At a party one evening in the summer of 1986, Wes Nisker asked me if I might have some time available to help him and Barbara Gates develop a plan to keep their financially struggling two-year-old journal, Inquiring Mind, going. And, he asked, given my business background, might I also be willing to take on the task of managing the business end of things for a while?
“Sure,” I replied. “I can do that . . . for a while.”
Well, it is now three decades later and the plan that we devised back then and have done our best to follow all these years has, for a multitude of reasons, now reached its life’s end. Apparently, the Buddha was right—all things that arise do eventually fall away. However, along the way it was a pretty darn good ride.
Here was our blueprint for the Mind: produce the best, most intelligent, most artful journal we could, remain an independent entity and voice, deliver each issue on schedule, be careful with and respectful of the limited resources made available to us, and always keep the journal freely available to anyone who wants it. As best we could, we would try to keep our means consistent with our message.
In the beginning, it was pretty easy: we had just four staff people, about a half dozen volunteers, and virtually no overhead. Over the years, however, the number of people it took to produce each new issue grew steadily. The process became much more complicated, and the overhead grew and grew.
Yet we never had an actual office space and, from the beginning until now, relied instead upon a Post Office box, a storage locker, and the desks, living rooms and kitchen tables of our staff and volunteers to create this journal. As the years went on and the playing field got a bit more crowded, we resisted (not always easily) the temptation to expand, to get fancier or go “glossy.” Instead, we continued to choose recycled newsprint as the best medium to share the wisdom of the dharma we were offering, and for nearly twenty years, through the guiding hand of designer and art director Margery Cantor, we have created a visual aesthetic for the journal that far surpasses the limitations of this simple medium. And while time, technology and economics may have brought us to this particular moment, it is my opinion that the legacy—the oeuvre—of Inquiring Mind, created and produced in this simple way and shepherded with such dedication by Barbara Gates and Wes Nisker, is and will remain one of the truly outstanding collections of dharma teachings ever to grace this continent.
I also firmly believe that, ultimately, the success of that original blueprint can be distilled down to one simple idea: generosity. From the inception, a clear and heartfelt expression of the Buddhist concept of dana has been made real by the hundreds of writers and artists who graciously, and often repeatedly, offered their words and images to us without recompense; by the many volunteers who (some for decades) donated their time and expertise to help make the sixty-two issues of this journal possible; and by all of our staff members throughout the years who always worked so very long, hard and expertly for much less financial reward than they deserved.
I encourage you to please take some time to peruse our masthead, as well as page 51 of this issue, where we share with you the names of more than one thousand people who over the lifetime of this journal offered us their time, their talents, their words or their art, and who have each played a critical part in having made Inquiring Mind such a continuously rich and unparalleled expression of Buddha-dharma. We owe them all an enormous debt of thanks.
And, of course, we are appreciative beyond words for the generosity of the tens of thousands of individuals, groups and organizations who financially supported Inquiring Mind over the years. Even with our best efforts at simplicity and frugality, it still took over $4,000,000 to get from that first twelve-page issue in the spring of 1984 to this final offering you now hold in your hand. From then until now, most all of that money came from you, our readers—not through subscription fees but as donations. And whether those gifts were offered repeatedly or just occasionally, we understood and appreciated the value of each and every one of them. We have always tried our very best to be worthy of your loyalty and trust, and we bow to you in gratitude.
Over these last six months we have been humbled by the outpouring of support and kindness we have received from our community—not just for the many generous financial contributions (for which, of course, we are extraordinarily grateful) but also for the countless letters, notes and Post-its expressing both your sadness for this moment and your great appreciation for the Mind having been a part of your lives for so long. Although the printed journal’s journey ends here, Inquiring Mind intends to remain part of this community for years to come—first through the completion of the Inquiring Mind Digital Archive Project. Work has already begun on this important effort to preserve, and make available, the thirty-one years of dharma we have presented. We will keep you updated on our progress via our website—inquiringmind.com—so do check in with us over the next few months.
Truthfully, I could never have imagined, at that moment back in 1986, that “for a while” would ultimately turn into thirty years. Yet I am so very grateful to have been invited to be part of Inquiring Mind, and for the opportunity to have served the dharma and this sangha for nearly half my life. I was, without question, given the great gift of “right livelihood” and I thank you all for that honor.
With great respect and appreciation,