The back room at the Cafe is where I get my best work done. Now that I have a family I find it harder to put aside the time for its quiet contemplative atmosphere. Though if I go too long without stopping by I’m not much fun to be around. It is the ballast in my hold, it keeps my hypos running at even keel. I feel a deep kinship with Xenon, who is the keeper of this tiny sanctuary, as well as with a great many of the men and women who’s works populate the shelves. No matter what mayhem occurs in the outside world, here all is still and all has meaning. Life is all there is.
Xenon has hung two pictures on the one wall free from a bookshelf. One is a print of Picasso’s Guernica, the other something from the middle ages. The latter I think is called St. Sigfrid Converting the Heathen, and it depicts a white robed ecclesiastic holding a large cross above a beaten looking group of Teutonic folk. There are men and women, Norse looking, along with their children, and there’s a druid and a poet drooping against his harp in the group too, along with several sullen bearded warriors, plainly unhappy with the proceedings.
These two pictures, Guernica and St. Sigfrid Converting the Heathen, have been hanging here for years. And they are key to what goes on at the Cafe, or at least back here in Xenon’s room.
“We only appear to be in the wilderness,” says Xenon. “For me,” he continues: “these two works go a long way towards summing up precisely where we are today. Where our souls are, that is.”
Xenon is not long on words. One needs to know how to ask questions, and especially how to listen to the answers.
How can I, who have spent nearly half my life here, capture in these few scant lines all there is to convey? It is late and I work tomorrow and I must be getting home.
But what of Xenon, Guernica and St. Sigfrid? There will be more time tomorrow, or the next day. As I write these final words Joseph Campbell and Henry Miller, Elie Faure and Oswald Spengler look down from their perch on the shelves. So many more giants of the human spirit look down approvingly. Our story, your’s and mine, still needs to be told. Without it we are adrift.
Life is all there is.