I can't overstate how influential girls and women have been in my life.
If I'm honest with myself, it was probably MaryBeth Glasgow that had as much influence over my abilities as a cellist as any teacher I ever had (and I had some amazing teachers).
I just REALLY liked MaryBeth and she was a really good violinist. If I was going to be friends with her I had to keep up.
And then there were the Kims.
They were a new level of love and desire for me. But they were completely different from each other.
Kim Hoover went to an inner city school here in Akron Ohio. We would drink coffee and smoke cigarettes at Country Kitchen on East Market Street in high school. I would drive in from the suburbs and hang out in the exotic "inner city" of Akron. County Kitchen was across the street from city hospital. Much to the dismay of my personal history, it is now torn down.
Kim Hoover was, and still is, an explosion of storytelling and life experience. Some good and some (really) bad. I was so enraptured by her beauty and dynamism. She has always been a person who represents the world to me. Good experiences and bad experiences.
She is like a humanist mystic, in my mind. We never really talked too much about religion. Our discussions were always about people and places and experiences... and the power they hold over us. I carry this wisdom she taught me throughout my life. The good and bad experiences of our lives are undeniably powerful. They often fundamentally shape us throughout our entire lives in ways we don't consciously even recognize.
And then there was Kim Martin. I was so in love with Kim Martin. I didn't know a person had feelings as powerful as the feelings Kim Martin brought up in me.
Kim Martin was a Mennonite from Lancaster Pennsylvania. We met at a summer music clinic at Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania. She played the french horn and piano.
I can't explain it. I don't know why it happened. But I just fell for Kim Martin hook, line and sinker.
I distinctly remember having a conversation about God with her and a group of other musicians one night. I had never really thought about God the way any of these people had.
One guy said that believing in God is believing in Santa Claus. It's just wishful thinking based in nothing other than a hope that we aren't all leading pointless lives that have no meaning.
I had never heard anything like that. I grew up going to church. Saying something so bold and extreme as "God is just a childish wishful fantasy" was insane. But I definitely saw his point. My mind was racing with excited thoughts of atheism.
Kim didn't say much during that conversation. But after everyone else left she and I were sitting together. I remember she started crying. I asked her what was wrong. She said she was crying because she was sad those people weren't going to go to heaven.
Now my brain whipped to the other side of the coin. Here is someone who doesn't know these people from Adam. We all had just met each other. And she's crying for their souls. I had never known anyone who cared so much for other people.
If God can make you care for people you don't even know, how powerful is that!
That was the side I took. I got really into religion and God at that point.
I went to a Mennonite church for a while when I got back home.
I loved the simplicity. I loved the kindness.
This church was out in the country surrounded by green fields. It was beautiful and serene and peaceful.
I wanted to tell you about the Kims because for me they represent 2 aspects of walking a spiritual path.
Kim Hoover represents the Earth and the world to me. She just feels grounded in the world. I love her energy. She is Mother Earth.
Kim Martin represents God and faith to me. Everything good about the church and God is what I found in her. She was the living incarnation of what it meant to be a Christian.
Kim Martin was the stage of the Living Faith.
Kim Hoover was the stage of the Death of Faith.
I imagine you understand what I am talking about with Kim Martin. But let me talk just a little more about what I mean with Kim Hoover.
Kim Hoover wasn't anti-faith. I honestly don't know what she believes at all. That's funny considering the hours and hours we have talked over the years. Maybe I have forgotten any spiritual conversations we had because I was so taken by her worldly conversations. But I don't think so. She is just Of. This. World. The good and the bad.
You see, I'm about to get to the third stage of faith. But you must know that the first two stages are Life and Death of faith.
You cannot have one without the other.
There is the stage where you live in faith. You have constructed your beliefs of faith and you live into it as much as you humanly can. Everything revolves around this construct of faith. It's all God all the time.
Then there is the stage where most people are living today. They live in a void of faith. They live in the world. It is certainly not bad. Nature. Books. Movies. Sun rises. Sun sets. Ocean views. National Parks. Trips to Europe. The Macy's Day Parade. The Olympics. Christmas morning. Cherry Blossoms blooming.
I want to jump in here and make a quick point about atheism. I was an atheist for many years. So I feel like I can talk fairly knowledgeably on the subject. I don't consider atheists the "death of faith." I'm sorry to say it but atheists are usually more fundamentalist and extremist and fanatical than most religious people I've ever met. They would rather die on the hill that God is stupid and childish than ever admit that there's a force in the world that is undeniably there. They would do well to go back and reread some Carl Jung who believed that religion was a natural expression of the collective unconscious.
No. Atheism isn't the opposite of faith. It's just people pouting and stomping their feet while refusing to acknowedge the connections we have to each other and our universe. Atheism is simplistic teenage rebellion. They rebel just to rebel.
The Life part of faith is what Jung considered the collective unconscious. It is a mystical connection that can't be denied.
The Death part of faith is of-this-world. It is living in the here and now.
Most of us get caught in one of these and never get out. They become a rut. They become a crutch. It's all people know and therefore it is all they trust. We either trust in God or we trust in the World.
At their worst, these constructs become defense mechanisms. They become shields to protect us from the dark, scary other side. Faithful people do it just as much as worldly people.
Some faithful people surround themselves with only God and Jesus and the church. The world becomes a sin that must be avoided.
And some worldly people become addicted to their worldliness. Their job. Their food. Their tv shows. Their drugs.
Both sides grasp at what they know because they are afraid to let go.
When I quit drinking I was terrified of the unknown. What was I going to fill my time with? What was I going to talk about with friends? How would I manage my cravings and drinking patterns that had become an integral part of my life?
This invariably leads to a lopsided life. We miss out on the true value of the other side. And then we stop growing.
For me, I like to believe in reincarnation. It just helps me navigate my journey on Earth.
I like to believe that I am here to advance my life so that my next life will be more enlightened. I believe we are all trying to get to pure enlightenment. So, if I'm not growing then I am doing a disservice to my life here and now and also my future lives. (Whether this is what really happens is of little interest to me. It's a belief system that helps me make sense of my journey on Earth.)
And this brings me to the third stage of faith: Rebirth.
Rebirth is important because it is very different than just toggling between faith and the world. It's not a simple binary, on/off, switch.
The person I am today is different than the person I was yesterday and the person I will be tomorrow.
It's like a sine wave:
One side of the horizontal line is faith. The other side is the world.
The rebirth stage swings us from faith to the world and back again. But it's always in a new way. The faith of our youth should not be the faith of our adult life or our senior life. The same is true with how we interact with the world. The worldly things that bring us great joy as a child should, hopefully, not be the things that bring us great joy as an adult.
Yet again, we come back to fear. Fear is the ultimate destroyer of life. Fear is the true evil in our lives.
If we refuse to let go and be reborn into a life of faith or a life of the world we then are stuck in a life that is not fully realized. This is not what God ever wanted. We are on Earth to be part of Earth. But we are also on Earth to develop our spiritual path. Each side needs the other. The world becomes a laboratory to live in and experience so that we can better understand our spiritual selves. If all we do is try to block out the world then we'll never become the spiritual person we were meant to be. And if we block out the spiritual world we will never get any closer to realizing our full human potential.
Do you see?
We need the world to grow spiritually so we can grow more humanly. Back and forth. Back and forth. You can't be fully human without having both.
Mind, body and spirit. Our mind and body will never be fully realized without developing our spirit. And our spirit will never grow if we don't allow ourselves to develop our mind and body.
It's tempting to call it a circle. But I prefer to think of it as a sine wave. It's doesn't ever fully come back on itself. It moves forward and is new every time we cross the line from a spiritual focus and then a worldly focus. It's a continuous wave. Back and forth. Rebirth over and over and over again. The more you can do it the more you will fulfill your time you have on this Earth.
The only evil on Earth is fear. Everything else is of God.