Why “life around the table”? Couldn’t life be done in so much more efficient ways and places? How about life around the board room table, or life at a desk at school, or let’s be real here, life plopping down on the couch at the end of the day?
The short answer is that life — real life — happens around the table. Now this isn’t the image of the family in the 50’s with the mom waltzing over the dining table with pearls and a perfectly cooked pot roast. Nope, this is 21st century North America with soccer schedules and homework and no one liking the dinner you just made. It’s dinner time with sweet moments where the kids never forget that it’s dessert night and you have a candle lit and placemats, and it’s dinner time where you’re eating so fast so you can get to the next thing. It’s dinner conversation with lots of laughter and also when you feel like you’re just policing the whole time. All of it. Because life happens around the table. As we eat, as we inquire about the days of those dearest to us. As we ask questions and laugh and fight and argue.
Life doesn’t really happen anywhere else to the same extent, not in the same cyclical nature, where day-by-day we layer meaning onto our meals together. And as much as we all want our virtual communities to fulfill our need for togetherness and community, we can’t break bread with Facebook.
Maria Konnikova wrote recently in an article in The New Yorker, about how our online communities just can’t measure up to shared flesh-and-blood experience:
We do have a social-media equivalent—sharing, liking, knowing that all of your friends have looked at the same cat video on YouTube as you did—but it lacks the synchronicity of shared experience. It’s like a comedy that you watch by yourself: you won’t laugh as loudly or as often, even if you’re fully aware that all your friends think it’s hysterical. We’ve seen the same movie, but we can’t bond over it in the same way. — Maria Konnikova, “The Limits of Friendship”
We walk around our cities phones in hand, isolated to those around us as we scurry past them and yet we feel “connected” to our online “community” because we’re scrolling through our high school friend’s recent vacation photos (and the internal conversation grows increasingly isolating; case in point: How can she afford such a nice vacation to Tahiti in the middle of winter? How does she still have abs? Shouldn’t I still have abs? Why don’t I have abs? I should go to the gym. What is wrong with me?). All the while we forego real connection with real people because it’s messy and hard and it’s just so much easier to keep “liking” things on Facebook.
I think we turn to our glossy images of life on social media because it sounds so much more appealing than life around the table. Life around the table feels so ordinary. And we’ve been groomed to be special and “ordinary” feels a bit like death. But life around the table means you have to show up, even when you’re tired or worn out or just blah. And in the best moments, you’re there at the table, breaking bread together — sharing the mundane elements that we all need to survive; not just food, but real, vulnerable community, where your family and friends see you — really see you. They see you in little moments, when you haven’t brushed your teeth and you have those tattered socks on that you love to wear in the mornings. They see you at dinner parties. They see you when it’s family movie night or Taco Tuesday. There’s something so simple and so glorious about just showing up and sharing life together, slowly, day-by-day, meal-by-meal, year-by-year. Just being there. No matter what. Because life around the table is all of it, and it is all cause for celebration. So, what will “you do with your one wild and precious life”?
This month I’m writing on life Around the Table. I hope you’ll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces. Please take time to comment below and share this post if it resonated with you.