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The Sun Magazine

The Sun Interview

Experiencing Deep Time

Brian Swimme On The Story Of The Universe

Life in the universe evolved over the last 13 billion years. We’ve been shaped by the evolution of all the beings who came before us. Each step in that evolution was an act of creation, and those moments of creation are alive in us now.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

The Religion Of The Ad

For as long as three hundred thousand years, human beings have huddled together in the night to ponder and celebrate the mysteries of the universe and to find their way through the Great World they inhabit. No matter what continent the humans lived on, no matter what culture, no matter what era, the work of cosmology took place every year and every month and even every day. Around the fires on the African plains, in the caves of the Eurasian forests, under the brilliant night sky of the Australian landmass, in the longhouses of North America, the people told the sacred stories of how the world came to be, of what human beings bring into the universe, and of what it takes to live a noble life.


Start with a birth in northern Illinois, on a winter night more than sixty years ago. The mother, a sweetly retarded woman, has a difficult labor. There is no attending physician. Her husband knows of births; he has brought thousands of calves and lambs into this world, as well as four previous children by the woman who lies before him, her breathing heavy, her screams sending the children fleeing upstairs to hide in corners. After nineteen hours, she is delivered of the baby, a healthy son she names Arnell. My cousin.

Alice Laughs Last

Alice’s door is light blue and made of metal. It is not decorated, as are many of the doors I knock on in retirement homes and low-income apartments throughout this once prosperous New England town. Other doors have miniature hats with ribbons, or painted wooden geese: knickknacks left over from long lives, bourgeois attempts at gentility. Alice’s door, instead, is covered with dents, big and little, where relatives and neighbors have vented their frustration on its surface. It is hollow, and my knock echoes in the dark lobby. 


My Stupid Harmony

The Wish Family was my family dressed in red-white-and-blue outfits, performing songs written by my father and played by my older brother Todd on our secondhand piano, my sister Mare on a convicted uncle’s guitar, and my little brother Jay on a snare drum so beaten its skin had been taped. In the Wish Family’s original conception, my mother was supposed to dance, but then she suffered a nearly crippling flare-up of varicose veins. She had a good voice, though, and when she sang, she sashayed as much as she could. Sometimes, during practices, she grabbed us hard by the elbows and shoved us into what she called “formations.” I think she’d once been a cheerleader — I’m not sure. I do know she wanted to be a choreographer. There was one song, my father’s rip-off of “Moon River,” during which Jay and I were allowed to stand to the side while my sister danced. My mother had “choreographed” the whole deal.


Photographs by John Milisenda

I have been photographing my family for more than thirty years. The pictures here are of my mother, Rose, and my younger brother, Dennis. My father, Sal, died in 1991.

May 2001
Readers Write

Mothers And Sons

As a new mom, I had great visions of the sensitive young men my baby boys would grow up to be. My boys, I told myself, would never play aggressive sports like football. But after my first son cried and begged for an entire year to join his friends on the football team, I finally relented and soon found myself sitting in the stands and biting my tongue when the coach yelled, “Be tough! Don’t act like a girl!”

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Sy Safransky's Notebook

May 2001

L.’s daughter died last weekend in a car wreck. She was one of more than two hundred people who were killed last weekend in cars. If as many people had died in a plane crash, it would have been headline news. Yet deaths on the highways aren’t really news, except to friends and family, or unless someone famous is involved. It’s a tragedy for a woman to die that young. It’s a tragedy that her boyfriend, who was behind the wheel, had been drinking. It’s a tragedy that this is such an ordinary tragedy.

Musings From Our Founder ▸


“The first mystery is simply that there is a mystery, a mystery that can never be explained or understood, only encountered from time to time. Nothing is obvious. Everything conceals something else.”

Lawrence Kushner

More Quotations ▸
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