Issue 189 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


Last year I became a certified elementary schoolteacher, thinking this would be a natural outlet for my love of children and learning.

One year in the classroom changed my perspective. I am so grateful to John Taylor Gatto [“A Few Lessons They Won’t Forget,” Issue 186] for putting the disappointment and confusion I experienced into words. In the end, I couldn’t reconcile my beliefs about children, learning, and life with being a teacher in a classroom.

Now my own two children (ages eight and ten) are educating themselves outside the institution of school. Their father and I are here to support, guide, and share. Being among the small — but rapidly growing — number of “home-schoolers,” having no television, and often experiencing the loneliness of being outside the vast system, we deeply appreciate the boost we get from such a thoughtful, articulate man as John Taylor Gatto.

Amy and Steven Remington Norwich, Vermont

Thank you for your eloquent request for more funding for your magazine. Unfortunately, your letter follows Issue 186 too closely for me to take your request seriously. I found Ignacio Schwartz’s obsession with the act of masturbation [“Beating Off in Mexico”] devoid of any literary, philosophic, or aesthetic value. His article may hold some esoteric appeal for psychologists, but if I were looking for that sort of writing, I would have subscribed to Psychology Today.

I think it’s very nice that this chap has such an uncomplicated and uninhibited relationship with his reproductive apparatus. He obviously feels so comfortable about his incessant monkey-spanking that he believes it merits some sort of literary effort. Perhaps he feels so superior in his lack of inhibition to all the hordes of closet-jackers that his little literary adventure stands as a monument to himself. His piece is an exercise in solipsism.

I object to this essay for the same reason I once objected to a New York art gallery’s starkly realistic rendering of a collie standing next to a fresh and steaming pile of shit. I found this painting and its subject utterly devoid of aesthetic value. If the artist’s intention was simply to shock, he failed; he simply sickened.

This was also my impression of Schwartz’s piece: its only real value would have been to shock; unfortunately, it only sickened. I must say, I did read it closely, if only in the manner that one is somehow compelled to study detailed accounts of aberrant human psychology. If Charles Manson or David Berkowitz ever publish their diaries, they will probably sell millions of copies — not, however, based upon any intrinsic aesthetic or literary value. People also slow down to leer at the roadside carnage in the wake of an automobile accident.

I do not want to know about this fellow’s love affair with his penis for the same reason I do not want to hear about his bowel movements — no matter how grandly satisfying or surreal they may have seemed to him. To those who wish to serenade us with detailed accounts of their masturbatory adventures: save them for your psychiatrist.

Robert J. Reynolds Sharon, Connecticut
Ignacio Schwartz responds:

I couldn’t agree with Mr. Reynolds more. There are times when this sex stuff is downright disgusting.

For instance, when I was growing up, they used to show movies of grown men and women kissing. Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh twenty feet tall, lip to lip! Since I was and am gay, I found this heterosexual osculation revolting.

Every now and again, I chance onto the Playboy Channel, or find a copy of Penthouse. You can guess how disgusting this can be to me and many of my gay brothers and sisters. Sometimes we want to puke.

Like Mr. Reynolds, I could see classifying this heterosexual stuff with dog shit, bowel movements, the spanking of monkeys, and roadside carnage. Like him, I would suggest it be reserved for psychiatrists. Like him, too, I would consider withholding my support from any organization that shows such trash.

As for the rest of the stuff between big-chested, hairy, “normal” men, and big-breasted, big-thighed, “normal” women, I’ve learned just to close my eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist — not unlike Queen Victoria when she was called upon to sign an edict forbidding sex between women. She refused, not because she was worried about women’s rights, but because she knew such a thing did not exist.

I suggest Mr. Reynolds do the same.

I was drawn to your sample copy and I subscribed.

I respect your sincerity and the openness that directs you to publish unknown writers and artists. It is wonderful that “common” people like myself have a ready forum outside the hopelessness of ever getting published in the few glossy journals around.

But I have decided to cancel my subscription.

I am actively engaged in the process Roberto Assagioli describes [“The Perils of Self-Realization,” Issue 187]. I seek to transform myself into the template of God-consciousness. It is a glorious but difficult task. I have a teacher. I practice ethical living and meditation. I have made progress. But the final goal lies along a path that cuts off past habits and desires with the sharpness of a razor’s edge. One’s thoughts, words, and deeds must be carefully watched and geared toward mystical awareness, divine love, and selfless service.

Sexuality and sexual thoughts direct one’s energy downward and outward. They’re not wrong — just contrary to what is needed for communion with God. Hence, Earl C. Pike’s story “The Path of God,” appearing in the same issue as Assagioli’s essay, seemed odd to me and unpleasant, while Susan Moon’s “Bodies” seemed totally in opposition to the spiritual discipline I wish to achieve. It’s not a matter of suppression — rather one of choice.

I’m sure your readers would disagree with me, and I respect your choice and theirs, but I will not subscribe. Your magazine doesn’t really describe or support the actual work of spiritual transformation.

Sharon Shively Novelty, Ohio

I’m constantly astounded when people cancel their subscriptions in a huff over an article. I don’t always agree with you or even like everything you print; that’s exactly why I read The Sun.

I bring The Sun to work with me; it provides much-needed respite from my work environment (a municipal police department). I read it at lunch, by the river, and in the bathroom.

Don’t change a thing.

Bill Taylor Sacramento, California

Please cancel my subscription. Although the writing in your magazine is good, most of the subjects are gloomy and depressing. I don’t need that dragging weight entering my consciousness.

P.S. Please tell Sparrow to stop moping about the world and get a job that will force him to think about something other than himself.

Laura K. Harmon Junction City, Kansas

I am returning this sample copy of your magazine and canceling my subscription.

I object to the profanity, the degradation of women, and your implied association with cults and other disgusting forms of darkness and negativity.

Retha Handa Escondido, California

I’ve just discovered your magazine. I am thrilled — and worried. Thrilled because after reading just one issue I know I’ve discovered a wonderful gem. Worried that too many people will find out about it. And I would hate to see The Sun go mainstream so soon after I’ve discovered its uniqueness. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve already told all my friends about The Sun and am passing around my back issues to as many as possible. But I fear that the same forces that brought it to my attention (I read about you in the July/August Utne Reader) will also bring such success that you will be forced to adapt your style to please a broader base of readers. I suspect that you have been around the block a few times and know what you’re doing. But I feel I have to do my part in reminding you that you have something extra special.

Steve Bruskin Studio City, California
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