I am staring at a shelf of outrageously beautiful jars of condiments. Each one of these beautiful products at Sofra is a world of exotic wonder, and each one would add so much to a meal. But what I find most breathtaking is how orderly this shelf is: Each product perfectly placed, gorgeously labeled, ready to be presented to a host or a friend or someone else who deserves something nice. And below the name of each product, a list of ingredients. Everything is clear. It is like a library of food, where one is both delighted and educated. So although, upon approaching the shelf, I might have no idea what Maftoul is, after a few minutes of engaging with this display, I might consider purchasing it and know why.
Oh, that the rest of my life were like this shelf. Oh, that there were a shelf of parenting skills, labeled and in jars, that one could simply purchase alongside a rooibus iced tea, take home and share, to the delight of one’s family. Oh, how nice it would be if my financial records, my memories, or even my winter clothes were neatly stored and labeled and accessible in a way that made them more inviting to deal with. I suppose this yearning in many of us is what fuels the success of Martha Stewart, the Container Store, apps like Evernote, and approaches to scripture that turn it into the spiritual equivalent of the Genius Bar at an Apple Store.
Alas, life is messy, dusty, gloriously complex, and so are our souls, our relationships, and everything that truly matters. Always more going on than we know. Always things unlabeled and unlabel-able (Is that a word?).
I’m thankful to the good people of Sofra for the beauty and care behind this display, just as I am thankful for a beautiful, ordered garden or beautiful, ordered liturgy. They calm my heart. But I am also thankful for that which escapes ordering and disrupts the assumed, within and without.