"There are many gifts I was able to bring back with me from Paris, one is the awareness of the volume of noise we individually create. And though I'm someone who enjoys a great conversation and a good laugh, and others having the same, I realize that much of our noise is unnecessary and is a sign of American indulgence and insensitivity."
Think about it. There were the Metro and bus rides, the hour long walks, the delicious food and wine, the architecture and history that informed my daily life there (and CNN to keep me posted on what was going on back in the States), which is different than my current life in small town NC.
Most of all, there was, what I call, a silent motion of the people. Every night, my companion and I would sit outdoors at a neighborhood cafe and "people watch" while reflecting on our day. Not only was it at night but during the day, everyone moved fast-paced (imagine New York City); but what struck me was how they were doing this with a silence and stillness. Some type of reverence to sound space.
Folks on the buses and trains would talk to each other in a whisper. Though I don't know the French language, I could barely hear what one was saying on their cell phone. Still, a vast majority of those I saw day after day were engaged with each other or reading versus talking on their cell phones. Imagine that!
I realize that we, in the US, are not only a culture of distractions but also of loudness. I have to admit, in full transparency, that I can be one of the loud ones, often not realizing until it's silent that I've been talking louder than I needed to. And you would agree with me, I'm sure, that nothing is worse that someone talking in public at an unnecessary volume. How rude, right? Yet, it happens here without awareness and apology more than we can probably count.
When I think about third spaces, I wonder what culture presents itself there. Is a sub-culture created, fused by its members? It is the culture of the country? The establishment? Who defines it? Who changes it? What's allowed? What are the rules? If third space is the place where you can "just be," what makes it work for you and others?
Interestingly, after being on crowded streets, buses and cafes -- with seats too close for an American's physical comfort -- and not feeling overwhelmed by large volumes of chatter, I was able to stay within myself while also being a part of what was going on without feeling drained or irritated. There was this sense that everyone was free in themselves without imposing who that was or what that felt like onto who you are or on your space, even though seats are in close proximity and folks didn't mind crowding in with their body.
There are many gifts I was able to bring back with me from Paris, one is the awareness of the volume of noise we individually create. And though I'm someone who enjoys a great conversation and a good laugh, and others having the same, I realize that much of our noise is unnecessary and is a sign of American indulgence and insensitivity.
There is enough space for all of us to "be" together if we remember that it's not just our physical bodies that take up space but our voices too. Is it more space than we need? More than likely, it is.