Let’s face it, too often these little surveys can be exagerrated and excessive, after all, the memory of a supper table can be hell for many – you won’t leave this table before you’ve eaten your peas – shut up! you don’t talk at the supper table – use your fork – don’t chew with your mouth open, and on and on.
But, that said, how often do we sit with family around a supper table? Not often enough, I think. Rather, we have these lounges with enormous TV screens ogled at by individuals oblivious of one another, and eating from trays precariously balanced on their knees. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but in our postmodern culture wouldn’t it be good just to hold on to at least something of the family supper table.
Some say, rightly or wrongly, that civilization evolved hand in hand with the civilizing power of the supper table. I like that. They go on to say that when the table finally transformed itself from an uncivilized free for all, ravenous every-person-for-themselves kind of thing, in to a caring and sharing pattern of togetherness, the world changed with it. Is that pushing it too far? Well, I’m not so sure. There’s certainly something here and I’m just wondering whether we shouldn’t take note of it.
What is the essence of a supper table? Is it not a coming back from a place of fragmentation to a strong sense of belonging and togethernes, a bit like the triangle re-positioning the red balls for a second game of snooker, each ball having its own particular place and standing in that togetherness? Is it not a sensitivity to one another – would you like some salt, or, pass the salt? Does it not have to do with manners (sadly, a rather outdated concept in our age) – pass the salt, please – would you like your tea now? Is it not a sharing and a waiting your turn, others before you, or after you for that matter, or a place of the art of listening and speaking, where stories are told, affirmation offered, and encouragement given. Is it not all these good and wholesome things?
Now, I’m not sure how you feel about all this, but if we really believe that the quality and essence of life depends on those everyday little transactions in its ordinariness, then, the supper table has much to offer.
So for me, long live the supper table! And if our memories of it are bad, let’s change that. It’s the least we can do for our children, grandchildren and the rest of posterity.