Issue 116 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


I read your editorial “Gift Horse” with much interest. Having gone through dental school and an oral surgical residency, I encountered many of the same types of “offerings” and hype from a myriad of pharmaceutical houses. I also had/have idealistic and altruistic feelings about these types of practices. So deep in my heart I can identify with you and your wife.

I must take issue with the way you presented the problem. First of all, the Eli Lilly Company need not have been singled out so dramatically. I wondered as I was reading — though I am as often as not turned off by their marketing schemes — “Did Sy really research his claims, and how much does he honestly know about the Lilly Company and what else it does besides hand out stethoscopes?” Are you aware of the background of that particular company, how they developed insulin for diabetes and made provisions for possible disasters by having a secret unassembled plant somewhere to be able to continue the world’s output of insulin, or how much energy these people put into developing penicillin? I have no qualms with your criticism, but I was taken aback by the lack of balance.

Nobody’s perfect in this imperfect world. Though the pharmacy houses aggravate me more than they please me, I am constantly amazed at what can be done with drugs. I do everything I can to treat my patients without them, but there comes a time when one must begin to integrate ideals with real world concepts: there are some diseases that will respond better to a chemical than to something else.

As an aside, so what if Eli Lilly put their name on their gift? Don’t you like it when I leave THE SUN in my waiting room — or would you rather we tear the name off the page and present just the ideas?

Needless to say, your magazine continues to stimulate me. Though I don’t always agree with what you present, I willingly support your vision of community exchange.

Bernie Bildman, D.D.S. Birmingham, Alabama

Your editorial in Issue 114 raises issues that are complex and subtle.

Taking your words at face value, I wince at the abrasiveness of your tirade to Norma. Like you, I have two marriages behind me and am now in a relationship which I am trying to use as a method of spiritual practice — using her as a mirror to see where I need to work on myself. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that to try to do the dharma of another is a perilous path. In Western terms, I think that means that we should not lay our trips on other people. There is a fine line of distinction here as well as some subtle implications. It is perfectly dharmic to discuss and be perfectly clear on what you see as the moral issues in the situation provided the other person is willing to give their attention, hear you and contribute their responses so that a true dialogue takes place rather than a one-sided monologue or harangue.

To push your views insistently when no response is forthcoming is, I think, a violent tactic and in a subtle way implies a lack of respect for the other person and lack of trust in their ethical judgment. In the end we must let others make their own choices.

I have no doubt that the motive behind the gift of the stethoscope was impure: the desire for profit rather than humanitarian concern. But I question whether it necessarily follows that there is any value in rejecting a gift which can be put into the service of humanity.

So-called inanimate objects — a stethoscope for example — carry within them certain subtle qualities, an aura, or what the nineteenth century Theosophists called “magnetism,” consistent with the motives and purity (or lack of it) of the donor. Most Western materialists will laugh at such concerns as superstition. That is their privilege.

On the other hand, few of us in the West appreciate the occult implications of the power of the human will for good or evil. Intention is the key. If our intent serves the law of love — to alleviate human suffering, to injure no living being, to do only good — then we live in that consciousness.

So in an occult sense, granting that the gift stethoscope was magnetized with selfish and impure vibrations, the loving and humanitarian consciousness with which it is subsequently used is what is really important. It is the consciousness that we bring to our acts that is important and powerful.

Seeing Eli Lilly engraved on it could even serve as an ever-present reminder to follow the dharma.

Dick Slusser Boulder, Colorado

Sy’s attack on Norma’s integrity is blatantly chauvinistic and inexcusable!

Scratching off or covering over the “Eli Lilly” engraving on the metal shank of the stethoscope with a piece of colorful tape and getting on with the more important business of becoming a doctor certainly would have been in the best interests of any struggling medical student.

Picayunish, misogynistic male mind-fucking will not only destroy Norma’s career, but torpedo her marriage as well.

Despite THE SUN’s continual droning on and on month after month about love, understanding and all that higher consciousness crap, it cannot even cure itself of the here-in-the-world-now sexism.

The Left’s obvious paralysis regarding sexism begins in the bedroom!

Royale Landy Seattle, Washington

I had to tell you how much I appreciate the work you do. A friend introduced me to THE SUN several months ago and it has contributed significantly in reducing my sense of loneness. I particularly enjoy the Editor’s Note — the opportunity to “listen in” each month as you confront/make peace with the parts of yourself that I tend to condemn or shy away from when I find them in myself. Thank you for your willingness to share not only your light, but your dark places also. In offering yourself, you are also providing a foothold. It’s a universal fight to overcome our peculiar prejudices and fears, and I can oftentimes see myself, with a little more clarity and tolerance, mirrored in your reflections.

Laura Garrett Seattle, Washington

I keep reading THE SUN and I keep hoping that eventually you will get the idea that I am right — that all negative emotions are pathological, and, more important, optional. So many of your writers insist that negative emotions are essential, desirable, healthful (e.g., when you feel anger, get it out — which makes more anger, or even worse, your anger gets ignored, so you then go into depression). Honest, no matter how crazy it sounds, I am as certain as I can be of anything that anger and depression are the cause of cancer. Can’t you convince yourself that nothing is worth dying for with a malignancy?

What Went Wrong” (Issue 110) is touching about your first wife but survival from cancer of the breast requires two things: awareness of the patient that she should have gotten cancer; and giving up the anger toward the male or males behind her anger and depression.

Anger is useless, makes you more stupid than necessary, gets results opposite to what you want, and is associated with depression in the production of all the mental and physical ills of the world. What is, should be, and what was, should have been is not denial. Anger and depression are the results of denial of reality as you perceive it.

See the cost: pick a disease you do not want, say, for example, cancer of the rectum with the usual colostomy with its baggies and leakage down the leg. When you get angry or depressed — at the earliest possible moment, e.g., when you note the emotion arising — reach down, pat your tummy where the colostomy will be, and say to yourself, “Is this worth getting cancer for?” Personally, at age sixty-five, I use the initials CCU as a telegraphic message to myself — they stand for Coronary Care Unit — and when I start to get upset about anything, I say (silently or aloud) CCU, which means, is this worth having a coronary for as well as how would having a coronary improve my situation or the situation which is bothering me? It takes years of practice to perfect it, but it works, and you start getting better as soon as you recognize anger and depression as useless, dangerous, and optional.

I am healthy and remain amazingly happy. Join me. Do not make the mistake of wanting your problems solved first and then you will be happy. Do it the other way: first abandon anger and depression (throw them out, not work them out), then you will become more tranquil and happy, as well as better at manipulating your own reality and that of others, and then, and only then, will intransigent problems either disappear, become soluble, or become “shelvable” for a period. Not all problems disappear, which is fortuitous in its insistence that we become experts at solving problems: it is the difficult ones that are the most valuable in making us grow up.

W.C. Ellerbroek, M.D. Sunset Beach, California

Boy, are you going to get letters. You’ve struck the irresistible topic. I haven’t even finished reading the pornography issue yet and already want to respond to it.

First of all, pornography’s appeal to males in particular must be linked to males’ built-in capacity and drive to impregnate as many females as possible. The number of sperm per ejaculation (it’s something unbelievable — millions?) might be a measure of the number of female images a man can respond to in his lifetime. For all practical purposes, that appetite is inexhaustible. Pornography and centerfolds just catch some of the overflow. Especially in the case of the faithful family man David Guy describes, whose only vice it is, pornography could be a harmless outlet for that natural drive which he had decided — in service of higher values, or for fear of getting caught — not to indulge in real life. Through Penthouse et al., every stag can have a whole imaginary harem of tender harts and hinds.

I don’t understand why people have so much trouble distinguishing between inoffensive and offensive pornography. But that is probably because I don’t have an S & M fantasy. To me, pornography portraying insolence, degradation, or humiliation (and of course child pornography) is offensive because it would seem to stimulate or sanction those ways of viewing/treating another. (And one of the most terrifying of mass killers, Ted Bundy, admits in the book The Only Living Witness that he learned his trade from violent pornography; before he discovered it, his illness had remained confined to voyeurism.) Portrayals of purely sexual activity of all sorts would be fine. I know this is naive of me; it’s because I just don’t see bondage as sexual. Hustler stimulates my gag reflex.

To return to biology: women’s sexual interests seem more personalized, but this again is nature’s opportunism, not the moral superiority of women. It struck me early on that “romance is female pornography.” I’ll bet if Masters and Johnson strapped one of their arousal-measuring devices to a woman reading Rosemary Rogers, the thing would go off the scale. Those books have sticky pages, too. And a young woman’s “falling in love” — weaving a whole wedding fantasy around physiological lust — can be every bit as predatory and impersonal and “objectifying” as a man’s fuck fantasy. Besides, his exploitation of the woman only lasts minutes; hers can last a lifetime. (You get what this means? It means women can be “animals” and get pedestalized for it — while men get forty lashes.)

It’s curious, for me anyway, that female confusion of lust with love is coming undone around forty, when the reproductive capacity is also waning. At twenty, I thought lust was love. At thirty, I was capable of physical lust as a pure and separate thing — but on the side. Romance still held center stage. Near forty, it’s much more interesting: I’m experiencing a lust for souls that can be got at through bodies.

Why hasn’t anyone made a romantic historical movie which is witty, suspenseful, full of action, and also hard-core? Imagine “Tom Jones” or “Gone with the Wind,” with real sex in it! And not every other minute either; let there be some build-up to it, and some relief from it, like what makes it so great in real life. Somehow the costumes would be a big part of the turn-on. I’d like to see a hard-on in a pair of Revolutionary War soldier’s breeches, and petals and petals of petticoats flung back from a woman’s center. I think this movie is going to be made by a woman.

Annie Gottlieb New York, New York

On “Pornography’s Child”: seems to me lusting’s not something to feel guilty about — it’s what comes built in. We do it too, us “girls.” The tragedy would be if we all didn’t. Feels good (but frustrating too sometimes). I don’t see that it’s necessarily demeaning to anyone. Inability to see beyond is. I subscribe to Playboy, and masturbate to the pictures. They’re sexy! I don’t think it’s trying to be “erotic art”; it’s beautiful women looking sexy and I respond sexually despite my own heterosexual bias. Nobody’s chained or being beaten up. Rarely do they look “hard.” I once read (and we now get into David Guy’s “Notes”) a book (The Secret Record by Michael Perkins) which said: you don’t read mysteries because you’re going to solve or commit a real one, or sci-fi because you’ll go to Mars, or porn because you’re really going to get locked in a room with fifty beautiful women all of whom want to get their hot little hands on your sweet body, but a guy can dream. Brutality is a different thing. And, from what I know, that element composes a lot in various porns. But the rest — whatever percentage that may be — is different and I don’t see that it’s that bad. It’s not art, surely, but it’s probably nothing bad either. How many people never see naked people! To think this stuff’s “real,” or how it “should be,” or a substitute for relationship — these are problems, but the same is true of any escapist compulsion.

Lily Pond Albany, California
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