My travels have ended until the end of this month.
I wanted to share two travel stories with you, both involving cab rides.
When I was in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, we had snow the second night I was there and as I was returning to my hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, I was impressed when I entered the cab. The sound system in the cab was top notch and there was a female jazz singer performing beautifully over that system. I mentioned to the cab drive how much I was enjoying the music. It ends up that he is a concert pianist and was a close friend of the singer. I told him a little about myself and he asked me if I liked Durufle's Requiem. He said that of all the music ever written, he thought the Kyrie from the Requiem was the finest piece of music ever written. He said he had a favorite recording, from Saint John's College in Cambridge, which he began to play as we approached my hotel. There were people waiting at the doors of the hotel, hoping to find a cab. As the Kyrie began to soar and the cab drive started to wave his arms in the air, conducting the piece, I was swept away with the amazing performance of this piece. You can find it here.
When the doorman signaled that he had a few people that needed the cab, the cab driver rolled down the window and said, "You will have to wait, because we are listening to Durufle's Requiem." The driver turned the meter off and we just sat and listened in awe.
Once the piece concluded, feeling exhilarated, I left that cab driver a very nice tip and told him that this was the finest concert experience I had ever known in a taxi. Just amazing.
Story number two.
On a cab ride from O'Hare to my home on Saturday, after a long day of traveling from Baltimore, the driver, who was from India, asked me what I did for a living. I told him that I helped run a Catholic publishing company. He paused for a few minutes and said, "Tell me, sir. Do you believe in Darwin's theory of the evolution of man or do you believe Jesus Christ?" I said that I thought the question addressed two different approaches, and comparing belief in Jesus Christ to belief in Darwin's theory was not a direct enough comparison in which to engage in conversation. He paused for a while and said that his grandfather in India had taught him about the gods of the Hindu religion but that he never really believed in any of that growing up, simply couldn't make sense of it. Because he loved and respect his grandfather, he would never openly question him about it. He pressed me more to talk about the theory of evolution and the Christian understanding of creation. I told him that the Catholic Church summons me, a believer, to place faith in conversation with reason and science. I said that much of our creation stories in the Bible arose from the myths of my ancestors in the faith, who did not have the scientific knowledge we have today. I told him that I absolutely must engage in a conversation about the science of evolution, but that I believed in my heart that the spark that originated all life in the universe is traced to a loving and creating God. I couldn't help but think of my philosophy courses so many years ago and Aristotle's "un-moved mover," and the other arguments for the existence of God.
He said that there was no divine "spark" that began it all. I said that the human person's spirit and sense of reason can only be explained, at least in my believing heart, by looking at a God in whose image I am created. And that spark of life, that spirit of the human person is something that continues on after our earthly bodies are exhausted.
He told me, loosely quoting Darwin's theory, that human persons developed spirit and reason over billions of years due to three chief needs: food, sex, and land. These needs are what eventually developed into the human person becoming able to communicate and develop what I was calling the human spirit sparked by the divine.
When we arrived at my home, I thanked him for the conversation, as did he.
Part of me wishes that I could have brought these two cab drivers together and that the three of us could read Darwin, the Bible, the tenets of Hinduism, all the while listening to Durufle's Requiem.
You know, it is quite amazing what happens when one does not remain passive in the back seats of taxi cabs. I was grateful for both of these encounters.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.