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The Sun Interview

Hope Dies Last

Studs Terkel’s Enduring Conversation With America

I’m known as an oral historian, but I still consider myself a disc jockey. I’d play all these records: Andrés Segovia, followed by Ravi Shankar, then Dizzy Gillespie. And I’d interview musicians. Andrés Segovia told me this story: There was an audience of five thousand in Ann Arbor to hear him, one old man — I call him “old”; I’m ninety-three, and he was eighty at the time — with a guitar, a classical guitar, delicate, and they leaned over listening as he played a Bach transcription. After the performance, one of his admirers came up to him and said, “It was wonderful, but you play so softly. I had to lean forward and listen so hard.” “You know what I did next time?” Segovia said to me. “I played even more softly, so that he listened even more.”

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Cleaned Out

One of the steps AA asks of recovering alcoholics is to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory” of themselves, and now, alone in my motel room, I find myself fairly obsessed with my stuff: how much of it there is and how long it will last. I have my laptop and a suitcase containing T-shirts, jeans, and khakis, three long-sleeved shirts, one pair of shorts, vitamins, and an assortment of toiletries. I have a tote bag stuffed with books, which will, along with the hiking boots I have brought for weekends, turn out to be the most useless items in my inventory.

The Sun Interview

Dangerous Love

Reverend Lynice Pinkard On The Revolutionary Act Of Living The Gospels

For me, churches exist only to serve people and planet. The church is not an empire, a way for leaders to build monuments to themselves, for congregants to take pride in the curb appeal that a lovely edifice affords. The church is not a building. The church is an extension of Christ — literally Christ’s body — and an alternative to the militaristic, consumerist, alienated way of life that has become the norm.

The Sun Interview

The Temple Of Reason

Sam Harris On How Religion Puts The World At Risk

If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology. I would not say that all human conflict is born of religion or religious differences, but for the human community to be fractured on the basis of religious doctrines that are fundamentally incompatible, in an age when nuclear weapons are proliferating, is a terrifying scenario. I think we do the world a disservice when we suggest that religions are generally benign and not fundamentally divisive.

Fiction

Victory

In their letter to the weekly newspaper, the Klan hadn’t said what time they planned to arrive, just that on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination they would be in Churchill passing out literature and demonstrating. When I called around town to find out what people were planning to do about it, the consensus in the white community was that we should ignore them.

The Sun Interview

Throwing Away The Key

Michelle Alexander On How Prisons Have Become The New Jim Crow

Yes, during the original Jim Crow era Whites Only signs hung over drinking fountains, and black people were forced to sit at the back of the bus. There was no denying the existence of the caste system. But today people in prison are largely invisible to the rest of us. We have more than 2 million inmates warehoused, but if you’re not one of them, or a family member of one of them, you scarcely notice. Most prisons are located far from urban centers and major freeways. You literally don’t see them, and when inmates return home, they’re typically returned to the segregated ghetto neighborhoods from which they came, leaving the middle class unaware of how vast this discriminatory system has become in a very short time.

The Sun Interview

Quiet, Please

Gordon Hempton On The Search For Silence In A Noisy World

Certainly people have their preferences regarding music and other sounds they like to listen to, but I do believe there is an “ideal” soundscape, and I’ve given it a name: “sonesia.” It includes the sounds of wildlife, such as songbirds. It includes the gentle sound of insects and the sound of distant water. (Up close, rushing water can mask the other sonic elements of the environment.) All of these sounds are indicative of grassland, a savannah. That’s where humans evolved, along with songbirds, which are the best indicator of an environment’s suitability for human prosperity: where songbirds live, there is also sufficient food for humans.

The Sun Interview

Redneck For Wilderness

Earth First! Cofounder Dave Foreman On Being A True Conservative

I think that civilization and real wilderness can coexist in North America and elsewhere, but we’ve got to allow room for wilderness and wild creatures. A favorite word of mine is wildeor, which goes back to the time of Beowulf and the origins of the English language. It means the “self-willed beast.” From the very beginning, civilization has tried to domesticate the beasts, and if we can’t domesticate them, then we destroy them. We’ve got to allow land to be wilderness, which means, in Old English, “self-willed land.” Letting some things have a will of their own, not trying to control everything — that is the challenge.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Foreign Coasts

It’s already sweltering at sunrise on this August Sunday morning in Norfolk, Virginia. My Lebanese grandfather is taking my brother and me fishing for blue crabs on the Elizabeth River. He stands on the dock and drops the oars into the flat-bottomed rowboat.