Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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What most interested me about the interview “A Mindful Marriage” was the information about how Buddhist nuns are treated. Just her thinking of marriage led to Thanissara’s summary dismissal from the monastery, whereas Kittisaro, as a man, was allowed to make his own decision whether to leave.
For much of my life I have looked on Buddhism as the religion that comes closest to my way of thinking, but this interview reinforced my belief that all religions are suspect. One would think that Buddhist monastics would clearly see that the sexes are equal, but Buddhists can be as blind and shallow as Christians, Jews, Muslims, and so on. Unfortunately we humans too often focus on the outer show of religion and completely miss the “jewel in the heart of the lotus.”
In that same issue, the selection from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning was a fitting inaugural to the new Dog-Eared Page department. Whenever I’ve allowed myself to dwell on the horrors of Auschwitz, I’ve never thought of it as a place where anyone experienced a sunny day. I pictured frigid, overcast winter weather and prisoners suffering only darkness and despair. What a revelation to read how Frankl, having been stripped of everything human except pain, could find joy in a sunrise and a remembrance of his loving wife.
I enjoyed Nathan B. Kinkade’s letter about how his uncle sent him The Sun in prison and, after some initial disappointment, how Kinkade came to enjoy the magazine [Correspondence, January 2010]. I appreciated the courage and humility it must have taken for him to try something new, even if it wasn’t considered “macho” or “cool” in prison culture. Having served twenty-five years in a California state prison, I know that deviating from that culture’s norms can be fatal to one’s social status. I congratulate Kinkade for choosing what is right for him rather than what is easy.
Exploring the depths of the mind and the human spirit can be uncomfortable at times, but the ultimate gains are well worth it. Kinkade concludes that his uncle who sent him The Sun understands him better than he understands himself. I would say his uncle loves him more than he is able to love himself. But Kinkade’s letter indicates that he is discovering the means to love himself more each day.
I am an inmate, and a while ago I asked my uncle to get me a magazine subscription to something like Popular Mechanics or Car and Driver. Instead I got The Sun. I looked at my first issue for all of two minutes and decided I wasn’t interested.
A couple of months later I was transferred from San Quentin State Prison to Kern Valley State Prison. Due to overcrowding, I ended up in administrative segregation with nothing to do. So I picked up The Sun and actually started to read it. I have come to love it.
Before he sent me The Sun, my uncle ordered me a book — again not the one I’d asked for. I have since read it and love it, too. Coincidentally you had an excerpt from it in your January 2009 issue: Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I have come to the conclusion that my uncle might know better what I like than I do.