Taking Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine to Dinner at Cracker Barrel

Study consciousness
Eventually you’ll encounter Life Divine
Not nirvana itself, but
Sri Aurobindo’s 2,000-page opus
on consciousness and the cosmos

Not light reading any time
Especially not over dinner
at an exit ramp Cracker Barrel
35 miles southwest of Rolla, Missouri
But with a paper on Life Divine due Saturday
The tome was my travel companion

Everything was fine
until an older couple sat down next to me
They size me up, I size them up
They smile, I smile
The woman speaks first
“That there’s some big book”
I reply: “Yes, m’am, it sure is”
We continued studying each other
I hoped she would probe no further

She fires a follow-up question
“What’s it all about?”
I breathe deeply, finally a few words come out
“Well, it’s a religious book”
At this point, her husband jumps in
“Is that right. Too big for the Bible!”
My stomach knots
I’m a gonner if I tell them about Life Divine
I fudge: “It’s a companion text to the Bible”
Their eyes cross at this point

The woman is at me again: “You a religious man?”
What could I say?
“Why yes m’am, I am”
She hisses, showing her missing front tooth
“I just knowed it!”
“Can’t you tell Herb, just lookin’ at him?”
Ole Herb smiles
I count three teeth missing in his mouth
“Yep, I agree Thelma, you kin just tell”
I’m thinking…oh shit, now I’ve really had it

I try to change the subject
“Food’s great here. I had the chicken and dumplings”
“Sure is. Herb and me eats here every Tuesday”
She’s a bulldog, refusing
to let go of the meat of our conversation
“What church you go to?”
Shit, I’m really dead now
Can’t tell them I’m a cross between
a Tibetan Buddhist and a Unitarian
I lie: “Nazarene”

Herb and Thelma look at each other, and
in unison say: “You here for that Nazarene revival?”
“I’m afraid not, just here on business”
Thelma’s back at it
“You always been a Nazarene?”
I fire back: “Sure have. My whole life”
“We’re Pentacostal
Lord’s blessed us with some fine preachers
Hey, you look like an evangelist to me”
This has gone too far
I feel beads of sweat on my forehead

Suddenly my waiter shows up
I think; there really is a God
“Anything else for you sir?”
“No, just my bill, thank you”
The young man hands me my check
I push a twenty his way
telling him to keep the change

Hurriedly I say goodbye to ole Herb and Thelma
They look confused
I feel for them, but
no amount of words
will heal their confusion
We exchange goodbyes
and I’m gone

I get to my car
Oh shit, I left Life Divine
sitting on the table
I rush back into the restaurant
Heading for the table
I see Herb walking my way
waving and screaming
“Hey, you forgot that big religious book on the table”
I thank Herb, praying
he did not open the book
and see the long-haired bearded Sri in his ashram
Herb looks in tact
I’m relieved

Driving back to the motel
the Sri and I resolve ourselves to room service
for the rest of the trip