A Table of Tendrils and Roses:
Compassion in the Heart of Beauty

I've been thinking a lot lately about table settings. When I visit blogs I find myself getting very drawn to table settings people post. Something about how we set our tables for our meals just seems to cut to the core of things.

At first I was drawn to ones that had a sense of classicness and order to them, the history and order in itself was very healing to me. But one table setting in particular really moved me recently and made me realize it is the very personalness and "humanness" of our tables that holds the actual healing.

The table setting that woke this up is the one above top. It is the table of Corey Amaro from
Tongue in Cheek, and it has a story behind it, making it a truly healing table...

Corey lives in France where she is surrounded everywhere by nature and art and history. She responds to this by witnessing and sharing the beauty with others through her photography, and by also by bringing this beauty into her own life and home and family. And such is what she had done with her table above. And all this threatened to fall apart (at least that's what I sensed from her
post here) when something happened to her. She was visiting family in California and she and her mother truly wanted to help a man who had no home. They tried to follow him to do so but he disappeared in some bushes and they eventually gave up on finding him-- only to later hear he had been struck by a car and left in critical condition. And this was a painful wake up call for her. From her post:

"Why didn't we search harder for him? Why did fear prevent us from inviting him home to rest his weary body? Fear prevented goodness from coming forth...Feed the poor, open your door, at least say, "Hello, How are you? How can I help you?" To look in the eyes of poverty and take a step towards change. To see wealth set before me, be it in food on my plate or clothes on my back, and take responsiblity for my actions and or lack of them. To serve from my heart those in need. These are the words that circle me, this is the food I serve today to myself

--live simply so others may simply live! Dorothy Day

What I have I must give, and giving it is the gift..."

And there are many ways to do this. One is the way of many revolutionaries or others throughout history who end up spurning comfort and beauty as frivolous or selfish and expecting others to do the same spurning. I have seen this so many times, this path of asceticism. And maybe it is truly right for some, but for me it holds harm. And I sensed it would hold harm for this poster too, for she was someone who truly was moved by comfort and beauty and her gift lies in witnessing that and movingly passing it on in her art. Getting people like this to take an ascetic path out of guilt has always felt to me like an attack from the enemy, who wants nothing more than to squash whatever holds both our own healing and our gifts to others.

But instead of asceticism this woman turned to compassion. She has new eyes now for what she can give and much more attentiveness there, you can really feel that in her posts. But it doesn't simply stop there. Because the thing is, I tend to agree with Ghandi when he said we must BE the change we wish to see in the world. Its not enough to only want to comfort others, we must also BE that change and also comfort ourselves. It is not enough to look with soft eyes and compassion at another, we must also look with soft eyes and compassion at ourselves. We must not just change things, but also BE the change. Even Christ our Savior, whom most envision as very ascetic and spartan (and I'm not even so sure about that yet) said this:

"The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full"
--John 10:10 NIV

Life to the full doesn't sound like an uncomfortable and harsh spartan one to me. You can have simplicity and compassion but still have comfort and beauty. That seems to be what nature does, nature is simple in the best possible way and part of its healing simplicity is the comfort and beauty it holds. And nature nurtures us, but it does so from a place of having been nurtured (can you see the rain softly falling on the rose?). It's "so complex it's simple" as the old Canon ad used to go. And that complex simplicity, which I prefer to call deep simplicity, of nature...well it comes from having recieved the nurturance of its Creator.

I feel our lives can reflect these things. We should be aware of what we can give and we should give it. But "living simply so others can simply live" does not have to mean tossing comfort and beauty. It can mean instead letting that comfort and beauty be the sort that will deepen our compassion--both for others and for ourselves. When we look through those eyes then we will naturally give more, and be more aware of not wasting, and be more aware of the pain of others in our circle and how we might truly help or comfort. But we must also BE this change by holding this for ourselves as well.

And a healing path there is what I saw in this table, beauty that had softness and compassion, a healing beauty rather than a haughty beauty. Had that statue been there alone it may have been otherwise, but the flowers, the fruit, the tender tendrils flowing onto the table, these things touch the heartbeat, hold softness and humanness and compassion. And compassion is no small thing. I truly believe that what we think of someone is our prayer for them and that this affects them, we pick up on these things from others. The harsh judgements we have of one another, even silent, can do true harm to those we judge, and likewise does our compassion heal, it is a healing prayer. In an e mail Corey shared with me how she was going to be praying for this man from her encounter at her table above. I found that so very healing. And she had started through all this a healing table.

A favorite singer of mine, Jewel, says in her song Hands (lyrics from
here ):

"In the end
only kindness matters"

And I think she's right. She also says in I'm Sensitive (lyrics from
here) :

"Maybe if we are surrounded in beauty,
Someday we will become what we see"

And I think this is also true.

So why not start at the heart of things, with a healing home and a healing table?

(Image by Corey Amaro of
Tongue in Cheek, from here )

Blog Archive