The Stoia Poikile, or the Painted Porch, was the original meeting place of the Stoic school. A stoa, in architectural terms, is a columned area with a roof. The Stoa of Attalos, sponsored by the Rockefeller family, is a faithful reconstruction of a large Greek stoa located on the Agora of Athens. The Painted Porch owed its name to the paintings of both legendary and real battles that were important to the Greeks, ranging from the Fall of Troy to the Battle of Marathon. If one is still curious, there’s a huge amount of reading material on the Agora, something I recommend studying.
Some time ago when I was especially interested in Stoic philosophy, I dreamed of making a Painted Porch of my own. I would not be teaching anybody–I’m in no way qualified–but I’d be providing a place and a means for that. A genuine “third place,” to borrow Ray Oldenburg’s terminology. What constitutes a third place? It is in direct contrast to the first and second places, those respectively being home and the workplace. The characteristics of a third place are many, to name a few:
- Its occupants feel it is a home away from home.
- It projects feelings of warmth and comfort instead of pretentiousness.
- It functions as neutral ground.
- Socializing is the main purpose of being there.
- There exists a group of good regulars that keep a cheerful tone.
- Egos are left at the coat check.
I envision such a place that is all of the above and more. I mentioned La Jolla’s Athenaeum in the last post; were it paired with a gymnasium, some sort of temple, a cozy cafe, and a lecture hall or a kind of comfortable courtyard where meetings like those Zeno held in Athens then it would be without flaw or peer. That is exactly what I hope to bring to the world. A comfortable place that helps people in their efforts to grow physically, spiritually, socially, and intellectually. I can’t quite imagine yet how it would look except that I would want it to be durable and timeless, not like a fragile modern library that needs another renovation after only five years of abuse.
In sports, there’s nothing like having a training partner in a sport who is your physical peer. Those short times I had one, I felt like I could accomplish anything. Undoubtedly having a fraternity of like-minded people would doubly reinforce any goals anyone has of actualizing these wonderful things. Such a project would require a huge amount of money and effort. I can only hope that I can reach the point where I can give back in such a way. This is the one sort of philanthropic cause I hold dear that I think might actually make a great difference in the world–and if not the greater world, then certainly locally. The butterfly effect resulting from having blessed and driven people around would make it all worthwhile.