By Judith Rock

photo courtesy of mikebaird via C.C. License at FlickrMany of us, including theologians, philosophers, linguists, and others, have thought of physical and spiritual, body and mind, as vexing pairs of opposites. We have tried to explain, at least to ourselves, how they fit together. But it seems to me that these pairs of words and what they stand for were never opposites and need not be in conflict. Having set aside centuries of learned thought on this matter with one sentence, what do I mean? And what are my credentials for saying what I've said? 

Howard Gardner, who writes about human intelligence -- by which he means ways of knowing -- might answer by saying that I have high levels of several intelligences: kinetic, spatial, and verbal. In Gardner's system, these are three of the eight ways of human knowing and problem solving. He says that we all have them all, but at varying intensities. My mathematical way of knowing, for example, is barely there! Kinetic (movement) and spatial knowing led me into twenty years of professional dance and choreography and then into several years as an action- loving police officer. These ways of knowing also led me to one of the most deliriously happy days of my life, spent driving a Formula One race car at top speed around the Skip Barber track in Lime Rock, Connecticut. On the very different other hand of verbal intelligence, I am a writer with three degrees in religion, including a Ph.D. in theology and art. 

Inside myself, these different ways of knowing and problem solving are not in conflict. But the determination of Western culture and the Christian churches to oppose the physical to the so-called "nonphysical" has often left me feeling as though I have a foot on the boat and a foot on the dock, and the boat is leaving.