In two weeks I will defend my doctoral dissertation, in which I call for a return to a hermetic consciousness and a more intimate way of relating to the world, beginning with simple, Thoreau-like steps into nearby nature. And now Leath Tonino’s excellent interview with Jack Turner [“Not on Any Map,” August 2014] lands in my lap! How have I missed Turner’s mountainous rants until now? I am undone. I marveled at life’s synchronicities as I read with recognition and gratitude about Turner’s work. Thank you for this offering of dignity and fierce grace.
Jack Turner’s essay “Mountain Lions” in your August 2014 issue brought tears to my eyes. His description of standing before the caged mountain lion at a pathetic little zoo in India while a smiling idiot next to him threw popcorn in the lion’s face really got to me. The lion did her best to rise above the insult by showing no response, which only made the idiot increase his popcorn throwing.
Like Turner, I have seen the beauty, grace, and power of mountain lions in the wild. I was with him 100 percent when, beside himself with rage and grief, he lunged for that idiot’s throat. I’m sorry he had to leave that dignified animal in her squalid cage, but I’d like him to know that I appreciate his actions that day.
In his short story “Boys, Ten in All” [August 2014] Joe Wilkins got men and boys right. The accuracy of his depiction reminded me of Thomas Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward, Angel.
I was struck by Wilkins’s presentation of maleness as a kind of complex network with a natural logic and inestimable worth of its own. His story deepened my sense of wonder about the world.
“Boys, Ten in All” transports me to scenes from lives that could easily be my own. Though the details are spare, the emotional connection is deep. The story reminds me that we are all children trapped in progressively aging bodies. The beauty, pain, and elation of those early days are still there, just beneath the skin.
I respect your editors’ literary tastes, which is why I’m so perplexed by your decision to publish Steve Kowit’s poem “Progeria” [July 2014]. It feels obscene to compare the “curse” of normal aging to the very real curse of the aging-disease progeria. Those who’ve read Rabbi Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People know about the horror and heartbreak his whole family endured as his son, Aaron, wasted away in his early teens from that condition.
Why print yet another bitter account of life’s unfairness? How does that help any of us live? At the age of sixty-eight I’ve weathered challenges from prostate trouble to a brain tumor, and I’m grateful and happy to be here.
Bruce Holland Rogers nails the experience of being depressed in his essay “Alternatives” [July 2014]. I say this as someone who has survived more than six decades of severe clinical depression, medicated and not, with therapy and without — and also as someone who has planned and carried out a suicide attempt that would have succeeded if someone hadn’t found me by accident.
It is hard to describe the humiliation of waking up in a hospital after so much anguished planning and realizing that, to the list of my failings, I could add “failed suicide.” Recovery was a painful, embarrassing, messy process, and it was two years before I regained control over my life with medication and therapy.
I caution Rogers and others: if the medications you are taking to battle depression make you feel that your behaviors are “not you,” then you haven’t yet found the correct combination. When I was finally on the right drugs at the right dosages, I felt that I had become myself again, the functioning person I had once been. The drugs have not turned me into a happy man; they have simply cleared my head so that I can be happy.
The drugs I take could become less effective over time or prove to have terrible side effects or become unavailable (as in, no longer covered by my insurance), but at least I know what depression feels like, and I can recognize it if it comes back and treat it, or die trying.
Thank you for publishing David Barsamian’s wonderful interview with Noam Chomsky [“Undermining Democracy,” June 2014]. In light of the current surge of sectarian violence in Iraq, it could not have been more relevant.
The interview with Noam Chomsky is outstanding. Too bad that he is too old to run for president. Barack Obama sounded as if he might make a great president in the beginning, but he has disappointed me by selling out to big oil, the bankers, the polluters, and the corporations. There is still time for him to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline. Will he have the courage to do that?
According to Noam Chomsky, the U.S. is wickedly and deliberately trying to destroy us all with economic, political, and military terrorism, and our country has a vile structure of authority that venerates thugs and killers. He makes me feel personally accountable somehow as an American for the inevitable collapse and destruction of worthwhile society everywhere. The only chance of reform, he says, is if changes are approved by those in power — which is to say, no chance at all.
It’s irresponsible of Chomsky to fail to provide guidance. Why not one word about grassroots politics? Why not direct us to something he believes will help? Does being “provocative” include provoking despair?
Noam Chomsky responds:
I don’t agree with the characterization of the interview, but Klopovic is quite right that the way to respond is through grassroots organizing and activism, as David Barsamian and I have often discussed in print and radio, and to which we’ve devoted a large part of our lives.
Laleh Khadivi’s short story “Wanderlust” [June 2014] successfully humanizes the women behind the “Russian bride” phenomenon. At the end, however, I felt pity but no empathy for the women who do this in real life. Ultimately they want to use men as tickets to a different life, instead of pursuing education and better employment for themselves. If they attract unwholesome or less-than-ideal suitors, they have not earned a right to expect any better. They are not victims. It is a choice they have made.
My heart goes out to K.H. from Palatine, Illinois, who writes in the June 2014 Readers Write section on “Security” about her autistic twenty-two-year-old son. It’s a relief to know that I’m not the only mother who worries about who will take care of her adult child when she’s gone.
My own thirty-two-year-old son is a diagnosed schizophrenic. He is not dangerous or violent; he is actually downright sweet. But he can hardly tie his shoes and has a tough time functioning in the world. He takes medications for anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. He often gets frustrated and cries, saying that no woman will ever want him and he will always be alone. Knowing the challenges he will continue to face, particularly after I’ve died, leaves me heartsick. I can only hope that there will be more support for the nonviolent mentally ill in the future.
The Sun increases my connection to others I will never know but would like to. I always feel inspired by it. It’s never been sold as a “spiritual” magazine, but it educates me, challenges my beliefs, and encourages deeper investigations into what is real.
I have tried sharing the magazine with three friends and was disappointed at their lack of appreciation for it. But I have come to see that the intensity of the dialogue in your pages can be too difficult for some. Please know that there is an old hippie psychotherapist in southern Colorado who believes in, honors, and trusts The Sun.
Your June 2014 cover photograph of two young men with cue sticks — taken in 1960 by Clemens Kalischer — caught my eye. I felt as if I used to see faces like theirs all the time when I was growing up. Then I read that the photograph had been taken in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, my hometown — almost surely in the pool room on Main Street.
When I was a girl in the sixties, my family lived around the corner from that pool room. The place was off-limits to women, but I would walk slowly past and try to catch a glimpse inside. On hot summer days when the door was open, I saw a cloud of smoke in the dark room. Later, when I was older, I avoided the block to escape the catcalls and wolf whistles from the men leaning in the doorway, cigarette packs rolled into their T-shirt sleeves. The pool room had become dangerous to me.
In the mid-1970s, when women were marching for their rights, I decided to infiltrate this bastion of male supremacy, just to see if I was bold enough. I walked alone past those men at the entrance, prepared to face down whatever lurked within.
The place was smelly and dismal. It held no great secrets or wonders — just a few pool tables, a pinball machine, a soda cooler, and a girlie calendar. A bald man in shirtsleeves looked up with surprise from behind a counter. I bought a pack of Salems and walked out laughing.