It was inevitable: in the early days of a mass movement, the followers shall be counted on two hands. A cluster of the willing surrounding their vision of a vision.
As our glorious idea of the unMonastery attracts supporters; they adhere for a variety of reasons. Not surprisingly most of them are personal: the logic of joining and living in what can only be perceived externally as a self-referential cult may best appeal to souls in transition, who are struggling to model their life. We have to be all things to a growing amount of people, and the question quickly arises as to whether the unMonastery needs a faith basis. In a secular society, we cannot, nor do we wish to, deliver spiritual deliverables. It remains beyond our control if any of the participants experience anything of this dimension; at this point it doesn’t seem essential.
To offer a solid definition of our belovéd unMonastery also lies in the future. Those who do so with the greatest conviction may mouth an understanding of its walls and how they get there. Despite a brave start in Matera, what these walls may house has yet to be properly explored: questions of the how we live haunt us and obscure the greater one of : what service does the unMonastery offer to its surroundings?
To help contain the History of the unMonastery within one narrative, let us retrace some steps…
The Matera School
Our four month experimental launch in Matera had its ritual ending after six months, and was then stretched (thinly) to nine. It met with both whimpers and a bang. As amply documented in the Book of Greater and Lesser Omissions, opinions as to if we floundered from triumph to triumph, or rose to moments of inspired brilliance from amid generally mismanaged trudging, are a matter of personal perspective. When we did close our doors in October after contributing to the final successful push of the city of Matera towards becoming European Capital of Culture [Life After Jubilation][1, ]the perspective was simple: we had been written into the city’s plans for the future, let the future evolve. We would be back when Matera needed us.
But Matera is never that straightforward. For reasons beyond our apprehension, taking the piss out of the unMonastery became a local sport. Even before we descended, a video appeared on the YouTube of a mass murderer preying upon unMonasterians. A false project application mocking our sincerest of efforts made it to the deliberation stage before being exposed. While general skepticism still carried the day, and a clandestine citizen’s committee of a hundred was formed to prepare an alternative people’s cultural program of a contra-bid ( Creative Deconstruction ), the major newspaper published a diatribe dissecting the value of the ECOC bidding process. Along the way, the unMon was given a public flogging. (link?)
This atmosphere of attack was worst for the Italians involved in designing the grander scheme: the Northern Imperialists headed by Alberto Cottica and Paolo Verri were made to feel every last grain of historical resentment. The unMonastery was inevitably caught in the crossfire. ( Militant Reluctance )
Matera has previous. The year of our Prototype marked the 500th anniversary of an historic assassination of a Spanish Count; another member of a still prominent family was also subject to an early death as a pointed response to the unification of Italy. The astounding ritual of civil disobedience that is the centrepiece of the city’s Madonna della Bruna festival week celebrates the ability to destroy and claim fragments of beauty ( Rehearsing Police Brutality). In December, we were awoken by reportage by the local amateur TV loudmouth: the unMonastery had been sacked and plundered for its equipment; his conclusion: the unMonasterians, famous for therapeutically kicking each other in the pants, had most likely done this to themselves.
At this point our return to our spiritual home is more eventual than imminent. The city is on hold as it awaits the May civic elections; attempts to position the cultural capital program for 2019 beyond the reach of the next round of patronage may or may not hold. Suspicions are voiced that when the lights are turned back on, the Matera School of unMonasticism will be ceremoniously trundled out as a visionary triumph.
In the meantime we have done more than lick our wounds…
Those exposed to the unMonastery bacteria have reacted in various ways. No one seems able to shake the experience. Facing a fuzzy future, the Matera prototype closed its doors and decentralised. As a first tactical response, considerable effort has gone into stimulating the environment for future extensions of the idea through creating the six-part unMonastery BIOS (Basic Input/Output System). Supported by three British funds sources, the Transmediale festival and large amounts of dedicated work, the BIOS has been dragged into existence as an impressive toolkit for extrapolating upon the Matera experience to provide the practical and conceptual building blocks for future endeavors. Its six interlocking elements are designed to steward conscious growth by generating insight into the inherent considerations in any unMonastery-like upstart .
The entry point of the BIOS is the Method kit: flash card set which provide navigational signposts that indicate inevitable stations on the path of establishing an unMonastery or unMonastery-like endeavor. Created as a final appraisal tool before we left Matera, these single word or phrase cards are augmented by the Stakeholders Handbook - a short description of mission and method, and required reading should you wish to explore the unProcess Map game board (now in 3rd edition and to be built towards use as a centrepiece in a simulation workshop experience for interested communities.) Supporting all this soars the magnum opus of The Book of Greater and Lesser Omissions (aka Book of Mistakes - BOM), an in-depth trawling of the archival records which cross-references the elements of the Method Kit with observations of the unMonastery field experience in a more laconic, literary style. Conceived as a key tool in the trajectory of our 200 year timeline even before the Matera prototype opened its doors - the Book of GLO fleshes out compelling central vocabulary with which to evaluate and orientate our efforts. Behind all this, and completing the BIOS family, lurk the twin elements of the unMonastery website and the Scriptorium which, when completed, will allow for ready access to all our accumulated documentation. A seventh BIOS element, the unAtlas is also under development.
The initial BIOS unveiling was partially engineered for the first unMonastery ‘summit’ that convened at the conjuncture of Transmediale, an annual congress of digital activism in Berlin, January 2015. Twenty plus people with unMonastery/Edgeryder experience gathered to appraise our strategies and priorities. Work was done.
However getting these souls to Berlin was not without its teeth gnashing; a small document filed under the ominous title Diatribe X gives a hint as to the tensions brewing:
" @bembod: do you want to start a simple (1 page) document for objectives and focus for TM (transmediale) - as I've said previously the way I was thinking; Apartment = Alignment, Consensus Building about the future (where/when/what/legal); Foyer = Recruitment & Platform for peoples projects; Bios = Prototyping opportunity. Perhaps too much but... ?
Remember the alignment sessions we did with Cristiano in the first few weeks of Matera - I imagined something like that, but we point it at things like the protocol."
benvickers (in Athens)
---- Well done Ben. My fridge has been OPD and you’ve thrown me the mother of all Herculean tasks. All that patriarchal training cannot be resisted forever, expect a blast of Olympian proportions and me at my most diatribal.
Point number one: our playing must not be playing. If Matera was ‘unMonastery Lite’, this time we embrace Disciplines with the ardor of true unMonasterians. The framework and focus is to serve the people of Transmediale by offering them the (relatively feeble, but the best we got) salvation of the unMon. I will leave it to you to extract the commitments from the team. Katalin fell upon the grenade that I wrote for you in Athens: when it appeared from a distance that things were at their silliest I wished to threaten my withdrawal. I took your retreat from the Athens house in order to immerse yourself in your (GLO) readings as a confession that you recognised the error of your ways. Your penance is only about to begin...
We have one clear task: to tell the story of the unMonastery Protoype. If we don’t wish to be retrospective, we have to augment this with a new, clearly unMonasterian action.
The primary suggestion has been to evolve an unRecruitment process that occurs over a game board that features the freshly minted BIOS elements. unMoaners playing the game with thousands of TM-goers ( and extracting their hopes and dreams) would then become our major mission.
This has been complicated by some structural choices that don’t have an apparent centre. I think that Ben has been on one of his rampages: sending out talking slots for political reasons that unless we are precise in our task allotment can easily obscure the nature of our work. Mobilising our parade of guests in the service of the unMonastery is the only manner not to have them as a major distraction. This effort can easily obliterate our simple life.
How we turn this parade into our advantage without breaking the ‘esthetic’ of the unMonastery is the opportunity thus presented. It is clearly stated in the BOM as a principle of unMonasticism that §Follow-up is Everything§. Students of the book will note that this adage was distilled from an appraisal of our first unOpening presentation which discretely suggests that the event, while pleasant and with high points, was a partial failure. (= No one responded to the passive ‘Talk Show’.) Despite this analysis being carved in the stone of the BOM, the xenophobic model of hiding behind a flurry of imported loud mouths is being repeated with approximately the same rationale.
Stripped of the soporific glories of prototype’s recently activated central heating, the task thrown at us is beyond naivety; as with all our endeavors there is a certain imperative that we rise to the occasion. As quoted in the BOM “Realising that we are nothing, we desire to become... etc. etc.” In a calendar slot devoid of seasonal vegetables, and amid the non-spectacular walls of an Air BnB, or ensconced in the boot-removing region of a refurbished municipal culture centre while the pre-Feb winds amass over Siberia, we may just have our work cut out for us...
We are left with a perilous opportunity. To turn this structural oversight into something beneficial will take a major transition in the precision with which we pursue our (not-yet existent) mandate. In order to realistically stand forth as ourselves and as unMonasterians, we have to go beyond the previous naive, prototype stage of Ancor non lo Sappiamo. Either we have to get a supply of mindfulness pills, or I am going to have to lead an intensive actor’s workshop in something or another.
Finding creative actions that transcend the sphere of the café workers guild. Can be a collective nightmare, or I can take it upon me to design our aims, objectives, and actionables matrix that is ready for your fine-tuning?
Among the key developments of the two-week Berlin Summit was the liaison forged with Biohacker movement which strikes us as an area of core unMonastery research. In addition, the group was introduced to the process management tools of OOs and HAs; in preparation for the summit, a matrix of goals and activities for focussing our efforts was drawn up and presented at our last weekly group video conference before gathering. Printed up in Large in was hung on a wall in the substantial flat that 12-14 people shared a half hours walk from the Transmediale. The key concepts extracted from this work were a concentration upon ‘Obtainable Objectives’, and an acknowledgement of ‘Hidden Assumptions’. Both seem on their way to become pillars of the unMonastery work process. The use of the OO tool, and the ingenious rescue of the gaming scenario as a one-on-one recruitment interface using the card set are described at length in a particularly grumpy chronicle no doubt written under the influence of precious little sleep - 5
The third concern of the Berlin unMonastery Summit was to devise an organisational structure that would serve our purposes for the conceivable future. A proposal of concentric circles of commitment and membership was sketched and adopted on a provisional basis. As summarised in the Stakeholders Handbook (revised), it looks like this:
Each unMonastery is a horizontally structured autonomous unit based on self-initiative and inclusion. Above and beyond the localised units is unMonastery Metanational whose form has yet to be evolved. It is linked to but distinctly independent of Edgeryders (an early 21st Century network of social activists, hackers etc. initially recruited by the Office of Social Cohesion Research, Council of Europe, Strasbourg).
Claims upon uMM/Edgeryders from the individual unMonasteries are limited to non-monetary support, they could include access to a recruitment bank, research and development networks, strategic administration aid, etc.
Claims upon the individual unMonasteries from uMM/Edgeryders are non-material, however it is assumed that each unMonastery make efforts to acquaint themselves with the history of the movement (through the ER archives and the various editions of the Book of Greater and Lesser Omissions.) It is possible that each independent unMonastery (or endeavor using the unMonastery name in some form) be assessed a negotiable budget contribution to support the unMon Metanational. This amount is expected to be recycled into each local initiative in the form of consultant emissaries holding kickstart residencies and cross-fertilisation workshops. The amount is not an absolute percentage, and of course will not be expected before significant running finances have been procured.
In addition to this economic collaboration, each local unit is tasked with distilling and rendering available its own version of The Protocol or guidelines for living.
The unGeneral Assembly
We acknowledge the conceptual impossibility of satisfying all of our aspirations equally at any time. Deeply committed to the ethos of Open Source, the unMonastery movement seeks a mechanism that can preserve vital aspects of its character while fearlessly and egolessly enabling and empowering any party to modify it in any way they choose. The contradiction is self-evident; however, recognising that forks will occur at many junctures, we request that all further builds upon the unMonastery history form a key connection with whatever form of central reference that the internationally recognised the unGeneral Assembly deems most appropriate at the current time.
Still evolving the uMM postulates its growth into two interlinked functional groups: the unGA -- a wide membership organ that makes its voice known partially through Vilfredo, a distributed decision making process pioneered by Edgeryder veteran Pietro Speroni di Fenizio. For more centralised concerns and daily developments we will establish The unCouncil of unMonasterians, this body is responsible to the unGeneral Assembly.
The right to voice opinion in the unGeneral Assembly is open to all those who wish to claim status as true unMonasterians as either veteran co-livers or as active behind the scenes stakeholders. The unCouncil is conceived as the guardians of the unMonastery’s ideals as laid out in the unCode and illuminated in the BoM.
It was further determined that membership in the interim unCouncil would be offered to all who had supported the work with 200 hours of work per annum.
The Illusive Protocol
[ 9:59 PM ]
Brief response while traveling - I do think the protocol can offer speculative solutions to organizing routine and living patterns, but perhaps more so a common poetry that generates trust and allows a freedom of action. Saying freedom may be for lack of a better word.
[ 10:03 PM]
Well, they did have the bible - as preRule and poetry.
[ 10:05 PM ]
Haha very true
Two remaining unfinished tasks from Berlin were to play and become conversant with the Process Map simulation game, and to create Protocol; it was proposed that doing the first could generate material for the second. For a moment there was hope that this task would fall to the Athenians, but since there has been considerable inner debate as to whether or not they could constitute an unMonastery without some basic ingredients such a community to serve, the prospect of generating a viable code seems too much to expect. Or did the resistance lie elsewhere... ?
Squatting the unMon
Immediately after Berlin, a good proportion of the crew absconded to Athens for the second round of a ‘scoping mission.’ Given that during a vital period of BIOS production, the previous gathering of forces in Athens had not resulted in fantabulously disciplined hard work, it seemed for some a questionable idea that we would divide our energies just when we had defined our next push as to build the uMM organisation. (Several scarcely civil Letters to the Athenians had been penned inquiring as to among other things why the lack of official unCommuniqués. Among the residual sins of omissions was that few (read as almost none) had responded to the request to contribute their perspectives to the central unMonastery reference book, BGLO; several deadlines had been silently ignored, while reports of over-exposure to ouzo reached the ears of the editorial committee.)
Among the projects pending on the unMon horizon was one based upon a hidden assumption voiced in the OO matrix designed for Berlin: that to avoid making a Protocol any longer is dangerous. It is clear that not everyone puts the same imperative in the concept. However, whether we call it unCode, unRule, unProtocol, it seems to haunt our work of the past year that the disciplines of our Benedictine predecessors are not mirrored in our daily work:
Has our endless generosity and understanding nature allowed the idea of the unMonastery to be squatted by homeless ne’er-do-wells? Do we do a disservice to future generations by not imposing upon ourselves a regime of collective focus? The Athenians cry out: it seems they hold meetings that declare that an 0800 out-of-bedtime is more urbane than a 0700 one, yet they fail to appoint one of their number to the post of bell-ringer. How will this fare? In the Stakeholders Handbook the unMonastery acknowledges the presence of our Invisible Stakeholders: among them are The Walls we claim to listen to...
A Time for Strong Circles
*We, the Walls, do not laugh. We, the Walls stand at best impatiently. Your itchy movements do not make much impression. They come, they generate empty bottles, they are no more. Even your listening is noisy; you leave little more than scuff marks.
The Invisible Stakeholders cannot moan. Our water table has become diffused; we may clatter to get on-stream, but can promise but a trickle to the as yet untarnished Rubinetto. (link) Strategic Thinking may be required. We have celebrated at least one petty crisis, now the crisis is that we have no We.
The truths are true. In our Matera birthland, one woman clutches a coverless book, while our most unCompromising free spirit picks up a silver medallion for something that has yet to function. La Scuola lies shattered. In the public imagination the media have reduced the unMonastery to rubble; our unMidden heap dismissed as prodigious but lacking substance. In far off Athens, a tribe of the shell-shocked reportedly self-flagellate before the ritual hot plate of the modern precarious. The Empress of the Kitschen is hardly amused. More often, she goes hungry.
With the addition of the proposed Atlas, the BIOS nears something, but without any signs of a protocol the unMonastery remains unPlayable. Nottingham quickly went into a spin, if it provided us a board, we still emerged directionless. Berlin generated heat, but among the draughty net fences erected most for crowd control, we were far from prepared for heat retention. We paid no attention to the Masons of Moabit and the walls of our half-charming B’n’B were given more of a talking to than a hearing. The police visited our brashness twice.
It is written that the unMonastery shall listen to its walls. It is also written that the unMonastery is neither its people nor a building. Unless we understand this subtle negotiation we cannot become the unMonastery. In each of us lies an unMonastery - it is our obsession with doing something so diffuse as ‘good’. However, this is an illusive commodity. Many of us don’t do collectivism; weaned out of the cult of the individual, it is our differences that claim value, while massive areas of overlap seem profoundly less interesting. It is all too easy to identify with ones personal walls.
Our work seeks to break the rule of self-management - the proceedings necessary to generate our way forward have yet to be revealed. Faith will only get you so far; we are once again left with the option of Thinking Strategically.*
When is an unMonastery not an unMonastery?
Meanwhile, the unMonastery Mission to Athens seems to have at least one structural problem: a low population base leaves them without a critical mass for mealtimes. The basic unMonastery reboot exercise of assaulting each other and distinguished local guests with glorious culinary creations becomes difficult to practice when life gets too decentralised... The unMon mission to Athens is as vulnerable as anything we could imagine - seemingly launched on a whim, at the moment of writing it may just be a benign squat occupying a strategic moment. It is unclear whether its participants are moderately literate contemporary homeless or itinerant visionaries. Whether they have purchasing power enough to secure an anchoring among the community that is unknowingly hosting them, remains an even greater question...
(Damn I lost this and will have to rewrite this without some of my well-balanced diplomatic flair. I must try to get myself to Athens ASAP. I reckon that I'll be as thoroughly seduced as you lot seem to be: )
Anonymous meeting notes /Athens:
UNKNOWN QUESTIONS THAT NEED ANSWERS:
How will people support themselves?
If we do an unMonastery in Athens, how does this effect the narrative as it relates to isolation and rural spaces - to date the unMonastery has been a non capital city project - what’s lost?
What are our shared goals and objectives?*
Is the project closed or open?
*“We worked hard in Berlin; deliberating Athens fell off the table.
I am concerned about question two. This comes as a bit of a surprise, at last mention in Berlin, it was named as a possible unEmbassy. From whence comes the inflation of terminology?*
At this stage in our development every step must be utterly strategic. The lessons learned from Matera and TM was that despite its mention in the BOM (and method kit), Strategic Thinking is not the strong point of our group. Stretching the model to such a degree that it circumvents the material/economic agreement with a living breathing community distorts the party line of service; to now leave the core principle of the Rubinetto with its mutual exchange with a vibrant local community in favour of what seems to be parachuting in an externally financed slacker-space for a band of nær-do-well anglophones is just too eccentric from the established model. Frankly, it seems suicidal. It is at least a case for the unCouncil.
The unMMetanational is not a group of people - we are but stewards. We have to do better than simply impatiently jump at possible possibilities to meet individual needs. I feel strongly that in an a two hundred year perspective this is exactly the moment when we should be refining what our life of service entails, it therefore behooves us to strive for orthodoxy; to study our history and the wisdom contained in The Book to devise a well-balanced set of activities. (In Berlin, although it is mentioned in the Stakeholders Handbook, I didn't get to unpack the concept of 'Visible/Visceral added Value.'
Under the anonymity that a big city offers our habits will go unexamined -- already the first reports of ouzo overdose have reached the slack boards. Of course, if you've banged a protocol in place complete with xylophone music, mutual uRT, and daily Greek lessons wrapped in distinctive robes with an economically feasible rum ration, then my impending visit will have distinctly other intentions...
Overriding the Ingrained
The cerebellum is stubborn, it is the born facilitator, but it programs all-purpose solutions. Once installed, shortcuts do just that: they cut short the meticulous process of aligning each synapse: memory dictates.
The Protocol cannot be tabled. The unMoaners cannot be nailed down. The unMonasterians resist herding; the unMods nod amusedly as they plead innocence of tradition.
Corporal resistance is a function of culture. Per Spildra Borg once reported to me on holding his shamanist theatre workshops in Palestine: the young people could not jump, to leave the ground was unheard of, there was no imaginative room in their bodies from which to defy gravity.
The bodies of the free-lance geeks that provide 60% of the unMonastery workforce reflect creatures of habit. They sit, they conceptualise. They do little choral roaring, arrhythmic arm flapping or dervish whirling. Their embraces, though often heartfelt, remain the tentative sort. Re-wiring the personal history that dictates such inflexibility is a finicky procedure; the cultural conflict with those of us raised dancing with grandmothers or rolling across the floor of a myriad of self-development workshops may be a gap which the unMonastery can never resolve.
Others found a more understanding angle for the absence of what was perceived by most as the key element of monasticism... Process map of the We (link where?)
To follow up on this unWork, elaborate proposals for launching a nomadic series of ‘BIOS game workshops’ in conjunction with co-players in Athens, Lausanne, Valencia, Nottingham, and Bergen have been presented to those willing to hear. Time is running out; the mandate to provide a strict regime to last the extent of four days at the upcoming pre-Summit has brought forth guidelines which have as yet gone uncommented upon...
The preSumptions of the preSummit
- That merely waving the notion of unMonasticism is not sufficient.
- That we recognise that Existence without Protocol has proven its
- That Cultivating the We is a major tenant of the
- That Visceral Added Value is the litmus test of all unMon
efforts. If we are not feeling the fun, we are hopping over vital
- That as an antidote to years of expressing ourselves -- we
must express ourselves otherly.
- That by now everyone will have taken the time to go to bed with the BGLO and can be prepared to lead a lesson reading based upon one of their favourite bits.
- That the Spine of the Circle reflects the health of the organism.
- That Civilisation untox work (uRT) must be explored emotionally,
chemically and electromagnetically.
- That articulating the OOs and HAs of life is a key step towards Purifying the Plot.
What will this entail practically you ask?:
The preSummit will take place within the confines of a pseudo monastic rigour that far supersedes anything that we the participants of the Berlin Summit or the LOTE#4 meeting managed. Our time will be directed by the unMoan bells that will call us to both contemplation and sweat. We will spend much time in circles, but the circles will be periodically ‘visceralised’ -- in the orthodox tradition they don’t do pews.
The key to all our work is the Visceral added Value as described on the basic equipment page of the Stakeholders Handbook. A Collective OOing and HAing session will be included to align our thinking strategically with our upcoming efforts.
The emotional unTox work has its own frequency -- it will be supported at all times.
The electromagnetic unTox is to combat Living in our Laptops: the cardinal sin of unMonasterians everywhere. This is vital. Since we must still document - bring pencils.
The chemical unTox involves reclaiming your zombied bloodstream from the colonisation of the big 5 conquistadors: specifically this means limiting yourself to one cigarette a day, one cup of coffee a day and one unit of alcohol a day. (Sugar and cacao products are insidious but more subtle in their influence, so will not be addressed under this regulation.) Chemically, the most ferocious of the three is caffeine - withdrawal depletes the available vasodilators in the bloodstream resulting in headaches already after a few hours (12-20); it would be wise to drop down consumption some days in advance. Since coffee and tobacco both influence the central nervous system in a manner that represses emotions, it is important that partaking in them doesn’t happen during the hour immediately before any potentially deeper circle work. Collective imbibing sessions will be arranged.
The Myth of Self-Code
This writer hails from the theatre - in the theatre we are dependent upon the ensemble. Actors are never late (more than once); we know in our bodies that time stolen from the work is irreplaceable, it deflates the ensemble : five minutes of unfocused waiting is a contagious minus that rots the togetherness. In a working group of twelve interdependent souls, one person five minutes late is fifty-five wasted minutes.
The standing or falling of the unMonastery seems to balance precariously upon the ability to provide inner discipline. We may embrace hard work and community service as the pillars of our mission, but subjective interpretations as to how much inner discipline should be expected have plagued every attempt thus far to form unMonastery communities. Agreements are made in circles; individuals cannot seem to honour their own stated intentions: When exactly is the kitchen spotless?; How much do I personally need my horizontal mattress time before I am too tired to honour my commitment to cook ?; How much must I respect the sleep of others? In a clinic for social cohesion that operates without effective programming rituals, it quickly becomes research in hopelessness.
A dainty discussion roared further on the Loomio without being resolved:
Thank you for the invitation James. This seems delicate territory – I have registered several heart-felt cries from the Athenians as regards the need of structure/discipline. I have failed to note why this was desirable; it could be that a lack of structure was seeming to impede the WORK and/or undermining a Cultivating the WE. It may have been that a visceral need for discipline to increase the energy levels in the house was desirable.
It is to be emphasised that Structure is neither self-flagellation nor externally imposed penance, but freedom from small decisions. ( such as: "Do I feel egoless enough to grasp my opportunity to contribute to our collective efforts this beautiful morning?") Ben is beyond belief in his rationale for not embracing sleep deprivation: rather Guilt is a valuable friend – his question could more easily include an appraisal of how badly he had been chemically abusing his body the previous day ( days, weeks, year, lifetime)?
The idea that acting as if one is part of a group can be optional, denies the nature of being part of a group. The unMon is predicated upon the synergy of working in a coordinated, strategic manner. Getting to the point where this synergic motor powers the core of the collective requires tangible investment ( see the segments on tweaking the ensemble in my Post-Matera documentation: The Wanderings of the unMonastery – soon available on Medium: unMonastery Stories or Discource.)
I have yet to receive anything other than general nods about the preSumptions of the preSummit notes circulated last week; it asks everyone for 3 non-optional days of deep (relatively) adherence to a regime designed to reveal the inherent possibilities in having a moderately rigorous protocol.
The other key reason for adopting an external discipline is that it broadcasts well to stakeholders and potential stakeholders the level of dedication and service that we embrace.
One more note: as one who has experienced both forced, mechanical morning circles and ones that repeatedly transcended the familiar territory of veiled platitudes. Circles also work on synergy and inner momentum; make them a periodic, elective event and their function dissolves. Empty gestures serve very little purpose.
9 days ago · Like
In the meantime, a communication short-fall was claiming an increasing amount of attention. Edgeryders, the collective organisation from which the unMonastery had sprung, had gone about a re-structuring. Tensions that could unlikely be resolved via a cascade of e-mails were proving increasingly distracting. Some asked why, and quoted Nazim Hikmet:
Nearing the Edge
(as posted on the ER pages)
I woke up in a good mood
Vinay • 26 mins
I could say the same, but would be stretching it: I've been contemplating the Edgeryders: when I signed on we were much more so. Collapsenomics, State in a Box, unCivilization, The Age of Crisis were our themes. It is not inconceivable that you remember some of these ?
Is it just that the economy didn't get worse fast enough
and we went back to growth?
Vinay • 20 mins
I disdainfully call it ‘ The Edge Goes Mainstream’.
I'll write up my bit - then throw it your direction. Raise the flag w Mattias' help to contact all previous previous - and see if we can generate some grassroots swell.
In the meantime, I offer the always nourishing Nazim Hikmet:
Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example--
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety goggles,
you can die for people--
even for people whose faces you've never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees--
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don't believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
Let's say you're seriously ill, need surgery--
which is to say we might not get up
from the white table.
Even though it's impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we'll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we'll look out the window to see if it's raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast ...
Let's say we're at the front--
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We'll know this with a curious anger,
but we'll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, even though it could last for years.
Let's say we're in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We'll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind--
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.
This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet--
I mean this, our great Earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space ...
You must grieve for this right now
--you have to feel this sorrow now--
for the world must be loved this much
if you're going to say "I lived" ...
What’s My Edge?
When I came to Edgeryders in 2011 or was it 2012, the world, our world was reeling from the latest global economic fiasco, the streets would be soon occupied by the indignant. We were gathering under the inexplicably benign gaze of the Council of Europe to explore the tools of something so intensely profound as ‘Social Cohesion.’ The surroundings were a bit standard, but the community had possibilities: fresh, flexible, visionary. These were folk that knew their stuff and were literate and realistic about the global dilemma. ( Of course, many seemingly suffered from being overly-literate, but that’s something else, and experience shows that this can be bashed out of people.)
The themes of the first Edgeryder unConf became the reasons why I am in the unMon. We talked of a Treasury of Wisdom, Rebooting Democracy, Resiliency Hubs, Transparent Budgeting, Creative Extinction, a Society of Inclusive Civil Survivalists. Among our slogans were indeed Collapsenomics, State in a Box, unCivilization, The Age of Crisis. It seemed to me that someone was finally addressing the Dark Arts of confronting the ghosts that haunt us. My designated territory was clear: I would continue to Extract Enthusiasm through the miracle of Human Rites.
Since then the metabookkeepers wiggled forth a further extension in their postponement of the financial collapse. The occupanti got their inevitable head bashing; los indignados refined their strategies or went home to Mamma. Several creative wars decimated traditional buffer states. Bolivia continues to get its act together; Turkey doesn’t. It feels as if it is business as usual -- only much more severe for a significant percentage of the world’s population. Meanwhile, personal survival reared its familiar head. The Edgeryders became less about the greater we, and more about economic strategies for a generation of upstarts trying to make their way as Social Capitalists. I miss the open horizon.
This is not a case of “Edgier than Thou” - these things have to be cyclical. Everyone brings their own individual amount of angst and imperatives. Should we wish to avoid despair and paralysis, we have to incorporate individual survival strategies and denial mechanisms. However, neither Edgeryders nor its unHoly unRepresentative on unEarth is an entertaining role play. Hikmet says it all, it must be taken with great seriousness. Vinay’s take on WW III is apt enough: us having been cuddled by favourable citizenship and a well-fed past, cannot be allowed inform our choices. Our mission is to locate the edge and to ryde it at its most dangerous.
This radical portrait of the core operation may not be a universally shared view of the impulse behind the unMonastery movement. People were recruited from various channels; but is there anything else that would better illuminate our operation ?
Writing a list of what the unMonastery isn’t could be equally misleading as any of the flowery descriptions of its promise. Let it suffice to paraphrase an old quote: ‘not another little residency for urban refugees nursing their gluten intolerance’. To couch it in positives, we were a workshop that confronts the self through relevant service. I would underline the word relevant. If we learned anything in Matera it was that it is only by strategically negotiating this relevance within the human environment that surrounds us that we can obtain anything nearing social sustainability. Our service must be tangible, our self-sacrifice evident to all. The ryde is serious.
Towards an Edgier Edge Team building is essential. Before we do almost anything else, this requires meticulous meetings that produce profound, visceral agreement. Beyond coordination of the physical plant, we must address strategy and objectives in a manner that cements the group rather than one which feels like a compromised maze of intellectual fence building. For many raised in a competitive school system this takes comprehensive re-education. Listening and comprehending are not necessarily innate skills of the modern, impatient human...
The Leak of the Me
The unMonastery is not the building, nor is it the people - for some brief moments it may seem to be the people in the building, but this doesn’t hold water. Above and beyond this the unMonastery is the idea and the people working on the idea. If we get confused by this, we fall into an insidious trap.
Alberto’s perceptions under the banner of ‘You guys’ are valuable. The brandishing of the 'We' concept clearly invokes a moment of exclusion - this is hardly groundbreaking social anthropology. However, what isn’t given credence is that the human 'We' exists as a valuable entity - the more that can be rightfully included the stronger something gets. (Although the ‘Yous guys’ term sounds offensive to my ears as it all too clearly lumps together a group and implies a unity of purpose that paves over any individual difference: we are damned if we do and damned when we don’t.) It is through creating an ensemble of united effort that monasteries traditionally achieved Critical Mass for acceptance of their ideas and innovation. The pack was useful (check out Elias Canetti.) To try my hand at a data analogy: the entire idea of ‘Protocol‘ is based upon ‘we’; much as the quirks of the ER platform defy entry to the novice until they have prayed and contemplated its wisdom enough to become initiates: having a Code supports an internal language which dictates behavior: We do it this way.
Alberto’s point is surely that a more inclusive ‘us’ is better politics, but it may also reflect a perception that somehow the neo-unMon lore excludes him and his experience. Presumably this stems from the cumbersome, not entirely useful, perception embraced by some that unMonasterians are those who have lived the life. Some feel this fiercely, erecting a descending hierarchy from those who have lived six months as somehow more exclusive than those with six days. It is also written that we have yet to approach the levels of communication that could make us a going concern.
The key question posed by what has become a fundamentalist/orthodox approach is that of the threshold; when is one embraced by the WE? - inclusion in what? ‘Cultivating the We’ is a central recurring theme in my work - it is my impulse that had it included as the one of only two cards in the method kit that elegantly bare uncommented titles: ‘The We’ and ‘The Work’. Paradoxically, feeding The We addresses the entire opposite of exclusion; it is about the inclusion of the entire quibblely human being.
This far from automatic and often meets considerable psychic resistance. The modern human doesn’t really do we. (Where is this written up ?) Disbandment of the tribe, the family and the invention of the existential crisis has left us post-Black Death Europeans in a dissolved state of individualism. We are taught to believe that we are unique, possess our own individual thoughts and should enjoy self-determination. Entering an ensemble is so highly voluntary as to be ideologically repugnant.
Subjugating oneself to the collective (especially when there is no religious excuse) is a difficult path for the modern psyche. If it is correct to be suspiciousness of the word ‘we’; we could be equally suspicious every time someone says “I”. We are trained to identify with ourselves via something so mercurial as our personal feelings. I am me; my considered opinions and accumulated experience put into words are of great intrinsic worth. My understandings are mine ; our understandings are inconveniently underdeveloped. In the face of industrial scale anonymity, we gather in small groups to counteract our insignificance through celebrating our mutual wonderfulness. To enjoy each others company is to verify each others beliefs; usually this is done in ecstatic heights of altered consciousness. It is I, and not my history as a consumer complete with ingrained habits; no matter how colonised our body chemistry has become by our compensatory habits, we strongly identify with our bloodstream. This is a non-negotiable me, I am thus.
That among the great virtues latent in the unMonastery ideal is purity. Intrinsically, residency offers a chance to detox and renew ones organic chemistry; removing the tyranny of nicotine, caffein and regular alcohol to improve access to ones neurological ‘I’. Had we followed the same principled criteria as our food purchasing rules, the esthetic, political, and sustainability issues would have clearly indicated this course.
Of course such a re-fit requires a substitute for the tired souls racked by their addictions. Add sufficient amounts of ecstatic dancing, hot baths and group massage and we are suddenly looking very ‘sectarian’ indeed. Renegotiating the anti-human structures that don’t allow for sexual practices is likely necessary.
BD’s culture shock:
Here is were my frustrations arise - In my world, all such work must be accompanied by its physicalisation. Being a ‘doer’ implies a break with merely thinking about doing. To counter the pull of civilization, the trick is to re-address our education neurologically. The training is to viscerally breakdown the myth of individuality so that our interdependence ascends. (Knowing of course that a deeper “I” reveals itself once one reaches the bowels of ensemble). The work is to address intimacy, confession, our collective shadows; we seek to remove the mask.
Morning Practice succumbed to its foreignness - it fact it needed to be 2 1/2 hours twice a day wherein 60% was linguistic training that could be performed in a manner as a work demonstration akin to Kung Fu monks. (In Matera, I would have mobilised the texts as collected by Maria (as a phrase book) which would demonstrate that contact with ‘us’ was literally taken to heart.)
Similarly, the repeated call for documentation, as if Documentation equals The Work, is a solipsism, a false equation. Producing web-fodder may set up an impressive non-paper trail, but it obviously doesn’t guarantee that we are out in the field doing the good stuff - in fact the opposite is easily the case. As Katalin pointed out at the LOTE#4 session - ‘Follow-up is Everything’ documenting the prosaic prework: ‘Hooray, Today we had a Broom Day’; ‘Katalin ate too much salad.’ is hard to countenance as work. I was, roughly, told that my blog was inaccessible, linguo-elitist wanking. (It was also called something like lovingly well-written ‘literature.) I tried to think of it as deep documentation, written with a substantial element of subjectivity to be delved into by future generations of unScholars.
In Matera, we had enormous advantages of an established net of culturally primed ‘believers’ that enabled a quick expansion curve. It could be argued that this rushed us off our feet and inhibited grounding in both ourselves and our most natural constituency, however this has been explored elsewhere. Fundamentally, our key choice is that of all ‘imported sects’: which elements do we include from local society? If the people who wrestle with parallel issues are the already marginal, how do we both support them, and not scare off the others?
The question remains: how do the necessary internal steps do their work, and at the same time generate acceptance and integration externally? This is a primary strategic consideration -- the answer may be self-evident, but has yet to be ratified.
Specialisms + Biohackers + Rebooting Democracy
The next task of the unMon as a movement is to distill its special skills with which to negotiate a role in our host society. Several areas of competence present themselves, others need be researched. Devising a realistic 5-year plan to evolve an unMon package of social apps designed and selected to strengthen citizen initiatives should be among our next priorities.
Suggestions abound: Vilfredo Decision Condensing tool
Biohacking Labs Human Rites
web-based plebiscites (ask Vinay tech skills combining social strategies)
The momentum hatched four years ago (?) has got us this far, but not as yet further. However we seem to never stop examining our efforts...
An Open Source Cult -- The unMonastery as an App
The opening phrase in the Stakeholders Handbook caught the collective imagination: “The unMonastery is a social clinic for the future.” At an impromptu radio interview someone reproduced it word perfect at precisely the correct occasion. The only problem was that at the interviewer’s other elbow sat the man who coined the very sentence - what on earth did his erudite colleague mean when spouting his adopted words?
It is a premise of the unMon ethos that the future shall not be as harmonic as could be desired. Islands of beauty can occur, but chances are high that they will be quickly besieged. The various unMonastery projects build upon the hope that we can get there first - that we can devise and offer up an open source impulse to create such islands; that the meeting place of our version of monastic life provides a valuable, flexible model to be adapted by many in the many parts of the world that experience imbalance.
The value of the unMonastery name is its reference to the traditions that predate us. As with our historic brethren, forks are inevitable. People and groups will wish to implement the catchy unMon name for diverse purposes. We must appreciate the value of this even as all manner of the quirky declare their efforts unMonastic and commercial operators sell the idea to fashion conscious government departments.
As such the unMonastery may not be primary code; human beings have cooperated since before they were human beings. We can only imagine that unMonasteries will evolve into many different forms as different constellations of people respond to different social imperatives. In fact, it is not strictly necessary that all run the same operating system; it may be useful to examine the unMon in future as an ‘app’ that provides added flexibility on top of a variety of initiatives.
As open source the unMonastery brand name is our gift to humanity. All are free to declare that their enterprise adheres to the unMon movement. There are costs and benefits to such openness. However undeservedly, we shall gain respectability; we can avoid protectionist squabbles. If flying the unMonastery logo wins a band of unwashed squatters an extra seven months of dithering before the police batons descend, then this in historic terms demonstrates our added value.
It is of course highly likely that this self-proclaimed family connection will be abused at times. Nevertheless, the governing impulse of social cohesion research remains our goal. Experiments will be many, the banner of unMonasticism may at the very least enable assorted constellations of people responding to different social imperatives a temporary shell of respectability. The blatant association with ecclesiasticism may invite to non self-evident collaborations, while the participants bash out the first steps of establishing their own version of a social clinic. The historic core of the unMon movement (the unSecurity Council) declares its intention to be available for counsel, if only through our extensive library.
The Matera School of unMonasticism exists now in exile as a research station in Athens and with innumerable (4?) plans across Europe. The Athenians seem to have largely solved the questions of negotiating daily life in a flat above the Monday fish and vegetable market; their first major test of community service is hosting the upcoming preSummit gathering at the beginning of May...
Rebooting the Culture of the Enterprise
It has been stated repeated times that the culture of the change we represent is the first work of the Work. The how we do what we do is the key to sustaining any ‘do-ocracy.’ In the Stakeholders Handbook it is announced that we exercise uRT (uncivilisation restructuring therapy ?) upon one another and ourselves. The need to unCivilise is hardly an elective squeezed into 20 minutes 5 days a week. It is rather an endless effort requiring insightful psychological support and a good sound system. One can make the case that Morning Practice lasts 16 hours a day.
A protocol that supports ‘il nostro duro lavoro’, a life of service and an unCivilisation regime will have at least two sides. Part of it can be interpreted as constraints: don’t annoy people. However, it is not an elaborate slight of hand to reverse these prohibitions; to read the same directions as how to best support one another’s reemergence from a life of urban subjugation : enjoy each other inordinately (in a non-annoying manner.)
Without challenging self-sacrifice, without renegotiating of the chemistry and rhythms of civilisation, without the visceral enrichment of spiritual camaraderie our circles will remain cramped and disheveled.