We live in a time of global transformation, a time of challenge and opportunity. Ancient indigenous prophecies refer to this as an era of massive global changes: Some speak of the End, and some of a great awakening. I choose to think of this as a time of breath-taking possibility that is calling us to dig deeply and listen with our hearts.
Where is our God? What is Spirit trying to say in all of this ... and am I quiet enough to listen? If -- as the modern physics of Unified Field Theory suggests and as mystics have always believed -- we have within us the consciousness to sense and then inspire the very pulse of this global organism, we are powerful beyond our hopes. We may envision change and be part of the transformation; we may create new dreams and inspire new awakenings.
The dream that is closest to my heart is the dream of peace. When I speak of this the response is often one of disbelief: "Humans are incapable of such evolution" is the gist of the reply. "What we know is force, and force is often necessary." But I remember a time when institutionalized slavery was necessary, and child labor, and the total subjugation of women. ... These were necessary conditions that could not be changed. And then came the dreamers, the famous ones like Martin Luther King Jr. and Lucretia Mott, and the legions of forgotten visionaries who would not accept the inevitability of the status quo.
As an artist, I have learned that creativity holds a singular place in the human psyche. Lists of statistics cannot move us in the way that a painting or a poem can. Art is the language of spirit, the ancient alchemy that can transform our hearts. Who can leave the sight of Picasso's "Guernica" unaltered or unmoved? When we look at the photograph of one starving child, we are reminded: "This could be my child: How can I stand by and let this happen?" We are awakened to our humanity. This is the job of creativity.
This week marks the 65th anniversary of the dropping of two atomic bombs on large civilian populations.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped the nuclear weapon Little Boy on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, followed by the detonation of Fat Man over Nagasaki on Aug. 9. The statistics are that somewhere in the neighborhood of 220,000 people perished within the first few months of the explosions. Numbers tell such a small part of the story. The other part is seared in the heart of human consciousness.
On my home altar sits a gnarled fragment of the wreckage of the Japanese Kamikaze bomber that exploded in the smokestack of my father's destroyer in the Pacific in 1944. A naval lieutenant commander who had barely survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, my father won medals for his ingenuity in guiding the wrecked destroyer to port in the Solomon Islands. There are precious human beings on all sides of war.
In 2003 I traveled to Hiroshima to do portrait renderings of Hibakusha -- the atomic bomb survivors. I wanted to create an exhibit of stories and faces, poems and memories. I needed to capture these living witnesses before they -- like the survivors of the Holocaust -- are no longer here to make their stories real.
In the course of scores of exhibits of the Hibakusha Peace Project, the comment I most often hear is that out of something so horrible there is beauty in these artistic renderings. Why is that? For me, the beauty is in these eyes that have seen the unimaginable and yet are inspired to share their experiences so that such horror will never again be visited on this planet. On Aug. 7, my exhibit will be shown at the Hiroshoma International House in Japan as part of a memorial program that includes the premiere of the David Rothauser film "Hibakusha, Our Life to Live."
Our dawning global consciousness is telling us there are no winners in war. We reap what we sow. With thousands more nuclear weapons at the disposal of many nations of the world, we don't feel safer or more at peace. I believe it is the time to move beyond this stage of human evolution and that the work begins within our secret selves ... within these immortal souls.
We are here, our God reminds us, forever. Long after this body dies, our consciousness continues in its quest for Truth, Love and Joy. Now is the time of great awakening. Let us lay aside the masks of ignorance and embrace new possibilities. The earth is waiting.
Jane Smith Bernhardt is an artist, performer and writer. She is a graduate of the interfaith Guild for Spiritual Guidance. Her book "We Are Here: Love Never Dies" chronicles an extraordinary period of three family deaths and many miracles of joy and forgiveness. Photos and information about the Hibakusha Peace Project can be found here.