Walking to work this morning I passed a fellow outside the University of the Arts who was wearing a t-shirt with the words "Arte Diem" printed on the front. But the fellow wearing it is obviously no Latinist. I presume "arte diem" is meant to be a take on "carpe diem" -- "seize the day." The problem is that "arte diem" doesn't mean anything. I guess -- and it's only a guess -- that it's supposed to mean "art day." Only, in Latin, that would be "dies artis."
OK, call me a pedant. But it brings to mind one of the many silly things in that singularly silly book The Da Vinci Code. The learned historian Lee Teabing tells our hero and heroine that of all the European languages, English is la lingua pura -- the pure tongue -- because it has the fewest words of Latin origin. Really? Why just a glance of what I've written reveals several -- passed, print, presume, obvious, origin. A glance at any page in any English dictionary will reveal plenty more.
I shall go to my grave dazed and confused over the success of The Da Vinci Code. It is poorly plotted, the time-frame is implausible, the writing pedestrian, and the characters barely one-dimensional. Even more annoying, at the same time The Da Vinci Code arrived in bookstores, another novel -- The Lamplighter, by Anthony O'Neill -- arrived there also. This is everything The Da Vinci Code is not: brilliantly plotted, beautifully written, and theologically imaginative. The main characters are unforgettable.
Imagination is a quality sorely lacking in most theological discourse. Take the Catholic doctrine of the bodily Assumption of Mary into Heaven, where she is crowned Queen of Heaven by Jesus. So Heaven is ruled by the Son of God and His human mother. Richly ambiguous and mysterious to be sure. No wonder Carl Jung called Pope Pius XII's declaration of this dogma "the most important religious event since the Reformation." According to Jung, Mary "is functionally on a par with Christ, the king and mediator. At any rate her position satisfies a renewed hope for the fulfillment of that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest, the more so the less he sees any possibility of getting rid of it by rational means. It is no wonder, therefore, that the hope, indeed the expectation of divine intervention arises in the collective unconscious and at the same time in the masses. The papal declaration has given comforting expression to that yearning."