Time for Third Space
Imagine: a third space, a “space between” the one and the other. Imagine: a tranquil interruption, a place where we can come to our senses, a nowhere land between all the other ‘lands’ pervaded by expectations and obligations, a place in which our identity can mature beyond the forces of conformity and compliance, a point of integrating one’s self in a multiple world, a place where we can be ‘nobody’ and therefore find ourselves, where we dis-cover ourselves as we encounter the other, a group of people with no common history, making history together by giving existence to what is alive.
This would not be a luxury in a world under increasing pressure, dangerously inclined to destructive dynamics. We are tipping into a new era, that’s the growing feeling - which is a feeling of fear, of deep concern at least. Society’s health depends on people connecting with the other, with people who are different from oneself, from the norm(al).
Serious change seems imminent. Change is also needed, but in which direction will it tilt? How should we respond? What answer can we give to the challenges we face? How can we go beyond fear and its expression of numbness, alienation, intolerance, hostility …? All cultures and eras have rediscovered the third space, and given today’s acceleration and uncertainty it is needed more than ever.
We need a place for us to reflect, to take time and slow down, to face the question marks, to raise our moral consciousness, and, above all, to make the power of deep (or “real”) connection palpable. In that space people step from the destructive go-together of disconnecting with "them" and fusing with "us", into an open process of differing and encountering.
Third space exists. The know-how (the social technology, as some say) and wisdom are available. The enabling conditions for the emergence of third space can be summarized as follows:
- An explicit frame of aspirations such as (●) physical presence (●) attentive listening and expressing experiences, (●) inquiring ‘what is’ in the here and now, (●) trusting and tolerating uncertainty and ambiguity; (●) noticing and suspending judgment, (●) feeling free and co-responsible, (●) exploring difference on the basis of equality and compassion, and (●) discovering oneself and others in the process of encountering.
- The basic attitude of the facilitators is one of grounding / hosting / holding. They embody as much as possible these aspirations.
- A time loop: fixed time slots with the same, recurring open agenda which simply (but not easily) consists of seeking a realization and embodiment of the aspirations mentioned above. The facilitators do not determine the program during the sessions.
- A quiet, separate, demarcated place. Entering and leaving can go along with a ritual such as a moment of silence.
- Time to reclaim time – no time pressure.
We can start to invite people to cocreate this space, to let it emerge in the process of being together. Let us invite those who are different: not the least those who were expelled by the atrocity of war, preferring an uncertain life elsewhere to hopelessness and death, who risked their lives for venturing to enter fortress Europe, in search of hospitality and a dignified future. Or youngsters in search for themselves navigating between the different cultures that they belong to. Finally all people in transition, at whatever kind of turning point in their life, in their community, in history, searching for identity and connection between contexts, between eras and above all between people.
Sven De Weerdt, Johan Poisquet, Karin Draaijer, Heinrich Nicolaus, and thanks to Hen Wilkinson for her comments, and Karin Draaijer for the picture of her social art work "Boudoir de Dialogues".