Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bumping into an Old Friend

On the way to my usual coffee shop after Mass, I passed the other coffee shop and noticed an old friend sitting in the window, reading alone over coffee. These days, I try to grab such momentary opportunities before they pass me by. So I went in and asked what he was reading, “if you don’t mind.”

He didn’t mind. The book was Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. 

This did not surprise me. My friend and I first met many, many years ago over books like this one and ideas like those the book contains. I worked my chaplet quietly in my lap and listened to him explain why he had come back to this book. For the third time.

My friend had been reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. In it are the stories of Jobs reading Autobiography of a Yogi in his youth, and going to India, and taking LSD, and starting a company in his garage, and making $250 million by the age of 25. This was roughly the thread of my old friend’s discourse, and I followed quietly, with what I hope registered as fondness in my eyes.

Then I said that I had a meeting to prepare for. (This post is the “preparation.”) I got up and ordered coffee from the young lady at the register. As she rang me up, I noticed that she did not charge me tax. I inquired about this. This coffee shop, the one I rarely frequent, charges meals tax only for sit-down food. If you are taking your coffee to go, you pay no tax. This struck me as remarkable and I told my friend about it.

He replied with a quizzical look, like, what the John was I talking about. I explained it again, and he finally got the point.

“You see,” I said to him in parting, “you give me 10 minutes of wisdom, and in return I give you a possibly useful factoid.” He sort of smiled and we said good-bye. I’m not sure it wasn’t an even trade.

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