“In his characteristic Quixotic way he had predicted a sale of thirty million copies of his Don Quixote; the world smiled at his naiveté, and bought thirty million copies.”—Will Durant, Story of Civilization: Part VII, The Age of Reason
Old Will puts it so succinctly, and with a twinkle in his eye to boot. I love it. Could Cervantes have known just what he had written? I believe he did.
“I have had my say entirely my own way and put it unerringly on record—the value thereof to be decided by time.”—Walt Whitman, from Walt Whitman, a Life
Whitman too knew he had done something for the ages, what matter that it was largely ignored or derided in his own land?
Now I have a confession.
It will help you gain an understanding of just where you’ve wandered if you’re still reading this. You can have a quiet laugh, shake your head at one man’s wild delusions of grandeur, (though actually this has very little to do with me, for its aim is ever the Living Truth), and pass on to something less extravagant, vague, and contrarian.
A few winters ago our little community was having its annual Family Skate night. A bonfire burned and crackled in the middle of an outdoor rink, lights had been strung from one side of the ice surface to the other, and children and adults glided, swooped, slashed and scampered about. I had begun this blog some months before and was working quite hard to post on a regular basis, unlike these days. Anyway, circling the fire I fell into conversation with a local woman friend, mother of two energetic skaters. She asked me how the blog was going. I told her about as well as could be expected, I supposed. At least there were a few readers. Then I went on to tell her why to my thinking readership didn’t matter.
“There’s a lot of words written and published every day,” I said, “millions and millions of them. Words better written and expressed than I could ever hope to do.”
“However,” I continued, “you’re going to laugh and think me crazy when I say this, but two or three hundred years from now people are going to look back at the mountains of words this century produced and promptly forgot and ask: ‘who the hell was that guy writing the Omphalos Cafe?’”
Wow. Best find something else to read right now.
How can I be so blockheaded?
Ahh, no explanations.
Ok, a short one: what Goethe and Nietzsche started, Spengler took up, Campbell expanded—the Omphalos Cafe is directly in that line, and, as far as I can tell scouring my little corner of the world, no one else is up to the task. Moreover, whether you’re aware of it and believe me or not, it’s the only Living Line available to us moving forward. Everything else is old and tired and perpetuates the same parochial, confining psycho-spiritual outlook humans find so comforting even in the face of immanent social collapse.
Forgive me one last quote, from Henry Miller’s seminal (in every sense of the word) Tropic of Cancer:
“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.”
Shite, might as well finish it:
“This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty… what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse….”
Well done Mister Miller; you too knew what you were about.