I'm not talking about winning and losing here, or races or sports or politics, but something far more important: the simple art of living your life in the real world. In that world, as someone has pointed out, all communities — and therefore all members of communities — need a "third place." It's not your home. It's not where you work. Those are the first two places. No, it's the place where you go to, um, be.
—Stephen Hunter, "Shear Gladness," The Washington Post, September 13, 2002
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
The concept struck a chord and the book became surprisingly popular. Many businesses and organizations redesigned themselves to encourage people to hang out. Some, to make sure you didn't miss the point, even incorporated "third place" in their names. We now have, for example, the Third Place Coffeehouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Third Place Bookstore in Lake Forest Park, (Thanks to Garrett Fitzgerald for the link.) Washington. Oldenburg even released a second book earlier this year: Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories About the "Great Good Places" at the Heart of Our Communities.