vol. 47: why i'm building The Commons in SF
rekindling thoughtful dialogue, playful curiosity, and community in the heart of sf
Welcome to Wellness Wisdom - A newsletter for the thoughtful by Patricia Mou. A medley of resources and thoughts on wellness start-ups, personal development, mental health and philosophy.
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Hi lovely humans,
The past few months since my last issue has been filled with serendipity, connection, and ideation. I wanted to finally share what i’ve been up to.
To do so fully, i’d like to share why it means so much to me.
Some of my best friends growing up were old dead men from 500 BC. As an only child born to a philosophy professor and history grad student, I often escaped into my parents’ library to find friends. There I met many visions on how to live across history’s topographies of meaning (not as a baby of course, i couldn’t read then - but increasingly so over the years.) My parents’ dedication to learning and love for self-knowledge have informed my values immensely today.
In college, this thread of inquisitivity unraveled through weekly philosophy essay clubs with 10 of my most curious friends. We formalized this through starting the first TEDx talk at our school, focused on how tradition could inform innovation.
This inspired me to spend summers interning at The Commonwealth Club, at the expense of coveted consulting and banking internships. There I was a scribe and greeter for over 35 salons on everything from philosophy to climate change, falling in love with the format in the process.
After graduating, I had to make a living - so though my intellect was relegated to the world of “strategy, business-y, and technical decisioning”, my soul found solace in my environment and creations on nights and weekends.
I found that SF group houses were fertile grounds to continue the salon tradition more intimately. In living with budding builders, artists, technologists, and writers - I not only got to engage directly with their visions of fulfillment and theories of change, but also witnessed their embodiment and fruition.
After living in 5 group houses over the last 5 years, (and what felt like a 24/7 salon) (lol it’s not as intense as it sounds), my modus operandi evolved from “surrounding myself with smart people” to ”surrounding myself with people who are free and curious in ways I am not”.
Throughout the loneliness that pervaded the pandemic, I wanted to bring the spirit of group houses and salons to the digital realm. I launched this newsletter, which grappled with topics on meaning, identity, and consciousness. And through that, was able to attract a community of thoughtful people to host philosophy essay clubs and digital cafe experiences with (thank you for being here 🙏). I also launched a curation-as-a-service business called Rabbit Holes , which gathered internet rabbit holes across philosophy and art - in other words, an amalgamation of digital portals into what it means to live a life of meaning and beauty.
This year of digital experiments has shown me that there is a clear need for communities founded on curiosity and meaning-making. However, there is still nothing that surpasses the energetic dance of souls and kinetic exchange of ideas in-person.
Despite the evolution of our technologies, our bodies have not kept up. We need physical forums to play with our neighbors in the realm of ideas.
After doing in-depth research on the history of third spaces, I learned that America has lost half of casual gathering places, or “third spaces”, that existed at midcentury — places that hosted the easy and informal, yet socially binding, association that is the bedrock of community life.
Additionally, these meta trends at large further illustrate the need for 3rd spaces:
More people are moving into cities. 75% of the population will be living in cities by 2050.
However loneliness is at an all-time high. A recent survey found that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). Over half—54%—feel that no one knows them well.
Religion's role in American society is shrinking. 1 in 4 millennials are not religious. As organized religion's role in society declines, we will need new institutions to meet the very real human needs for connection, meaning, and belonging that religion has traditionally met.
The rise in remote work increases loneliness and location optionality. People not only need a place to work outside of their homes, but also find social opportunities that can replace the traditional social networks born from in-person work.
Little daily errands we used to run IRL are now completed with a click of a button - we bank online, instead of going to the local branch; we get our groceries delivered in one-click instead of shopping among our neighbors at the grocery store; we even get diagnosed and prescribed online instead of seeing a doctor.
Safe to say, I red-pilled down the third space rabbit hole, launched a blog reviewing third spaces that exist in the present, and more recently, hosted a brainstorm with members of The Neighborhood, on what an ideal third space would look like in SF.
At this brainstorm, I met my lovely co-creator Adi Melamed, who ran communities at Interact and salons at Brown University, and the rest was history.
The Commons is our dream of revitalizing cities by creating new community spaces designed for belonging, serendipity, and intellectual / emotional nourishment.
It is our antidote against larger macros forces that are propagating loneliness and fragmented discourse. We are inspired by the Juntos, Enlightenment Cafes, Philosophy Salons, Vienna Coffeehouses, Asian teahouses, and Main Street’s of America. And seek to bring their spirit of inquisitivty and connection to our home here in San Francisco.
It is the brainchild of not just Adi and I, but an entire SF community.
In talking to hundreds of friends and strangers about what was missing in SF, we too often heard the yearning for:
A sense of belonging, familiarity, and serendipity in both intimate and wide-reaching scenes.
An intellectually and emotionally stimulating environment to consistently return to.
A supportive community that shares their values of exploration, growth, creativity, and innovation.
The kind that blooms in places like college campuses and small close-knit towns. The kind in which an inordinate amount of social progress is alchemized through the opportune combination of values-aligned humans, and the spaces that housed them.
So instead of complaining or jumping ship - we’re doing something about it.
The Commons is a community space rekindling thoughtful dialogue, playful curiosity, & community, in the heart of SF.
We’re building a multi-purpose space in Hayes Valley that will feature a co-working cafe, communal library, philosophy event space, and a meditation/yoga studio. Cozy reading nooks and conversation cushions will fill all liminal spaces.
Every piece of decor and furniture in the space will be specially curated to evoke a sense coziness, warmth, and vitality (plants galore!). It’ll also be a place you can go on a Friday night to listen to jazz and thumb through a book, as opposed to partying or drinking at a bar.
Our mood board for the space:
Along with being a warm and serendipitous place for you to converse with friends or go deep in reflection, we’re filling this space with an abundance of events to nourish playful curiosity and exploration.
These include group junto dinners, salon talks, essay clubs, contemplative reflections, maker nights, game nights, meditations, creativity workshops, communal art, and much more. The topics will range from tools for thought to urbanism, solar punk futures to philosophy canons, and creative writing to personal flourishing modalities.
Just as the spirit of play is dynamic - our events will be malleable, shifting and molding to the needs of our community. The Commons will be a haven where connection to self & others through mind & body catalyzes personal & communal transformation.
Right now, we’re raising money to build and design our space in Hayes Valley and we’d love to invite you to become a patron.
The proceeds will cover real estate, furnishing, plumbing + heating fixtures, and light renovations to bring our vision to life. Furthermore, we are all doing this work part-time, so proceeds will create more leverage for us to allocate time towards the important stuff - serving our community.
All of our patrons will be invited to a launch party upon our opening – and any amount helps. We’ll also be launching The Commons with both a membership program and public, open hours.
This allows us to both cultivate a more intimate, regular, and connected community that can easily build shared context, while also remaining accessible to anyone interested in our space and events. Patrons are welcome to all our public hours and events, and everyone is more than welcome to inquire about our membership program.
We’re excited to be coming together to build a one-of-a-kind third space in San Francisco. If you want to stay in touch follow our journey through our Twitter , website, and our newsletter. Thank you for support 🙏
To building social rails for the next renaissance - yours,
Thank you for being part of The Wellness Wisdom newsletter today.
I’m Patricia and have a full-time job but curate this newsletter in my free time as a labor of love.
This newsletter is free because I believe everyone deserves to have access to wellness resources. If you want to support this publication, join me down the rabbit hole 🕳🐇.