"How To..." Appears In 7 Out Of 10 American Magazine Titles. How Come?

Despite all their screens and earpods, Americans continue to read magazines by the scores every month. As you scan these periodicals strutting their stuff on the supermarket and bookstore racks, title after title begins with the same compelling two words: “How To…”

There’s always been this in-your-face pragmatism about Americans forever looking for the practical answers to practical questions. But wait a minute! Are all the questions in question so dreadfully mundane? How to lose 10 pounds in 10 days….how to find new energy….how to close a sale….how to plant a garden… make a million….get a date….achieve the perfect orgasm.

There must be more to this all-American hankering for the handy. Just then I saw it. This little black-covered periodical with the white letters tucked in a back row. The title leaped out to bite my jaded attention. It read: “It’s Not How But Who.”

What can I say. I had to pick it up.

I’m glad I did, for it turned out to be an author-less anthology of one-page stories. Each story a cup of cold water to quench the thirst for serious answers in a sometimes frivolous age. Each story developed around some famous author, composer, poet, philosopher or saint. The usual suspects from Plato to Jesus, Augustine to Aquinas, Dante to Joan of Arc, Descartes to Camus, Dylan to Lennon. Among them was the prayer by St Frances [“Make me an instrument of your peace…”] and by Reinhold Niebuhr [“The Serenity Prayer”].

The little anthology concluded with my favorite American playwright, Thornton Wilder. At the end of the first act in his prize-winning play OUR TOWN, little 12-year-old Rebbecca is looking up at the stars from her bedroom window. She is awed. She says to her older brother George:

“I never told you about that letter Jan Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: Jane Crofut; the Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corner; Sulton County; New Hampshire; United State of America; Continent of North America; Westeren Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God…and you know what George? The postman brought it just the same!”


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