Hooray for Edward Allen’s “Burt Osborne Rules the World” [June 1996]. I have always appreciated the diversity you present in your magazine — without the influence of powerful advertisers. However, I do think that humor has been greatly lacking. What a thrill to read a real gut buster. It reminded me never to underestimate the power of a good laugh to help us down this long, winding road of life.
One dreary Monday morning, when I should have been getting ready for work, I instead started reading “Burt Osborne Rules the World.” Soon I was giggling and reading passages aloud to my husband. Then we were both laughing and wiping away tears.
The story reminded me of a student of mine who once convinced some unsuspecting girls in his sixth-grade class that a baggie of oregano and a clump of Silly Putty would combine to create an explosive, with which he planned to blow up the school. Perhaps his father also has an ulcer.
Nancy Huston’s “On Being Beautiful” [June 1996] was intelligent and thought-provoking, but there are a few points with which I disagree. In particular, I take exception to the notion that one can have a relationship based on love in such an unnatural, authoritarian, sex-segregated institution as a school, and to the idea that an adolescent can freely choose a loving relationship with her or his teacher. I also dislike her culturally relativist position with regard to the near lynching of the blond girl in Morocco. I think the incident expresses the degree of hatred for women that exists in certain parts of the world. Finally, blondes with big blue eyes are certainly no more beautiful than anyone else, despite the author’s apparent insistence to the contrary.
Aside from these criticisms, I felt her point about the repressive atmosphere currently gaining acceptance in our culture was well taken. I agree that the moralistic stance must somehow be avoided by all those concerned with human expression.
I was deeply touched by Tom Crider’s “Losing Gretchen” [June 1996]. My wife and I experienced the heartrending tragedy of losing our daughter Mary, who committed suicide in 1994. It is still painful to look at photos of her, especially those taken when she was a young girl receiving her first Holy Communion, or playing with her brothers and sisters.
I related to all of Crider’s feelings and experiences, but, unlike him, I have come to grips with the dilemma of God’s will and have found comfort in the belief that Mary’s troubles and pain are now over. Mary’s funeral service was the beginning of a healing process that will continue until the day I die. Death itself is no longer the dreaded unknown that it once was. In a way, I look forward to the day when I will once again be in my daughter’s presence and will come to know the answers to the many questions that I have regarding the circumstances of her death.
Although I have reached this understanding myself, I would like to affirm that there is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of anyone, or anything. When people offer such condolences as “she had a wonderful life, even though it was cut short” and “it was her time” and “it’s OK to be happy,” I can only thank them and then continue grieving the way I have to in order to go on living.
In “Losing Gretchen,” Tom Crider described my journey since the death of my son Mark in 1974. I’ve found the same “sad rapport” that Crider found with other bereaved parents, but never before has anyone shown me so exactly where I have traveled and how I came to be where I am.
Words often fail to convey the depth of our suffering. In my hospice work, I have had some success finding words that comfort terminally ill patients and their care-givers, but the effort to share my own grief over losing my son often leaves me mute. Crider has indeed given this sorrow words.
I would like to thank Dan Millman for his letter discussing money and spirituality in the May Correspondence section. I am on the threshold of earning and inheriting large sums and have found that I am desperate to make my friends understand that I’m not turning into “one of those people.” But, as Millman pointed out, accepting money into one’s life doesn’t necessarily invite aberrant behavior and gluttonous appetites.
My husband and I have been discussing exactly what we will do with all this potential abundance, and you know what? Our plans do not include anything in conflict with our deeply held ethical principles; this wealth may even help fulfill our dreams of providing alternative health care and conflict resolution to the children of New York.
I just read Heather Sellers’s “No One Said How It Would Be” [April 1996], and it has unearthed buried feelings from my own childhood. Somehow, I care about Georgia and her parents. As a father with children who will soon face puberty, I want to be supportive and nurturing, but not intrusive — never an easy task.
I think few people are writing this well today. I’m reminded of the marvelous distinction William Faulkner made between writing from the heart and writing from the glands. Sellers writes from the heart.
I appreciated this passage from Sy Safransky’s “Where the Parking Lot Is Now” [April 1996]: “The back-to-the-land movement, antinuclear marches, civil-rights protests, psychedelics, Eastern mysticism, natural foods, feminism, environmentalism — we knew these were connected somehow, and not just by a Woodstock soundtrack.” It reminded me of one of my favorite Einstein stories. Here it is, in the words of Dr. Ernst Jackh:
“As we were going in to dinner, I asked Professor Einstein: ‘Would you agree that it is no mere chance that your theory of relativity, Professor Freud’s psychoanalysis, the League of Nations and its World Court, and other phenomena of our time have developed together: that they are all an expression of the same revolutionary phase through which the contemporary world is passing?’
“Professor Einstein looked at me and said nothing for a moment, and then, ‘This synthetic vision is new to me. Let me think it over.’ During dinner I watched him, and I noticed that he was eating and drinking nothing, but was staring in front of him and meditating. After dinner, he came up to me and said, ‘You are quite right: I endorse your holism.’ ”
And I endorse Safransky’s holism. These things are connected, and we seem to be heading into a revolutionary phase of some kind as we approach the new millennium. It will be interesting indeed.
I have again been drawn to Daniela Kuper’s “Holy Ghost” [March 1996]. It’s tremendous to feel so much a part of a story from beginning to end. When I first read it, my whole body reacted: knees shaking, palms sweating, breath shortened. My cells were responding to the memory of having been married to someone just like the man in Kuper’s story. It was disconcerting to realize there are more people like him in the world.
As a resident and trained peer counselor at California’s state prison for women, I talk with a lot of dissatisfied, unhappy, and angry individuals. Most do not recognize how angry they are, or why. Many come from backgrounds of severe emotional and physical abuse, which they have every right to be angry about, but they are unable to deal with it, let go, and move on. Instead they are quick to judge and criticize, to blame, rant, and rave. “Why are you so angry?” I often ask. Wide-eyed and incredulous, each one looks at me and declares, “I’m not!”
Every month as I read the Correspondence section in The Sun, I hear that same underlying, unaddressed anger revealing itself in the form of criticism, intolerance, sarcasm. I want to ask these readers the same question: “Why are you so angry? What wound has been left untreated for so long that the mere ideas and opinions of others are so terribly painful to you?”
Anger breeds violence, and we have become a very violent nation. The United States has more prisoners per capita than any other nation in the world. Before we consume ourselves with our anger, perhaps we each need to pause and look deeply within, to see what lies buried there. The next time we find ourselves grousing about the neighbor’s lawn, cussing out the other drivers, noticing what’s wrong with everyone else’s religion, politics, or thinking, perhaps we should take a moment and ask, “What am I really angry about?” And then perhaps we can get over it, and learn to move on.
I’m sorry to say that I will no longer be subscribing to The Sun.
There are two precipitating factors to my decision. First, Sy Safransky continues to add his self-absorbed contributions, contemplating his mother’s death and whining about his marriage. And second, I agree with some readers that the content is predominantly male, and I’m tired of waiting for that to change.
I have found The Sun’s overall outlook to be bleak. I believe it must mirror Safransky’s own depressive tendencies. I don’t feel it necessary to watch him and some other contributors stare into space to find nothing of any redeeming value.
The photograph attributed to Gordon Stettinius in our July issue should have been identified as the work of his partner, Robyn McDaniels.