Stephen Lyons’s essay “How I Failed at Farming (Again)” [January 2002] was a delightful and refreshing change from The Sun’s usual gloomy and somber outlook. I think I even laughed out loud a couple of times. Will wonders never cease?
Indeed, it was the first time I’ve had a smile on my face while reading anything in The Sun in the two years I have been a subscriber. I like writing that makes me think and look at life from a different angle, but I find it a bit oppressive when every article or story is about the most painful experiences, the most desperate people, and the most hopeless situations. There is a limit to how often I can be plunged into the darker side of life before my spirit starts to corrode.
How about a few more essays like Lyons’s — if only to reflect the other side of the coin, another dimension to our lives? Depth of thought and expression are not found only in tragedy, crudity, misery, and despair.
I have often marveled at the complaints registered by some readers about the apparently depressive slant of The Sun. Perhaps it takes a person with a melancholy outlook, like myself, to truly appreciate the perspective in your pages. I have feared that popular opinion would cause a swing toward more cheerful content and leave me feeling alone once again.
The Sun goes a long way toward redressing an imbalance in the culture: a preoccupation with presenting a rosy view of the world at the expense of truthfulness. To speak honestly of the dark makes us more able to recognize the light when it dawns and frees us from the need to pretend that things are other than they are. It is forced optimism that is truly depressing, because it reinforces the feeling that the truth must be avoided, being too horrible to face directly.
Few forms of repression have a more chilling effect on authentic writing than the push for a positive slant. As soon as a writer succumbs to the pressure to generate more pleasant material, his or her words have the taint of artificiality. In presenting to us an unedited version of reality, The Sun reminds us that our lives are lived most fully when we embrace every dimension of our experience.
Thank you for creating a discussion forum on your website. Visiting it allows me to feel personally connected with The Sun’s readers. My life is richer because of it.
Your December 2001 issue produced feelings far removed from those I’m used to having while reading The Sun. I did not experience enjoyment but rather severe disappointment as each and every essay, story, poem, and quote had to do with religion or God or both. There was no respite. Intelligent, plain thought was entirely absent.
I’m hoping this is not a sign of what’s to come in 2002. I rely on The Sun to present a variety of ideas, voices, moods, and topics. Religion was such an oppressive theme in the December issue that I’m ready to throw it away and not make it part of my collection. I never expected to have God dogma crammed down my throat by my favorite magazine.
I’m disturbed to think that a corner may have been turned. Does The Sun now believe that religious zeal is the only answer to the problems facing our fragile planet?
Heather King’s story of her retreat at a monastery [“Notes from a Desert Sanctuary,” December 2001] rang true except for the geographic location. The place she describes is really south of Las Vegas, near the Mexican border. It is an oasis for people seeking sustenance, even neurotics who bring their whole world with them. The people who live there make it possible for troubled souls like King to come and grouse about the mess, the food, and the furnishings, complaining that the glass is neither half full nor half empty, but the wrong color.
I read with dismay George Draffan’s boring and hackneyed perspective on the global economy [“Driven by Desire,” interview by Derrick Jensen, December 2001]. His thoughts leave me with little choice but to hole up somewhere and try to have no impact on the earth, or to stay involved and carry the entire weight of the world on my shoulders. Surely, we can think more deeply and creatively than this. We are paralyzing the very people who could make a difference with all this fear mongering about the future of the world.
Yes, the global economy damages, pollutes, and destroys, but it also opens up tremendous opportunities for all kinds of people in many different situations and cultures. I think a little dose of intellectual honesty would expand such discussions and allow for more productive and creative solutions.
George Draffan responds:
Anthony Signorelli judges me boring, hackneyed, shallow, and dishonest. If an exploration of the psychological and spiritual roots of modern suffering isn’t his cup of tea, exploring my website might be more inspiring for him, because it’s chock full of facts, analyses, and links to dozens of feisty practical activists. But I didn’t exaggerate the suffering caused by the global industrial economy, and Signorelli’s apparent fears that meditation and emotional work are passive and uncreative might be loosened a bit by spending some time, in an emotionally open state, in any of the shantytowns or toxic-waste dumps now plaguing the world, from Chernobyl, to Rio, to LA. He errs when he says I leave him little choice, or that I paralyze readers of The Sun; fortunately I have no such power. Paralysis and depression are not the only responses to suffering, and one’s emotional choices are never imposed by others. The interview simply explored one path to dismantling one’s own psychological blocks and projections as a necessary prerequisite for taking full and active responsibility for one’s life. Several other readers have since volunteered as interns with the Public Information Network, and they are neither passive nor unproductive. I wish Signorelli (and every reader of The Sun) joyfully dynamic and creative lives.
I read with interest the letter in your December 2001 issue accusing The Sun of sexism. I, too, have noticed the lack of women in interviews and the Sunbeams section. In fact, my mother let her subscription lapse because she was tired of this inequality.
I was supposed to be cleaning my house when I received the issue; what better way to avoid chasing dustballs than to take out all my old Suns and count how many men and women were contributing? In twelve issues, I was surprised to find precisely forty-three men and forty-three women. The interviews, however, which are given such prominent placement, were all with men (all white, of course).
I have to admit that I am easily annoyed by calls for multiculturalism when it seems forced: say, in a survey of medieval literature. Surely, though, you can find some compelling women and people of color to interview?
I understand Brooke Dunitz-Johnson’s complaint [Correspondence, December 2001] about The Sun being sexist. As a woman and a feminist, though, I’ve come to enjoy The Sun for the different perspective it offers me. I’ve been reading interviews with women for years. I like reading about what men are thinking and feeling. It helps me keep my balance.
I really don’t know how I got my subscription to The Sun. Maybe I ordered it and forgot. Going into my eighth decade of life, I do that a lot.
There is a lot of anguish over September 11. I guess that is as it should be, but after all these decades, I see it as almost normal for such things to happen. So few decades are free of war or anguish. World War I loomed large in the memories of my parents. My grandfather was in the Civil War. My point is, there has always been war. If you live long enough, it begins to seem normal.
Every decade has its terror, too, some worse than others. If anthrax is the germ that takes me, it’s only because I beat diptheria. My father lived through smallpox and died in a wheelchair at ninety-four, his mind gone. Which is worse: suddenly gone in a flash in the planes that hit the towers, or years spent sitting in a chair, helpless? It’s a matter of perspective, I guess.
I’m not cold; I lost a grown son in my life. You don’t forget how that feels. But maybe I’m getting a little cynical. For example, I doubt if this burst of patriotism will last very long. It never does.
I’m just across the Ohio River from the Amish country. After living so many years, I think they have it about right. They live for this day and plan for the next. This summer, one of the Amish ladies and I discussed a problem with our dahlia plants. Some bug had withered them. Then I bought five dozen ears of sweet corn to put up for winter. She charged me $1.50 a dozen, and when I got home I found she’d thrown in an extra six ears when I wasn’t looking.
I think maybe that’s what life is really all about: giving a little extra.
We will not know exactly how we’ve been changed by the events of September 11 until a decade or more has passed. We will learn it from the poems, novels, and songs yet to be written.
I expected The Sun to wait awhile before publishing a September 11 issue [November 2001]. Your strength is in thinking long and deeply about life, not this rush to publish what, I admit, is my first 100 percent, read-cover-to-cover, dog-eared copy of The Sun.