All In The Mind
13 September 2010
As of last week, bizarre, fast-paced, new-age severed-hand thriller The Lost Symbol, by the relatively unknown American hack scribbler Dan Brown, had sold 490,006 copies in paperback in the UK. So writing about it twice doesn't seem out of place.
There's some amount of, what some might call, complete phooey in the book about the old ways of thinking, the untapped powers of the mind, that kind of thing. The great power that lies within us all, but which your average chap can't be trusted with. Which is why the Masons have been keeping it secret at the bottom of a deep dark pit for the last couple of hundred years.
Now, here at Long Midnight Publishing Central Office, we're not at all sceptical about the untapped powers of the human brain. Take this small instance from the vaults of family life. One morning in Warsaw, Two of Two - at this point a child of five, not yet ruined and blighted by the weight of expectation placed upon us all in the new millennium - was jumping off the window shelf in the sitting room onto the sofa. Him and his sister, they were both doing it, while their parents sat and watched, both of us silently thinking, we really ought to move that heavy wooden coffee table before one of them embeds their brain in it. In due course, Two of Two embedded his brain in the coffee table. There were parts of his eyebrow which we never managed to remove from the wood. There was a lot of blood and a lot of screaming; a lot of nervous and frantic energy in the room, prior to the arrival of a competent medical professional.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the general uproar, the fire in the hearth - which had last been lit the previous evening, and which was definitely dead that morning a couple of hours prior to the brain-in-coffee-table incident - spontaneously lit.
Now, maybe that single flame which suddenly appeared from the ashes would have happened anyway, but it seems frankly impossible to imagine that it didn't start because of the mental tumult of the brain incident. Which is itself a seemingly impossible notion.
There are two options:
a) Two of Two has inherent fire-starting superpowers or
b) The severed-hand brigade in Dan's book are right, and everyone has great untapped powers of the mind.
Let's go for option b). However, if this is the case, the Masons, and everyone else, really don't have to worry too much about the general population of the planet getting hold of this information. For a start, most people are going to think it's a load of phooey; and even if you don't, you'll have to accept that in order to train your mind to do all sorts of fabulous weird Jedi-type stuff, you'll have to practice. By sitting doing nothing and concentrating a lot. Now, if there were superpowers to be had by playing Mafia 2, eating deep-fried burgers, going down the pub, watching football, updating Facebook status and employing no claim lawyers as advertised on Channel 5 at lunchtime, then by crikey there'd be a lot of superheroes, good and evil, around.
But that's not how these powers will be gained. What will be required is concentration and an ability to sit and do nothing for a long period of time. The Masons have nothing to worry about. They may as well tell us the secret.
In the meantime, I'm going to spend the next three years looking at a pingpong ball, trying to see if I can get it to either a) move, or b) spontaneously combust. I shall report back in September 2013.