Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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New readers are often surprised that The Sun has been around for eighteen years. It’s unusual for a small magazine to survive this long; some would call it a miracle.
When asked how we’ve managed it, I’m reminded of the story about the man who needed to cross the sea. His teacher wrote the word God on a piece of paper, folded it into a piece of cloth, and slipped it into the man’s pocket. “Don’t be afraid,” the teacher said. “Have faith and walk on the water. But remember, the moment you lose faith you will drown.” The man walked easily on the sea, but suddenly he had an intense desire to know what was inside the cloth. He opened it and found only a piece of paper with the word God written on it. “What is this?” he said. “Just the word God?” As soon as doubt entered his mind, he sank.
The Sun, too, is sustained by something mysterious, though I don’t try to name it. Words like God or grace or love don’t tell us much. They’re like dream fragments, or postcards written in a foreign hand. I know I’ll never understand them — not in so many words.
Of course, there’s nothing mysterious about meeting deadlines and payroll, about reconciling faith with practical necessity. Spiritual warrior — and worrier — I sit and stare at numbers: small numbers with angry red faces, big numbers with arms open wide. Perhaps the real miracle is that The Sun endures in spite of my doubts.
These are, after all, difficult times for small, nonprofit organizations. During the last year, we had to eliminate two part-time positions. We switched from second to third-class postage for sending the magazines; it’s slower but less costly. Still, it’s hard to make ends meet. There’s the temptation to try to save The Sun with direct-mail gimmicks, or fill each issue with ads for vitamins and self-improvement techniques. I’d rather risk the fevers of a different kind of ambition. Not because there’s anything wrong with advertising (or vitamins; I take them every day). But I want The Sun to be a two-way conversation between writer and reader without interruptions, without the siren call of bigger and better intruding on every page.
As a nation, we’ve heeded that call, and where has it gotten us? When we deny our true abundance — friendship and love and a sense of community, these amazing bodies and this amazing planet — we end up rich and impoverished, or poor and impoverished. To a starving person, Gandhi said, God appears as bread. Yet when our bellies are full, and we’re hungry for a sense of purpose, for a whisper of compassion, do we know how to feed ourselves?
Each month, we prepare a meal, hoping it will nourish. Bent over the stew pots — stirring, tasting, dishing out bowl after bowl — I try to remember we’re fed by questions no less than by answers. Perhaps you linger at the table, turning over a few sentences by Paglia or Hillman or Gatto or Sparrow, or a stranger’s story in the Us section — oddly, your story, too — or a Sunbeam from someone long dead.
Maybe, in hard times, the kind of sustenance The Sun offers is more important than ever. I invite your support as A Friend Of The Sun in making sure the kitchen stays open. Your yearly or quarterly donation, no matter how modest, will help keep the ovens fired, the windows foggy, the clatter going on late into the night.
Please send your check to The Sun, 107 North Roberson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516.
Your donation is tax-deductible, and you’ll receive a receipt for your records.
Indicate whether this is a one-time donation or a quarterly pledge. Quarterly donors will receive a postpaid return envelope each quarter. Pledges may be cancelled or changed at any time.