The Why Café
by John P. Strelecky
Da Capo Press
The funny thing about this little book is the parallel between the narrator and myself. He loses his way detouring around a toxic waste spill and ends up in a mysterious café, beginning a journey to self-discovery. I was avoiding a drunk when I bumped into the author, and we both ended up at the Fringe Festival Beer tent. There he gave me a copy of this charming and enlightening book, and I fell in love with its slim 130 pages of 5 x 8 inch hardcover philosophy.
It takes longer to read than you might expect, but that’s not a fault of the writing. This disarmingly simple story introduces the narrator to waitress Casey, short-order cook Mike, and a few other stragglers at an all-night café. They raise and address three simple questions – “Why are you here?”, ” Do you fear Death?”, and “Are you fulfilled?” These are all things we ought to consider at some point, and the journey of the book sets one on a quest for the answers about the essential elements of life.
Where has my journey gone since opening the cover? There’s no clear answer yet, but the path is calm and thoughtful. All my reading and travel and hobbies have always felt like preparation for something yet to be revealed, and now it’s clear I need to integrate all this and do something with these experiences. I continue to ponder, but I wasn’t even doing that a month ago.
I hesitate to call this a self-help book, as there’s no agenda to make you chant mantras, lose weight, or earn a zillion bucks. It’s a pocket mirror to your own existence, and a simple, effective story that might jar you into some long overdue self-reflection. The blurbs on the cover talk of “life transformation” and “unlocking life’s questions,” which seems a bit strong, but I recommend it as a breather from a hectic life of kids and cars and concerts. Best of all, this book is available in 17 different languages. I think this guy’s Purpose For Existence might be to change the world. Scary . . . he seemed so ordinary in person.