unPacking the un

The Book of Greater and Lesser Failures – IV

The absence of anything gives little food for Archeologists.  As Ola threw together the logo and flashed it up on his laptop, Ben wrote out UNMONASTERY in upper case.  It was respectfully suggested that UN was already an established brand name, we ought to go more quietly.  Since that moment the unMo prefix has preceded us.  We are in equal parts haunted and liberated by what we aren’t…

The power of the unMonastery has always been its explosive associative matrix.  As soon as its flag had been unFurled at Living on the Edge (LOTE#1), Strasbourg, the core idea has attracted visionary extensions.  That we would be ‘a monastery’ without being a ‘monastery’ was immediately compelling; the very words ignited the imagination.   But, while the purity and purposefulness of an unMonkish lifestyle was a key to something, — what would we jettison from the monastic tradition?

At LOTE#2 we collectively devised the first snippets of The Lore of the unMonastery.  Old faces and meteoric appearances hacked our history in true Edgeryders’ fashion.  The global precedents of monasticism became merged into a collective document created on a battery of laptops.   We fantasied a life within walls dedicated to work and service that would give body to the lofty ideas that the ER gatherings inevitably spouted.  As we worked readily transferable concepts and hierarchies clustered around our increasingly impressive conceptual edifice.  We flirted with the attractive disciplines of poverty and penance, of the ardure of matins and vespers.  The unMonastery was to be our unPrecedented experimental workshop for building the real stuff.

With time there were further conversations.  Words such as unSanctified and unConventional filled the unAtmosphere.  What we meant by all this remained for the future to determine, but a deeper question went unAnswered:  If we are not-pious, not-self-sacrificing, non-believers, how can we work very real miracles?

Inevitably we brought difficulties upon ourselves.  In the run-up to the unMo launch, the Edgeryder community performed a tactical maneuver presumably designed to spur local impetus and descended upon our future site in Matera for our third international gathering (LOTE#3) .  The orthodox cringed: “What will become of our Cult of Firsts if the unAnointed hordes get there before us?”  Nevertheless, to thoroughly challenge fate, we suggested a gathering for the second day of LOTE that sought to illuminate our future history…

Mining the unMonastery Metaphor
From the moment of the first public voicing of the unWord at the LOTE#1 gathering, exploring the imagery of the unMonastery has been a source of joy and inspiration.  What started as perhaps a rather flimsy premise has been consistently strengthened by the power lying latent in the history of monastic practice.
At LOTE*#2  (*Living on the Edge gathering in Brussels, November 2012)  a sub-group spent three days hacking “The Lore of the unMo”.  Extracting direction from our collective associative matrix, we shuffled together a collective document that generated much seductive mirth.  Much later, a brief conference call comment from Bembo sent Alberto off on a pivotal exploration into the credo of the Benedictines.   
To continue this valuable work of metaphor mining at LOTE#3, we chose to step into the future.   In a tactical attempt to lift our visions beyond the next mealtime, we went all historical. Under the banner of something appropriately enigmatic, three groups formed to look back upon the various époques that have so influenced our unMovement the last 200 years…
  • one group examined the unMo Age of Expansion and the influence of the Matera School with an emphasis upon the first hundred years.
  • group two examined the Times of the Great Schism and the unMo Wars through the fitful fifty years of unPleasantness.
  •  a third group sought to pinpoint where and how some 200 years ago the foundation of the unMo idea formed a Watershed moment in the history of interhuman/interspecies cooperation. 
The debate was as usual vigorous;   ( the text for group three is in unMonastery 1.0)

The group of Great Schism never submitted its literature.  They did however send a few representatives to the unMo…

Deprivation and the Deprived  –  The Tyranny of the unRuly

Seasons and waves are a function of time.  Arriving at the unMo in times of plenty it is perhaps impossible to intuit times of sparsity.  The healthy pantry of March doesn’t reflect the empty cupboards of February.  What was once a miracle, can easily be taken for granted.  Similarly, it may be difficult for survivors of the cold water days to believe that the self-evident is not self-evident.

Contrary to popular myth, the unMonastery does not operate by way of rules.  In our time we have enacted but one rule:  No Complaining.  Try as we might everyone has found the capacity to break this rule repeatedly.  At all other conjunctures we have compelling aesthetics: such is the way of the unMonasterian. 

UnMoaners are inevitably pleasant souls.  Our first resident rebel snuck in unannounced through the back door unJuried by anything than camaraderie.  Knowing he couldn’t abide the disciplines, our first pilgrim from the sub-sect of the schism seemingly set their not-unconscious sights at being a self-declared ‘heretic’ — intent on breaking all available rules.  Problems occurred in that orthodox unMonasteries have no rules.  What we do have is observances and practices: esthetic boundaries that are to be respected even as they be inevitably stretched.   Food was a holy sacrament, other people’s sleep was similarly sacrosanct.

Barely rockable pillars of unMo behavior include classics such as “Share and share alike”, and while occasional transgressions could be and were treated with understanding, repeated transgressions require some other sort of reaction.  Traditionally novices or initiates would have paid dear to be taken into consideration for monastic life.  The act of depositing all their worldly possessions at the entrance gate was unRefundable; to be found habitually unSuitable could leave one quite literally without a suit.  Fear of non-conformability was a useful mechanism for internalising the endless layers of collective life.

Inevitably the sun would shine; unMonastic life offers the novice realms of service through which to align their vision, but the push to form break-away reform movements that so marked the development of divergent monastic orders is dependent upon a stable and established orthodoxy from which to redefine ones divergence.  In the early stumbling days of Mining the Metaphor the endless questioning of barely established practice was merely unRuly.


About bembodavies

Theatre worker who long ago abandoned theatres, I remain adept at fabricating projects out of thin air. All proposals welcome.
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