Finley’s Sanctuary : A Third Place

I’d never before thought about the concept of having a “happy place” or sanctuary until the beginning of this year when life started to go a little pear shaped.  I started to think about it again last week.

For about a decade I’ve been thinking about opening a coffee shop.  Until recently it didn’t have a name and it was a fanciful idea not least because I’ve never worked in that sort of industry.  I make a coffee by putting a cup under the right bit of the machine and pressing a button.  If friends come round and all want coffee, it takes a while and I have to check I have enough clean mugs.

I wandered in to my local Starbucks last week and was met by the person who I think used to own it when I first started going there.  I was and still am a regular and we’re on first name terms.  She used to give / sell me mugs and stuff she probably shouldn’t have done!

The conversation started and rapidly moved on to “So how’s work?” as these things tend to.

“Yeah, I’m thinking of a bit of change to be honest.  Maybe go back to uni.  I don’t really know.  Something completely different,” I replied.

“Well what would you like to do?”

“What I’d like to do is own a coffee shop.  Me and a mate have a great idea about a coffee shop during the day turning in to a bar with live bands at night.”

“That’s really interesting, cause I have a business idea…”

Turns out she had the same idea as me and was looking for a “sensible” business partner to counteract her use of impulse.  Me, being particularly risk-averse, seems to fit the bill.

The reason I want a coffee shop is that I like the idea of it being a sanctuary and that “happy place” for people.  I like that there could be regulars you could get to know and that you could be a kind of constant for them.  It would be what is known as a “third place”, separate from home (the first place) and work (the second place).

In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

There are 8 characteristics to a third place:

Neutral ground

Occupants of third places have little to no obligation to be there. They are not tied down to the area financially, politically, legally, or otherwise and are free to come and go as they please.

Leveler (a leveling place)

Third places put no importance on an individual’s status in a society. Someone’s economic or social status do not matter in a third place, allowing for a sense of commonality among its occupants. There are no prerequisites or requirements that would prevent acceptance or participation in the third place.

Conversation is main activity

Playful and happy conversation is the main focus of activity in third places, although it is not required to be the only activity. The tone of conversation is usually light hearted and humorous; wit and good natured playfulness are highly valued.

Accessibility and accommodation

Third places must be open and readily accessible to those who occupy them. They must also be accommodating, meaning they provide the wants of their inhabitants, and all occupants feel their needs have been fulfilled.

The regulars

Third places harbor a number of regulars that help give the space its tone, and help set the mood and characteristics of the area. Regulars to third places also attract newcomers, and are there to help someone new to the space feel welcome and accommodated.

A low profile

Third places are characteristically wholesome. The inside of a third place is without extravagance or grandiosity, and has a homely feel. Third places are never snobby or pretentious, and are accepting of all types of individuals, from several different walks of life.

The mood is playful

The tone of conversation in third places are never marked with tension or hostility. Instead, they have a playful nature, where witty conversation and frivolous banter are not only common, but highly valued.

A home away from home

Occupants of third places will often have the same feelings of warmth, possession, and belonging as they would in their own homes. They feel a piece of themselves is rooted in the space, and gain spiritual regeneration by spending time there.

 

That’s exactly what I wanted for my coffee shop.  It would be a sanctuary where you wouldn’t only go when things were rubbish, but also when things are great to make it even better.

I’ve had happy places before.  One that doesn’t count as a third place was a friend’s sofa which was frequented by me on a usually weekly basis.  There was a tapas restaurant I used to go to quite a lot with friends, and a tea shop I used to really like until last week when they sat me in a particular place that probably carries more meaning than it should.

One of the things that sucked about the aforementioned start of the year was walking round towns and cities and seeing places I used to go to with people, and knowing that that wouldn’t happen anymore.  It sucked because they were all places where I / we had good times, where I was happy.

I think that’s what I like about the idea of a coffee shop, or my coffee shop, which is similar to what I experienced in all my happy places and what I think is the point of a third place.  It’s the people you’re with, the community, that makes it.  The place could be anywhere.

Just like the glorious northern star you guided me
Shining a light of pure tranquility
To a secret place where no-one else could go
Free to reveal the things I never show

Strong like a symphony
You protected me
From reality

Somewhere to love somewhere to breathe
Somewhere to call my sanctuary
Here in the dark I can be strong
Knowing that nothing can hurt from now on
Somewhere to love somewhere to breathe
Somewhere to call my sanctuary
Closer to the sun
To your heart I run

I was deserted like the moon is at the dawn
I never thought I’d ever find a place so beautiful
All my heart was falling like a stone
Deep into an ocean vast and colourful

Strong like a symphony
You protected me
From reality

Somewhere to love somewhere to breathe
Somewhere to call my sanctuary
Here in the dark I can be strong
Knowing that nothing can hurt from now on
Somewhere to love somewhere to breathe
Somewhere to call my sanctuary
Closer to the sun
To your heart I run

One step on the horizon
A safe place up on the mountain
So far away from chaotic life

Sanctuary by Delta Goodrem

 

Comments 3

  1. I really enjoyed this post. This is my first stop by 83UH, and I found it very interesting. I am the pastor of a church, so I kept thinking of the implications of a “third place” in relation to my church – thought provoking!

    Thanks! I look forward to further reads.

    • Thank you, and thanks for stopping by! Actually a church was the main place I thought of when I went through all the characteristics, as well as when I concluded. It’s still one of the things that sticks in my mind when I studied Religious Studies at school, being told that a church is a community rather than a building.

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