Landing, Lurching, Launching
The Matera Prototipo behaved as unMonasteries everywhere. The initial landing phase that involved locating any available source of hot water and becoming intimate with the fuse box gently eased into a period of apparent paralysis.
Buoyed only by their residual unFaith and the collective commitment to make the most of our culinary skills, the unMonks seemingly cowled in their cowls. The accompanying phase of Culture Shock became reinforced as we absorbed the realities of our concentric Vows of Deprivation. To emerge again as a cohesive, coherent band of devotees would indeed be a tall order.
Inevitable Invasion of the Holy Spaces
The Matera unMo followed the pattern of organic growth in unknown surroundings. To remove the fear of faltering the first iteration repeatedly reminded itself that this was a prototipo. Those unused to the cultivation of the ensemble could thus be automatically conscious that their’s was a life of firsts. However, such was the pace of developments that our community of self-governing, floundering novices had yet to acknowledge the few concrete indications of the invisible, unarticulated spiritual depth of our voyage together, before their novice status was placed under question. Forced by circumstance to welcome the unMonastery’s first substantial wave of new arrivals; it was beyond our adroitness to spontaneously promote ourselves into de facto initiates.
That fresh faces clearly need a de-tox period to negotiate their own landing should be unQuestionable. However, with a more than full program and the absence of a blood transfusion ritual, integration was taken for granted.
Feelings of sacredness are not immediately contagious; they require active transference.
The works of Societa Raffaello Sanzio offers a convincing pathway. In their work X km up the coast in Cesena they also opened their work space to invaders. Instead of flinging the doors wide open to let loose the romping urges of the young – access to each square meter was to be won. Darkness, mystery and creative effort initiated the unveiling of each new room. Resistance was honoured; ghosts were to be respected.
The parallel excavation process in the unMonastery was afforded to the pioneer participants by the gradual unfolding of our operations as the heating system kicked in over a prolonged, four week period. By the time of the second coming, the space as a whole had acquired a warming allure; it was impossible to ascertain where the newly dismantled barriers that so numbed the veterans once stood — the miracle of the unMo could be taken for granted.
Sacred duty is not communicable by osmosis. Early experience indicates that it takes at least two weeks of dedicated re-wiring before an urbanite in exile can emerge with patches of purity. Until chemical imbalances and industrialised day rhythms have become adjusted, expecting them to hit the beach running is not the best strategy. Ideally their acclimatisation period would include ritual baths and daily anointment with oil of self-gathered herbs. They would be chanted upon and gently rocked into renewal, if not rebirth. Their first act of raising a piece of cutlery towards their lips would become the subject of wise commentary disguised as any ancient joke.
An observable external sign exhibited by our fresh arrivals has been a marked decline in coffee consumption (this despite the delectables available on the local market.) Similarly, non-daily consummation of alcohol is a novelty for many. The unMo practice has been simple – alcohol does not feature in our collective purchasing agreements; however, should a bottle of short-distance wine appear on the table it is consumed with both gusto and gratitude. Our collection of empty bottles signifies this gratitude, but also our infringements upon this unwritten rule. Again the statistically slight experience of the initial unMo populous indicates that it is not beyond the possible that, with maturity, also this chemical self-prescription of spiritual fodder is subject to creeping refinement.
Other pleasures of the flesh require other negotiations. The Joy of Cursing seems indicative of hidden cycles of frustration that follow us from afar and which leave the unMo grace of spirit to exist in an easily disturbable pool of serenity. The War of the Veganites has at time escalated with the identical ferocity that is ascribed the omnivores to which it is directed — biting back is a pleasure of its own…
Purity of Purpose
As the fear of unAccomplishment struck the less faithful, moments of our daily ritual became abbreviated into a perhaps illegible shorthand; degrees of holiness fading into degrees of unHoliness. The veterans were restless, even while the uncomprehending newcomers had a legitimate need to be taken in hand. This when it is postulated that such hand-holding is in itself not immediately reconcilable with the self-image of refugees from civilisation for whom hitting the beach running may be the only conceivable scenario.
Everyone needs follow their own version of the Landing/Lurching/Launching cycle. The unMo must evolve the appropriate Human Rites to ease the Process.
Rituals of Aspiring
One symptom of our unArticulated measurable steps is the hastily embraced Friday evening public appraisal session. Not only did the form mimic the much despised unidirectional TED talking with all the dryness of a cactus forest, in its prototype event it tamed the Wild Elf. Instead of a vibrant, populated interface that in itself ferments the work it at best produced a most obedient feedback loop devoid of spiritual resonance.
Producing dead documentation as an artifact of our good intentions is to drastically underestimate our potential; it replicated the use of media at its most pacifying form far from any perceivable cutting edge. Despite a fool-hardy attempt to give the proceedings the proverbial swift kick in the arse, the product became some highly forgetable vimeo stuff of interest to few beyond obsessed archivists. It says what it says, but it is unBelievably bad theatre*. Even resolute young Elf, who in the interests of getting his efforts indelibly documented bravely went first, employed a most embarrassing maneuver obviously learned in the arms of a bureaucrat to completely disregard his own time limit.
The unMo has promised to use all its savvy to do better. I would suggest that the shortfall lies in the thinness of our ritual. It was remarkable that to my recollection that despite a brief explosion of dancing at our inaugural open appraisal session, it didn’t feel organic to include our visitors in a closing circle.
*It is rumoured that the third public appraisal session occurred with an audience of only house residents.