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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Another Appetite

That’s one way to nourish one’s mind and body, and for most Americans today it’s considered the best way. Fill the belly with meat, potatoes, Big Macs, shakes, cokes, coffee — keep stuffing it in. And if there’s no food about chew gum, smoke a cigarette. And words are the food for the mind — no matter if they are empty; keep the noise coming in. Music, too, has become meaningless background filler to keep the mind feeling “full.” Our sounds are as nutritious as our food, and it’s no wonder so many eyes around us seem dead behind their dark glasses.

Shelter: an introduction

When we hear that half of Guatemala’s population is homeless because of the recent earthquake, our usual questions about shelter — whether to live in town or in the country, in an apartment or a farmhouse— are thrown into sharp and disquieting perspective. The cruel irony of so many Americans on diets in a starving world is paralleled by our indulgence in revolutionary new architectures (everything from ecologically questionable domes to the towering monstrosities of the World Trade Center in New York) in a world where “home” can be anything from an abandoned car to a refugee tent. We may be indignant about hollow doors in new houses, built by carpenters forbidden by their unions to use a hammer heavier than fourteen ounces (which might speed up construction and make some union men expendable) and paid for by 30-year mortgages whose accumulated interest comes to twice the value of the house. But all this means about as much to a family living on the streets of Calcutta as the price of a Rembrandt to a blind man. Shelter is relative; there is no right dwelling, except what’s right for the individual.

Another Appetite

Golden-headed Rebecca gleefully carried her little red bench through the door of her cardboard house, closed all the “shutters” and secured the entrance and was all alone in her canton retreat. Flashback — five years ago in Tiajuana: a whole village constructed of cardboard crates, corrogated paper, stacks of newspaper and sheets of tin where blackheaded children ran in and out of the makeshift doors. When asked why the people didn’t build more permanent shelters, I was told that the river annually floods the area, destroying the homes anyway.

An Introduction

Death and birth is the theme of this issue. There are no more powerful, and less understood, words in the language. To demythologize one, we must demythologize the other. Yet our very vocabularies stand in the way.

Another Appetite

While nursing my rosey two-month-old, I read of the death by starvation of a three-month-old child in — no, not India — but within the “Golden Triad,” in Winston-Salem. The child lived one block from a federally-sponsored health center and her mother qualified for ADC benefits and food stamps.

Channel One

I imagine that you associate other people’s desire of you as determining your own worth. This is common for most homo sapiens, as we were raised to believe that what other people thought was good or bad, desirable or undesirable, loveable or unloveable were the correct criteria for evaluating our own behavior. Since the approval (which is often confused with love) of parents, relatives, teachers, peers was so vital to our well-being, we learned to believe that what they thought was right for us was right. Not only did we believe it, we felt it. Behavior that many of us spontaneously enjoyed as children, such as loud boisterous playing, eating and sleeping when we wanted, and touching our genitals often met with disapproval and control. These once enjoyable activities (and anyone whose childhood memory is open can remember many ways that his or her activities were repressed — some successfully and some not) no longer gave us pure spontaneous pleasure. Fear, anxiety, guilt tainted the activities that we knew would meet disapproval, or else, consciously or unconsciously, we stopped doing what was deemed bad. Some of this control is necessary for children to survive safely and sanely into adulthood, but, as we all know, much of our parents’ manipulation of our free expression was stimulated by their fear and insecurity.

Tabula Rasa

The mind is at birth a clean sheet, a tabula rasa, wrote John Locke, This column is yours. Sincerity, rather than writing skill, is the only requirement.

Another Appetite

July is the month when our bi-centennial fever may just do us in, when the epidemic of ashtrays, napkin rings, underwear, shower curtains, pendants and key chains — all emblazoned with Old Glory — will reach a tacky peak, and those who profess to be our leaders will succumb to the flatulence symptomatic of celebrations of the Fourth.

Channel One

Power is acting, doing, performing, producing. Power is directed energy. Power = desired, directed behavior → goal accomplished. Power is the hammer striking the nail, the axe cutting the tree, concentrated force changing the environment. Power-full people change (manipulate) the environment to meet their needs. Power is neither good nor bad. Power is focused ego producing or preventing change. We are children of America: power is our creed.