Follow-up is Quite Something


Full Moon, 16-19 September,
Kokkinopilos, Mount Olympus

Once again the unMonastery succumbed to our favourite fetish:  whenever possible, we place major our occasions along the notches of the Saros cycle. It is as if we still harbour the belief that the heavens might teach us something. While the October Harvest Moon fitted better for some, the logistics of key personnel moved things to September, and the autumn equinox. The Full Moon showed as per schedule.  The same cannot be said for our proposed team…

The meeting mandate decided during the Summer unSummit was clear: Assemble the key players to an i situ core group alignment session. – this with the added calculation that our speedy return to Kokkinopilos would also impress upon local stakeholders the seriousness of our intentions.

Group alignment might prove a hard task. Design principles as to where and how to focus the efforts of the unMonastery as a coordinated practice had taken a great leap back to basics at the Summer unSummit Camp, but not everyone had participated equally in the pleasure of this visceral reinforcement. Pulling the diverse strands together might be painful. Some of us trod carefully, others tramped loudly.  One withdrew gracefully; two others just didn’t show up.

Our party boldly retained its mission:  laden down with copies of the newly completed unMonastery Scriptorium ToolKit to be distributed along the route, and ripe from a warm, if slowly fading summer camp adventure, this was a repeat, more precise journey.  The design of our return gathering had been conceived to fold the unMonastery back upon ourselves. The invigorating challenge of living half-rough, with barely running water and absolutely no kitchen, was be translated into a viable project proposal for our next stage of operations. As a working framework for the gathering itself, two unMonastery classics were to be recycled: Day One, labelled “Mountain Day” would be a transplanted version of the ‘Listening to the Walls’ exercise devised for the original unMonastery in Matera. The suggested concrete task at hand was to locate a site for the legendary Rysjek’s ‘Negativity Pole’ as proposed at the proto-unMonastery founding meeting with Edgeryders in Strasbourg. This was devised as a necessary device to prevent progressive activist organs from succumbing to group disharmony once they start to get anywhere. The Gods know that we have explored the disharmony territory – The Walls we would listen to would inevitably include our own…

But first some practicals… Item one on the agenda was a rash attempt to impose structural elements from the Summer Solstice gathering upon a new constellation of people. Now, exactly three moons later on the equinox, would not the difference in the angle of the heavens dictate a different response (and waking time)?  Wiser heads prevailed; morning practice became a rousing mountain walk—- there beyond the pastures just below our school house hung a breath-taking vista; at a certain moment the rays that illuminated the far away peaks would slide over Olympus itself to bless our mountain meadow. Dodging cow patties, we found our way to a natural outcrop that put a fountain of stone at our backs, and offered a dramatic perch suitable for cleansing and contemplation – could this spot be the negativity pole we sought that would help ground all future discord? 

The post-breakfast re-tox session involved self-interrogation. What walls were we proposing to create, which would be weight bearing, what would be necessary to hold the space for the spirit of the enterprise to protect the unMonastery idea from the vagaries of everyday life? As usual the unMon Card Set and the Book of Greater and Lesser Omissions supplied valuable clues – we seem prepared…

The rest of the day we expanded our listening arc to the designated taverna.  A valuable articulation of the perceived needs of the local community, and their designs upon the school house, provided key input.  A planned lunch meeting with Viktoria and Giorgos demanded a follow-up tour to some local historic sites.  The original row of temples dedicated the Big Twelve had recently been unearthed in the valley below – the remnants long since plundered to build local sheep sheds, we met the foundation stones to temples to Poseidon, Apollon and Artemis, archeologists assure us that the rest of the crowd still lay there, unexcavated.  The more well-known Disneyland option on the beachy side of the mountain were in fact the Roman-built equivalent and a mere 1900 years old; here were the genuine stones – and look, there above us, nestled on the mountainside – the village of Kokkinopilos.

Day Two was flagged before our arrival as “Garden Day”  – the thought being that: a family that breaks nails together, lugs pails together. An active unMon garden is conceived as a supplementary meeting place to the trusty taverna; the simple strategy is that by sharing the ins and outs of gardening, both our inexperience as peasants, and/or our access to innovative technologies and sustainable approaches to horticulture could grow into a collective concern for our immediate nosey neighbours. The key unMonastery rallying cry of  ‘Cultivating the We’ would take on an additional literal meaning in the interest creating a not necessarily verbal meeting place.  Meanwhile, while focussing on the logistics of preparing a plot and meeting seeding schedules, the extended theme of Day 2 was to layout the range of our first strategically designed testLab. ‘Gardening’ implied both planning and maintaining growth. We plotted.

An attempted backroad tour into more ancient ruins was aborted as too challenging for our hired car. Besides, another tribe of the Godly had made their presence known; acting on a hot tip we found ourselves on the far side of the valley looking for Taverna Dionysos – and a small crowd of retro-worshippers who would be performing their seasonal rites upon yet another neglected heap of stones. Wild flowers, wine, fire, ancient Greek prayer texts and a tortoise would offered up in acknowledgement of not-forgotten Gods.  Ecstatic for the international attention (and potential participants under 60), Our Valeria was soon recruited into the role of the fair maid, Persephone. If we turned our backs upon the proceedings, we too would face Olympus; Kokkinopilos was once again glimpsable above the foothills.

Afterwards, back at Dionysos, some truths would emerge. These intrepid pagans had far from just a passing interest in preserving the ancient deities – they were also dead keen on preserving all things Hellenic – we’d landed among a hornets nest of hyper-nationalists. The dessert, served with a sauce of anti-semitism and conspiracy theories, wasn’t quite as appetising as the main course. We beat a hasty retreat back to more nourishing ground.

The people of Kokkinopilos are not actually Greeks – driven up into the valleys of Northern Greece are pockets of a variety of nations. In Kokkinopilos, they speak Vlac. As descendants of the Roman pre-bysantine presence they are linguistically Latin speakers akin to Romanian, French and Italian. This provides several advantages; the psychology of being a noble minority is very much a positive value in a community that seems to comprise of many retirees who have come back to a community that finally allows them to freely speak their mother’s tongue. Also, we unMoaners from afar may find it easier to learn the language, even if it is spoken by as few as 800 people.

Obtainable Objectives and Hidden Assumptions
UnMons travel on their OOs and HAs. The announced OO of our autumn meeting was to hammer out the contours of a potential future collaboration. A hidden assumption that appeared in at least one person’s notes stated that: Working constructively upon a goal will bring forth strengths and contradictions in our understandings.  We feel that we got a clear step forward towards meshing the perceived needs of the villagers with a realistic version of what we and any supportive groups from the MAZI conglomerate can deliver. The village association has a bold vision to keep the village alive by developing services for a stream of alternative experience seekers who wish to meet more of Mount Olympus, and on less commercial terms, than the the coastal approach; we sketched an area where accumulated unMonastery website and cultural skills can support their plans in both prepping fund raising efforts, profiling the community, and providing off-net interface tools that provide information on the pre-image management version of the Olympians.

There was one invisible stakeholder that towered above all others. On the morning of our final night, we were awoken by thunderbolts. Zeus himself was intent on making himself heard – we held no doubts as to whom were the intended recipients.

Properly chastened, we held up to three closing circles both pre- and post cleaning out all signs of our visit. Some decisions to be made were voiced, and personal commitments aligned; our working plan was augmented by some last details and a renewed vision of reality; the next unMonastery seasonal gathering was mapped out in accordance with decisions made during the unSummit.  One last visit to the committee at Antonia’s taverna was in order.

Despite the initial annoyance of having been left in the lurch by half of our conceived delegation, our pared down group proved especially effective in building our interface. Without swamping the taverna culture with our foreignness, we were absorbed into the prevailing mood of mischievousness. That Valeria was revealed as growing up speaking Romanian had a special benefit: the always gregarious Vasilis had perhaps unearthed some long, lost relations down the valley – could she come up to the house and phone a number in Bucharesti of some people who shared his last name? Indeed she could: they returned triumphant seven minutes later with an agreement to visit family that had migrated northward some 180 years ago.

Major elements of Project Design haven’t been solved. Particularly, a collective push to match available funding is necessary. The idea as sketched stands as a three month 2017 TestLab that may or many not blossom into a future operation. Concrete suggestions as to a non-MAZI collaboration that may be interested in absorbing the long-term running of whatever we can cultivate, were aired. We reckon that a core group of 5-7 people could provide stability. A recruitment drive among our natural collaborative partners may help locate additional curious. However, we acknowledge the wisdom of working with an inner group of the ‘devout’ and an outer circle of the perhaps curious…



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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