Friday, April 07, 2006

It's a Mystery
I haven't read The DaVinci Code, although I know a little about the events that figure into it--the strange case of Father Berenger Sauniere, who is thought to have discovered something in his small parish church in the south of France during the 1800s. "Something" is about all we can safely call it, because nobody is entirely sure what Sauniere found. Whatever it was, it supposedly caused him to redecorate his church in strange, disturbing ways, and it supposedly made him rich. And, it is said, his deathbed confession of what he had discovered caused the priest hearing the confession to "never smile again." It's thought that he may have discovered evidence that Jesus survived the crucifixion, married Mary Magdalene, and fathered the dynasty of Merovingian kings, who ruled large parts of western Europe, including France, for 500 years. The bloodline--the "sang real," or "Holy Grail"--is said to exist yet today.

The case first came to light more than 20 years ago in a book called Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by three British authors who made their careers by examining the case, writing books, filming TV documentaries about it. (Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code, was exonerated this week of plagiarism charges made by two of the authors who claimed Brown stole his ideas from them.) I don't know how much of the tale to believe, but Holy Blood is quite a mindblowing book nevertheless. One of the authors, Michael Baigent, has written a new book, The Jesus Papers, which purports to examine the post-crucifixion survival of Jesus in more detail. (Salon was largely unimpressed; a review is here.)

My favorite book about the mystery might be Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail, which I believe I mentioned here last summer. It's by Christopher Dawes, a British music writer who lives next door to punk-rock pioneer Rat Scabies. Rat talks Dawes into making several road trips to the south of France to explore the mystery, and the book tells the story of what happened. In the end, Dawes doesn't find many answers, just more questions.

What the various books about the mystery reveal (as well as another book mentioned in the Salon review, The Jesus Dynasty by James D. Tabor) is how little we know, and how little it's possible for us to know, about this man Jesus. And by extension, they reveal how unlikely it is that the Bible can be anything like what millions of people worldwide believe it to be: a perfect, complete, and unchanging life guide appropriate for all times and places, handed down straight from the mind of God. Real life is always a lot messier and more ambiguous than we'd like it to be--even those things we'd most like to be clean and clear.

And Then There Were Four:
So we're up to four government officials busted for child porn and soliciting sex from underage girls. Plus there's the guy who was involved in a shoplifting ring. (Remember the good old days, when government officials who got in trouble with the law were generally only involved in graft?) And, of course, "Heckuva Job" Brownie. There's no reason to believe the stories we've heard so far are going to be the last, either. Petty lawbreakers or rank incompetents in high places are what you get when cronyism is the most important qualification for a job. It's the kind of thing that used to be endemic in Russia during the bad old Soviet days. It wasn't what you did that got you a government job--qualifications couldn't matter less, as long as you knew the right people. And we all know how well things worked out over there.

As Yakov Smirnoff used to say, "What a country."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?