Monday, March 23, 2015

Third Places

I have for years been mulling over 'third places'. Not work. Not home. Places where we can come communally. Whether it is to meet people, exchange ideas, do something specific or just coming to be in a beautiful space you don't own. There are already places like that that are typically defined by affiliation to a particular group - Churches, yoga centres, retreats or cultural clubs. It would be great if we could get the equivalent without the group affiliation. Great cities also have great shared spaces. I am hopefully going to watch the cricket world cup semi-final at one of those shared spaces in Christchurch this afternoon. I will have to attempt to be quieter than normal.

Auckland has some cool shared space including great benches on the harbour

The economics of communal places aren't great despite the happiness they deliver. I think this is because they are great at delivering the kinds of things you can't price. Then there is the problem of the tragedy of the commons. We aren't very good at sharing. Perhaps we can get better? We were also racist, sexist, homophobic and all other sorts of nasty if you look back at videos of our past. It is impossible to find historic heroes that don't have the ability to disgust us in some way or other. You read the history of Genghis Khan in part with horror, and in part realising the peace premium that came from subjugating large chunks of the world. George Washington was a proud slave owner. Today's heroes are better. Then we discover flaws. But discovering flaws is how we improve and our heroes are just us - concentrated.

The world has only really accelerated its mixing in the last 200ish years. At the start of that, most of us where impoverished farmers. The stronger amongst us lived 'lavish' lives in exchange for organising the defences and monopolising violence. We aren't as impoverished any more. We don't have to be as scared of each other any more. Our big risks are shared and we can start acting together as custodians. If maturity is letting go of a fierce defence of your own story in exchange for the richness of shared stories, then we are getting better.

Perhaps we will get better at sharing? I think to share you need to feel secure that you already have enough. If we are just big kids, the confidence of knowing that you can always go back to mommy gives you the confidence to explore. Once we have the buffer of knowing we are okay, perhaps we can get to the good stuff.

I suspect a lot of the good stuff happens in places that aren't restricted. In places that aren't work and aren't home. In places where everyone can play.
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