Life after Jubilation

17.otto slap Mission accomplished. The visionary brand-name of Edgeryders, with its funky hipster avant guard flagship ‘The unMonastery’, may have just tipped the scales.  Our investment at the cutting edge of international co-living asylums for burnt-out geeks has turned into the major ‘Culture First‘ breakthrough we all had been dreaming of.  A calculated miracle fell miraculously into place.

All of those who gathered in Piazza San Giovanni on the afternoon of 17th of October, 2014 have already forgotten the torturous introverted minutes absorbing yet another delay in the transmission program that would announce the most worthy representative for Italia’s capital city of European Culture. It wasn’t that pleasant; we each inadvertently prodded our individual sack containing a life’s assortment of disappointments. That said, none of us will ever forget the three minute visceral howl of exultation and of belonging among the chosen that shook the walls of both the town and its people. The we won. The campaign of buttons and banners, a bombardment of civic arrangements, of intricate consultations and rebellious citizens convinced a gaggle of international culture aristocrats that the City of Matera would host something worthy.

MA 17 otto hug

My personal esultanza was shared with a gang who deeply deserve the ‘Open Future’ promised by the cultural program. When the clever idea of an open citizen’s buffet lunch for the visiting jury members was brazenly stolen by big brother Lecce for the previous stop-over; the local bid workers had to think fast. It was one thing to meet people on their piazza – how about in their homes? The call went out for volunteer families to each host one of five visiting commissioners. Sixty responses flooded in. A second call went out – you unMonastarians are esperti in the ‘free lunch’, could any of you impersonate visiting dignitaries? Marc bowed out, tomorrow was already full; Katalin got the straight forward gig as additional guest around a big table in Piccanello. Bembo was earmarked another task: Bambini Day III – Casa di Robin Hood, a local children’s home for hopefully temporarily indisposed families wanted a distinguished visitor; who else could possible fit the bill?

Visit number one went according to plan. Eating, gift exchanges, a pleasantly parasitic local TV crew that got us on the marathon coverage, and then a quick retreat in time to greet the jury back at the unMon. Warm, not too wild, certainly wonderful.

The real key was visit number two. The days were full. Faced with a limited time on earth, how could I honour their plea to be more than just another photo op? 
One has to eat sometime; the free lunch was established routine; the big gathering on the piazza to meet our collective fate would need some serious ballast to absorb the liquid solace that seemed statistically on its way. In addition, I was breaking in the latest fashion in unMonastic understatement – our habitual scarf. It would prove a big hit.

Google maps wasn’t helpful, Philomena was. I arrived on the stroke of two and humming a merry tune, scrambled up the stairs. A box of gelati exchanged hands, other hands were shook. However, suddenly feeling hatless, I stopped the ceremonies to tie a knot in one end of my precious new scarf and encircled my head with a dashing turban. I could then assume what had become my traditional place at the head of the table.

Things dragged on a bit. Two staff members had yet to put in an appearance. As course number four was put to rest, a scarf party was instigated. Holding an impromptu workshop in turban binding can now go on my CV. One pair of eyes misted over as big brother reclaimed the house’s best scarf; I volunteered mine. Variations led to variations; soon everyone was suffering a broken limb that was badly in need of a sling.

The talk of the town and our dinner conversation was the imminent announcement of the contest of the century – had little orphaned Matera a chance to outreach certified heavyweights such as Siena, Assisi, Ravena? The kids had been recruited as local witnesses – there was some doubt as to whether braving the crowd in a limited piazza was responsible minding. At any rate, I was going the same direction, let’s grab our flags and take our chances.
Not every outing is unlimited fun. Keeping in line is keeping in line. To inject a rationale for our ordered parade, I suggested we do a marching band. Six voices could churn up just enough din to raise a few smiles as we transversed the traffic flow. When eagerness for this game started to flag, I introduced the ‘Pausa’, an energetic explosion of hip gyrations to a different beat that whipped up the tempo and hilarity levels. We took quite a few pausa.

Before we parted ways in the crowd, and they sought refuge right in front of the stage, we were warmly welcomed by first Rita and then Ilaria who ran off promising them buttons. She didn’t come back empty-handed: no buttons, but T-shirts that fit at least the three youngest.

MA 17.otto buds
The myth will expand, far more people will have witnessed the day than Piazza San Giovanni could possibly ever hold. As the envelope was opened and the only word in the world we wanted to hear was uttered, a huge psychic lift from a down-trodden region was celebrated in the only way we knew: tears, endless hugs, howls.

Proclaimed by some archeologists the third oldest city in the world, Matera that had never won anything but derision and the attention of invaders, was at once vindicated.  To be declared Euorpean Capital city of culture was perpetual – the honour, even when following a stream of other not entirely visible treasures such as (Mons, Pizen, Umeå, Paphos and Leeuwarden) could never be retracted. A regional big brother had been revealed as a bluff artist. The relatively recently established ‘Italian’ nation had been surmounted by honest, visionary work. The infectious glee that took hours to sink in would shake loose centuries of repression to the sound of a stream of increasingly entertaining orchestras (likely discretely briefed beforehand on their duties as crisis psychologists should the bid fail and we fall to licking our collective wound.)

MA 17. ottobre

However, all is not well in the city.
Vanni’s reaction to the win was that of all aspiring upstarts: quick sink your money in hotels, put out your nets in the swelling tourist stream. Not having the heart to crush his calculations, I heard him out. He recognised that his land was only a few decrees removed from the Greek Disease. If he was to at all remain positive, his apparent window of opportunity was immediate and frustratingly narrow. He had to jump. Now.

But other things get whispered sottovoce: somehow, somewhere in the ‘Open Futures’ cultural project design that carried the day, the future is not only outward facing. The challenge it also presents is to open and enter inwards. The glorious triumph can of course further subject the region to becoming servant classes to the parade of national and international petty criminal baby-boomers who have fiddled the system into funding their inadvertently greedy retirement schemes. However, there is a more profound reading of the Matera/Basilicata win: as the global economy shrinks around an inflexible, inflated productive capacity – the reality of the region’s short distance to fertile fields will reassert itself. If they can pause to redefine the tight knit family model that holds the percentage of highly competent women out of the formal workforce at an archaic level, a new social economy can be negotiated without succumbing to the frustrations of media inspired myths. At whatever the level that the social/economic collapse hits, the Basilicata region offers a model for a partial strategic retreat to the real economy of the past. Redefined as a life belonging to one of the few resilient societies that can negotiate a lifeline to viable subsistence, joyous frugality, and a balanced plundering of global resources, they can both refine and export the future we all desire.

My 15 on-stage seconds in the limelight to acknowledge the unMonastery contribution could be shared with the smallest circle of the crowd, hugging the stage, far left. We even had our own special choreography for the occasion.

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Militant Reluctance – A People and their Myths

MA Buna - Committee on Steps

A mystical backlash accompanied our presence in Matera.  We could profess our innocence of any imperialistic ambitions, but a significant segment of the population stood against the very existence of such a foreign entity as the unMonastery in the primo real estate of their city.  Days after the first unMoaner souls set foot in the Mediateca to make our fledgling inquiries a video appeared on the YouTube purporting  to cover the existence of a serial killer preying upon unsuspecting unMonasterians.  Even those whom one could consider close personal friends could embrace you as an individual while repelling the very idea.  The Materani would proudly be a hard nut to crack.

Having made a study of the congenital Canadian twins of anti-imperialistic resistance and provincialism, it was possible to slice the cake generously.  A people beset by waves of historic opposition could legitimately harbour skepticism, but had not the modern love of ecclectical cross-over and globalised culture made it to these parts?  Were not we unMonasaterians a blessing that would help lift clouds of inbred mutual self-censure?  Would the manner in which we embraced one another in-house echo the manner in which we were embraced across our interface with the locals?

We weren’t the first wave of upstarts.  Centralised governement had done its well-meaning cynical best.  A region whose idealogical composition had consistently voted far to the left of the hegemonic coalition clusters that had hampered the country for 60 years would hardly be rewarded for its loyalty.  At best they would be treated as an eccentric uncle with hygiene issues – if there was hard work to be done, they’d get the nod, but they were not to be invited to the prettier feasts.  Resentment became entrenched.

Perhaps the foulest rejection was reserved the least cognitive invaders from the North.  In times of plenty, these would claim a familiar, cultural bond between all who applied the same postage stamps.  However, obtuse Northerners would never quite grasp the allergic reaction with which they were not embraced.  Even when the ‘foreigner’ in question was genetically a re-immigrant, removed from the soil of their ancestors for no more than the generation necessary to befuddle their dialect, the atmosphere at the frontier could easily turn toxic.  The pain of cycles that exported favorite brothers to greener pastures sat deep in those left behind.  Among those left behind, fierce civic pride guarded the primary virtue of survival.

The central myth of Matera is Madonna della Bruna.  Every year exiled citizens flock to their ancestral home for a reenactment of an historical event.  (See my Rehearsing Police Brutality with Andrea Semplici’s striking photo essay.)  The detail in the day is glorious; however, no one can convincingly articulate its deeper significance.  Why must the magnificent, beautiful ‘caro’ be torn into pieces?

In the political climate fought out between the squadrons of social innovators and cultural preservationists in Matera someone would always be the victim.  Pomp and self-glorification would be inevitably encounter bitter reality.  The battle cry of ‘Death to the State’ was hardwired into the neurological pathways of the man in the street.  Every magnificent idea paraded in from the North was viewed as a caro; without even having to assess repercussions, the caro was to be demolished.

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The Wow of Chastity, Frugality & Obedience

MA mealtime

(in the run up to the beta version of the Book of Greater and Lesser Omissions – several items that are more internal than informative are being temporarily parked here in full public view. Please excuse me.)
Reprogramming Individuality
Urban life is trying.  The rhythms, tempo and volume to which many of us subject ourselves is hardly healthy.  The tricks we devise to survive are scarcely inventive — human wiring provides us few alternatives but to be full of ourselves.  Nature makes us borderline social basket-cases.

Choosing to leave behind such a constellation of adaptive devices in favour of a renegotiated collective lifestyle isn’t done lightly.  Leaving one’s core self behind is just not done; despite our best of intentions, we drag great mounds of our most unAppealing habits with us…

It was written in a format that doesn’t survive translation that the early unMoaners should receive an intricately devised cyclical wine ration that had them with one glass or two for three days a week, with a whole bottle every other Saturday, but with the interim days dry.  None of this became unRule.

It is not a minority position that injudicious drinking habits depleted the integrity of the early unMonasterians.  No matter how desirable, periodic emergence from our cloisters to partake in the pleasures of the local night life would not go unObserved.  Intemperate levels of inhibition release combined with unMo standard levels of sleep deprivation depleted attention available to morning practice, intelligible meetings or Italiano lessons.  The generosity of our guests descending upon us with their family’s liquid finest left us with unScenic mountains of recyclable glass. 

Arriving back in town at the end of June*, to be greeted in town by the rumour of the unMo’s incarnation as a study centre in, at best, a mild form of debauchery, was beyond disconcerting.  The ensuing meeting, held it seems under a cloud of adherent guilt, spontaneously decreed that henceforth the unMoaners should limit their intake of C2H6O to three days a week… 

The speed with which this decision was subject to creative interpretation could make the staunchest of us unRuly.  Our meeting being held on a Thursday, the immediate week in question held but three days as eligible candidates; (Sunday is inconveniently a floater on some calendar systems, and was therefore placed in zone libero.)  Forgotten in the mix was an implied consumption cap.  Quality failed to negotiate with quantity:  granted but three days, one should best thoroughly explore the far side of sobriety flat out before the countdown of the new week beckoned.  Needless to say, elements in the cultural calendar decreed that this proposed policy evaporate as soon as possible…

  • Described by some as “The Stone Age” this apparent nadir in the unMonastery history reflects the rather incongruous, retrograde exploration of a social experiment whose results many thought were tabled years ago.  
    Cannabis has without doubt value in symptom reduction with ailments as variable as epilepsy and arthritis, but these are by and large ailments of our dotage.  For able-bodied youth such indulgence seems incompatible with the unMonasterian ethic of ‘doing’.  Anyone with extended practice in the collaborative arts (music and theatre come to mind) recognises that cannabis use, while amusing, is incompatible with teamwork:  it invariably leads to off-tempo solos and a diminished sensitivity to the nuances of others.  Whereas our monastic predecessors across the valley would have sought enlightenment via marathons of applied chanting, the chemical enhancement of a marihuana assisted meditation often contribute to minor logical gaps in best practice that leave one fascinated by ones own private universe and infatuated with shallow, flimsy invention.  
    The social acquiescence to cannabis use among segments of local youth is also problematic.  At times local contacts would drop by for a place they could smoke in peace; the unMo had not developed a coherent line and instead floated an immature interpretation of adapting to local practice that left us exposed.

The other culturally prevalent addictive drug of diminishing choice was also insidious in its successful incursion into the collective unMoaner bloodstream.  Several resident unMonkers reported fretful backslides in the face of the available hardware in the unMonastery kitchen.  Lacking a teapot, we improvised.  None of the solutions at hand granted us anything close to a satisfying sensual ritual of tea drinking.  Meanwhile, assailing ones nostrils from every street corner café were an  assortment of coffee blends that pronounced themselves the Nectar of the Gods.  The will just didn’t hold out.  And while the quality was improved for us all, some people neglected to adjust the quantity.  Many of us remained high-wired on superb caffeine from morning to night.

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Creative Deconstruction

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The unMonastery salutes the unBid

A group of a hundred strong local citizens have formed an alternative channel for Materiani to shape the program proposal for their city as European culture capital. This time this radical redefinition of content is not directly the responsibility of the unMonastery.  However, in the spirit of popular participatory practice that this represents a vibrant, thoughtful and rigorous ‘counterbid’ is to be thoroughly welcomed. 

Materan history is full of popular rebellion.  Luciani resist the foreign.  Disagreement, iconoclasm and public vandalism are bred into the blood of your/our fellowship.  And while some of this proud defense of their marginality is habitual polarised opposition to whatever ever impetus comes from the residue of the great Italian Communist movement, another aspect appears a reflex response to external forces and concepts that at its core is a vital self-preservation and anti-imperialism stance.  ‘Development’ comes slowly to the South.  There is honour in resistance. 

Voluntary Consultants
Much as the inhabitants of the unMonastery approached the idea of community service via rejecting a core religious premise of monasticism, the strength of this alternative citizen’s cultural initiative lies in being built upon a healthy skepticism towards top-down, hyper conceptual solutions grounded in blind faith.  That a broad group of concerned citizens set themselves the task of producing a parallel unofficial cultural program even before what they presumably consider the — corrupt, elitist, self-appointed — MA2019 committee has revealed the details of their ‘official’ proposal, adds further testimony to the value and integrity of this initiative.  The unBidders are independently working the same ground from scratch: answering the same core thirty questions. 

The unMonastery has never been a popular hit — for that it is too conceptually unDefined.  It is ‘something doing something’; its fruits won’t mature until after its doors are closed.  For a group of 100 cultural activists to have absorbed the essence of the ‘un’ in the unMonastery thought process is a major triumph.

At the inaugural meet the community gathering at the unMonastery, one of the senior unMonasterians held a small demonstration.  His point was to reveal the pervasive toxic atmosphere that they anticipated working in; the official version of the social imperative behind unMonastery mandate had been scandalously beautified; the true, ugly story must be told.  The highlight of this revelation was to lead the assembled citizens in a chorus of their unBeautified text.  To great delight the chanted a text that begun:

No, No.
No, No.

No, No, No. 

No.
Non.

No, no, no.
Scarso. No.
Sprecato. No.

Retrogrado, scarso. No.

No, difficile, no.
No, No, sporco.

Scarso. No.
La gente si lamenta molto.

This was followed by a short theatrical ritual then progressed to demonstrate the act of a Materiani and an unMonasterian beating each other over the head with long cardboard boxes.

Much as the unMonastery has had to struggle to win territorial independence from its parental sponsors, the unBid demands to be taken seriously as a legitimate, independent mature political process.  The unBid is not just an expression of negativity, it is creatively seizing a task.  It takes as its core concern that culture is far too important to be left to the self proclaimed aristocrats. 

We can only anticipate that a future triangulation between the international tinged ‘Bid’ and the hopefully militantly local ‘unBid’ will produce a vibrant dialog that enriches the greater mandate of the work at hand.

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Inventing Tradition

the circle

It had to happen.  It was the eve of that emotional day when the original constellation of unMoaners would reduce itself to a solitary carrier of light who would be charged with inconclusively shutting the doors.  We needed closure.

As usual all the necessities were at hand.  A message went out: “meet at the unMonastery precisely at 19:15, we will be marching.”  An odd group of behind the scenes champions, inherited orphans, veterans of the extended slog assembled.  Collective afterthoughts postponed departure.  Leadership got anxious.

The standard ploy in Judo involves getting your opponent balanced on the wrong foot; to not know where you are not going adds to the dynamics of the voyage.  Rigmarole can be employed; time was pressing…

We took the road less travelled.  Not up along the web of winding pathways that we had explored so often, but out towards our favorite beckoning vista.   Still our dawdlers dawdled sufficiently that we may easily have resembled all the other flocks of tourists that hourly pass beneath the unMonastery Prototipe Matera parapets.  To help discipline the herd instinct several insignificant scenic details were afforded attention; scattered stones were grasped….

Yet another scandal needed addressing.  In the bowels of the rock formation upon which the unMonastery edifice had once upon a time been erected, lies a certified pearl.  Closing time was 20:00.  As we approached, one of the multilingual archeology students who guard this cultural treasure could be spotted overhead in the massive rock making her way along an external passageway; she was no doubt sweeping the upper chambers for stragglers.

Far below at street level is the entrance to the twin churches of Our Lady of the Virtues and St. Nick the Greek.  While its upper reaches share the unMon terrace through a locked iron gate, some of our long term residents had yet to set foot inside this the spiritual cavern that underlied all our efforts.  Time was running out…

International museum guide protocol agrees about one thing:  closing time is closing time.  A mini-bus load of panting tourists not necessarily eager for a last second compromise should technically be turned away.  Mercifully, our argument proved compelling: Neighbours are neighbours.  An alarm was detached, a key turned, and we were granted five awesome minutes among the holiest of holies.

The carving techniques of the Rupestrian churches seem a prerequisite for the settlement at Matera.  The city boasts over 150 such places of worship; not five months ago yet another was uncovered behind a forgotten wall.  They are glorious, they speak volumes, they are sincere.

Madonna della Virtú may be exceptional; clearly designed to mimic another building tradition, carved high in the vaulted ceiling are the shapes of arched windows through which no light shall ever enter.  Without flipping in a guidebook, and with the remembered mention of the XIII Century only really directed at one favoured fresco, it would be only informed speculation that the repeated Greek reference that speckles the region implies that this church too was scraped out in the aftermath of the massive transport of refugee monks after the fall of the Byzantine.  Perched as we were above its unCupola, the unMonastery had been in very good company.

The residual unMonasterians’ brief immersion in the esthetics of our predecessors was at face value inserted in the evening program to help set the tone of our arrivederci ritual; it was also part of getting the participants off-balance. The desired quarantine from our ‘filthy habits’ wasn’t to be forced but induced.  While in transition, we could always tolerate one last tweet of the monumental significance of this significant monument.  (insert Piersoft’s video tweet here)

The next stop might command even greater respect…
This time the barriers were less procedural.  Partially physical, they were also deeply psychological: as loyal citizens we would need to balance on a short stretch of wall and then transgress an officious — ‘No Entrance without Authorisation’ sign that was attached to a flimsy but trusting fence.  The encroaching weeds clearly testified that we were headed off piste.  Silence was requested, no so much as a sign of reverence but more to diminish the capacity of a party of eight to call attention to themselves as they scrambled past the bright orange — No Go Zone — barrier…

The trip has been roughly rehearsed.  Many moons ago, during a period of unMonastic troubles, some members of the team had sought renewal in each other’s company.  Now the stone circle that we had constructed then as a statement of faith stood silently awaiting us.  This time we wouldn’t sit.

A supply of candles were lit to illuminate the carved alcoves and altarpieces of this abandoned troglodyte home with clear religious affiliations.  Words of welcome were uttered.  With three or four neophytes to our practice of internal circles of alignment and self-regulation, we wouldn’t go to the more extreme extremes.  Yet. 

To somehow render the event closer to familiar cultural norms, a bottle of superior grappa appeared and circulated.  A zinc bucket was brought forth and placed in the centre:  did anyone have anything to burn?  People did…

Such homemade rituals give back what one puts into them.  They can easily fall flat.  As the ubiquitous unMoanastic Post-it block circulated, a parade of easy targets were scribbled down and ceremoniously torched by candlelight.  The culprits to be cleansed were perhaps predictable, if anything they held individual relevance.  Slowly the balance shifted towards significance.  A thinking soul had removed from their place on the unMon wall the illuminated graphic renditions of “The Twelve Challenges”. 

As discussed ad nauseum elsewhere ( link to video ) these baulderised ‘statements of intent’ had been awarded an unDeserved position of leverage in the unMonastery mythology.  Those who had witnessed their origin as rewrites of a longer list of sorrowful wails, cringed when the effort to outfit each challenge with a designer quality individual logo had only helped carve something in figurative stone that hadn’t actually a genuine root in the community they sought to represent.  The current observation was that these pumped-up objectives were too much a millstone for the unMonastery’s “Experti i Niente”.  They would best be burnt to avoid them falling into the wrong hands; anyone resuming our good works should be free of the these falsely inflated expectations.

As usual a small miracle accompanied our efforts.  It wasn’t just the good spirits accompanying the occasion; it seemed, as we read these immutable challenges and resolutely filed each sheet in the burning bucket, that we had addressed and celebrated forward motion towards almost all of them.  Solutions to the entire regional energy supply shortfall many not have been supplied, but serious new collaborations had been established.  We had indeed worked our way to some impressive results.

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The Currency of Grace

MA unmo-dinnerIn the unMonastery some subjects, though not technically taboo, remain unSpoken.  Were we to speak frankly about how much we appreciate each others efforts, it might open the Pandora’s box of something unImaginable.  Perhaps we fear that we might suffer from unBearable glee…

Instead unMoaners sublimate.  Our most significant strategy is the heaping upon one another of generous portions of incredibly sumptuous foods.  Twice a day seemingly haphazard pairings of the house’s inhabitants conspire to inspire.  Turning the glories garnered from local markets into our agency of appreciation and bombarding one another with the best we have on offer, we can get carried away.

Sometimes it goes wrong.  Bland pasta tastes like bland pasta — the lack of love resounds around the unMon eating hall.  Harmony does not reign.

Contemplation is a mixed blessing — thinking over certain phenomena gives inescapable conclusions.  Sumptuousness in its absence can expand beyond the merely insipid — it easily becomes an affront to virtue.  Incompetence, or an injudicious spice quota, reflects not a bad day in the kitchen but disdain for the collective.  To serve a flat sauce or even an over-ornate show-off of a salad is to kick the captive audience where it hurts.  Vows have been broken for less…

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The Extraordinary Case of the unMonastery 1.0

MA Monacelle meeting

The unMonastery Prototipo Matera saw its existence thanks to an almost unique moment. A group of citizens in the ancient but largely ignored administrative centre of the Basilicata region chose to systematically redefine themselves around questions of culture and inherent content. Generating the momentum, and providing the leverage to perform such a self cross-examination was the audacious act of nominating themselves as the Italian representative as a Capital of European Culture for 2019.

At issue was not their virtue nor essential Italianess, ( the selection of country was already fixed.) The question was the city’s merit in a country replete with bona fide major candidates. Relief and belief were both enormous when among circa 22 other hot-spots of Italian cultural superlatives, the local committee’s proposal made the short list of six cities. Well into their commitment to the unMonastery experiment, justice was seen to be done: we made it so far. Still, up against heavyweights such as Siena, Cagliari and Lecce, many in Matera felt the city a mouse masquerading as a magnificent Creature indeed.

Listening in the background to the soul-searching that accompanied a city with a self-image as peripheral and irrelevant was uniquely rewarding. Comparisons must be fatuous, but pockets of Latin American states renegotiating centuries of gross injustice, who have recently reformed themselves via social turmoil, will offer similar fertile soil. However, it is more likely that these societies have such straight forward demands of life and death infrastructure issues that these allow less time for more existential dilemmas such as: Who are we?

Matera, although long suffering on a scale of progressive national neglect, has retained secure supply lines to the rich food production of the region and is buoyed by a not yet suffocating parallel tourist economy. In addition they have one more enormous advantage: they legitimately possess a claim to being a deep cultural European resource. Some sources have it as the city with the clearest links to a Neolithic past. Others assert the claim of the world’s third oldest city with signs of urban inhabitance 10,000 years ago. In the rhetoric of the candidacy committee; we’ve been here for 8000 years , we want to remain here for 8000 more. Their virtue is a resilience that gets its strength from their very marginality…

Even the most self-declared neutral social anthropologists operate as cultural imperialists; to pronounce something as observation worthy is to intrude upon it. To rush to conclusion is offensive; the preferred tactic is to seep oneself in the social intercourse over time and to gently reflect upon ones own perceptions. 

To monitor the outer form of culture without having linguistic access to its content is not to wallow in ones exclusion, but to visit a therapeutic health bath that includes us in the core inner life of humanity. To spend time surrounded by a richness of after-a-while familiar faces, all involved in seeking purchase to negotiate their place in their future, is an inspiration. Even with little direct access to the debate, witnessing the forces of renewal and resistance: the passion is readily absorbable.

For an outsider, the pain wasn’t immediately tactile. However, the fault-lines in the city are not minor.  And while the fertile earth of a conceptual crisis may not be everyone’s cup of tea; questions of belonging and authentic voice quickly become as familiar as they are fascinating. For a people balanced upon centuries of frustration and repressed rebellion as waves of conquest are illogically enforced, helplessness can easily become a predigested reality. Chronic negativity is only a superficial symptom – it purports to be realism even if it may often be indicative of inherited defeat.

For those of us ensconced in castles of noble concern, besieged by seemingly militant waves of indifference, to probe and provoke the citizenry by offering the luxury of wishing out loud in orderly concentric circles, is to invite rebellion. To carry on is a sign of bravery.

In the vibrant climate at the periphery of such a broad social project, the unMonastery perceives itself as essential. Not in the sense of that the MA2019 process cannot do without us, but we see in our experimental prototype an alchemic distillation that hopefully one day very soon shall surrender the secret essence of all human endeavors.

The brave initiative takers behind both the Materan candidacy and its favorite sub-project The unMonastery may be foolhardy; it shall be a deep tragedy if either of us find no one to carry our banner…

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