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This morning I woke up well before dawn. As soon as I rolled over and saw the night sky, I wanted to go back to sleep, but the more I tried, the harder it became. Finally I slipped out of bed, made a cup of coffee, and stepped out my back door into the dark. I considered turning on the porch light, but the shadows were more inviting. The air hummed with the sound of crickets and cicadas. After a relentlessly hot and sticky summer, I was still grateful for the cool breeze on my skin. Being awake in the dark wasn’t so bad after all.
We recently received a letter from a subscriber complaining that The Sun is too gloomy, too sad, too dark. Our unflinching approach to challenging subject matter draws complaints as well as praise. This magazine does not seduce you with catchy headlines, then scramble to hold your attention with upbeat articles or glossy photos. Instead The Sun calls for contemplation. Its quiet design helps readers focus on the words. Its intimate and provocative writing calls for an open mind, an ability to tolerate uncomfortable stories, and at least a little compassion. Our lives encompass both light and darkness, and this magazine tries to do the same.
In the early 1970s founder and editor Sy Safransky left his job at a daily newspaper in part because he felt constrained by the limits of journalism. Facts are important, but they don’t necessarily illuminate deeper truths. What can we say definitively about our longing and suffering, or about the unexpected insights that change us? And what about the other aspects of our lives that remain a mystery? The Sun honors the unknown by avoiding sweeping generalizations or glib certainties. The darkness offers its own gifts: humility, reverence, empathy.
We ask more of our readers than many other publications — and we believe we give more in return. One reason we don’t carry ads is so we can publish writing that ventures into difficult terrain without having to be accountable to advertisers or corporate sponsors. We also respect our subscribers too much to interrupt their reading with sales pitches. We want The Sun to be a sanctuary from the distraction of advertising as well as the stories we see so often in the news — the ones that insist we are self-serving creatures, prone to violence and self-destruction. Fortunately that’s not the whole truth. We are also resilient beings capable of extraordinary transformation.
Any expert will tell you it’s not possible to publish a nonprofit, ad-free magazine without the backing of a major funder such as a foundation or an academic institution. But we’ve chosen to ignore that conventional wisdom and instead trust our readers. And year after year you have rewarded our trust by helping The Sun beat seemingly insurmountable odds. Your donations have carried us through a recession that sank much larger publications; the bankruptcy of a major distributor who owed us thousands of dollars; the disappearance of small bookstores that carried the magazine; and regular postal-rate hikes along the way. Each year we face uncertainty, and this one is no exception. Once again, we appeal to you to help keep The Sun in circulation.
Your tax-deductible donation as a Friend of The Sun will allow us to continue to pay writers and photographers decently for their work and to provide a platform for innovative, idealistic thinkers. You will also enable us to give the magazine away to teachers for classroom use, as well as to prisoners and others who have fallen on hard times. And we’ll continue awarding scholarships to struggling writers who want to attend our writing retreats. Most important, because we won’t constantly have to worry about the bottom line, we’ll be able to focus on making each issue as good as it can be.
Sitting on my porch, alone in the early-morning dark, I waited for the light’s return. It came in a steady, almost imperceptible shift: the emerging outlines of branches against the sky, the silhouette of a neighbor’s house. As night gave way to morning, the fading darkness embraced the dawn. And then the light was everywhere.
P.S. You can mail your donation in the postpaid envelope in this issue, or you can give online at thesunmagazine.org/donate. We’ll send a receipt for your records.