I’ve logged more experience than most with simplicity and the complexity you discover inside simplicity, minimalism and asocial behavior, endurance and landscape.
Here is the truth: I think some deep wisdom inside me (a) sensed the stress, (b) was terrified for me, and (c) gave me something new and hard to focus on in order to prevent me from lapsing into a despair coma — and also to keep me from having a jelly jar of wine in my hand.
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In this lovingly restored old home where The Sun resides, my office faces the First Baptist Church across the street. Founded in 1865, the church is a stately brick building with Grecian columns and stained-glass windows. Most weekday afternoons, a yellow school bus groans to a halt outside my window, and kids get off and run into the building. Some days a hearse parks out front, and men in crisp suits and women in high heels and hats climb the concrete steps and enter the vestibule. Later everyone pours out through the white double doors and onto the sidewalk.
In all the years I’ve watched from my desk, I’ve never seen a funeral at First Baptist that didn’t draw a crowd. After the service, the sound of people gathering on the street drifts through my open window, and I am heartened to hear ribbons of laughter amid the murmurs of consolation. It reminds me that even in our sorrow there can be moments of joy.
Long ago, when I was an earnest English major with an arsenal of highlighter pens, I thought literature, like a funeral, was a formal, solemn affair. Then I picked up a copy of The Sun and discovered that writing could also be lively and honest about life’s messy truths. Each month The Sun’s readers and writers come together for a conversation that is deeply personal. Sometimes the stories are about painful losses; sometimes they are about unexpected gifts. The magazine doesn’t shy away from our individual suffering, but it also honors our common humanity.
Because a meaningful conversation requires our undivided attention, The Sun chooses to forgo advertising. It’s not that we have anything against ads — it’s just that displaying them in our pages makes no more sense to us than placing them in a forest, or our bedrooms, or our houses of worship. Our aim is not to sell products but to create a sanctuary from distractions. So instead of counting on ad revenue to help us make ends meet, year after year we rely on the generosity of our readers.
The survival of an independent, ad-free publication is always improbable, but for forty years readers have helped us beat the odds. Of course, there’s nothing like a hearse parked outside my window to remind me not to take anything for granted: not my own existence nor the existence of this magazine. Last year, largely due to rising print and postage costs, we barely ended the year in the black, and then in January we received news of another postal-rate increase. Thanks to readers’ donations we’ve weathered worse: numerous recessions, the sudden bankruptcy of a major distributor, the disappearance of countless independent bookstores that once carried the magazine. And, with your support, we’ll beat the odds again.
If The Sun enriches your life, and if you want this magazine to endure, then please send in your contribution today. With your tax-deductible donation as a Friend of The Sun, you’ll take a stand for independent publishing and the power of the written word. Your contribution will ensure that we can meet unexpected challenges. It will help us to pay writers well and to give away the magazine to prisoners and those who have fallen on hard times. And it will allow us to focus on producing the best publication we possibly can.
One recent afternoon I was reading in my office when the church doors swung open and a wave of voices rolled across the street. My heart surged at the sound. It was a chorus of compassion, a reminder that we are here to comfort one another and to be grateful for every moment. Even when we feel most helpless, we can gather and bear witness to the pivotal events of our lives. That’s what we try to do in each issue of The Sun. Thank you for making this possible.
P.S. You can give online at thesunmagazine.org/donate or send your check to The Sun, 107 North Roberson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Your donation is tax-deductible, and we’ll send a receipt for your records.