After graduation, after a divorce, after an election
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This is the 250th issue of The Sun. Given the life expectancy of most small journals, I’d like to offer a prayer of thanks. But on which knee? To which God?
I’ve always been reluctant to identify myself with any spiritual path. I don’t even like to use the word spiritual, because it divides the world into what is and what isn’t.
Also, it’s hard to talk about what is most important to us without cheapening it — even cheapening it with honesty. That’s one argument for keeping our devotions private. Besides, even if you knew whether or not I meditate regularly, how many times I’ve taken psychedelics, how dogeared my copies of the Seth books or A Course in Miracles are, why I have a picture of Neem Karoli on my wall, or how frequently I pray to Jesus, what would that really tell you?
Being Jewish, I’m hesitant even to mention Jesus. I sometimes imagine that he belongs to people like Pat Robertson and the Pope; that they have him locked up in their churches and their tight, knowing smile. But, whatever he may be to Christians, Jesus was also, I believe, the greatest rabbi and, therefore, my brother — even though, when I say his name, I feel incapable, inarticulate; I don’t know who, or what, I’m talking about.
That’s the problem with trying to express the inexpressible. There are those who think it’s perfectly reasonable for God to communicate directly with television evangelists, or to appear to Moses in a burning bush. But maybe the gods and goddesses are speaking to all of us, all the time. Maybe the angel I glimpse over my shoulder isn’t just a figment of my imagination — at least, no more so than my shoulder. Or this magazine.
After 250 issues, I haven’t stopped putting my shoulder to the wheel, but I still can’t give a satisfactory answer when asked what The Sun is “about.” Then again, I can’t say what life is about. If I love the question more than the answer, perhaps that’s because I know good storytelling depends as much on what’s left out as on what’s said. I’m reminded of a story sometimes told by Jack Kornfield:
The master Ryokan never preached to or reprimanded anyone. Once, Ryokan’s brother asked the master to visit his house and speak to his delinquent son. Ryokan came but didn’t say a word of admonition to the boy. When he prepared to leave the following morning, he asked his nephew to help him with his shoes. As the boy laced Ryokan’s straw sandals, he felt a warm drop of water on his head. Glancing up, he saw Ryokan’s eyes were full of tears. Ryokan returned home, and the wayward boy changed for the better.
I loved Sy Safransky’s rumination on reaching the 250th issue of The Sun [“A Prayer,” October 1996]. When he asked himself the question “What is The Sun about?” I thought of a possible answer: The Sun is about asking what The Sun (and everything else) is about.
All that can be said at the end of the day is that he’s still in love, The Sun is still there, and we’re still reading; the dialogue between writers and readers is as natural as an old couple’s last few words in bed before falling asleep.