“Privation and suffering alone can open the mind of a man to all that is hidden to others.”—Words of the primitive Eskimo shaman Igjugarjuk, as quoted in Joseph Campbell’s Primitive Mythology
The day’s work is done. After numerous friendly exchanges with co-workers and customers I return home, dine with the family, fall asleep while downstairs my wife and son watch The Polar Express—Christmas only days away—then wake as the house tucks itself in.
Thoroughly refreshed, I am in the mood for a short walk, the temperature outside being unseasonably mild. Passing by the Omphalos Cafe I notice a light in the window. I tap on the door and am admitted by Xenon, who quietly, smilingly ushers me inside.
“How’s it going?” he calmly intones as he prepares teas for the two of us.
He sits down and we immediately resume the chat we were having when I last visited a month or so ago. We talk quietly sitting in comfortable chairs at a table in the back room, surrounded by books, and you could say our conversation is fueled by those volumes—but it is not about them. It is never about books.
He, like I, doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about books…or I should say somewhere along the way we both lost our veneration for them. With access to the Internet, most if not all are replaceable within a week at most. And neither of us care a jot for the silly digital-paper debate being waged.
No, what is paramount for us is the living experience that the men and women are striving with all their being to convey through the medium of words, which happen to be contained in those objects we label ‘books’.
“I don’t give a shit if they’re carved in bark,” I was saying a month ago, “but this idolizing of books, this pedestalizing, cannot be good for us in the long run.” “It’s symptomatic of something….unhealthy.”
Both of us are aware and both see a connection between a collapsing over-civilized Roman Empire and the burning of the great library at Alexandria towards the year 400 AD. (Both of us having read Oswald Spengler’s underground classic, The Decline Of The West.) Books become superfluous when millions are starving, destitute, and despairing. A new message is sought, a new Truth in the crumbling, decaying misery that slowly spreads from the dying heart of great cities.
Words are born anew, living words not yet contained between the covers of books that bypass the minds of lost, despairing souls and go straight to hearts, rekindling hope and dreams, joy and love.
Those are the type of things, among others, we discuss at the Cafe. “Get a life!” some people might say.
Life is ALL there is.