On Da Vinci's Codes and Concerning Criticisms on Similar Controversial Literary Works
I am yet to decode whatever Dan Brown has encrypted in his book The Da Vinci Code, so I'm not yet in the position to offer my commentaries about the book itself. But, this doesn't prevent me from expressing my views about the currently proliferating criticisms lodged not only at the contents and nature of Dan Brown's controversial book but also at other similarly bold contributions to Arts and Literature.
I have the penchant to wait until the smoke wanes before I look into the real cause of the fire. Thus, The Da Vinci is not yet on my list of books to buy, but I will certainly read it next year.
Furthermore, I am the type who is usually turned off by media hypes and who would rather walk his own trip than jump into the bandwagon just to be there. I listen to my CDs and MP3s, but rarely to the radio. I seldom watch the news, I'd rather make my own. I virtually never follow trends, I try to set my own. When they're blond, I'll be black; when they're black, I'll be purple. When they're bald, I'd be long-haired; when they're long-haired, I'd be semi-Mohawk or nesthead but certainly not bald.
I don't believe in destructive criticisms and censorship; I believe that humans have the innate ability to discern and make their own choices.
As in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: "It's our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are...."
Ultimately, diversity, understanding, and acceptance is the key to peace and harmony; not singularity, indifference, and discrimination.
The stones and boulders that are currently thrown at Dan Brown are nothing new. Similar allegations had been lodged at John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, in the 60s, as soon as The Lord of the Rings achieved popularity. Critics accused Tolkien of subliminally promoting godlessness by failing to make a reference of a god in his book, an accusation which eventually backfired on the clueless critic who was obviously unfamiliar with the entirety of Tolkien's work, for in The Silmarillion Tolkien wrote:
"In the beginning, there was Eru, the One, who in later days was known as Ilúvatar by the Elves. He made first the Ainur, who were his Angels, and he gave to them song and music as a gift, and spoke to them of great themes."
Only recently, Joanne Kathleen Rowling has suffered similarly, as detractors claimed she was espousing witchcraft and wizardry. Had these critics actually read any Harry Potter book, they would have surely discovered that behind the literary façade of Rowling's books is a wealth of lessons not only for children but more so for grown-ups.
And what can you say about Nietzsche when he declared that God doesn't exist? Did that made him less human? Was he being morally irresponsible? Or was he only stating a personal belief which he was holding in high esteem?
Accusations about writers and artists promoting evil and destroying faiths through their works, to reiterate, are nothing new. They are, in themselves, also as subjective as they can ever be. This kind of character assassination stretches back to many centuries before our time. Remember the "burning of witches at the stake," which was a common practice in the 15th-century Europe? In those days, espousing a belief and ideology contrasting to what was "normal" and "common" meant that the espouser was a witch, evil, and therefore must be burned to the death. How brutal and barbaric, one might squeak, but that was not much different from what is happening nowadays—burning to death those who expressed radical ideas and went against the views of the so-called moral society IS not much different from criticizing people who share their unusual, uncommon, or unorthodox beliefs through music, speeches, or literary works.
What many so-called moralists did (and are doing) to the likes of Tolkien, Nietzsche, Russell, Swift, The Eagles, Beatles, Metallica, Rowling, and now Dan Brown, is what I call metaphoric burning of witches (and wizards, for that matter).
Why? Are the same "moralists" afraid that other people's unorthodoxy might affect their own faiths? Isn't that a shameful revelation that they, themselves, have hidden doubts about their own beliefs?
As one fellow newwave101 yahoogroup member, Joey Santiago, wrote: "...just take the book for what it's worth – an entertaining read, regardless of one's beliefs...."
I believe that if a person really holds her beliefs and ideals in high esteem, no book or preacher can easily sway her.
As I wrote in a book I am currently finishing, Engkanto: A Bestiary of Philippine Mythical Beings:
“In final analysis, faiths and beliefs, and all those diverse spiritual orientations, no longer matter in the end so long as the individual lives his life in harmony with his fellow creatures and the environment, sincerely trying every day—through little to large deeds—to become a better and worthy member of the society to which he belongs."
The Trail that Triggered a Train of Thoughts
almira jorda wrote:
> hey guys, i haven't read the book "Da Vinci Code" so
> i'm in no position to say if the contents of this
> e-mail below is true. you can research this for
> yourself but nevertheless i'm forwarding this to you
> for your own awareness and information. thanks!
Edward Decker wrote:
Subject: Have you heard about Tom Hanks and the Da Vinci Code?
Date: Wed, 08 Dec 2004
> Are you aware of the following?
> Tom Hanks is in talks to star in the movie version
> of "The Da Vinci Code." You can do something about
> this. Send Tom Hanks a message (see below).
"The Da Vinci Code" promotes the following claims:
- Jesus is not God; he was only a man.
- Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
- Mary Magdalene is a goddess and should be worshipped.
- Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a daughter.
- The Bible was put together by a pagan Roman emperor.
- The Gospels have been altered to support the claims of Christians.
- Mary Magdalene was directed to establish the Church.
> The Catholic Church is aware of all of these things and,
> in order to keep it secret, has resorted to murder.
> Here's what some prominent Christian leaders have
> had to say about "The Da Vinci Code":
>"... for non-believers, it confirms their unbelief.
> It turns off honest seekers, and it has confused
> and disillusioned even many Christians."--Chuck Colson
> "There is a conscious agenda that has been
> declared in the public square in Brown's novel - an agenda to
> revise Christian history and reshape beliefs
> Christians have held for years."--Darrell Bock,
>research professor in New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
> "Brown uses a combination of lies and half-truths,
> founded on a skewed perspective of Church history."--Chuck Colson
> "What disturbs me most about Dan Brown's book is
> that it is a primer in practically every new age
> technique or approach there is, from pentacles and
> pentagrams to anagrams to numerology to astrology
> you name it -- practically everything on the new age
> menu finds its place somewhere in this book and it
> is presented in a way that is attractive and engaging.
> That's the problem."--Bishop Robert C. Morlino
> Please forward this email to as many people as
> You can have an impact. Let Tom Hanks know what
> you think about the project by faxing or, preferably,
> mailing him a letter.
>Please feel free to use the following sample letter:
> Dear Mr. Hanks,
> "The Da Vinci Code" is filled with inaccuracies
> and defames Christianity. It is a project that is not
> worthy of your talent and stature.
> Please say No to this film so that America can
> continue to hold you in high esteem.
aLfie vera mella wrote:
> I haven't read The Da Vinci Code either, but I think
> even though the "claims" below are true, making a
> movie of the book is no big deal. In case it goes
> against anyone's belief, s/he has the choice to
> watch it or not. Besides, the reader or moviegoer
> can even consider it as simply a fictional work.
> The same has happened to Harry Potter in its early
> stage. Many "evil" accusations had been thrown to Rowling.
> The same thing happened to Tolkien in the 50s, when LOTR was first published.
> That's what's unfair. It's just a matter of believing or not
> believing; not curtailing a writer's right to write
> his mind.
>The world has become very diverse now. There are
> lots of beliefs out there. At the end of it all, it
> is our choice that will matter. It is how we treat
> our neighbors; not the faiths we believe in.
almira jorda wrote:
> thanks for commenting on the article. i have nothing
> against what you say. maybe the one who wrote it
> thinks that his belief or faith is the one "truth"that should
> stand that's why he likes to discourage people from watching
> the said upcoming film. yes the world is very diverse now.
> just being in UP makes your mind open to new and
> non-traditionally or socially acceptable views and ideas. but the
> bottomline is that you make a stand, yet you respect others'
> views or beliefs as well. maybe that's the foundation of
> co-existence, or harmony...
> i don't know, i'm not good at this...
> you mentioned something about letting the readers decide in the
> end on whether or not they would accept what the writer has
> written or what a film or book says. i was just wondering if a writer
> should have a sense of social responsibility to the minds of
> his/her readers...
> and i'm not just referring to writing fiction/non-fiction accounts
> on religion...but in general. is it possible to write without the
> influence of your values and beliefs?
> anyway, you're the writer...i'm just pretending to be one...hehehe!!!
> Nice thoughts! Concerning your question: "...if a writer should have a> sense of social responsibility to the minds of his/her> readers...and i'm not just referring to writing fiction/non-fiction accounts on religion...but in general. is it possible to write without the influence of your values and beliefs?"
> I think also that a writer should have that so-called social responsibility to the readers. I remember what a best friend wrote to me after reading an article in which I wrote: "I will write whatever I want. This is my world...."
In view of that, yes, I believe that a writer has that sense of responsibility to the readers. However, I also realized upon contemplation that even this so-called "moral responsibility" has become subjective. Mostly because, we can never be certain of the real motive of a writer for writing a book. At the end of every book, all the reader can really do is choose--whether to believe or not the ideologies presented by the writer of the book.
Let's take for example this one: the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a well-known existentialist, who believed and wrote that "God does not exist...." Should we then consider him a "morally irresponsible" writer for doing that? Did he write that "preposterous" declaration without regarding moral obligation to the public readership? I don't think so. I think what Nietzsche did, among other things, was to simply express one facet of a philosophical belief in God, or in a god for that matter. He just presented yet another choice for humankind, regardless how preposterous or, worse, blasphemous such expression might be to other people who believe in a Divine Singularity. For, as I said, in the end, it's the reader who should make a choice--a choice of whether to believe or not what s/he has read and learned.
> Actually, if we should think more deeply about it, the presence of these diverse beliefs (and nonbeliefs) in God or a god is in fact doing us a favor: It continues to test our resilience, discernment, and ability to believe what we want to believe.
almira jorda wrote:
Hi Alfie! Thanks again for replying. I guess that's the same reason God (or at least my concept of Him) gave us free will to choose, to decide, and to take action on our own. We are accountable for our own thoughts and actions....
Ok, this is all for now...take care! - almi
Should a Writer Have a Sense of Responsibility to the Minds of Her/His Readers?
In 1998, I tactlessly declared in one article I wrote:
"This is my literary world, and you are just my platypi. I can do whatever I want; I can write whatever I think of. You can't do anything but read."
This now triggers goose bumps on my nape. The arrogance of youth. Nevertheless, as I believe now, the problem does not lie on the radicality of the ideas and personal beliefs we are sharing with others; it lies on the manner we are presenting them—tact and taste will always be an ingredient of a responsible pen, along with style and substance.
In reply to my tactless declaration, my best-friend Rain wrote in the postal letter, dated July 1, 1998, that he sent me:
"Certainly, it is the height of evasiveness to say you don't care at all about your readers' impressions. Firstly, by doing so you have put a knife at the heart of writing, whose real essence is 'towards' reading. It's not only logical. It's common sense. Reading and writing, like man and woman, are meant for each other. They embody each other's meaning. Secondly, a writer, as a true child of knowledge, must entertain and care for impressions good or bad, not only for a counterattack (I love a warrior pen), but also—this more than anything else—for his refinements.
"No writing is an island. Once one writes and 'intends' others to read it, he becomes responsible for every word, language, animal, man, god in it. Above all, a writer, like a good father, must be responsible for the progeny of his pen. To write and make a world of your own and live, lie, love, feast, frolic and foster in it is no doubt nice and all. We all want to be masters of the universe, and I could imagine the pleasure it gives to actually simulate one right there in the world of letters. But one cannot avoid responsibility once he starts inviting people to dwell, visit, or have picnic in it, otherwise, the writer self-destructs and, like Icarus, falls into the dross of Vandalism and graffiti art—ever proclaiming, yet ever evading."