On the corner of my street, there is a gas station where I buy my sundries.
On my way to work, much to my chagrin, I need gas. I am wearing my white button-down collared shirt. I have not put my work tie on yet. Being a server in an Italian restaurant dictates that I must wear a tie, because this is how all the Italian women dress.
I am not excited about going to work or about having to stop and buy gas. When I walk into the store, Victor is behind the counter. He is leaning heavily on the counter, his large hand cupping his face while he meditates on the lottery tickets.
He brightens when I say hello. As we exchange pleasantries and cash, I have to ask, “Victor, what’s your real name?”
He doesn’t so much say anything as raise his eyebrows in perplexed inquiry. Victor is from India. His accent is thick and mostly unintelligible, so I am not of the belief that he was born and his parents decide he looks like a “Victor.”
I explain, “I have friends from other countries and sometimes they choose a name that’s easier for English speaking people to wrap their mouths around. Did you do that?” This question is not right out of the gate; I have been buying gas and Arizona green tea for my niece for years from this guy. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me.
He smiles and then produces a pen and scrap of paper. “I’ll write it for you.” He methodically scribes his name.
I look at him and pronounce his name.
His eyes sparkle when I pronounce it correctly the first time. “Victor is close enough.” He chuckles.
I pump my gas and get in the car to drive to work. I still have not put my tie on. I consider the fact that Vishnu just sold me gas for my car so I can go to work, and he seems just as happy about it as anything else. He smiles at everything.
My mind alights on the chapter in The Bhagavad Gita, a classic Indian scripture on the yoga of living in the mundane world while following a spiritual path, where Krishna tells our hero, Arjuna, “What the outstanding person does, other people will try to do.
The standards such people create will be followed by the whole world. There is nothing in the three worlds for me to gain, Arjuna, nor is there anything I do not have; I continue to act, but I am not driven by any need of my own.
If I ever refrained from continuous work, everyone would immediately follow my example. If I stopped working I would be the cause of cosmic chaos, and finally of the destruction of this world and these people.” *
It is not lost on me that Krishna, Arjuna’s chariot driver and friend, is an incarnation of Vishnu, the Lord of Preservation.
It seems Victor, aka Vishnu, is keeping us all out of cosmic chaos by his very willingness to be present and sell me gas.
When I review this chapter of The Bhagavad Gita, I feel a wee bit better about my current lot in life.
There must be someone to sling pasta onto tables, pour endless streams of wine and deliver countless salads.
There must be a person at the toll booth so I can drive over the bridge. It is necessary to post someone at the register at Publix so I can buy cat food.
There must be someone to mail all those books I buy online. It’s like the modern cycle of life.
There is a profound necessity to have a place in the most mundane of spaces. We are not all going to be famous and wildly successful, and if you consider how precious a simple life lived mindfully is, maybe it makes sense why Vishnu took a low key incarnation this time.
We are all Divinity incarnate, though we do not all get to have most excellent names like my friend Vishnu. We forget our divine nature, and so want to be famous and wildly successful to compensate for our ignorance.
Admittedly, I am not so enlightened as to give up the hope of ranking on a best-seller list one day. But it is in the small intimate moments with acquaintances, perhaps seeming to exist on the periphery of our lives, that we have the chance to see ourselves in all of our divine and mundane glory – simultaneously.
*The Bhagavad Gita ch 3 v 21 translation by Eknath Easwaran
Edited by: Hayley Samuelson
Nickie Medici is a soft-hearted and con-compliant optimist. When she was eleven she began writing in a pastel pink diary and has been seeking publication ever since. Her yoga practice and writing life became engaged somewhere around the time when she decided to teach, inspired mostly by her mother’s incessant nagging that she go through yoga teacher training (for which she is infinitely grateful). Please visit her blog http://icyexhale.com/ for instructions on how to pick cat claws out of a yoga mat and other important life lessons.