A Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky | The Sun Magazine
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A Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky

The Best Of The Sun Volume II

This second volume from The Sun’s first decade is a glimpse into the magazine’s early years. “Subtle, sometimes mystical,” the Los Angeles Times says, “this anthology never disappoints, alternating whimsical essays with soulful contemplations.”


Table of ContentsX

Sy Safransky

A Short History Of Part Of North Carolina: With Some Names Changed To Protect The Innocent, The Guilty, & The Dead
C.B. Clark

Seeing It This Way Helps
Better Than Being A Highway Frisbee
Hal J. Daniel III

Black Reaper
Lorenzo W. Milam

The Elements
David C. Childers

Parents, Now And Then

Three Photographs
Priscilla Rich

Death Bed
From Burnside To Goldblatt By Streetcar
J.W. Rivers

New York Diary: Amazing Flesh
Sy Safransky

My Father’s Garage On Christmas Night
Michael Shorb

Elizabeth Rose Campbell

The Funeral
David Citino

Childhood Fears
David C. Childers, Paul Linzotte

Stealing Souls: Thoughts On Photography
John Rosenthal

Sy Safransky

On Women
Cindy Crossen

Living At The Edge
Barbara Street

Good Marriages & What Is Marriage?
Adam Fisher, Sparrow, Bo And Sita Lozoff

A Few Sky Things Explained
Steven Ford Brown

Hard Learning: A Diary
Stephanie Mills

In Defense Of Van Gogh
Leslea Newman

The Lucy Syndrome
David Koteen

My Body
David Searls, Linda Burggraf, Brian Adler, Ami Bourne

You Eat It
Sy Safransky

Death And Other Cures: An Interview With Dr. Lobsang Dolma
Sy Safransky

My Father’s Dying
Virginia L. Rudder

Gently Changing: An Interview On Cancer And Health With O. Carl Simonton
Lightning Brown

A Father’s Death
O. Carl Simonton, M.D.

Man Is
Irving Weiss

The Silent Mind: An Interview With Jehangir Chubb
Sy Safransky

Pat Ellis Taylor

O Marie, Ҫoncue Sans Pêché
Kathleen Snipes

Memoirs Of A Professional Killer: Some Sea Stories From The Big Deuce
Art Hill

Man Of Silver, Man Of Gold
Leslie Woolf Hedley

Christopher Bursk

Three Photographs
John Rosenthal

We’re All Doing Time: An Interview With Bo And Sita Lozoff
Howard Rubin

What’s Happening?
Who Understands Me But Me?
Jimmy Santiago Baca

We Are People: Interviews With Inmates Of Hillsborough Prison
Ben Chavis

Jimmy Santiago Baca

Morning Shastra
James Magill

We Killed Them
Ron Jones

The Depths Of A Clown: An Interview With Wavy Gravy
Howard Jay Rubin

News From Hacker City: Some Considered Opinions On The Electric Bass
Richard Gess

Three Stories
Thomas Wiloch

Hot Dogs
Karl Grossman

Californicated, Santa Crucified
Rob Brezsny

Personal stories by our readers.

Something Does Push The River
David Spangler

Growing Older
Adam Fisher

The Weather This Morning
Roger Sauls

A Medical Doctor Diagnoses Reality
Irving Oyle, M.D.

The Eleventh Man
Leonard Rogoff

Autobiography No. 34
Carl Mitcham

Three Photographs
Priscilla Rich

Of God, And My Father
David M. Guy

Seeing The Gift: An Interview With Hugh Prather
Sy Safransky

How I See God
Virginia Mudd Madden, Kathleen Snipes

Francesca Hampton

An Interview With Ram Dass
Sy Safransky

Random Notes On Spiritual Life
Adam Fisher

Read an ExcerptX


A Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky would, we knew, be a big book, in spirit as well as size, a generous collection of the best of the essays, interviews, stories, and poems that appeared in The Sun during its first ten years.

Searching for months through the back issues, choosing and discarding, sifting through a decade of words, then sifting some more, we came up with the best, the very best. It was, indeed, a book big in spirit — but it was, alas, too big: more than 1,000 pages, with as many words as War and Peace. Faced with the prospect of yet another round of tough decisions pitting author against author, best against best, we chose instead the time-honored solution favored by parents and politicians: we’d publish two big volumes. Volume I came out in the Spring of 1985. Volume II you’re now holding in your hands.

Since the publication of Volume I — and, in part, because of it — The Sun has found a widening audience. People are drawn to the magazine because it speaks to the human heart, to our deepest possibilities, to the power of love. It does this not in the language of transcendence — not in new-ageisms and glossy truths — but with down-to-earth writing about people’s lives, their sorrows and passions and fears. No less a magazine of feelings than one of ideas, The Sun speaks to who we really are, not who we sometimes think we are. Our lives are a mystery more subtle than words can tell, though words can hint at the mystery.

The Sun’s emphasis has never been solely on polished writing or literary reputation. Some of the people who write for the magazine are well-known; others are unknown. As editor, I’ll sometimes pick a story that’s a tad amateurish over one that's better crafted. So much “good” writing is soulless, thickening the heart with lies and sharpening the symbols of hate. The Sun favors writing — whether rough-around-the-edges or expertly styled — that embraces human contradictions, honors our inherent innocence, helps us awaken from our clouded dream of fear. It favors questions rather than answers. Not all our questions can be answered, and The Sun asks its readers to live with those questions. As Rainer Maria Rilke put it:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Weaving together our stories, our visions, our hard-earned truths, The Sun reminds us that no single viewpoint, no one guru, no easy answer can possibly honor us as much as our own searching. We live the questions. We smile ruefully, knowing there’s a basic unity to all things, but that we can’t name it without distorting and diminishing what it is. So we find other ways to express it: words that point the way (since we know we’ll be on this path a long, long time); words that hint and puzzle and delight; words that let us glimpse, as if from a distance, who we really are; words in an odd and lovely little magazine.

Here, from the first ten years of The Sun, are some of the best of them.

Sy Safransky
The Sun

Stealing Souls

by John Rosenthal | March 1983

A few years ago, on a cool Fall afternoon in Central Park, I sat down at a bench and watched an odd man playing the drums. He was playing on the lip of a tall waste-basket, drumsticks in his hand.


by Sparrow | June 1983

MY PARENTS’ FRIEND, Joe Gottchauk, took a picture of them soon after they were married. (My father was just a little older than I am now, my mother younger than my sister.) They’re sitting on a couch in a room with just one light, looking together at a book. Their heads are turned down, but you can see my father’s sensitive sailor’s face and my mother’s shy farmgirl face. My mother’s hair is long and loose, as I’ve never seen it in my life, and there is about the photograph a strong feeling of romantic love.

Seeing It This Way Helps

by Hal Daniel | April 1984

For every dead armadillo
we see between here and
New Orleans there are two,
maybe three, standing
behind the chain fence.
They stare, claws hooked
in the links, at their
brothers and sisters who
have been crushed by the
radials of the interstate.
Their bicameral brains
understand some armadillos
die so others may live.
The survivors cogitate
their own existence when
they see their kin smashed.
They stare through the
early morning fog with
topaz eyes. The images
they see stay within their
now wise minds. They pass
ON INTERSTATE 59 gene to
their baby armadillos.
The armadillos that get
run over don’t pass on
anything but a death smell.
Those that watch the splats
in the pea soup pass on
something worthwhile to
their offspring — the
and that’s what it’s all
about. The same goes for
cats, dogs, and raccoons.
I’m not sure about possums
and squirrels. Even stupid
fish getting ripped into
the air leave behind some
bright school mates and

Here’s Lake Pontchartrain.
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