I found the excerpts from Stephen Gaskin’s Monday Night Class tedious [November 2014] but thought Michael Thurman’s interview with Gaskin [“The End of a Sixties Dream?” November 2014] was fascinating.
Gaskin went to all the trouble of founding an intentional community called the Farm just to discover that some people are industrious, and some are lazy; some are committed, and some are just passing through. After many attempts to create new ways to organize authority and distribute money, the Farm’s residents ended up with a system in which a few people govern at the pleasure of those they serve and workers get to keep what they earn. Yet the whole undertaking is treated with wide-eyed wonder, as if some inscrutable truth has been discerned.
Gaskin seems to have spent a lifetime discovering what everyone in my small New Jersey hometown already knew. We could have saved him a lot of trouble.
In your excerpts from Monday Night Class Stephen Gaskin says, “When one is tripping on LSD, and on God-knows-what all week, it is possible, like Alice in Wonderland, ‘to believe three impossible things before breakfast.’ ”
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, Alice actually says, “There’s no use trying; one can’t believe impossible things.” To which the White Queen replies, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. . . . When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
What I find hard to believe is that The Sun did not check Gaskin’s quote for accuracy before publication.
It gave me a lift to see Stephen Gaskin’s name and photo in your November issue. I spent six weeks at the Farm in 1973, while on sabbatical from my teaching job in a Philadelphia high school. As soon as I got there I felt a strong communal spirit and jumped right in, accepting any jobs that were offered. I remember helping to make tofu using the special machinery they had for it. That six-week stay was the beginning of my search for a better way to live.
My cousin got me a gift subscription to The Sun several years ago, after I was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for a crime I did not commit. I was in the middle of a particularly depressing stretch when I read David James Duncan’s “The Unbreakable Thread” [November 2014]. The essay arrived just when I needed it most.
Like Duncan, I have had a deeply rooted love of nature since childhood. His heartfelt appreciation of the great outdoors has helped me understand what is awakened in me every time I hear sandhill cranes fly overhead or see groundhogs on the other side of the razor wire. Thank you for reminding me that my captors have only my body, not my spirit.
When I started reading David James Duncan’s “The Unbreakable Thread,” it reminded me of something I’d read thirty years earlier. Back then I was depressed, lonely, and unable to find work. I lived in a little apartment with my five-year-old daughter, and we were often hungry. On a visit to the local library, I picked up a book called The River Why, and it lifted my spirits so much that I read it twice. I recommended the book to friends many times in the years that followed, but I could never remember the author’s name.
So it was an unexpected joy to look in your Contributors section and find out that Duncan is also the author of the book I loved so much. I think I will manage to remember his name in the future.
The essay “November 1968,” by Brian Doyle [November 2014], touched me deeply, especially this line: “As we crossed the highway [my father and I] held hands for a few seconds just to be safe — the last time we ever held hands like that.”
I held hands with each of my seven children. It was both a show of affection and a way of keeping them close and safe. The last time I recall doing this was when my youngest son was eleven, and he and I were walking in the parking lot of a strip mall. I felt lucky that he wasn’t embarrassed to be seen holding hands with his dad.
I appreciate M.C.’s willingness to admit that she and her friends were wrong not to help the girl in the bedroom at the party [Readers Write on “Right and Wrong,” November 2014], but let’s use the proper term for what those boys were doing. When a girl is that drunk, consent is impossible. Those boys weren’t “having sex” with her. They were raping her.
Mark Leviton’s interview with Reverend Lynice Pinkard [“Dangerous Love,” October 2014] will no doubt be an eye-opener for many liberals who think that elected officials can turn our country around. Pinkard points out that politicians in both parties rely on big corporations for their livelihoods. The only way we can make positive change is through grassroots organizing.
There is no quick fix. It is a long-term commitment.
Where did you find the remarkable Reverend Lynice Pinkard? If only we could all understand the interrelatedness of everything and everyone on the planet the way she does, we might be able to maintain modern civilization for a while longer.
We are destroying the Earth’s capacity to support life as we know it, including the human race. Only the sort of worldwide cooperation Pinkard recommends can alter this path to destruction.
After reading the October 2014 issue, I found myself wishing I could feed the hungry, help the addicted, and comfort the abused. This issue humbled me, inspired me, and broke my heart.
I admire Katherine LaBelle’s courage in sharing her experience of sexual abuse [“A Boy’s Girl,” October 2014]. I want her to know that her words helped me heal. One part in particular touched my heart. LaBelle describes talking to a woman with an abusive boyfriend: “I tell her it wasn’t her fault, that there was nothing she could have done to deserve it. I tell her this not because it’s what I am supposed to say, but because it is true. I wonder, in that moment, why I never thought to say it to myself.”
I couldn’t have been the only person amazed by the statement “I didn’t have a physical dependency on alcohol” in Elli Miles Kade’s memoir “Last Call” [October 2014]. She then writes, “Every single day, for more than twenty years, I have made the decision not to drink,” paraphrasing what millions of alcoholics in AA say at their meetings. The saddest thing about her denial — or perhaps just ignorance of chemical dependency — is that she won’t have a conversation with her son about his probable genetic predisposition toward addiction.
Elli Miles Kade responds:
Mary Fell draws attention to a common misunderstanding: that all substance abuse is the same as addiction. Addiction has both psychological and biological foundations. My reckless alcohol consumption, on the other hand, was the result purely of poor decision making. I have chosen a life without drinking and was lucky enough to be able to do so easily on my own. Such a choice is often not possible for addicts. And it is one that must be continually remade. Conversations about genetic propensities, personal responsibility, and bad habits are a part of both my parenting and the work I do with at-risk youth.
My sister-in-law Becky introduced me to your magazine a year ago, and I quickly subscribed and began reading every issue.
Becky and I were both touched by the April 2014 interview with Katy Butler [“The Long Goodbye,” by Sam Mowe]. Becky was fighting colorectal cancer at the time, and she passed away this past spring with my brother at her side. They’d shared thirty years together. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for them to say goodbye.
Two months later, in the July issue of The Sun, I read a letter to the editor from a woman who shared how “The Long Goodbye” had affected her. When I got to the end, I started sobbing. It was written by Becky.