The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
My name is Holiday Reinhorn and I became a Baha’i on December 31, 2004. I include the actual date here because it was New Years Eve when I signed the card, and so far, becoming and staying a Baha’i is the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever made or kept. I also use the word “new” in the title, because for me, eight years is the blink of an eye. As you’ll discover below, I stay a rookie at things for decades at a time. That’s just how I roll.
I am a fiction writer, which basically means I make things up for a living and obsess over the problems of virtual characters who appear out of nowhere, take possession of my mind for extended periods of time (six years at minimum) and who don’t ever really go away. It also means I prefer the imagination to reality hands down and I’m often moody and difficult to live with (just ask my husband) and I spend a great deal of time in my pajamas, incessantly moving words and phrases around on a piece of “paper” with a ball point pen. Not a computer screen and cursor, friends, but a piece of white PAPER, which comes from the crushed bark of a tree! I would even use a feather quill if I could find one lying around.
What I’m saying is that I am from a different era than the one we currently live in and it takes me FOREVER and I mean FOR–EVER to make final decisions. It took me five years to decide to get married for example, and thirteen more to decide to become a Baha’i. Right now, I don’t even know if I should delete this paragraph I just wrote. Give me a few years and I’ll get right back to you.
The writer Haruki Murakami described the art of fiction writing as the transposition of one problem into another sometimes greater, or even more complicated problem. I always use this quote when I teach writing at universities or summer festivals or in theatre spaces or out of the backs of station wagons or 20 X 20 Haitian tents and out of nearly every home where I have ever lived.
“We are problem ‘creators,’ people,” I tell my writing students. “Not problem solvers. We like things complicated. Planned accidents are good.”
I am also a mother, which is instrumental to the story, and child rearing also takes time. My son Walter will come up later in this series of essays, as well as my husband Rainn, who introduced me to the Baha’i Faith in the first place, and my maternal grandparents John and Alice Schaefer, who were and continue to be the most inspiring spiritual people I’ve ever known. My grandparents aren’t in this world anymore and I miss them, especially now that I’m older and can appreciate their example.
I should say, too, that I have never done anything like this before — I have never written anything publicly about my spiritual beliefs. When I began to approach what I might share with you here on BahaiTeachings.org, I did what I always do when I have a blank page. I tried to write some sort of story on it. As I said, that is all I know how to do, so this kind of behavior made sense to me. And I gave what I was writing a title:
HOW I, HOLIDAY REINHORN, CAME TO THE BAHA’I FAITH OUT OF A SERIES OF EVENTS, OUT OF A SERIES OF SURPRISES, NOT NECESSARILY IN ANY ORDER.
So today’s question is: Holiday — how did you go from being a person who was very uncomfortable about discussions of spiritual faith, a person who wasn’t quite sure what to think when it came to God — to a person who joined the Baha’i Faith?
A friend of mine who was raised in a Jewish family and now believes there is no God, but who loves to talk about God or the lack of one, and questions the subject of spiritual faith all the time — I saw her in New York a few years ago and she asked me what was my feeling on God at that point and I said I had become a Baha’i eight years ago and she was floored. Whaat??
“So now you believe in God?” she asked. “Is that what this means? When did that happen?”
Because in the past I had just shrugged my shoulders at that question and in having that discussion I sort of realized, maybe I had realized all along, that I always did believe in God, I just didn’t know what to channel it towards. Unlike the experience I have in my writing, which is to accept complete and utter fallibility, I never had that when it came to believing in God. I always felt like there was a one-way relationship with God that worked as follows:
YOU DO THESE THINGS OR ELSE. For me, God was an angry, disappointed parent. This made me very rebellious, so when it came to God, I acted like an angry teenager. I saw God and people who believed in God as nosy and judgmental disciplinarians, always trying to ground me and keep me home on a Saturday night and make me feel guilty and tell me what to eat and who to like. I only felt holy when it came to Art.
For me, Art, the appreciating of it, the making of it, the cleaving to it, the paradoxes of it — that was God. This was the only allowance I would make. If Art exists, if we are allowed through our expression to become larger than ourselves, if we, as human poets can, if for only a moment, invoke a muse, create something profound and powerful and lasting, our Art can surpass and transcend the limitations of our opinions and judgments. I believed that if Art can unite and reach people, then there is a God.
So it was a tremendous realization for me that in the Baha’i Faith, art and science are prized. In other words, argument and discovery and contradiction are welcomed. A painter once asked Abdu’l-Baha whether art was a worthy vocation.
“Art is worship,”
he told her emphatically.
Where art lives, God lives. Just an opinion.