I am so tired of the hype about the new Dan Brown book “The Lost Symbol,” that I have declared a “Brownout” at The Tao of Masonry this month. That’s right, I’m not going to be writing about Dan Brown or his new book for the rest of the month.
Admittedly, I didn’t write anything all summer long, but still — I’m upholding a principle.
The hype actually started back in 2006 when “The DaVinci Code” movie was released, and the rumors abounded that Brown would soon — perhaps as early as that fall — be publishing a follow-up book called “The Solomon Key.” Frankly, back then I was pretty excited. Freemasonry was getting some very public PR, and not from Freemasons themselves, nor because of some scandal. “National Treasure” was still talked about and it was looking like that dusty, old club that your grandfather used to visit a few times a month was getting a much-needed makeover. Most Freemasons waited for the next Brown book, hoping that it would continue to add to the mystique — and to draw in a few members.
Three years later, Brown is set to release the most long-awaited sequel since Thomas Harris’ “Hannibal Rising.” I’m going to avoid the temptation to compare the intriguing and complex character of Hannibal Lecter with the cardboard cutout of Robert Lang. You know why?
Because this is a No Dan Brown month at The Tao of Masonry, remember?
For weeks, Freemason bloggers and other members of the e-Mason community have been offering suggestions that our fraternity be ready for the huge tide of public interest. What are we going to tell people who ask us about Masonry? What kinds of responses will we have if Brown writes something unflattering? What will we have to offer if Brown writes something that sparks interest? Essentially, we are being told that we should turn on the porch light and bake a batch of cookies for the potential visitors — except for those who are saying that we should batten down the hatches for the potential storm.
How many movies in the last ten years had some slight reference to Freemasonry? Let’s see: Two National Treasure movies, The DaVinci Code, From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Magnolia. So, a film every couple of years, with the more recent ones are the most referential. In fact, National Treasure has more Masonic references, and arguably a much more favorable perspective than the other movies combined.
Our Grand Lodge website has been tracking the numbers of those interested enough in the Craft to ask to be contacted. If I recall correctly (and I’m sure somebody will correct me if I’m wrong), the numbers amounted to approximately one person per day.
I think that we can handle the influx of inquiries.
Look, it’s great that some groups are printing up material that brothers can use in case somebody decides to ask them about Freemasonry. But it occurred to me after last night’s Masonic Central podcast that we are expecting people to ask questions such as “What is Freemasonry” and “Why do you have those symbols?” and “Where can I get a petition?”
In my own experience as a student of human nature, I think that the questions are going to be more along the lines of “Do you really drink blood out of a human skull?” or “What’s with the goat? Do you really have some kind of demon worship?” or “Don’t you feel silly dressing in those old-fashioned costumes?” or “What’s with the secrecy? Do you guys really stick together to fix parking tickets and stuff?” or “What’s the deal with the Holy Grail, the lost Templar Treasure, and the Denver Airport?” and of course, “Why is it that when Masons turn up in books and movies, there’s always a secret plot, and people end up getting killed?”
I’m just saying that maybe some of us might be over-preparing for the wrong questions.
Driving to work this morning, I was thinking about the Masonic Central show, and about some of the questions that co-host Greg Stewart posed, which he believed would be important for Masons to think about in the face of the possible public relations stories that might come of this. He asked things like “What is Freemasonry? What do you get out of it? How does it make you a better person? What about the fraternity has kept your interest? What good things do you see it providing?”
Fellow guest Tim Bryce had a great explanation of our fraternity, almost elegant in its simplicity:
“Freemasonry is a Brotherhood of men who share common values, and who are interested in improving themselves, their community, and the world at large.”
After hearing this, it made me think that perhaps it’s more important for us, as Freemasons, to answer these questions for ourselves. Only when we know the answers to our own questions will we be able to answer — in the most positive light — the questions of the interested and curious.