Yom Kippur is the Jewish holiday devoted to the reciting of sins, the sins of both the community and the self. The goal of being honest and truthful is redemption or being saved from sin, error or evil. Since sin and evil are non-existent, the only salvation needed would be from our own self-destructive behavior. Without an honest assessment of the reality of our behavior, all of us in the human community have no possibility of redemption, no possibility of creating a sustainable Global Village. We can learn a lot from the Jews about redemption, especially a particular American Jew.
Let’s be frank. Honesty among our species is pretty rare so we are not prone to admitting how our behaviors are in need of modification. One person who was an exception to self-deception in our American community was Robert Frank (no pun intended). Born to a Jewish family in Switzerland in 1924, Robert Frank came to America with his family in 1947. He grew up to be a photographer and took thousands of photos of his adopted country in road trips in the 1950s. He published his book of 83 highly selected photos, The Americans, in 1959. His photographs were brutally honest and revealed a truth that many Americans didn’t want to see. “His photos were described in Popular Photography as ‘warped,’ and ‘wart-covered’ and ‘images of hate.’” (1) What they revealed, of course, was the truth of the American false self in fevered pursuit of power, pleasure and wealth.
Frank was like a modern-day Siddhartha with a camera. His photos revealed the suffering that many American wanted to deny. “The journalist Sean O’Hagan wrote that the book revealed ‘the chasm between the American dream and the everyday reality.’” (1) That chasm remains in America today and until we cross it we will continue to experience abject pain and suffering.
Truth in our society today is becoming more and more obscure. “We deny the truth, and it is pushed below the level of consciousness; we tell ourselves lies about where we are and the truth is pushed further and further down; and we keep secrets about out behaviors and how they disturb us and the truth sinks deep into the darkness, into the subterranean caverns below our awareness. We have lost the ability to distinguish between what is true and what is an illusion.” (2)
Joe Holt is one American who refused to deny the truth in his search for redemption. Click on the link below to hear about his courageous pursuit of the truth.
Insight # 164:
A liar is always lavish of oaths.
— Pierre Corneille from his play The Liar (1643)
- “Schizophrenic Identity” in this blog or in print version, Who Am I? The Second Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality (2013), by Roy Charles Henry, pages 56-57.
- Goldberg, Emma. “Robert Frank’s Critical American Experience.” The New York Times Sunday Review. September 15, 2019, page 8.
- Henry, Roy Charles. Who Am I? Simple Reality. October 2013, page 26.