I had wanted to begin my latest email with the notion of the Age Old Question for the artist/shaman, because what we’re talking about here has very little practical benefit, outward material benefit that is, to the average community member. Even when I was in Engineering a lifetime ago there never was a conception in my head of a job or career in it, the fact was I was good at it and found it easy and delighted in the learning side of it rather than the more practical application side.
Like you write about, it’s the learning journey that I enjoyed. I left when that pathway seem to be narrowing and switched to another pathway. I remember in my twenties sitting over a pitcher of beer and trying to explain how the printed contents of a great book could have equal or immeasurably more value than the printed contents of say a ten dollar bill. How wonderfully naive! And yet true, for a certain rather very limited segment of the population. And of course that tiny segment is who I address the Cafe towards. Bloomsday is for the great herd of ‘literary’ minded folk dabbling in curiosities, Dedalusday for the deep sea divers of the soul!
So how to earn a living or at least not live on the street while doing the necessary preliminary work? That’s the Age Old Question! Miller suffered and despaired in New York City before chucking it all and sailing to Paris with $10 in his pocket. It was sink or swim. And who’s to say that isn’t the best course? Me, I took to trucking, and sometimes wonder if I haven’t prolonged things into my fifties now wasting too much time. Again, who’s to say?
The sink or swim route can be crushingly hard today, but there are other paths too. I look at the #vanlife movement where a great many young folk are choosing to modify and live in vans to cut down on costs and perhaps avoid the limitations of outlook the city might provide. That’s a route I never seemed to consider back in my day, though even at my age I consider viable now.
Either way, the artist shaman route is an outsider’s way today, and probably always was. He or she looks to the interior and discounts the commonplaces and everything ‘they’ say. He is a guide carrying his own lamp, just like the Tarot card of the hermit in the woods. He is also the fool in the eyes of everyday folk, unless of course he somehow breaks through to some form of universally accepted ‘success.’ The Holy Goof, The Clown or Jester. He who has chucked the ‘rules,’ because he feels himself above them. Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov (bad spelling once more) in Crime and Punishment deals with this. And Dostoyevsky struggled with this notion of Holy Fool, he who has transcended the well-trodden path (in his case Russian Orthodox Christianity). As a perceived conspirator against the symbiotic Czar and Church matrix he was actually placed in front of a firing squad and only reprieved after an elaborate show of mock execution before being carted off to a Siberian Gulag.
Or what about good old ‘God Intoxicated’ Baruch Spinoza the ex-communicated Amsterdam Jew almost universally vilified for leaving behind both Judaism and Christianity! He eked out his modest living grinding lenses and only avoided the wrath of one side or the other because of a well-disposed patron protector. Same old story.
“Rave on John Donne, rave on you Holy Folk,” sang Van Morrison. The boon bringers, the balance restorers, those who speak and sing, paint and play for Life! Those who remind us who we truly are and what it is truly about!
And I suppose what I am trying to get across with the Cafe is that we humans are on the cusp of something never before imagined. All the past avenues and routes to a connection with Life are converging into something new and slowly taking shape. And it’s the Holy Goofs of today who will bring about the new birth, those scorned by the vast majority who are hard headed and practical minded and wholly invested in the current state of affairs and are unwilling or unable to see anything outside their little boxes.
What has that to do with us? I say. And don’t bother discussing anything with them either, I’ve come to learn. They cannot possibly grasp what I am saying. No fault of their’s, it’s just Life! So go on with the Cafe and work to give form to the truths you feel inside because it’s those truths which will light the fire of passion and curiosity in others and empower others to take up the mantle and give whatever they have to the cause, which in the end is only Life in all its wonders!
Ok, that’s it.