My continued thoughts on Ray Oldenburg's "The Great Good Place:

Ray highlights the need for the Third Place to be a neutral ground, "where individuals may come and go as they please, in which none are required to play host, and in which all feel at home and comfortable."

Of course, this is in stark contrast to the home (First Place) and work (Second Place) that cannot be neutral to various friends from different houses/workplaces. I spent a while thinking about how important this truly is. When going to a friend's house, they are the de facto host and even after there is a particular comfort level reached, there is still a 'home court' ownership of sorts. But being out at a coffee shop where everyone is mutually entitled to the seating, services and products offered. No one can feel out of place.

Ray goes on to touch upon the "roles" we are all cast in as an extension of our demographic characteristics including the positions held at work, income, background, education, etc. This is really the core of much of Sociological research, studying how the "roles" influence behavior and how groups interrelate with respect to who they are as individuals. I digress.. So, while we usually interact with those that we need to interact with for some purpose, the Third Place affords us the opportunity to interact with those who we don't necessarily for some specific, tangible purpose other than for the sake of being social.

"George Simmel referred to as "pure sociability" is precisely the occasion in which people get together for no other purpose, higher or lower, than for the "joy, vivacity, and relief" of engaging their personalities beyond the contexts of purpose, duty, or role."

Wow.

Ray also contends that we have lost our propensity for idle talk, that is, conversation that does not have some intrinsic value. "Pure sociability" in this definition holds no value. I believe it! I think to some degree we've all become selfish. People now are overly eager to use others as a sounding board for their thoughts and personal matters and call it "conversation" when really it is only to serve the purpose of getting something off their chest or seeking advice. Never mind our listening skills.. I think this is all a far cry from the kind of conversation that Ray is referring to. Have we really places such a premium on being productive that idle hands have become cast as a social evil? Maybe it's just me, but I feel as though I'm squandering time when I'm not doing something productive these days. Is it the weight of responsibility? A misguided personal drive?

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." When did enjoying the company of friends become squandering time?

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