Soul Food Advent Blog Series 2018: 'Room at the Table'
Guest blogger: James White
Worth and Where to Find it
Part III: Feng Shui from the Dark Ages
In the middle ages a collection of stories arose about a legendary king and his old mate the wizard.
He was a talented chap, most adept at pulling swords out of stones and finding magical cauldrons and cups. One thing about him that we still talk about is that he had a rather unusual dining room in his castle.
Now I don’t know much about interior design in 12th Century England, but I’m fairly sure medieval banqueting took place at long tables with a special place at the ‘head’ for the most important at the party.
But this guy had different ideas. He took dark-age-feng shui to a new level and re-wrote the book on how to entertain the lords and ladies of the realm.
If you think about it, there aren’t many mythological or legendary figures who managed to be remembered for their contributions to furniture.
But King Arthur’s round table is because this legend about a bunch of blokes riding to this castle from the four corners of the realm to sit at this table and have a chat with him is still known by us today because there is something powerfully symbolic about this image.
If we leave this story as a piece of narrative archeology that makes for fun bedtime reading, or provides Disney some material for their next money spinning film then it does not hold much meaning for us.
But if we take the time to reflect on it’s symbolic value then it can teach us a lot about reality.
The chief, most important thing about the round table is that everyone who sits around it is equal. In this kingdom there is no hierarchy, there is no power structure. The king sits with his people and amazingly, may not even be recognised as the king and everyone has an place to sit.
In a way, the round table of King Arthur is a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the round table is the place of communion with the king.
It is here at this table that your value is measured by something that can’t be seen and isn’t apparent or evident on the surface. It speaks of something about each of us that is invisible to prejudice.
Over the past 4 years I’ve been a part of Soul Food Edinburgh, and one of the great things about Soul Food is, yes, you guessed it, the round tables. But we never talk about the symbolic significance of round tables, we just sit at them and eat and talk.
But for many of the guests that come to Soul Food, sitting at a round table with a knife and fork and some good conversation is quite unusual.
They feel a sense of belonging and connection that is missing from the rest of their week. It is a highly valuable time for them and for us as volunteers.
When I interact with many of the guests I like to envisage them dining at a fine restaurant, with golden cutlery and crystal wine glasses, being served choice
Cuisine cooked by a celebrity chef. I picture them wearing the finest suits and ball gowns, and being treated like dignitaries.
But the thing is it’s actually not fine dining that we all need, it’s just a place at the table where we are recognised for who we are.
We all need somewhere we are valued not for our economic worth, or our productivity or for our intellectual contribution to the conversation, or our good looks, or engaging personality or our (not so) funny jokes.
A place at the round table means that you are recognised and celebrated for your uniqueness. You have a seat, a voice, a story worth telling that people want to hear. You have opinions, thoughts, experiences, emotions and crucially a place that you belong to, that you can come back to and be the same and be seen and heard.
James White is a 37 year old Yorkshireman who works for a global fashion company. He has been part of Soul Food Edinburgh for the past for 4 years and is is fanatical about football, food and finding meaning in just about anything. He knows nothing about fashion.