The good-looking one, the one in need, the one that almost was
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Back when cameras were one thing and phones another, my mother had to take film to the store to be developed before we could see our photos. Whenever she returned with fresh prints, my sisters and I eagerly thumbed through them. Then she arranged the pictures on adhesive pages in a family album, discarding only those that were hopelessly out of focus.
These days I take photos with my smartphone, which allows me to immediately inspect them and decide which ones to crop, alter, or delete. I’m left mostly with close-ups of smiling faces, the best of which I circulate online as proof — to myself as much as to family and friends — that I am living a good life. I share snapshots of my children laughing together instead of bickering or ignoring each other; of my husband and me in a rare moment of playful exuberance while on vacation; of our garden after it’s watered and freshly mulched instead of wilting and overrun with weeds. From what I see on social media, it seems that other people are as selective as I am. Sometimes, after scrolling through so many celebratory pictures, I start to feel as if I am somehow lacking — until I remind myself that, despite appearances, no life unfolds as a series of picture-perfect moments.
It’s only human to want to present our best face to the world, but The Sun strives for more than that. Rather than publish relentlessly upbeat content, we seek out writers who are willing to be vulnerable on the page, who would rather be honest than envied, and who expose uncomfortable truths rather than obscure them. Our interviews feature philosophers and scientists, activists and spiritual teachers, and other independent thinkers who dig deep into complex issues, going beyond divisive rhetoric and short-term fixes to speak to our common humanity.
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When I visited my parents last summer in New Mexico, my father and I took an evening hike. As the sun sank behind the mountains and the air cooled, we talked about our relationship, which hasn’t always been easy, and we expressed appreciation for each other. Later that night I pulled a photo album from the bookshelf. Among snapshots of holidays and birthdays and vacations I came across one of me sitting alone in our old apartment, my face sullen and tearful. I must have been about thirteen at the time. I didn’t recall why I was upset, but I did remember my father trying to convince me to join my sisters on the couch for a family portrait. When I’d refused, he had taken this shot instead. Seeing it stirred up memories of feeling misunderstood and resenting my father. It was definitely not the sort of picture I would share on social media, but I was glad my mother had preserved it in the family album, because the photograph reminded me that we’re all able to change, and that though adversity may harden our hearts, it can also deepen our compassion. Our lives are so much messier than the polished images we’re inclined to share with the world — and so much more compelling. Beneath every shiny surface lies a different kind of beauty. That’s what we try to uncover with each issue of The Sun.
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