A bowl is a bowl is a bowl

When we hear the word “bowl” we invariably think of a hollow round vessel, used for eating, drinking, and serving. Put a lid on it and it is a storage container. Generally, it is wider than it is deep. We often use spoons with bowls, and spoons themselves are little bowls with handles. But the bowl has been with us for millennia, and is also used for libations (religious blessings), decorative and symbolic art, and smoking.

While these days we may eat our soup or salad from individual bowls, it is the serving bowl which captivates our attention. From its circular depths comes an invitation to share not only the food contained in it, but also to share the life stories of those gathered ‘round it. In some sense, the bowl is the epitome of family and community. It is generosity and amplitude. It is health and a sense of well-being. It is the shape of the universe, symbolic of the changing seasons. It is acceptance.

It is also revolutionary. The bowl’s very roundness demonstrates an equality which belies separation and judgment. So, like the food contained within, the bowl calls to us to take some risks and enter into a process of enlarging our personal circle. It gives us permission to share from our hearts. Hence this statement attributed to Cesar Chavez: “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”


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