Thin Spaces

I love the way a vital idea sometimes sneaks its way into a conversation and sits there quietly, waits till the conversation ends, and then jumps up and down till we pay it the attention it demands.

Such was the case yesterday when I was talking with Sue Heatherington. We discussed the importance of “thin space”; those places where distraction drops away, and we feel more connected to something meaningful. It varies – sometimes it’s people, other times ideas, and frequently just the spirit of the place itself. Sue talked about The Waterside, and it reminded me of the places I have found it – for me, often in the northwest of Scotland, at Troodos in Cyprus, and other places. I didn’t visit them (or, in the case of Troodos, live there) for their “thin place” qualities; I discovered them while there and found that they retain that quality visit after visit. 

They are important places. In a world constantly searching for “content”, they are places where the noise of content is irrelevant, and we get to spend time in the quiet of our mind. When we do, important things typically surface. 

We have talked about “thin space” in Originize. It makes me wonder. What has been the impact of months in lockdown and our inability to visit those spaces? Where they are in the virtual world of the internet, or do they exist there at all?

I think they do. We have found “thin space” during our conversations that are deliberately free of agenda when we share what we’re noticing and what is emerging. Meetings based on trust and curiosity

I think they also exist in games environments like Jonathan Blow’s epic “Witness“; a beautiful, absorbing game based not on action but on noticing.

Ideas and insights emerge that create different, interesting, essential agendas rather than the often stultifying ones that lead us to the meeting room, dragging our feet.

There is, of course, the opposite of “thin space”; “thick space”. Thick space is full of content created by others, noise, politics and hidden agendas. “Thick Space” saps our energy. 

So what, as we consider going back to the office, is the office really for? Are they going to be the thick spaces we left as we entered our first lockdown, or can we convert them to thin spaces? Places we go to meet others to share ideas and seek inspiration, rather than deliver reports that we can do better online. 

The challenges we face need thin spaces. Room to think, space to notice free of the deluge of content. 

Where do you find yours?

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