was a particular plot twist where my suspended disbelief reasserted itself, and it seemed to me that the plot unraveled into the various strands of what the book is trying to be: 1) a hard-to-put-down thriller; 2) a slickly packaged exortation to believe in the possibility of changing the world by changing consciousness. Although I was rolling my eyes at the petered-out remnants of plot by the end of the book, I also went to the Institute of Noetic Science website and found some interesting material on meditation, mind-body practices, and scientific research on whether various religious practices such as prayer and healing work — the kind of nonfiction I’ve been reading anyway. So The Lost Symbol was a mixed bag. Brown is an expert at catching the wave of zeitgeist. If he keeps writing novels he might want to aim for smaller waves that lend themselves to tidier plots.