The Space

a year of third things

Jan 07, 2024

"A good third thing does not require people to work hard to understand it, but invites people to do the hard work of understanding themselves."

— Parker Palmer

I love the idea of the third thing. If you haven't come across this phrase before let me introduce you to the concept. 

Sometimes we want to explore a topic, a thought an idea and we look to something external to help us articulate it. That thing could be a poem, a story, some music, a piece of art, a tree, anything. These items are 'third things.' This third things are not representatives of the two parties in conversation, they are an external item that has its own voice, its own way of bringing out new insights, some metaphors or thoughts on the topic. 

From the use of the third thing new information emerges.  

I like to take photos of third things as I see them —  if I notice a tree, a book, a building, a something I take a picture of it.  Even the picture of me included in the images above is a third thing because it reminds me of the person I was looking at when I was laughing...

Let's explore that for a moment...

I was having some professional photos taken and as I was sitting outside a cafe in Byres Road, Glasgow someone walking past started to make me laugh and as you can see, it was a real belly laugh! Looking at the picture (top right) brings back those feelings, and by thinking about what that laughter represents in the moment and reflecting on it for a few more minutes asking some questions: 

— What was the last times and places where you laughed?

— What did that laughter remind you of?

— What does really laughing mean to you?

Do you have a third thing that you could explore?

Parker Palmer says our awareness at whatever pace and depth we are able to handle — sometimes inwardly in silence, sometimes aloud in community — giving the shy soul the protective cover it needs. Mediated by a good metaphor, the soul is more likely than usual to have something to say. But the fact will count for nothing if we fail to recognize that the soul is speaking or fail to pay attention to what it says.

I have a collection of third things I started at the end of last year and I'd love to add to it — do you have any poems or pictures or stories that I could add to my collection? Please let me know. 

Last week felt like the space between the new year and going back to work and work... I bought the poetry book Wild Hope by Donna Ashworth and I am loving reading it. I also loved the ideas in this article about the strength secret in The Guardian - I'm looking forward to what feels like an experiment and adventure every month! 

Whatever you are doing next week have a great one. 

All my best,


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