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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Breathing Into Silence

At the heart of our practice, behind everything else, surrounding everything else, is silence. We have little experience of silence in today’s world; the culture seems to value only more and more elaborate kinds of sound. Yet our sitting practice is silent, our retreats profoundly so. Enlightenment has been called “the great silence.” In this respect, Buddhist practice is at odds with our culture — at odds with every culture.

Confessions Of A Lifelong Therapy Addict

Suddenly, here I was, forty-seven years old, smoking cigarettes again.

Thrown into a new environment by a disorienting job relocation, I found myself among people who were, mysteriously for this health-conscious age, smoking. Equally mysteriously, I began to join them, at first not inhaling at all, but then, before I knew it, escalating to two fully inhaled packs a day. Given my near inability to breathe without wheezing, I was mystified as to how, when I’d quit some twenty years earlier, I had ever been able to cram in four packs of Lucky Strikes on a daily basis. Never mind the lung capacity to withstand that much unfiltered nicotine and tar — where in the space of twenty-four hours did I even find the time to go through eighty cigarettes?

In Defense Of Original Sin

The Neglected Genius Of American Spirituality

Longtime Sun readers are probably well acquainted with John Taylor Gatto’s criticisms of the public-school system, in which he taught for twenty-six years. He was named New York State Teacher of the Year before retiring to become one of compulsory schooling’s most vocal opponents. The following essay, however, represents a departure of sorts. Its focus is not what’s wrong inside the schools, but what’s been kept out of them — namely, spirituality.

The Search

 I spent the morning transplanting lilacs from an abandoned homestead to my garden. Over the past several months, my garden had become a refuge from a world that seemed a terrible failure. But now it was a struggle to pay attention to what I was doing: the world droned insistently overhead as plane after plane flew by and cruised along the mountains. A swarm of state aircraft were flying grids over the rugged valley where I live, looking for signs of Larry’s downed plane: broken trees, an oil slick in a lake, a signal fire. Like most others, I went about my work, expecting the search planes to find Larry and the children soon, refusing to indulge bad thoughts while there was still hope for good news.


Some Keep The Sabbath

I stopped going to church the night Diane Pearson announced God filled her cavities. That same night, in the spring of 1973, the police arrested my sister, Sheila. They said she put a pipe bomb under the bleachers where the cheerleaders sat during basketball games. It struck me as odd that God would plug the holes in Diane Pearson’s teeth and let the cops take Sheila, who, through no fault of her own, didn’t quite have a grip on things.

Sunday Driving

My mother thinks her boyfriend is a father figure for me. I think he’s a derelict. His name is David. I call him the Big D — D for Derelict. He’s always trying to help me with things.

“Let David help you with your homework, Noah,” my mother says, but I don’t want his help, so I tell her I’ve already finished it. Besides, I don’t need help. When I go into the seventh grade this fall, I’ll be in the advanced class.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write


My friends Steve and Carla once lived in a frigid, unlighted mine shaft in the Colorado Rockies overlooking Boulder. They had very little money, and supported themselves by scavenging in dumpsters for items to sell, use, or eat. Nonetheless, they had TVs, lamps, furniture, clothes, sometimes even a car. It was a primitive existence, but exhilarating compared to my relatively middle-class life.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Sy Safransky's Notebook

January 1998

My struggle to be more aware, to live each day fully, is no harder or easier no matter who’s in the White House. I’ll always be alienated from those in power; someone like Bill Clinton will always claim to speak for me. Still, I don’t want to be another discouraged radical wringing my hands. I look around: I see incredible beauty, incredible desolation. I need to remember that reality is bigger than anything I can say about it. When I try to pin a tail on the world, I always miss by a mile.

Musings From Our Founder ▸


This kind of split makes me crazy, this territorializing of the holy. Here God may dwell. Here God may not dwell. It contradicts everything in my experience, which says: God dwells where I dwell. Period.

Nancy Mairs

More Quotations ▸
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