The ‘Da Vinci’ conundrum

A Catholic friend forwarded an email to me the other day. In what had the makings of a pre-emptive strike, a priest at her church was going to discuss "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown’s hugely successful book which is due to re-appear May 19 as a motion picture.

The intent, clearly, was to fortify the church and its congregation against an epidemic of doubt and distrust which could exceed that generated by the book.

The Catholic Church has a special interest in the matter because the book pivots on an alleged conspiracy by the church to conceal certain facts about Jesus Christ. Among them, that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute but of royal Jewish blood, that she was pregnant with Jesus’ daughter when he was crucified, and that the Merovingian dynasty in France were their descendants.

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Getting out of the ditch

Thursday night in a basement room at Atlanta Unity Church: Nine men sitting in a rectilinear U formed by couches and chairs, some with their feet on the long, scarred coffee table in the center.

We have, left to right, a graphic artist for a federal agency, a retired engineer, the retired head of IT for a Fortune 500 company, a realtor, a small businessman, a retired small businessman, a physician’s assistant, a contractor and myself.

As often happens at these gatherings – they’ve been taking place once a week for eight years – a topic has presented itself during the check-ins that follow the opening meditation.

P is self-employed, and has not one or two, but four different jobs. Changing hats all the times is getting difficult, he says, "And I’m wondering what’s the point. Today was a beautiful day, and I didn’t take the time to stop and enjoy it."

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‘My turn to have a life’

You’ve probably seen Mike Pniewski a half-dozen times, but can never put a name with the face. You’re not alone. He is regularly approached by people who say things like, "Didn’t I go to school with you?" or "Do you go to such-and-such church?"

In fact, he’s an actor whose credits range from Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and Law and Order to Remember the Titans and Ray. He was a bus driver in Ray, a cop in Remember the Titans, a judge in Law and Order, a flight surgeon in Tom Hanks’ HBO series, From the Earth to the Moon, and a sheriff in the Oscar-winning short, Two Soldiers.
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It’s just a movie

Having made a list of recent calamities which establish me as the odds-on favorite for Job of the Year (Job, as in the Bible) – auto accident, computer and printer failure, plumbing and electrical mishaps, credit card company deceit, work shortage, etc. – I turned in distress to "Screenwriting for Dummies."

Granted, it is a strange choice for moral support, but the impulse that lead me there was spot-on.

"At the beginning of Act III," I read on page 222, "your protagonist either faces the upward hike or the downward sprint to the most gripping moment in the script."

This was compelling stuff for a couple of reasons, and I didn’t need Harold Bloom to point out that my own situation is exactly that of the theoretical protagonist in "Dummies."

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