I arrived earlier than usual the other morning to clean the office. Being alone here, with a can of Comet and a sponge, I was reminded of where I work. The walls and floors and forgotten corners came alive, not as mute backdrop but as things in themselves. This is important because, for me, The Sun isn’t just the ideas in its pages but also the shelves that need to be dusted, the plants that need to be watered, the sink that needs to be scrubbed. If I get lost in the abstractions, and ignore my surroundings or sentimentalize their neglect, I’m hardly being faithful to the spirit of the magazine.
The old yellow house on Rosemary Street fools people sometimes; they open the front door and imagine they’ve mistakenly walked into someone’s home. Admittedly, the atmosphere is homey, contrasted to the impersonal efficiency of many offices, where it seems that people are the mute backdrop. But it’s hard enough being human without having to pretend you’re nothing more than a desk and a chair. Pretending seems out of place here; we acknowledge we’re alive and need to get away from our desks sometimes. Someone might wander, with a manuscript we’re considering, out to the front stoop, and finish reading it there. After lunch, I like to read on the sofa. Yet the work gets done.
Perhaps none of this matters to you; for you, after all, The Sun is what’s in its pages. I’ve always remembered the advice I got from an editor when I was a newspaper reporter: “They’re interested in the story, not how you got it.” It was good advice, when it came to a certain kind of story — but the story has changed; I’ve changed; if you’re reading this, so have you. The story The Sun tells each month, the story that matters most to me now, is who we really are. Not who we think we are, and the important things we imagine we’ve done. Not the endless permutations of power and catastrophe and watered-down “human interest.” What we discover about ourselves is infinitely more interesting than what the newspapers and the TV tell us about the world — a world too easily known, too predictable, not the real world at all.
If it’s a story that seems to interest relatively few people, all the more reason to find better ways to tell it. Instead of grumbling that The Sun doesn’t have more readers, I try to concentrate on improving the magazine, making it more accessible, more readable, less self-consciously spiritual. The goal isn’t a high circulation, gratifying though that might be, but the wish, again, to be faithful to the spirit of The Sun. This demands another kind of housekeeping — of the heart and soul — and some vigilance: dust collects everywhere.
As a business, there’s a need to keep our house in order, too. Paying our creditors, and ourselves, is as much of a challenge as finding the right essays and stories and poems. On a deeper level, I’ve been forced to question, and discard, my own prejudices against The Sun being a success. I’ve had to acknowledge that money is just another mirror in which we see our love, and fear, reflected; knowing who we are is our real wealth. Yet staying mindful of this while running a business isn’t always easy. Our expenses are modest, but our revenue is even more modest. Thus, even after twelve years of publication, there are chronic worries about finances. We continue to seek more subscribers; happily, the North Carolina Arts Council has awarded us a grant specifically for that purpose. But for now, to continue to be able to pay the printer, the postage, the rent, and ourselves, we still depend on the generosity of our readers, and ask your help, as A Friend Of The Sun, in pledging your ongoing financial support of the magazine.
Such support, in the form of a monthly or quarterly tax-deductible donation, provides a reliable source of income for The Sun. We could count on your donation to help make up the difference between the magazine’s revenues and its expenses. Instead of worrying about how to pay the bills, there would be more creative energy for improving the magazine.
I can understand if The Sun’s financial struggles seem remote to you, or if this seems like yet one more request from yet one more worthy organization. I get those letters, too, and it’s hard to know whom to help, how much to give. Perhaps you might consider what The Sun gives to you each month. Perhaps for you The Sun isn’t just the ideas in its pages but something more tangible: the way those ideas live in you. Perhaps the questions in The Sun lead you to other questions — and, who knows, maybe some answers. Who can say what that’s worth? You can’t measure it in dollars and cents; thus, I can’t suggest a donation. I ask you merely to be guided by your heart, which is how The Sun is guided.
Editor, The Sun