Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gemutlichkeit and the Emergent Conversation

“Gemutlichkeit …...the one German word that describes the feeling of being at ease, comfortable, and at home.”

In fact, the homepage for The Village Corner Restaurant, Bakery & Tavern goes on to say that gemutlichkeit “makes you want to linger, enjoying the company, your surroundings, good food and drink”…and so we did last night here in the village.

The last Tuesday of the month is a day of encouragement for many who take part in the Atlanta Emergent Cohort and this week was extra special to me as friends gathered in the beloved environs of Old Town Stone Mountain to further the emergent conversation. Meeting at Claus’ and Hilde’s place, the owners of The Village Corner Restaurant, Bakery & Tavern, underscored the importance of “third places” within a community.

I know it is becomeing a buzzword these days; however, back in the day, Ray Oldenburg, an urban sociologist from Florida, coined the phrase “third places” in his work The Great Good Place (Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place. New York: Paragon House, 1989.) and began drawing attention to informal gathering places in the community as essential to community and public life. In fact, he says, bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other "third places" (in contrast to the first and second places of home and work), are central to local well-being and community vitality.

Posted below is an excerpt from a 1990 Chicago Tribune article on the subject that is worth the read.

"All great societies provide informal meeting places, like the Forum in ancient Rome or a contemporary English pub," explained Oldenburg, a faculty member at West Florida State University. "But since World War II, America has ceased doing so. The neighborhood tavern hasn't followed the middle class out to the suburbs...Accordingly, for eight years, Oldenburg devoted himself to gathering the legend and lore of America's last remaining neighborhood taverns, ma-and-pa grocery stores and other examples of what he calls "third places." The term derives from Oldenburg's gloss on a Freudian concept.

Sigmund Freud held that emotional well-being depends upon having someone to love and work to do. Oldenburg argues that the great psychoanalyst made his mental-health list one item too short. Besides a mate and a job, Oldenburg said, we need a dependable place of refuge where, for a few minutes a day, we can escape the demands of family and bosses.

In that kind of psychological Eden, an easy-going conviviality allows us to be temporarily amnesic to our woes and shortcomings.

Oldenburg is convinced that many problems of contemporary society — alienation in the workplace, soaring divorce rates, etc. — trace to America's declining supply of such third places. —Ron Grossman, "Hangouts," Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1990

On my part - and on behalf of my Atlanta Emergent Cohort friends- thank you to Claus and Hilde for staying the course and being such a “third place” here in The Village.

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