Origin is the fifth novel in Dan Brown’s series about the exciting adventures of Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor and expert on symbols and codes. The series has deservedly become a global bestseller, and some of the books have already been made into films. They have been so successful that many find it difficult to imagine Langdon as being different than portrayed by Tom Hanks.
The Barcelona Code and Art History
Origin takes us to the city of Bilbao in Basque Country, where a former student of Langdon’s, an eccentric billionaire and computer genius by the name of Edmond Kirsch, has gathered an exclusive audience at the Guggenheim Museum to reveal the answer to humanity’s two most pressing questions. Of course, the keepers of some secrets will stop at nothing to prevent someone from discovering them, so Langdon, along with the museum’s beautiful and elegant curator, Ambra Vidal, goes to Barcelona to decipher another mysterious code – his student’s message. As we read, we discover stunning sights together with Langdon, learn about architecture, art and art history.
This goes to prove how enlightening reading can be. You can learn many new things even if you are reading an action-packed mystery drama. And leave it to Dan Brown to turn an action-packed mystery drama into a love story. While discussing symbols, escaping death, solving complex puzzles, and deciphering codes, Brown’s characters always find time to talk to us and each other about love and God.
Love’s Dual Nature
Without turning the book into a romance novel, the author shares nuggets of wisdom about relationships such as, “Love is not a finite emotion. We don’t have only so much to share. Our hearts create love as we need it.”
At first he seems to be contradicting himself when he argues that “Love is from another realm. We cannot manufacture it on demand. Nor can we subdue it when it appears. Love is not our choice to make.” In fact, of course, Brown is not contradicting himself but rather explaining the dual nature of love: a feeling that arises in our hearts yet over which we have no power since we cannot force ourselves to love or stop loving.
Codes and God’s Language
However, this book is not only about love, or even primarily about love. Like Brown’s entire series, this is a novel about codes, symbols, religion, and its followers. One of the most important and frightening thoughts in the book on this topic is that “the human mind has the ability to elevate an obvious fiction to the status of a divine fact, and then feel emboldened to kill in its name.” Here, too, the author seems to be contradicting himself, explaining that science and religion often talk about the same thing, just using different concepts, systems, and symbols.
This too is not a contradiction: one must distinguish between ordered structures and codes, on the one hand, and religion and fanaticism on the other. The former are found everywhere in nature and serve several functions; the flatter are man’s inventions and a method of transmitting information and gaining power.
Or perhaps there is a secret message from God in the orderly structures of nature, so well-hidden that we and science have yet to decipher it? Brown reflects on this through the dialogue of his heroes, Langdon and his companion Ambra Vidal, citing DNA as an example of an ordered natural structure that is a method of transmitting information.