Meditations On A Flat Surface
It seems (and I doubt I'm alone in this) that so many important things in my life occur while sitting at the dinner table. And it seems too, that these things of import that are done, planned or said at the dinner table are accompanied by a bottle of wine. And the symbolism of this strikes me as being somehow fundamental to our civilization.
This is no revelation. You could spend a lifetime imagining the meaning of the dinner or supper table depicted in art. The most powerful piece of dinner table imagery in Western Civilization is found in Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper".
In da Vinci's masterwork, the supper table is the setting when Jesus makes an important announcement:
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
More recently, Judy Chicago used the symbol of "The Dinner Table" as the vehicle to celebrate female accomplishment throughout history and correct the cultural blemish of women being left out of our traditional recordings of history.
My experiences with the dinner table are neither as noted as da Vinci's or Chicago's, nor are they as culturally significant as the messages that are delivered by the representation of the last supper of Jesus or the crime of an incompletely rendered history of civilization.
But they are mine and they are significant.
More than anything, the dinner table is where I have listened and talked. The dinner table is where my father told me he had cancer. It is where my first baseball coach sat and told me he would insist I join his team despite the fact I would not have the time to "try out". The dinner table is where I was told I would be divorced. The dinner table almost always where I celebrate my birth. It's where I sat when I announced to my employer that I must leave to start my own business. And the dinner table has always been the place where I've become intimately familiar with the most important people in my life.
Of late, the dinner table is where I've been expressing plans and declaring intentions and explaining important changes in my life to important people. There is something about a table where food is shared and wine is poured and consumptive satisfaction is achieved that inspires me to tell the whole truth.
I think it is the importance of the dinner table in my life that has convinced me that a real home ought to have a room dedicated to dining. The dining room is more and more left out of floor plans for homes when they are conceived and drawn today. I'm told our (Americans) lifestyle has changed such that the dining room is not nearly as obligatory as it once was (we eat out in more often today). Back in the 1960s and 1970s when my grandfather and father built hundreds of homes, it would have been unnatural to build a dwelling without a dining room or nook for casual dining.
Almost two years ago I began to rebuild my life by purchasing furniture to fill a home. My first purchase was not a bed. It was not a couch. It was not a television. It was not a chair. It was not even a bar. It was a beautiful dining room table made of mahogany that easily seats 8. I live alone.
Of course, what's important is not the size of the table nor the material from which the table is fashioned. What's important is who you gather around the table. When you look back at your life—or when you look forward at what you want from your life—look at who was or who you want at your table. This view from the table will tell you what's important in your life. It will tell you what you can expect from your life. Because everything of real importance, the most important things you'll say or received will occur around that flat surface upon which you experience the real and important matters.