Deirdre, a Facebook friend, recently posted this photo of a challah, which is a braided bread often part of the meal on Fridays in Jewish households. Looking at the photo, I can almost taste the crunchy crust and smell the delicious aroma of home-made bread. The challah was made by her daughter, Elisheva, age 11. On her flickr page, Deirdre wrote, “We had one [a challah] last night with dinner and one this morning as french toast. We are not religious, but we still usually have a special meal, with candles, wine, and bread, on Friday nights.”
“Special.” The word jumped out at me. Ellen Dissanayake, in her books What is Art For? and Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why, describes art not as a thing but as a process, the process of “making special.” She considers “making special” a fundamental human behavioral tendency along with speech and tool-making/using. She writes, “Moreover, one intends by making special to place the activity or artifact in a ‘realm’ different from the everyday.” (What is Art For?, p.92, emphasis in original.) Dissanayake also relates this aesthetic process of “arting” to human play, ceremony, ritual, and its importance to our human evolution. Sacred play.
Deirdre’s daughter’s bread was made for their “ritual” Friday night meal, and the wine and candles beautifully round out the specialness of the event, which is set apart from everyday meals. Warmth and beauty, connection and sustenance: the bread by which we live.