Faith Works 11-14-09
Something To Believe In
I believe in Boston.
That may sound a little crazy to some, especially when I admit – I've never been to Boston. Got up to Newport and a quick run through Providence, but didn't make it Boston.
But I believe it's there.
Granted, much of my mental image of Boston is based on pictures taken from history and fiction; the Boston that is most real to me is the one described by Esther Forbes in "Johnny Tremain," a novel written during World War II set in the years before the American Revolution.
Add in Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," which is actually a poem, and some historical recreations in my junior high social studies books, and the dominant impression I have when I hear someone mention Boston is that of a long-lost city, with few points of contact with the current reality . . . whatever that is.
More recently, I have seen and appreciated the movie "Good Will Hunting," which is set in Boston as it is today, so I have an overlay which may or may not get me closer to the actual city, or at least the South End and parts of neighboring Cambridge.
Some of what I've learned over the years about Boston seems downright incredible: Beacon Hill, cut down to a plain, the volume used to fill in the ocean front bays all around the near-island of the city as it began? A vast tunnel where multi-millions of tax dollars went to die, which has been actually seen by few but discussed by everyone (in Boston), or a baseball park with a high, green wall called by all and sundry a "monster" unlike any other playing field? A boxing team on ice skates which fights sliding backwards, until occasionally a hockey game breaks out?
Still, I believe in Boston.
You might remind me that many have been there, and I could find them, even on my own street, so it is no "leap of faith" to say I believe in Boston. Yet I really can't think of ever having had a conversation with someone face to face about the place. It gets brought up on tv shows and lends its name to a particular brand of candy baked beans that are neither baked, nor beans, and the sum total of inputs has led me to decide: I believe in Boston.
If I chose to say "there is no Boston," then I might have to contend with those who say "you are wrong, I've been there, I had a cream pie." But whether anyone chose to confirm or refute my understanding, would that really affect the basic question, whether or not there is a city called Boston?
Some of you are saying "what is this lunacy? Everyone knows there is a Boston, and the reality of that place is tied to so many more everyday facts that to deny Boston would be like saying that there is no such thing as gravity." Which may be.
The fact remains that I have never been closer than fifty miles to Boston, have never seen it with my own eyes, have no direct contact with anything to do with the city other than knowing a few Harvard grads (which doesn't count, considering the broad Charles River between them), and do not root for either the Red Sox, the Bruins, or the Patriots, which play in Foxborough anyhow.
But I have decided that believing in Boston makes sense, fits into the rest of what I know directly of the world, and is no crazier than believing that I will, in twenty years, collect something from Social Security. I may not make it to Bean Town, may never walk the Patriot Trail past Paul Revere's House and Old North Church, or get a retirement check from Uncle Sam, but I believe they are there based on the evidence I have, both solid data and artistic impression, triangulated into a picture with depth and solidity in my mind's eye. Or at least Boston is solid in my assumptions, more so that the prospect of a government benefit.
And I believe there is a God, who takes note of my situation on a personal basis, but tends to creation with infinite care. Of Jesus I have heard much, and marvel at some, but his reality long ago and now is something that strikes me as better established than the likelihood of extraterrestrial life, on which thousands of scientists spend millions each year looking for.
Some of whom have endowed chairs at universities in the greater Boston area.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he has never been to Boston, but did cut through Fall River, MA late one night. Tell him about your trip to an unlikely spot at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.