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The Sun Magazine

Religion and Philosophy


Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Blind Angels

Pittsburgh, at the end of another terribly hot day in an unending string of terribly hot days, is a forge, the air like damp, tepid gauze. The people on the streets look stretched, desperate, short-tempered. My poetry reading, part of the eighteen-day Bloomfield Sacred Arts Festival, is being held in the Bloomfield Art Works, a small, un-air-conditioned gallery on Liberty Avenue. Its walls are covered with “sacred” art, mostly paintings, photographs, and drawings of angels. The subjects possess that characteristic ethereal androgyny, that feathery beauty that has become cliché. They are intriguing, but, in the main, I’m tired of angels.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Notes From A Desert Sanctuary

I’ve just driven 550 miles from LA to a monastery located in the desert a couple of hours northwest of Las Vegas. The moment I spot the Celtic cross atop the adobe chapel and pull in, I see that one of my lessons for the next week is going to concern the gap between expectations and reality. I’ve been picturing a flowering-cactus-festooned oasis; instead, the property is next to a state highway and is home to more double-wide trailers than cactuses.



Master Shaku Soen liked to take an evening stroll through a nearby village. One day he heard loud lamentations from a house and, on entering quietly, realized that the householder had died and the family and neighbors were crying. He sat down and cried with them. An old man noticed him and remarked, rather shaken on seeing the famous master crying with them, “I would have thought that you at least were beyond such things.” “But it is this which puts me beyond it,” replied the master with a sob.

Irmgard Schloegl

Sy Safransky's Notebook

November 2000

I can start the day by criticizing myself for not having gone to sleep earlier, for drinking that extra glass of wine. True, true. But this kind of truth doesn’t set me free. Why not be thankful, instead, that I opened my eyes and got out of bed? To take this for granted would be the day’s first mistake.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Traveling Mercies

Sam is the only kid he knows who goes to church — who is made to go to church two or three times a month. He rarely wants to. This is not exactly true: the truth is he never wants to go. What young boy would rather be in church on the weekends than hanging out with a friend? It does not help him to be reminded that once he’s there he enjoys himself, that he gets to spend the time drawing in the little room outside the sanctuary, that he only actually has to sit still and listen during the short children’s sermon. It does not help that I always pack some snacks, some Legos, his art supplies, and bring along any friend of his whom we can lure into our churchy web. It does not help that he genuinely cares for the people there. All that matters to him is that he alone among his colleagues is forced to spend Sunday morning in church.

Sy Safransky's Notebook

April 2000

When I’ve fallen under the spell, when I’m convinced that God doesn’t exist, that love is an illusion, how do I remind myself I’m profoundly mistaken — not just a little wrong, but as wrong as I can be? As wrong as Rush Limbaugh. As wrong as the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.