Issue 186 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


Regarding David Lenfest’s interview with John Lee [“Men and Their Sorrows,” Issue 184], I experience a strong unease about the “men’s movement.” I find it threatening because I fear violence, and some of their activities have a flavor of violence. Oddly enough, the men I have known who are in men’s groups are among the gentlest men I have met. Still, I hear a lot about maleness and masculinity and male identification, and I worry whether that is useful or divisive.

While Lee discusses the range of feelings and responses proposed for men in their expanded “masculinity,” it seems that women have a similar range of feelings and responses.

How is masculinity different from femininity? Men have no monopoly on the need to physically express emotion. Men have no monopoly on being bottled up and unable to admit certain feelings. Men have no monopoly on self-pity. At the same time, women have no special ability to grieve. Women have no special ability to nurture. Women have no special ability to seek nurturance. Women have no special vulnerability.

A counselor would serve best by recognizing a person’s individual needs. The truly mature person identifies with humanity, not with a gender.

Van L. Knowles Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Our daughter-in-law is a beautiful, loving, open-minded, sensitive spirit. When she showed me a brochure she had received from The Sun, I mentioned that it looked interesting. She surprised me with a subscription for my birthday. I called her today to say, “So often magazines and books don’t live up to their hype, but The Sun supersedes it.”

Last week I was depressed by George Bush’s need to prove to Americans and the world that he’s no wimp. Sy’s essay, “A Good Life” [Issue 183], really saved my soul. Now when Bush cuts Social Security and mutilates Medicare in order to balance the budget, I’ll sharpen my ax and arrow points and make like Scott and Helen Nearing.

Bob Miller Covington, Indiana

I want to congratulate you on the strong anti-war stance of Issue 183. Amidst all the flag-waving and the ballyhoo, it was no doubt a difficult position to maintain. What more can any of us do except cling to our beliefs, state them as clearly as possible, and pray the madness will end?

Kenneth Klonsky Toronto

Over the past few years your publication has become increasingly dark, sad, and so depressing that it has ceased to be the joy to read it once was. True, our world is in trouble on many fronts, and your duty as editor is to illuminate these issues; but what happened to those many light, funny, and spiritually rich articles that were at one time such an important part of The Sun? Is it possible to regain some balance between light and dark?

Mark Combs Reno, Nevada

As for Sparrow [“Born Too Young,” Issues 181-183], well, Buddhists ain’t Buddha, and Christians ain’t Christ, and it’s good to be reminded of the mess we all have to work through. Religion is human, and it doesn’t exclude men who piss on women and acknowledge the pain of it. Denial’s illusion, ain’t it? Thank you for letting us remember that the proto-saint is crawling up through mounds of rottenness and shit, not standing there by the microwave holding a vacuum cleaner with a self-righteous smile. Sparrow is an honest man, and so he gives other folks the willies.

Born Too Young: Diary of a Pilgrimage (Part One)” [Issue 181]

Born Too Young: Diary of a Pilgrimage (Part Two)” [Issue 182]

Born Too Young: Diary of a Pilgrimage (Part Three)” [Issue 183]

Bill Piper Altoona, Pennsylvania

I have a message for Sparrow: don’t be discouraged by the criticism. I am a woman of fifty-one and my perspective is not as harsh. Your critics exhibit truth but no humor. I loved your travel installments, and when I read your travails with Jeanne, I thought, “Oh, dear, Sparrow has some way to go with women — he’s blowing it bad.” But I also feel that your questing soul will mature — eventually, the pain of unconsidered action will bore you. At least you had the courage to be uncomfortably honest about the angry confusions in your heart.

Your literary style is unique and fresh, and your sense of humor off-the-wall wondrous.

Go elsewhere and give us some more adventures!

Leslie Lindborg Point Arena, California

Thanks, Sparrow, for your courage, or stupidity, in letting it all hang out. You don’t seem to hold too many illusions about yourself — you write as you honestly experience, and there are few people who can do that.

Diane Moore Rochester, Michigan

I love The Sun. I can even put up with some of the interviews you run just to read Sparrow. Sadly, what other magazine would publish him? Can you see a spread in People: “Likable Eccentric Says: I Was Born Too Young”? No. No.

Do you ever talk to him? Or does he just leave a big sloppy Bic-written manuscript on your doorstep and vanish? I picture him as a little wisp of steam rising off the concrete. I love his writing. It’s one of the few spiritual journeys I’ve read that sounds like a real spiritual journey: confusing, frustrating, grubby, with irritating people and enough sex to drive everyone crazy. Keep publishing that man. I’ll buy his book when it comes out. I’ll buy a bunch and give ’em as gifts. I’ll make the single good bookstore in Texas order a crate. If he comes to Dallas I’ll buy him macrobiotic enchiladas.

Read some of your readers’ letters . . . some of them just smoking mad. Why on earth would anyone take offense at your magazine? Are these folks just crouched and quivering like Dobermans looking to be pissed off? The Sun is a flashlight in a dark time.

Ashley Walker Dallas, Texas

I was amused by the uproar caused by Sparrow. I have to say I was surprised that he peed on his wife, and even more surprised that he told everyone about it and then included his picture. So he makes a lousy traveling companion. He laid trips on his wife and made her meditate and made her practice monogamy and thought she was an idiot. But that’s the point — we think we’re doing one thing, we think we’re on the road to Enlightenment, but really we’re being assholes. His jealousy, his dependency, his fears — these were weaknesses that he was revealing to us. How can people be insulted by that? I was not demeaned, disheartened, infuriated, humiliated, or violated by his words. I credit anybody who can write such things in a magazine read by his parents.

I was also surprised by the criticism of Hella Hammid’s cover photograph [Issue 182] of the pregnant belly. I’ve been pregnant, and I’ve worked with midwives; it never occurred to me that you might be trying to degrade women or pregnancy by using that photograph.

If there’s a problem, it doesn’t rest with the fact that Sparrow wasn’t nice to his wife, or with Hella Hammid’s photograph, but with the response they received. Our culture has produced people who can’t tolerate the feel of natural textures, the scent of natural smells — people who create artificial worlds in which to insulate themselves, who can’t tolerate natural images, who can’t tolerate stories about the human condition. It’s all the same can of worms, as far as I can tell.

I hope you continue to resist the “correct” line; I hope you continue to offend the true believers. I hope you keep giving us Sparrow’s stuff.

Alison Clement Yachats, Oregon

I’m going to respond immediately to the two letters objecting to Hella Hammid’s beautiful belly picture.

I love the photo (I loved being pregnant). My obstetrician friend, who thinks pregnant bellies are beautiful, wrote Hella to order an enlargement for his office.

It is neither “fat,” “ugly,” nor “awkward,” but a celebration full of life in wonderful expansion.

I’m sorry some found ridicule. But please don’t shy away from photos such as this in future issues.

Name Withheld Big Sur, California

Didn’t you get any favorable reactions to the cover photo of Issue 182? I’ve been pregnant twice, and the picture recalled some of my best memories from those times — myself waxing like the moon, myself like a giant breast with good things for the world. I’m so sad that some women saw it as ridicule.

Virginia Ramig Butler, Pennsylvania

I love your magazine. K. Mathesius wrote to you in Issue 180, criticizing the writers in The Sun as people in “sad, dark, degenerate situations.” Not to be perverse, but it is this very quality that draws me to The Sun, for it is balanced by many inspiring, enlightening, and joy-filled things. Such writings reflect very real truths about human existence. Frankly, I get quite tired of the “new age” perspective that all is wonderful. There are moments when life is truly awe-filled, and there are moments of darkness, despair, and real pain. I gain courage as much from those struggling in the darkness as from those borne up by the light.

Thanks for existing!

Lucy Viele Kennebunk, Maine
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