Vision Distillery
Circles Research Mill

Ideas evaporate easily.  Constructing them again in public view, so that others can probe and query their structure and validity is a vital step if our gems are to survive.  Fighting for my favourites is a classic manoeuvre of the journey home. Hammered out mid-flight, these don’t always amount to common conceptual breakthroughs… usually, they end up wallowing in the bottom of a digital briefcase.

Since the health of any organisation is reflected in the thoroughness of its self-evaluation, I feel the need to preserve at least something for the mix.

I left our collective weekend retreat just about as clear headed as I arrived — it seemed a sincere case of win some / lose some.  Some of us aren’t naturally patient enough to be content with an approximation; I expected more…. While airing occurred, so did obfuscation.   Operating through a mild cloud of pain and painkillers, I wasn’t always diplomatic.

At my bruskest, I blurted out :  Facilitation makes things facile. –  Them, at least resembles, fighting words.  (note:  Facile in some languages simply means easy; in High English it denotes superficiality.)  My challenge boils down to : ‘Did we go deep enough ?’  Do we now know both what we are doing, and why doing it weaves into a greater strategy? (The often tempting ‘how we do it’ is always the longer process involving considerable doses of that old favourite – trial and error.)

So what gets us deeper?  Personal urgency?  A vision that lifts us out of our immediate concerns; that aligns our potential efforts with some truly massive social cohesion priorities?  Coming home to the presence in our kitchen of a genuine guerrilla fighter fresh from the front, provokes humility.  

Musing in our several garretts
In our world, many of us spend most of our waking hours living in our laptops.  We expound upon our own ideas more than we absorb those of others.  It may not yet have dawned on us that sending a message out into the ether offers no assurance that anyone has ever read it.  If they have, it may be as a passing crumb in the midst of a cascade of equally pressing communications that each drag the consumer in yet another direction…

What I might personally hatch out as a house vision is therefore not so very relevant unless it can be shared.  The finished product may look impressive, but it is infinitely more useful when several voices have provided the component parts and actively participated in assembling them.  Facilitators call this ownership; it helps to be able to point to one’s own contribution.  It goes slower; it runs deeper.

I spoke up at the planning meeting:  I was looking for a banner title for the weekend.  It is a familiar tool in my work with “Non-toxic Propaganda”.  In the theatre, we work with clear units – everyone needs to known what we are focusing upon.  Bold poetic labels are preferred over ambiguous generalities.  We search playable verbs.  I hatched a suitable suggestion:  Distilling Vision.  It was politely brushed aside as useful but belonging perhaps somewhere else in the process; it didn’t merit a mention in the next day’s preliminary sketch.  Pity.

Rooting vision in such a floating collective as ours* may sound overly ambitious – if we operate with the lifestyle badge of artists, aren’t we then meant to be somewhat nebulous?  But rooting is a highly playable verb:  dig a hole, climb in, provide fertiliser, introduce your best seed, initiate symbiosis, and give sufficient warmth and raw time for very organic processes to kick in.  What one mustn’t do is climb out of the hole prematurely; pointing back to its conceptual existence, proclaiming therein lies our growth.  Prolonged wrestling with your very essence is often rewarding.

Ye olde Whisky Distilleries are among the height of human ingenuity.  Clean grain is spread across the wooden sprouting floor.  It is then carefully moistened for four days until the tiny roots and budding leaves reach the most potent phase of aspiration.  After a precise number of hours, the malt is gently smoked dry before being subjected to life as a mash.  Fermentation has its own pace; the mash must bubble.  Heat and pH are monitored.  Tasting occurs.  It is only once we reach an advanced stage of ennoblement that we can approach distillation itself.  Heat is applied; pressure builds up.  The vapours rise through a set of tubing and then condense, rise and then condense a second time.  But the idea of the whisky is not even near finishing.  Now, it will be put into wooden barrels for ageing.  After four years with periodic rotation; it is suddenly deemed intoxicating enough to be scurried across the yard and behind the high gates.  Now it is subject to quite other laws…

If only the manufacture of bathtubs could provide an equally fitting metaphor…

There were at least two other cannon blasts out of me during the weekend.  One failed to be ignited.  I wanted to acknowledge the daily linguistic imperialism with which I write this post.  Canadians are meant to be familiar with multilingualism; we are trained to make at least token gestures.  I was obviously too out of it with my pet pain to remember to make the plotted amusing after-dinner toast to the linguistically oppressed.  The other blast was likely even more essential because I cannot remember it —  Ahhh, I got it…

It was on our investment in the Circle Economy.  That I, perhaps naively, assumed that our partaking in Circles and paying our keep in Circles local currency meant that I would contribute to at least daily endless group process to pursue key deeper understandings in community efforts.  I still suspect that this is essential to fulfilling the contract of exploring Moos as life-form.  (The formula of one third practical work, one third personal projects, one third contributing to the collective project has been mentioned.) But could the house tolerate such a discipline?  It would dictate a lot of life rhythm — how soon would it sour if 1/3 of our waking day was dedicated to the house’s spiritual precision?  Is there a balance to negotiate? (In Jo-jo’s podcast from Costa Rica, that circulated yesterday the community had its group circle life down to 25%.)

Ahhhh – now, I remember, it wasn’t the clever rework of the Circles image that was my big theme. What I wanted to pound into Moos Lore, was the potential in deconstructing and then extrapolating upon the term Residency itself.  This got a partial mention and reinterpretation, but then got pushed off the agenda.  Pity.  The central point was that language remains a most powerful tool.  Again as a Non-toxic Propagandista, I wanted to dissect that which we truly wished to accomplish and then encapsulate it in fresh terms which could then stand forth in resonant Deutsch as a resounding picture of which we are on about.  Notes were made in a small group, only to evaporate.

And so a return to the theme of this old scribe’s utterances:  the suspicion that while some of this re-evaluation may have be going on privately, until the inner machinations of each other’s brains are rendered transparent, personal ideas lack the vital potency of shared understandings.  I look forward to our next circle…

*The We this time is a collection of activists/artists perched above a restored bathtub factory in Berlin South. Time will tell what evolves.


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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