A man with the right scruffed-up beard and breadth of chest swaggered into the S and M dungeon that was my place of business, and twenty minutes and one grand later had my chin — still soft with the downy fluff of teen-girl skin — held steady in one paw while the other one flew at my face so hard and fast that I ceased to exist as the same collection of matter I had been the previous instant.
When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.
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I’ve been a scholar, a preacher, and a thinker. For a moment after reading Kate Osterloh’s story “Maryam and Yeshua” [May 2020] I was none of those things; I was free. Talk about extending the Christian narrative so it rests squarely in human experience, without insulting the tradition that precedes it. This story is the best thing I’ve read since the start of the pandemic.
Kate Osterloh’s “Maryam and Yeshua” spoke to my heart more than anything I can remember hearing at church in the past sixty-two years. I wonder if the author cried her way through the writing as I did through the reading.
The last two sentences of Andrew Boyd’s essay “Monotheism at Thirty Thousand Feet” [May 2020] form the simple, elegant description of faith I’ve been seeking my entire life: “Ultimately, the living, breathing heart of every religion — including my own jerry-rigged outlook — is a humbling reverence before the ineffable mystery of existence. And the message of love that flows from that foundational experience is universal.”
Andrew Boyd’s “Monotheism at Thirty Thousand Feet” made me think of my own spiritual journey, from growing up in a Roman Catholic family to my current “new age” beliefs about the universe. One quote, which I read many years ago, has guided me through this process: “All religions contain some truth, but no religion contains all the truth.” Amen to that!
Mark W. Moffett claims that chimpanzee societies in many ways “don’t seem at all like ours” because chimp “males are tyrannical” and “the females get beaten up and forced to have sex” [“One of Us,” interview by Mark Leviton, April 2020].
He seems unaware of the fact that this happens in human society all too often.
The tyrannical behavior commonplace among male chimpanzees is far in excess of what humans experience day to day. The discussion had to be trimmed to fit in the magazine, but I had explained how male chimps are “totally dominating” and don’t have monogamous relationships. My full quote included in the interview was that chimpanzee “females get beaten up and forced to have sex as a matter of course” (emphasis added). I hope that clarifies my remarks.
Two examples of kindness in your April 2020 issue stood out to me. In “Man and Mouse,” Ann Wuehler tells the story of a man who tries to save a hurt mouse, even getting help from a veterinarian. The man’s concern for this animal is especially touching because he works in a slaughterhouse.
In “Home Range” Chera Hammons tells of a wild mustang she has adopted. This mare is terrified by the fireworks being set off by Hammons’s neighbors. The author kindly spends hours sitting near the horse and talking to her, until the fireworks finally stop and the horse settles down enough to eat.
Stories like these are the reason I subscribe to The Sun.
Kelly Daniels’s opposition to automobiles [“No Accident,” April 2020] struck a chord. As a child, I kept missing the school bus, and I’d take my time meandering back to my babysitter’s house. As a teen I’d walk to school because I loved the quiet journey before my day.
When I attended the University of Zimbabwe, I walked the five miles to the city of Harare instead of risking a ride in the rickety hatchback taxis, which were always crammed with passengers. Hundreds of others did the same, talking to friends as they walked. I saw cars as a dividing force: by going fast, we miss out on communing with each other and with nature.
A bike is a compromise, but still far superior to a car. In my city of Anchorage, Alaska, bike trails connect most parts of town. When I ride, I say hello to people, contend with our vast array of wildlife, get a workout in the fresh air, and start my day with joy. And I don’t risk my life by driving.
As I read Kelly Daniels’s “No Accident,” I could hear the howls of protest at his claim that the true cause of carnage on the road is the car, not the alcohol. It takes bravery to fly in the face of policy that tries to control road death through draconian legislation regarding blood-alcohol content. People who have lost loved ones in accidents where alcohol was a factor often push for such legislation, but Daniels is correct. In the bulk of auto accidents, alcohol is not a factor.
While it is true that roughly 29 percent of traffic fatalities in the U.S. involve impairment, alcohol played a role in 100 percent of Kelly Daniels’s accidents. After surviving three and completing a court-ordered Youthful Drunk Driver Visitation Program, Daniels concluded that “drinking wasn’t the real problem. Cars were.”
My message to my children is: Don’t drink and drive. If you are impaired, call me anytime and I will come and get you. Do not get in a car driven by someone who is impaired. Attempt to prevent your friends from driving drunk.
It will take time to remove our dependence on cars. In the meantime we can save lives by not using those cars while impaired.
What was the point of Kelly Daniels’s essay “No Accident”? Yes, there will always be motor-vehicle accidents, and these sometimes cause deaths. People die in bicycle accidents, too, however, and not just when the riders are struck by cars. Many modern conveniences can cause death; should we eliminate them all? And motorized vehicles such as ambulances and firetrucks sure come in handy.
I agree we need more bike lanes, and that the environmental impact of this car-crazy nation should be considered more often. But none of this was part of Daniels’s cavalier attitude about drinking and driving.
To David Larson: I commend the parenting described in your letter, and I intend to do the same when the time comes for my son to take the wheel. Moreover, I am working to create a community in which we are not so frequently tempted to mix inebriation and driving. Even I, a former drunk driver and perennial bad-decision maker, believe we can do better.
To Anne Rankin: I frequently ask myself this question — What is the point? — about my writing and my life in general. I admit I am a meandering sort of essayist. For a more focused article on our reliance on cars, I recommend “What Have We Sacrificed for Transportation Independence?” by Arian Horbovetz, which is readily available online.
I can hardly look at Ken Kartes’s photo of the colobus monkey on your April 2020 cover. The haunting sadness that emanates from the eyes is the result of an unnatural life of isolation and incarceration.
More than forty years ago I was tripping on LSD with a friend at the San Diego Zoo. My altered state of mind opened me to empathy for the animals. I left shocked and anguished. I’ve never been to a zoo or theme park since, and I long for the day that this cruelty is ended.
After the Oregon stay-at-home order went into effect, I was able to read your April 2020 issue in the month it arrived — a luxury my normally hectic schedule rarely affords me.
I was struck by the letters from prisoners in this issue. They reminded me that, while I have many reasons to love The Sun, the one that calls me to donate each month is the complimentary subscriptions you offer to those serving time. It moves me to know that in our confusing, chaotic, consumerist world, there is a group of people — your staff and contributors — devoted to love, humanity, and compassion.
After twenty-five years of on-and-off attempts, “Sparrow’s Guide to Meditation” [January 2020] finally gave me permission to accept the blissful failure of it all. Fifth consecutive day, no regrets, no anguish, not looking back.