The blowing of the ram's horn stirs me from my spiritual slumber. It is the sound of my broken heart. It heralds my first glance at unflinching self-awareness. The sound of the shofar is the sound of grief. I have failed to live up to my true potential. From the depths of my soul, I cry out for help. I cry for hope. I cry for forgiveness. I cry for those I've hurt and for those for whom I need to find reconciliation. I cry for the loved ones I will never see again. I cry for the courage to change and to start anew. My soul yearns for the rebirth of a better self. I share my tears with others; we can all hear the ram’s horn calling.
"Atonement" is found in the Spadecaller gallery of Spirituality, where the enlightenment of the human spirit is celebrated through art.
The word hope is tossed around like Halloween candy corn. For those of us who have lost hope, it’s sickening sweet flavor and bright colors are repugnant. We may want to believe that the injustices of oppression can be lifted from our communities and from our nation. But most of us, who are honest with ourselves know we are stricken with hopelessness -- that the death of our ideals were buried in the vast children's cemetery with billions of others. Despite the vast changes brought about positive thinking and spiritual exercises, our best thinking still falls prey to the oppressor's propaganda; "nothing will ever change." Those words haunt us relentlessly.
All of us carry around patterns of thought riddled with hopelessness. "A black man could never be elected President in the United States of America." We have all heard statements like that. And despite our programmed despondency, many of us are dedicated to the work of ending oppression, we're willing to do it, we recognize its importance. We can fabricate hope, particularly the outward appearance of hope for others. We advocate action and agree that we should stand up for our convictions. Nonetheless, underneath our tough veneers, we don't feel hopeful about making a difference. If there's any reflection of real hope, it is hoping that someone else will do it, hoping for the next generation; yet we abandon the hope for ourselves. We resign ourselves to the best we can do, which is often another way of telling ourselves: "I can't make a difference." And, without believing that we can free ourselves from our oppressors, we simply try to survive our feelings of defeat.
Grudgingly, we push ourselves to move ahead despite our feelings, because we have been conditioned to function without hope for so long that it doesn't matter. Some of us play at being hopeful, we consider the prospect of hope, but we cannot be hopeful. Perseverance eludes us. We often settle back and rationalize: "let someone else carry the ball, for a change."
This real culprit is our patterns of hopelessness. We do not feel that we can succeed. This becomes a self-fulfilling pattern reflected by the world around us. We hope a leader will arise. We hope that others will dare to make the dreaded sacrifices. We hope that unselfishness will overcome greed, that honesty will overcome deceit, that sincerity will overcome hypocrisy, and that love will overcome hate. Yet, we know that our hope is only a remote prospect to consider. Knowing that we are slaves to our own hopelessness, what can we do?
Admission is the first step to reclaiming hope. The lack of hope is our greatest enemy! How often have we heard someone say, " I lost hope?” To lose hope, means that we once had it. Even though we may not remember that time, it is true. We once had it. There was a time somewhere in our lives, when we were endowed with this great force that permitted us to move ahead without reservation.
As infants, hopelessness did not impede our challenge at mastering the tools we needed to acquire to function in the world. We learned language and practiced it with persistence; first uttering meaningless sounds before articulating our first words to communicate with the world around us. When we failed and grew frustrated, we cried and screamed; our tears washed away the past and in minutes we were ready again to move ahead. There was no hopelessness in our lives. We spoke. Our voices were heard. Imagine how that would be now. Imagine living without even the slightest thought that our efforts could be fruitless. It is that kind of hope that can change the world. It is that kind of hope that can transform our fear into courage, failure into triumph, and dreams into realities.
After we admit that we have lost hope and that we need to reclaim it, we must practice being hopeful. When we imagine what that would be like for ourselves, for others, for those we love, the prospect of hope can become a burning desire.
Finally, we must dare ourselves - no matter how much it frightens us, no matter how much we recoil from it; we must dare ourselves to believe that we have begun the process of overcoming oppression. Before the world changes it is up to us and no one else to meet our own personal demon. Within ourselves there is this unholy enemy that calls to us, "you cannot make a difference." What if today we declare war on our personal demon? What if we wake up every morning and commit ourselves to these simple words; "today I will make a difference, and nothing can stop me."
For every one of us who reclaims their lost hope, the power of change becomes more than just a remote dream. It will, in fact, become a living reality. Oppression, racism, and bigotry are formidable foes, only because they reside within us. We have learned them and have learned how to oppress others and ourselves. By expelling this force of darkness within ourselves, we can join with others to change the world. We can exhume the graves where we buried hope and the spirit of our indomitable childhoods will live again.
This Spadecaller poster emphasizes the value of honesty. In our world products are often sold by using deceit. Empty promises are commonplace. Campaign promises no longer mean anything. Candidates are packaged like snake oil tonics. Lonely people seeking mates sell themselves hiding the most important facts. Honesty may seem impractical and self-defeating at times. But, the truth about honesty is that it brings great personal freedom. It allows us to sleep peacefully and to live in good conscience. When self-honesty becomes a way of life, it extends to others. Honesty invites the development of courage, integrity, and humility. Honesty elevates the human spirit beyond what money can buy.
"I can always find someone
To say they sympathize
If I wear my heart out on my sleeve
But I don't want some pretty face
To tell me pretty lies
All I want is someone to believe..."
From the song, "Honesty" by Billy Joel.