Thompson specialized in a style of journalism he coined as Gonzo journalism; the story told is as much about telling the story as it is about the story itself. In other words, while the author may have been writing about a murdered journalist, the writing itself was about the author’s experience, and is an accurate (if biased) recreation of the events as they were seen by the author. It is often disjointed, confusing, and rarely objective, but when done well, it can make you feel what the author felt, and that is truly a rare feeling.
Lately, I’ve noticed a trend towards Gonzo journalism within the most popular Freemasonic writings. Now, I must admit that I myself am guilty of this (yea, I am more guilty than the rest), so please don’t think I’m pointing fingers at anyone besides myself.
There are, I am certain, as many reasons for this trend as there are authors following it, but I believe more than anything it is a reaction to the times we live in. We are used to sharing our personal stories with strangers, as the briefest of searches on Facebook will attest, and Freemasonry is nothing if not personal.
Today, most of our greatest Masonic authors write shorter pieces; bite sized chunks that you can pick up, read on your cell phone in the bathroom (c’mon, I know at least ONE of you is doing that right now), and then get back to what you were doing. If it is done well, it will keep you thinking long after, and lead you to discover the secrets for yourself. After all, if you find it for yourself, you’ll treasure it much more than if it’s handed to you.
It is dangerous, I believe, to look too far into the future, as one is almost guaranteed to be hilariously incorrect, however if I were to hazard a guess to the future trend of Masonic writing, I believe that the near future will see us continue to write more about our experiences while we invent new ways to sneak “actual” education into our writing. If I have learned anything from studying our history, however, it’s that we are a cyclical society, and while today the pendulum swings towards experience, tomorrow it will swing back towards cold facts. A new generation of writers, who grew up Masonically on today’s authors, will rebel against us by “inventing” the “new” form of Masonic research that involves a dry examination of our symbols, and history will again repeat itself.
This same fight plays out in lodges across the world today; the fight between the “old” members of the lodge and the “new” members. Of course, it’s a friendly fight, usually handled in the most polite way possible, but it still comes down to one side seeking change, and one side seeking stability. Knowing that we will, at least once in our lives, change from one side of the argument to the other, we should be mindful of the arguments that our brethren present us.
If I could leave you with one thought to apply to Freemasonry, it would be this quote from one of my favorite of Dr. Thompson’s writings (and one of the few non-Masonic pieces I’ve taken the time to memorize): “And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”