“Excuse me, sir, are there any spiritual books up here?” asked the young woman at Kafka’s Kafe, peering down at me as if I should know because I was sprawled out with a book on the dilapidated couch secluded by bookshelves in the back corner upstairs.
I am often ensconced on that deplorable couch for an hour or so in the evenings – not as a couch potato but as a sort of jewel-in-lotus engaged in gathering the sparks from the textual shards discarded by tourists from all over the world. The books are then stuffed onto the shelves, haphazardly, with barely any regard for the librarian’s art of classification.
It is on that very crumb-laden and Coke-stained couch that I am true st to my calling, the messianic mission revealed in my first short story – a sixth-grade writing assignment. In fine: I dive deeply into the darkest depths where I find a cavern from which I retrieve the salvation of my kind; I emerge on the surface with the ring and am greeted by wild cheering.
“Well, the most you’ll find right now is a bible in Spanish, if it has not been sold in the last few days,” I responded. “What is it you are looking for?”
She was a pleasant-looking, fulsome woman, apparently Hispanic. She was with another woman upon whose wrist was a bracelet overloaded with charms – no red string was there to ward off the Evil Eye.
“Something on the Kabbalah.”
“No, there’s nothing like that around here, nothing theological nor occult. Oh, I did see a copy of the book about the Aquarian Conspiracy, hidden on the top of the bookcase around the corner, behind you there – we hide the good books so nobody will buy them. So you’re interested in the Kabbalah?”
“The Kabbalah is certainly popular nowadays,” I offered.
I might have said that Kafka’s is Miami’s South Beach Kabbalah and I its skeptical mekubbalim, but she was obviously not ready for the the truth that nothing is true , that we should be afraid of nothing, that nothing is better than the Kabbalah. She obviously was in need of salvation, probably rightfully disappointed by the hypocrisy of mainstream religion not to mention the human race, hence looking for an instant answer to the underlying crisis or hypokrisis of being human.
“Yes, Madonna and other stars follow the Kabbalah,” she said.
“It’s much cheaper than Dianetics,” I observed, “but I understand the founders of the pop-Kabbalah movement have quite a cash flow to manage. I have something much better, something that would save the world and also bring in tons and tons of money.”
“Nothing. Jewish scholars disapprove of pop-Kabbalah.” – I changed the subject.
“Well, many of them think it’s nonsense or junk. Those who do take it seriously, as medieval Judaic theology, as well as pious mystics who believe the Torah is a code of secret wisdom, disapprove of the sort of irreverent and selfish, instant-gratification approach to the divine secret. A lifetime or many lifetimes of serious study and moral practice is required to overcome the desires that stand in the way of redemption, the very desires the counter-cultural cabalists capitalize on to draw people to their free fests. So the Jewish cabalists scoff at the pop-culture that pretends to give away the secret at Kabbalah fests and the like, as if serious scholars and mystics were wasting their time. ”
My interlocutor’s companion, the woman with the enormous charm bracelet, scowled and went downstairs.
“What is the big secret?”
There is an African tribe, I think in Ghana, who enjoy a procession from time to time. A sacred stool, an arc covered by cloth, the seat of god, is carried to the lodge or house of the secreted god, where only the initiated may enter. A great secret, the answer to everything, the unknown god, resides in that house. An American woman, an anthropologist, hearing of the Big Secret, pestered the chief.
“Tell me, please, and I will keep your answer secret: What is the Big Secret?”
“There is no secret.”
Nothing is secret.