One means of escape… I suppose…
I recently found a thin book I must have bought some time ago and forgotten about, Hermann Hesse’s The Prodigy. On the back cover is written this: “This novel is Hermann Hesse’s indictment of conventional education. It is the story of a brilliant young boy whose spirit is systematically broken by his parents and his teachers….”
In Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus, the fictionally autobiographical Joyce, refuses to be systematically broken, beaten into shape, tamed and quelled. The story is a very common one these last 150 years, and it’s interesting to track the presence of fathers–or the absence of a father, in the tale, fathers traditionally as transmitters of cultural mores and customs.
In short, it helps certain natures if the father is either completely absent or foundering, which removes or weakens the compulsion towards uprightness and normalcy. If the father remains a presence in the young seekers life some sort of radical break is usually required.
Van Gogh never could escape, while Joyce, his father sliding out of the solid middle class as we see in Ulysses, has an easier time rejecting all the values his father would burden him with.
Anyway, leaving those conventional values behind, values largely underpinning the entire globe these days, a globe that seems on fire according to the daily news, is not easy. However, a great many have and have left a record of their struggles and triumphs behind for us.
That, in the end, is the aim of the Cafe: to keep the dream alive so to speak. To let seekers know that others have gone before them, and that there is sense and order in it all if only we have the eyes and the hearts to see it.
If only we have the courage to leave old ways of thinking and believing behind.