Issue 536 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


I was touched by Jared Seide’s description of Council, which encourages people to relate to colleagues and adversaries alike with compassion [“The Power of Story,” interviewed by Hazel Kight Witham, June 2020].

Our world has been torn apart by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. It’s hard to know how to repair years of broken relationships, but if every institution, community, and family applied the Council’s principle of listening to one another, it would be a good start.

Michelle Bentcliff Laguna Beach, California

In the introduction to her interview with Jared Seide, Hazel Kight Witham says that Council is comparable to the “talking circles” of the Iroquois, the “Fambul Tok” of Sierra Leone, and “what Quakers call Friends meetings.”

The practice of worship in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is not a sharing of stories or an unpacking of feelings. Quaker worship is waiting in silence for a divinely inspired message. Sometimes these meetings are completely silent, with no one being given a message to share. 

There is a Quaker practice known as “worship sharing,” a less formal gathering where Friends sit in silence while reflecting on spiritual quotes and related queries. Some might share their reflections with the group, but again, this should be distinguished from the “Friends meetings” Kight Witham references.

Lisa Erazmus Gulfport, Florida
Hazel Kight Witham responds:

Thanks to Lisa Erazmus for clarifying the practice of worship in Quaker settings. Though Friends meetings do not have the element of storytelling that Council offers, the two practices share a focus on honoring silence, speaking authentically, and listening from the heart.

Being a young, tall female, I was often asked, “Do you play basketball?” This annoyed me to no end, and I never took up the game. Ross Gay and Noah Davis beautifully explain the joy of basketball, however, and how it’s about more than just scoring points [“The Ramshackle Garden of Affection,” June 2020].

Later, as an adult, I took up rowing, which has brought me great joy. There’s nothing like eight hardworking teammates surging across the sparkling water. But Gay and Davis have made me feel that I might have missed out.

Thank you for sharing their correspondence. If we all wrote each other such heartfelt letters, it would be a more empathetic world.

Lori VanEtta Bellingham, Washington

Heather Sellers’s essay “Just This Breath” [June 2020] is the most impactful thing I have read regarding COVID-19. It amazes me that Sellers could pump this out, get it to The Sun’s editorial staff, and then into the June 2020 issue in such a timely fashion.

Linda Paul Boise, Idaho

When I read “We are not living to our full potential because the future has already been taken away from us by neoliberal capitalism” in Tracy Frisch’s interview with Nick Estes [“The Four Invasions,” May 2020], I cried a resounding “Yes!”

The income gap between the 1 percent and the rest of us is the root of many of our issues, from climate change to racism. We must vote to change this, or our sleep will become full of nightmares.

Nancy DuBois Decatur, Georgia

As someone who grew up on reservations and has served as a pro bono consultant to many tribes for twenty years, I felt Mark Leviton’s interview with Paul Chaat Smith [“Our Fellow Americans,” August 2019] was one of the best I’ve seen on the state of Native Americans. And now you’ve done it again with Tracy Frisch’s interview with Nick Estes. Estes touches all the bases on the mistreatment of Native Americans: the taking of land, the boarding schools, the prohibitions on speaking their language or practicing their native religions.

One thing that prompted the Standing Rock protest that Estes discusses was the original plan to have the oil pipeline cross the Missouri River upstream from Bismarck, North Dakota. It was moved largely because of concern about the impact of a possible leak on Bismarck’s water supply. But moving the pipeline meant the risk was just kicked down the road to where there were fewer people. Why the people in Pierre, South Dakota, didn’t join the Standing Rock protest is beyond me, as their water supply is at risk with the new crossing.

The Standing Rock protest should have focused on the larger issue: ending our dependence on fossil fuels. If we succeed in this effort, there will be no need for pipelines or oil wells. We need only to look to Sweden for an example of how to increase our reliance on hydropower, solar energy, and the like.

Rather than just protesting things like a pipeline location, we need to protest that we are not making enough progress on climate change.

Jim Murray Green Valley, Arizona

As a lapsed Episcopalian, I’ve always been bothered by the depiction of Mary Magdalene in theological texts. I once read an alternate version of her story that opened my eyes to the possibility she’s been misrepresented by other writers, including the writers of the Bible.

Kate Osterloh’s short story “Maryam and Yeshua” [May 2020] also provides an alternate, and very believable, version of Mary Magdalene’s relationship with Jesus.

I hope Osterloh will continue to contribute to The Sun.

Dawn Field Syracuse, New York

While studying the history of Israel and Palestine during a semester abroad years ago, I gained a deeply human sense of Jesus and the love he created and wielded in the face of oppression.

Reading Kate Osterloh’s stunning story “Maryam and Yeshua,” I was reminded of that immediacy and the divinity of relationships. I’m grateful for Osterloh’s compassion, mastery, and insight.

Kathryn Swartz Harrisonburg, Virginia

For her fresh perspective alone, Kate Osterloh deserves the highest praise. I’ll keep the May 2020 issue of The Sun on my religious bookshelf, among my far too many Bibles.

Charis Varnadfore Pawleys Island, South Carolina

Louise A. Blum’s “How It Ends” [March 2020] thoughtfully explores the years her friend lived with and eventually died from cancer. It brought much-needed tears of grief. I believe it will help others to have more compassionate interactions with loved ones who are experiencing cancer.

Bill Kelly Montpelier, Vermont

Sixteen years ago my daughter gave birth to her son. He had to be delivered four weeks prematurely so she could start a new, stronger round of chemotherapy. She later had a mastectomy and for the next fourteen years lived similar to how Louise A. Blum describes her friend’s life.

The medications, the sores and blisters, the emotions — they all brought back memories of my daughter. Like Blum’s friend K., she, too, was a Professor of English and a poet. Several times I had to stop reading to catch my breath.

Christel Krugovoy Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

Sparrow’s Guide to Meditation” [January 2020] is the only helpful instruction on this subject I have ever found. I don’t tend to re-read things, but I will keep this guide on my desk and review it every month or so.

Richard Briones-Colman Temecula, California

The Sun has seen me through so much. Thank you for being the only publication I could manage to read after my divorce, when books were way too long to sit through. For seeing me through single parenthood for twenty-one years. For being there while I pursued my doctoral degree. For the beautiful stories I shared with the thousand-plus nursing students I had the privilege of teaching. For so much more, for decades and decades of The Sun, for being one of my best teachers, I thank you.

I started to write an essay when I was young. My father asked what I was doing, and when I told him, he said, “Tell me one reason anyone would want to read what you have to write.” I had no response. The Sun has expressed everything that fourteen-year-old stopped herself from writing. For this, too, I thank you.

Toby Adelman Mars Hill, Maine

Like so many, my husband and I lost our jobs in March. We have very little savings, but one of the first things I did, as other expenditures were cut, was renew my subscription to The Sun. I want you with me during this pandemic. Everyone who depends on your magazine for comfort and awakening will know exactly what I mean.

Debbie Anne Taylor Portland, Oregon
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