I begin this letter with a frank admission: the other morning while waiting for the Stove King (who had called at 7.30 to wake me) to come driving in, I ordered two egg sandwiches, and do you know that in the early morning confusion that smiling rose in the greasy fist who took my order forgot that I wanted whole wheat bread?
Man, how many egg sandwiches does one have to order to get whole wheat bread without asking? I mean, I felt like a nobody there in the roar of the grease pit, smell of the crowded theater at Breadmen’s, at eight o’clock in the morning, and the Stove King late. There I sat at the crowded front counter reading yesterday’s bad news, already feeling the two cups of mud boiling in my bowels ( oh by the way, readers of The Sun might be glad to know that my hemorrhoids are much better now that I graduated from college), and there sat my hardly toasted white bread shining my early morning dumbness back at me. At my rather awkward look of disgust, the deliverer offered to take them back, but my inherent guilt of American wealth and all those starving children somewhere refused to waste the stuff.
Besides, both my heartburn and my morning’s anxiety were reaching alarming levels so I stuffed those sandwiches of white bread, processed orange cheese, fried egg and tomato and mayonnaise (which I also didn’t order) down the hatch. All the while I stared through the cover of the December Sun taped to the front side of the pit trying to find some dream to project my mind out of those seemingly gloomy morning circumstances.
Well, my new year’s vision then and there took me to a place and time when and where our family could come together in love and harmony and in full recognition of the unity that we are. A mystical image of Christ had just come to me as us gathered in circles of dance and song in green pastures graced with our being together, when in walked the Stove King very hungry, grumpy, late, humming some late 50’s pop song and anxious to begin deliveries and such.
Though it’s taken over two days for that stuff to clear my intestines and for me to get around to writing this letter, the vision still holds on. I dare to dream, to admit to myself that Breadmen’s doesn’t quite make it for me, and to ask anyone in The Sun community who reads this January letter and has or knows of land well suited for a large family gathering and whole life celebration in May, to get in touch with me.
Love to you all,
The Sun responds:
Next time, send back the sandwiches.
Curious to receive your Sun subscription notice today. I’ve been pondering the recent Sun for the last few days, and have contemplated writing you a letter. So here it is.
My feelings about The Sun have been ambivalent. More specifically my feelings about Chapel Hill and The Sun are ambivalent, love/hate, etc. The Sun brings to me bright reminders of the people-places that I now and always will love. Beyond that, I usually learn something from The Sun. I enjoy much of the poetry. However, I have had a running criticism concerning The Sun for quite awhile now. To a certain extent, The Sun directly feeds a very particular cluster of ego definitions/life styles, thereby limiting its scope and literary universality (if there is such). I mean it seems that at times The Sun caters narcissistically to its own immediate reflection, i.e., the particular egos of Chapel Hill including of course your own. It is not exactly that I disagree with a somewhat localized approach to journalism. In fact, I’ve realized that one of The Sun’s most important functions (at least so far) is to “serve” the Chapel Hill & N.C. areas. I do feel that this function becomes dangerous, however, when celebration and support of particular ideologies verges on absolute affirmation, which is by definition blind to its own limitations.
So, when I saw the cover of the November Sun I said, “Well, Sy’s gotten down to an openly, specifically personalized journalism.” Then I read the articles. They are personalized, but this time universally personalized. Who am I to say what is universal anyway? I know that I am moved, excited, actually heart struck by the articles on/for Sara. Yes, in a particular, personal way because I love you and Priscilla (and without really knowing you), because I remember sitting on your porch seven or eight months ago discussing your pregnancy, because birth is birth.
I still maintain my critical eye, but I send my love and support. I send my love particularly to Sara Elizabeth who happened on us all, and did so two days earlier than the date of my birth.
The Sun responds:
Thanks for your letter.
I’ve often heard Chapel Hill described as some kind of hippie retirement home, not of the “real world,” a place of drifters and seekers. It’s a criticism most often made by people who themselves do not feel a part of the “real world,” who live forever poised on the edge of spiritual discovery, drifting, seeking. No wonder they lash out at others like them; and leave Chapel Hill; and return, as they often do, when they discover the “real world” is inside themselves, and not “out there.”
I grew up in New York, another town about which it’s easy to say anything, and be right. I had my own ideas about the city; it wasn’t until I left for two years, and returned, that I realized New York was whatever I chose to make it. I’m not speaking metaphorically. We create our own reality; the only line between the inner and the outer world is the one we insist on drawing.
What I’m saying is that Chapel Hill can no more be defined in terms of a “particular cluster of ego definitions/lifestyles” than you, or I, can be defined by what we think or how we look. Or is the hippie on Franklin Street more important, as a symbol, than the busted-up wino a half block from this office? Or the shopkeeper working 14 hours a day to make a living? Or the elderly couple to whom Chapel Hill really is a retirement village? All of these people are the living tissue of a richly complex community; for everyone who wraps himself in a spiritual ideology, there’s someone who wraps himself in the flag. So, which “cluster” are we talking about? Even among those of us you might arbitrarily lump together in the “counter-culture” there are few obvious similarities: some smoke dope, some don’t; some travel, some stay put; some think themselves different from “ordinary” people, some bask in the glorious ordinariness of being human.
If The Sun fails the larger human family — by creating walls where bridges are needed; by making style more important than Life — it has failed, but I don’t think The Sun does that. I know we slip. Two years ago, I wrote, in our issue on Communication, “Spiritual seekers can be as oblique in their references to karma and spirit and consciousness as Nixon trying to explain the missing tapes. The Sun has been guilty of this, too. In the heat of composition, we can forget that to some readers, Don Juan is a Latin lover, not a Yaqui sorcerer.” We do that kind of thing less and less. We deserve to be criticized — as specifically as possible — when we do.
In many ways, The Sun is no longer a Chapel Hill magazine. We have many readers elsewhere in North Carolina, and around the country. It is not our support of any “particular ideologies” that makes The Sun important to them, I hope. It is, instead, our emphasis on common human values, universal and personal, no “isms” or pictures of the guru. Each issue is intended to challenge — not only you, but us. To coax it forth is a labor, hard and joyous, because, as you say, birth is birth. Keep your critical eye on us, and let us know when we don’t live up to your expectations, or ours. My love to you (without really knowing you, but who knows anyone? We love the eternal mystery in one another), and a smile from Sara, who loves us all.