Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dot theology

An anonymous seminarian (by his request) who is serving a missionary tenure at an equally anonymous Dorchester evangelical church, has developed an interesting Biblical theory concerning the location of the Garden of Eden. He and I lunched at Shanti, the Indian restaurant at the intersection of Savin Hill Avenue and Dot Ave. Its address is 1111 Dot Ave for those interested in numerology. Apologies that the link is to the Boston Globe's review of the dining room. The Shanti web site seems to be down at the moment, hopefully only temporarily. It is really best experienced in person anyway.

This earnest, young man explained that after diligent research and sleepless weeks spent triangulating references in original Hebrew and Aramaic texts, he had located the spot where the site of Original Sin occurred. He posits that the famous apple tree where Eve succumbed to temptation and then coaxed Adam to the do the same was originally located where the Civil War monument stands in front of Dorchester's First Parish Church. His plate of eggplant curry had just been placed in front of him when he said, "Look at the situation. It's a perfect site."

I mentioned that most scholars put the site a few thousand miles and an ocean away to the east but he was undeterred in his conviction. He said, "If I stand on the corner of Quincy and Bowdoin Streets and look uphill, I can see that apple tree. I can smell apples. I can see a python curling around the granite of the monument around that Union soldier's leg." I suggested he may be hallucinating but he dismissed this as narrow-minded pettifoggery on my part. It's true I hadn't spent a lot of time researching the topic prior to our interview.

He said, "How can you stand at the summit of Meeting House Hill, in that triangular park in front of the First Parish Church, and not look around and see the makings of Paradise as far as your eye wanders?" I didn't argue the point but I did point out that we could take a dining room poll and easily find more than one person who did disagree with his assessment. He relished his eggplant and encouraged me to enjoy more of my lentils. The food, as usual, was very good, perfectly seasoned with a balance of salt and spice.

Is Dorchester Edenic? In some ways, yes. It is the birthplace of many sins. Is it a sullied paradise? Like so many other places, the answer is: of course. Is this guy a crackpot or a visionary scholar? I don't know. If he lands a segment on the History Channel some people may believe the theory he is peddling. For the people who live in the neighborhood, they'll probably keep peddling their bicycles and taking the bus to get to work. It's a nice idea and it is certainly applicable, whether it will hold water, is another matter altogether. Dorchesterites overall don't like being the center of attention or a world-shaking movement. They are busy enough getting on with their lives. This is a place where utility trumps conjecture.

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