I have wanted to write for many years, but I had not found an opening until reading “Baby Fat” [Issue 135]. I was actually quite startled to see this editorial, since I have recently been having private conversations in absentia with the editor on this very subject. Before one of the editor’s marriages he lost a lot of weight so he would look slim and unburdened. I am getting married in August and I have been wondering if I should do the same.
This subject of fat and thinking fat is so painful that it has taken me a week to write about it. I don’t have any brilliant ideas such as macrobiotics, breaking-free therapy, eating from one bowl, chewing a lot, regarding food as the deity. I do have some reflections:
Our vibrancy and basic goodness as human beings are not related to our perceptions of our body. These perceptions come from nowhere, have no abiding resting place, nor do they go anywhere. They are inherently empty as well as vividly real.
Food can express the richness of the phenomenal world. This richness contains aspects of sanity and neurosis, both of which we can afford to give away. In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, ganchakra, or feast, is a formal practice in which desire and sense perceptions are made part of the path.
There is no possibility of expressing kindness to others if we hate ourselves or feel that we have been cheated. Depending on external phenomena for our happiness and brilliance is questionable.
If it’s not one thing it’s another . . . so if our state of mind is poverty-stricken and fixed, then this would undoubtedly manifest in other ways even if fat were not the issue. It would be a real kick to be reborn as blond and slim and find that we really hate our hair; it would be an even greater kick not to care about food.
If we are so fortunate to be able to reflect on our lives before we drop dead, I imagine our perception of this whole issue would be rather different.
I, too, was somewhat nervous writing about this subject and publicly admit to eating two Peek Freans shortbread biscuits before writing this letter and one during the course of this very paragraph.
In the past few weeks Don Carlson and I have been on a “media tour” on behalf of our two books. Typically we are greeted politely by a host who feels he or she ought to give peace at least occasional coverage, but who has not taken the time you did to discover the extent to which our approach differs from what they’ve heard before. As the interviewer grasps the difference, on the air, he or she becomes more and more enthusiastic. Both Don and I have had the experience of being invited for a sixty-minute call-in show and, after the station gets a record number of calls, being kept for a second hour.
It reminds me of the extraordinary extent to which many people in this country have, without acknowledging it, given up. When hope is offered, it’s as if the ground begins to thaw and flowers begin to sprout. While it will always be necessary to analyze problems and diagnose sickness, all of us, especially as artists and editors, can help by presenting examples of what works, by eliciting positive visions, and by creating the conditions for wellness. Thanks for your help.
I’ve wanted to write to you for so long to tell you The Sun is one of my friends. Your Editor’s Note is like a personal letter each month. Your writing reminds me of how I often think. There is this effort to be helpful and generous and thoughtful toward others and yet keep a balance of fairness to oneself. How much giving is too much, painful, even harmful? How much concern for oneself is too much? Where does the balance lie between healthy self-interest and selfishness? Between honest, selfless giving and unhealthy self-sacrifice? What seems to happen to me is an endless series of giving, then holding out while I get what I need, then a return to giving again. I keep yearning for constancy — perfect balance — instead of understanding and accepting the constancy of change.
Recently, I’ve started taking karate lessons. An engineer friend at work, Indonesian-born, is a black belt and a fearless person. He’s shown me that I can defend myself and that I can act in my defense instead of feeling helpless and powerless. I’ve always been an athlete but I never learned to fight. It is refreshing to learn that I have my own personal power — not to apply force on others, but to have force of my own if needed. Simply, personal choice and freedom.
Thank you, Sy (and of course the entire staff), for The Sun. It helps keep me shining and sheds light on my dark moods.
The Sun is priceless, timeless, beyond words, beyond comparison, and fortunately is devoid of the cliches my tribute is composed of. Thank you for all your hard work.