Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Daniel McDermon’s interview with Yascha Mounk on the “erosion of good-faith discourse in America” [“Sticks and Stones,” April 2022] should be required reading for every American. If we don’t assess our deliberate and sustained mistreatment of each other and intentionally choose better words and more-civil behaviors, our society may go extinct.
I always enjoy the Readers Write section, but the April 2022 selections on “Concerts” were especially good. The stories took me back to September 1964, when I was fourteen and my dad and I made the drive from Tennessee to Jacksonville, Florida, to see the Beatles in concert. Back then tickets must have been first come, first served, because my dad dropped me off at the Gator Bowl around noon — eight hours before the concert.
I met another fourteen-year-old in line. Her name was Kay Sistrunk, and we ended up sitting together near the front of the crowd of screaming teenagers. The Beatles were great, of course, and Kay and I decided to go steady, regardless of the fact that we lived five hundred miles apart.
We talked on the phone a few times after the concert and exchanged letters. I even wore a cheesy pin with her name inscribed on it to school. But as most teenage sweethearts do, we drifted apart, and I never saw her again. I wonder where she is now.
As an undergraduate I studied both psychology and media literacy. When I learned how advertising can manipulate people’s emotions to get them to buy things, I felt rage and despair. While I read “Something in the Water,” Tracy Frisch’s interview with Robert Bilott [March 2022], those feelings came flooding back.
I am both heartbroken and deeply grateful to The Sun for bringing to the fore this kind of atrocity — where profit is chosen over people — so that we may all see how we’re being treated by major corporations.
Rather than being read Grimms’ fairy tales or the lives of the saints when I was young, perhaps I should have been allowed to watch Star Wars or Batman. It would have better prepared me for the kind of evil that exists in our world — the sort Robert Bilott describes in his interview with Tracy Frisch. Thank you for this enlightening and lifesaving piece of journalism.
I have lost several people in my life to suicide. Over the years I have often thought of them and the joy they brought to my life. Without much success, I’ve tried to comprehend the decision they made. John Frank’s essay “Bearing Pall” [March 2022] cut through my confusion. He writes, “Grandpa got misty, then nodded and said, ‘He’d had enough.’ ” It’s a simple and healing understanding of a loved one’s death by suicide.
Nicholas Dighiera’s essay “Kong” [March 2022] made me realize that I do not yet have the skills or emotional honesty to write about my own father in a way that I consider adequate of him. Dighiera’s essay was worth that bit of enlightenment.
I came of age in the 1970s, and Jon Kral’s photo on the cover of your March 2022 issue instantly took me back to those days. It’s an incredible shot, full of whimsy, yet with all the style of a posed studio portrait. The visible grain of the black-and-white film only adds to the charm.
When I read The Sun, I typically fold the cover back and look at a single page. This image has rendered me incapable of folding it out of sight. It’s a visible joy to have lying about.
I received the March issue of The Sun yesterday and haven’t moved the cover from my sight since. I am mesmerized by the painterly grace of Jon Kral’s photo.
I take issue with the suggestion posed in Daniel J. Levitin’s thought experiment [“Gray Matter,” interview by Mark Leviton, February 2022]: that some Jews who survived the Holocaust might have had a personality characteristic, such as being “a little pushier or a little more paranoid or a little better at thinking ahead,” and this gave them a better chance to escape.
This misunderstands the Holocaust at its most basic level. There are plenty of examples of Jews who were more prescient or better informed or who had more resources than others. But those characteristics didn’t stand a chance against the event’s massive sweep and intensity. Even if a particular personality trait aided the escape of some, there were just as many escapees, perhaps more, who were simply in the right place at the right time. We may not like that randomness, but it’s integral to understanding the Holocaust.
Since reading Mark Leviton’s interview with Daniel J. Levitin, I’ve been absorbed in Levitin’s book Successful Aging. I never thought neuroscience could be so riveting and accessible and transformative. Each issue of The Sun is great not just for what’s within its pages, but for what it leads me to, as well.
I am seventy-two years old. In American society I am considered ancient, forgetful, and irrelevant. James Hillman’s essay “Memory: Short-Term Loss, Long-Term Gain” [The Dog-Eared Page, February 2022] restored my faith in myself and showed me the beauty of reminiscence. I am grateful to Hillman for confirming the value and wisdom of the memories I now recall with both joy and sorrow.
Kathleen Founds’s essay “My Thoughts Are Not My Thoughts” [February 2022] hit me hard. Her struggles with depression and inner dialogue are familiar to me, and the cumulative effect of her writing is profound. Observing my own thoughts through mindfulness and meditation has been life changing, but Founds’s phrase “the soul is that which chooses” has bestowed the agency I have been yearning for.
I have read “Winter of Flying Walruses” by Dave Zoby [February 2022] four times. The first, I was lying in bed alone at midnight, and the staples dividing the magazine caused it to fall open on the essay’s title page.
Recently divorced, I haven’t had a crush on a man in a long time, but after that midnight read, I wanted to call Zoby. Instead I checked out his Instagram account and saw photos of him posing with a fish and his dog. I wanted to Bumble him, but apparently the dating app is not available in my region.
Zoby is the type of man I would love to meet: one who can put words down on a page. Too bad Casper, Wyoming, is such a long way from Jerusalem.
Your February 2022 cover portrait of Agustina Reyes Márquez is mesmerizing. Thom Goertel took more than a phenomenal photo; he captured a woman’s spirit.
I was fortunate to work for someone who has a library of Sun issues dating back to the 1990s. I spent many lunch breaks poring over essays, interviews, spiritual insights, and the wisps of wisdom in the Sunbeams section.
This boss gave me a gift of a Sun subscription last year, and I can’t help but feel disappointed. The newest issues seem to have less timeless wisdom, fewer spiritual accounts, and more one-sided political anecdotes. I find myself feeling glum that our culture’s obsession with newness has penetrated your once-timeless publication.
The Sun is everything I want in a literary magazine: a mix of writing that is thoughtful but unpretentious and an approachable size and layout that is attractive without being intimidating.
After a long week your January 2022 issue made for wonderful Shabbat reading. I particularly enjoyed Leath Tonino’s interview with Douglas Christie [“The Desert Within”] on the contemplative tradition of the desert monks and nuns. Though I hail from a different religious tradition, I found the interview fascinating and powerful — perfect food for thought on my own mostly solitary day of rest.