No Complaining Policy

The recollection is faulty.  Having gone to the extreme of invoking a No Complaining Policy, it seems logical that even in those most playful early days the unMonasterians deemed it a necessary reaction to a creeping toxic atmosphere.  Was it an admonition to embrace stoicism, or self-censorship to quell one or another of the assembly from polluting the fun?

Our greatest impatience we reserved for our ‘parents’ – our sponsoring bodies here on earth whose efforts through the months hadn’t quite got us the roof over our heads that ‘everybody else had’.  When the invoice showed up that showed that the mattresses upon which we were to lay our weary heads likely came late because they weren’t ordered until the day before our scheduled arrival, we may have been a tad ungrateful.  National stereotypes were no doubt muttered.  Arms were reported waved.

In the face of unilateral paternalism, we temper tantrumed.  When the kids wouldn’t tidy up for guests, or if we asked too many pointed questions, we were sent to our rooms and ignored.  When these rooms proved mouldy and unheated, we hammered on the wall in a cloud of name calling.   Refusing to eat our dinner, not getting out of bed and inappropriate language were all indulged in.

Behaving like naughty children, we became treated as naughty children.   In a fit of adolescent hubris we declared independence, and psychically moved beyond the range of parental influence at first opportunity.  When it proved the case that we sorely missed human contact, we felt heartlessly deserted by our mothers.  A case may be made that some of us perhaps exhibited an unVersion of attention deficit disorder…

houseThe Sign of the Sign
When one doesn’t understand oneself, it is easy to feel misunderstood.  One little eureka moment of internal revelation can cause considerable international mayhem.

We were battling with our key existential questions: what were the unMonasterians, who was the unMonastery?  Finally willing to throw open our gates to the multitudes, we were still fumbling to explain ourselves in two languages… On the morning of the big day, there came a pounding at our collective door – “The good workers had arrived to put up our signs.  Where did we want them?”

The problem was that none of us had ordered any signs.  Without any of our endless rounds of indecisive discussion, something had happened; we were to be immutably corporate-branded out of the blue.  Without asking, someone somewhere had made the bold assumption that: we were who we said we were where we said we were.  Our magnificent palace of a house was to be boldly labelled “unMonastery” with the leaf-green logo that we had happily been using for the last 11 months.   Semi-understandably, we the unGrateful, were having none of it…

Such paternalistic behaviour was an affront to adolescents deep in their first major identity crisis.  Of course we weren’t a vague generic product of the unMonastery Industry; we were our own blossoming creature of great beauty.  At that stage in our internal deliberations our image among our peers meant everything.  Our intentions were crystal clear – at least to us: while the ‘unMonastery’ of our parental lineage remained an utopian ideal, we wrestled with a firmer reality.  We were the genuine article; in our heart of hearts we had indeed progressed a step further along our pathway, we were the unMonastery Prototipo Matera.  Let that be a sign to everyone…

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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.

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It is Written…

Progettini II

Community development projects cannot thrive in a sterile environment.  They have to be sown, to germinate and to take root before they can grow.  The juried project proposal system that sifts the pure genius from the less pure genius does just that; the proposed projects are descriptions of the applicant’s imagination.  Suddenly surrounded by reality, that same imagination should be encouraged to evolve something radically different.

It is written somewhere in the unMo literature that projects are to be shattered upon arrival.  It is written somewhere in the literature that itinerant unMonasterians are to create their existence human contact by human contact.   Parachuting in with our pre-formed beliefs leaves us with a mentality of adjusting the terrain to fit the map.
Healthier for all concerned is to perform an illuminating arrival ceremony of burning ones preconceptions and application text.  If, at some point in the future, the charred remnants may be dredged forth from one’s memory, they are thereby all the more valuable.  However, it is equally legitimate to build a completely other project.  — It is carved somewhere on the unMo walls that we should “Listen always to what is emerging”. 


Massive projects can get heavy.  Delivering deliverables can evoke tunnel vision.  The stubborn spectre of perfectionism can rear its head; projects artificially supported by conceptual scaffolding can get all bad mannered and unruly in the face of reality.
To counteract this the preferred project management device is the articulation of sub-objectives with which to illuminate the day to day occurrences which nourish the project environment.   In the unMo, part of this articulation is instinctive; however our grand mission can get easily obscured by pressing immediate concerns. So while the way of the world encourages independence, performance and cleverness, we unMonasterians risk a quick extinction unless we employ human skills that foster camaraderie, generosity, and deep inter-reliance.  Taking the time to articulate the need to cultivate these inner workings that support all our efforts is a vital step.  Our greater PROJECTS are to be constructed of progettini.

I Progettini are the connective tissue of life in the project world: they are the conscious choices that align our availability and project our willingness to listen.

Two Performing Poodles:  Next and the Kids
They’ve dragged me out of my cave again:  the unMo headliner bit in the TED-style aren’t-we-wonderful live broadcast “Next” thing needed a finale; then the following day at 11:00 some youngsters were dropping by unAnnounced …

MAnextThe first one was easy — my chore to provide the closing number for the team asked to explain themselves in under a minute.  It could be a distinct advantage that one of us was trained in how to flip a standardised comment to gain an introductory half-laugh, and to milk a bilingual pause for all that it is worth.  That he willingly wore a silly hat and was wary enough of his sight lines to take the brave step forward even if it left him standing somewhat ridiculously astride the designated colourful cubes of two co-workers, didn’t hurt either.  Everybody had something to say, I was briefest and last.  Helpful pens had whittled down my tourist Italiano to a rather succinct message:  

Io sono la vocé narrante della casa e il guardiano del libro dell’ Errori. UnMonastery è non solo ‘politically correct’ ma anche ‘poetically correct’.
Noi inventariamo la nuove tradizione ogni gjorno.   L’inspirazione è contagiosa.
Il nostro Libro dell’Errori serve contro future idioze.
 L’inspirazione è sempre contagiosa.

That the moderate jubilation that followed was less for my cutting-edge poetry and more for my mangled Italiano will go uncommented upon.  At my frequency – a gig is a gig.

The other task wracked more nerves.  Poised to exit the premises the next morning on a promising developmental mission, I was blocked by an impending reality:  ‘an unSpecified number of children were on their way to the gates of the unMonastery to do an unSpecified thing.’  No one seemed to know whose brilliant idea this was.  The common opinion was that the house would indeed survive without me, but frankly no one seemed to be bustling with whatever it is that one bustles with upon such occasions.  Resigned to my fate, I sat back down.  The breakfast discussion rolled further, laundry was laundered, as the clock passed the estimated time of arrival nothing notable occurred.

Suddenly the air was full of kid-stuff.  Adults exercising their hushing, young voices giving them reason to do so…

The Laundry Project had turned up a forgotten treasure in the bottom of my cupboard —  Brussels: three Edgeryder gatherings ago, in the early morning of the unMonastery Dream, we had had been blessed with a budget for catering.  As I recall the meals were neither fragrant nor filling.  What they did provide was an unusual amount of quality designer rubbish.  I’d pocketed a few sets of the wooden cutlery, but taken particular umbrage at the exquisite sticks used to skewer our panini.  With a head full of freshly mined Lore of the unMonastery, they spoke to the shaman in me.  I gathered 40 or so skewers into a plastic bag and carted them home for future reference…

Over a year later, as the unMo neared becoming a reality, my economic situation encouraged me to rent out my flat.  Cleaning up for my tenant, I came across a vaguely familiar bag and quickly moved it into my heap of Matera bound gear.  Recycling the shadowy spirit of dreamtime past into fodder for the urgent unearthing of palatable truths is a time-honoured dramaturgical strategy: the sticks would prove good for something; A melts into B.

I ran out to meet the arriving school class: (decidedly more than imagined, inevitably accompanied by their own camera team, and at that most delightful age of 7 or so.)
Let the games begin: I’d be clutching at whatever was at hand.  In this case it was my precious Belgian skewers:  I thought they could provide a forest of pins; each with its mock black olive at convenient maximum manipulation length, they could invade a garden or provide involuntary acupuncture treatment for any number of public monuments; they had sword-fight potential.  
In the event, everyone was more that pleased to try proposal number three: take them home and stick them in your grandmother’s favorite cushion…

Time had been won; we had established a relationship – the primary obligations of the photo op were more than met.  Strangely enough the Progettinisto in me couldn’t let the opportunity slip by.  Given that our one of deepest goals is to foster feelings of ownership for unMonastery Matera among the local populous, embedding a herd of already bubbling young local citizens with an acute desire to return for more was the only justifiable move.

The crowd expanded to absorb the physical feedback potential (aka play) of the terrace that soars over the valley.  Using the classic maneuver of recruiting one young volunteer under 25 kg to be unmercifully lifted into the air by her ears — I convincingly gathered them once again into an eager clump.


Alternatives reduced to one — I took the easy road off the cliff face by starting an improvised Morning Practice session:  Everyone see if they can locate their legs. 
Once found: rhythmic thigh slaps.  This established: foot pounding with appropriate integrated grunts.  Now thoroughly grounded in their skeletal mountain: a big round transcendent stretch of the upper extremities with a resounding whoop.

While the high concentration of attendant adults breathed a collective sigh of relief that I hadn’t damaged any delicate souls, the kids wanted more…  Still not breaching decorum, I pulled out an available finger.  Soon everyone had found one too.  A small amount of translation and everyone understood that this was a vermicelli – a small worm.  These sang, wiggled and talked with their neighbours; when another one appeared they tended towards curiosity, argument and then wrestling.

With all the blessings of The Gods of Theatre the satisfying grande finale presented itself.  Session complete, another Progettino was suitable for framing.


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i Virtù di Progettini

listening to the walls

Where does the unMonk’s residency coalesce ?:
via the strengthening of inner group powers;
in the cultivating of one-to-one alliances;
through the building of a cultural matrix
of genuine, effective exchange.

Greater and Lesser Omissions 
Monks require contemplation; the sheer weight of our practical considerations allowed precious little time for reflection.  (Praise be upon the hard fought choice to opt for the hand warming rituals of manual dishwashing.)  Otherwise, we coddled modern beings reflexively expanded our comfort zones as best we could.  With hardly time to raise our heads in either song or prayer, we assaulted our undernourished ‘long term goals’ as if they were hacked into the stone of the walls.

The unMo speaks of treasuring its interface.  The unMo speaks of Listening to its Walls.
The geological massive from which the unMonastery fundament has been carved resists tidy demarcations.  The face of the cave wall is a breathing entity full of undesigned detail.  Walls are not just walls but fault lines of least resistance; carefully carved vaults that have become pockmarked through centuries of seeping condensation.  Any signs of willed human interaction do not indicate impatience nor esthetic blindness, they are rather intrusions spurred by the need to survive. 

As it is with this our formal space, so is it with our conceptual space.  Our projects shall and must dissolve to redefine their arc.  Grand plans despite their magnificent lines must adapt to reality, and while befriending reality is often wise, it would be desirable for our day to day project design to be modified by something more than the need to survive.  Our conscious choices are better spurred by a desire for elegance than for purely practical considerations; sketching an array of desirable progettino can be an illuminating strategy…

i progettini
The grandiose project Mission Statement is meant to be an unObtainable wish – a navigational star placed so conveniently far from reality – that no matter how convincingly we have bashed our heads against the wall, it is there shining in the heavens as soon as we regain consciousness.  If off course, we can swiftly spot our orientation and adjust our direction.

When the guide post for a major project exists at such a distance as to defy nuanced perspective, we must often turn to our practical daily interactions in order to at all measure any forward motion.  However, if we can then adjust the terms of our examination with even minor degrees of magnification, progress becomes quickly breathtaking.

To facilitate our daily, more prosaic growth it is desirable to deconstruct The Upper Case Project into component ‘progettini’.   Progettini are our conscious positive steps in close-up.  They are the openings opened, our daily desirables.  Focussing upon these natural by-products of a project description can inform us when we are really doing what we intend to be doing.  Identifying the refined facets of our living interface helps us evolve our true projects; we can begin to interact with reality.

Listing the component virtues of our projects may seem distasteful.  Our ‘virtuosity’ is meant to be discretely ingrained within all our worldly activities, to articulate the desire for such attributes comes dangerously close to brashly claiming their presence.  Even if projects aren’t meant to be humble, we their perpetrators are.

Our way out of this is to go into our circles, to distill our desirables via a collective process that masks our personal ambition and elevates the inherent vision to a function of the group.  If I were to humbly suggest tentative project virtues that might help us unMonasterians align our day to day work, a brief list might look like this:

  • participatory — leave behind the experience of doing the work; 
  • visceral — incorporate the joy of physical effort at that core of the exchange;
  • inhabit a linguistically level (or lower) playing field;  
  • elegant — in accomplishment and idea;  
  • demonstrative of the creation of surplus value.

This short list of i virtù di progettini of can readily be extended through the actor’s homework tool of articulating one’s subtext.  What is it we do when we are doing our real work?  Or as Brother Siri once put it to the group: What are the experiences of WOW that made you feel that this was what being an unMonasterian was all about?  What are our daily objectives?  Expressed generally as, say,  “I will do some good” we remain general and toothless.  By breaking down our objectives into component parts, we gain useful precision…

The Subtext of Good Works 

  1. To Form Friendships – this is the easy one.  Every society has its social fault lines, the schism between those who routinely embody subconscious values, and those that actively set the same values in question.  Along this division lie human cells of curiosity that readily open for connections with our available friendship receptors.  People seek people.  People seek like minds.  Hampered by linguistic unProficiency (even as some of us daubed in Duolingo), the cultivating of human warmth becomes the currency of our exchange, fumbling forwards with grace and humility.
  2. Forming friendships remain our first five objectives.  Variations on the theme may provide us subtle re-writes such as the expand your network or
  3. to Gather concerned citizens,
  4. to Unearth strategic allies,
  5. to Build emotional support among like minds.
    The true basis action of all of these objectives is feeding potential friendships.
  6. to Stimulate Cohesion / to Cultivate the We  – The inner workings of the enterprise needs must be solid.  To give each other enough space for all personal foibles is not necessarily best policy.  The Art of Self-Sacrifice may be a finicky creature to introduce and then tame, but without it we merely replicate the environments that have driven us to this impasse of supplicating ourselves in the first place.  Working together helps.
  7. to Promote Co-consciousness – Above and beyond documentation our work needs definition.  Coincidently, creating the one can beget the other; however, the flaws of both pen on parchment and obscure blog comment is that the best lain words of many can be consigned to a ridiculously short shelf-life beneath an enormous mountain of virtual dust.
    It is proposed that all documentation be hatched in pairs. Such texts in equal parts impeded and enriched by each other have an added value of tweaking convergent vision.
  8. to Value Emotional growth –  This goes without saying that by investing of our humanity we seek to stimulate the occupation of new territory among ourselves and our collaborators.
  9. to Spawn – As project managers everywhere will happily testify, the sign of a good project is when it takes over its own steering.  It is in the nature of projects that they beget projects.  One can debate the absolute wisdom, but at certain stages of project life: the more the merrier.*  Drowning in brilliant ideas is a familiar symptom of even a healthy enterprise.  Not all shall find fertile soil, and an effective short, quick filter system for registering, recycling, shelving, allotting and decapitating schemes and dreams in favour of a clear tactical progression of actionables is a vital tool to possess.   (*It has been noted that everyone who walks through the unMo doors seems to engage us in at least two additional pursuable projects… )
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Occupy Real Work

The unMonastery    –    a  Social Installation
The recipe is elegant.  Skilled but critical human citizens turn their back on the inhuman marketplace to move into surplus public real estate at the outer edge of the modern experiment.  Together they recreate almost forgotten life rhythms and devise meaningful work projects. 

They are not here to thrash out miracles, but can inadvertently find themselves bestowing their blessings upon those who mirror similar values.  This installation of committed workers into a local community where hope and vision may be suffering, can act as a catalyst.  Alliances will be formed; spin-off can be anticipated…

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Filthy Habits


The question recently arose – What became of the unMonasterian’s ‘habit-forming’ workshop?  Standing out as instantly distinguishable from the more standard tourist remains desirable – but intruding upon the Cult of the Individual seems dangerous territory.  The workshop with Zoe at the LOTE#3 could only scratch the surface of desirability.  Values such as stitching your own garment within the first week were applauded as wise.

But quite independent of the design issues, without a forum to create a consensus around such a practice any decision would have to be left to the first convention of unMonasterians.  By the time we first sat faccia a faccia our options were limited.  More prosaic considerations commanded our attention; what we looked like was the least of our concerns – deprived of heat, sleep, internet connection we felt distinctly and proudly unMonkish.  That would suffice.

The easiest would have been to steal Ben’s elegant long black habit.  I would have thrived in a rich, warm brown variant, Marc could have sported steel grey without fracturing his style.  Katalin could explore her options: a red, a violet, a cream?  Elf clothing an unabashed sports car green; who would wear white? or sacred saffron?  What colours could would result if we boiled down the pigments of the neighbouring Murgia?*

Does this belong in the Book of Errors  – yes indeed.  Along with the ceremony of taking upon ourselves the habit of an unMoaner would be the inevitable mumbo jumbo.  Rituals to ease the transition from the evil habits of a civilian were meant to be my territory; in practice a fear of appearing a cult has left us frightenly normal.  The inevitable phases of landing and lurching are explored inThe Vow of unSomething.

*Should we indeed retain our customary names?  Traditionally they were surrendered at the gate along with all worldly possessions and the hair on your head.  A simple swap might suffice; I’ve always coveted the name Arthur.

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The unWhoop


Some traditions adhere more solidly than others. Rumour has it that it was key members of the unMo beta that brought it about. Apparently the floor plans as supplied by the ancient local ‘Mimers’ support this theory. The first unMoaners lived their life on two levels. The sleeping floor: airier, first-heated, presumably better lit was perched above the more cavernous lower floor where distinct recollections of the eating process in the form of memories of Open Dinner arrangements are reported by several sources…

UnMoaners everywhere mark the beginning of their famous food feasts with an inevitable uvular whooping sound that heralds their sacred mealtimes. It is speculated that this ‘call to plate’ was implemented to permeate the thick rock of their earliest dwellings. Bouncing off the adjacent wall of Tony’s neighbouring Bed & Breakfast to rattle the window glass of the unMembers who hadn’t yet joined in on the dining room Dance of the Circling Vultures.

Little is left of their precise dining practice, searching their midden heap provides remarkable few signs of life and surprisingly little waste for an operation of their purported proportion. It has been therefore hypothesised that a zero waste policy was rigorously enacted already from the first settlement. However, one contradictory piece of evidence to this theory are the heavy finds of seemingly contemporary glass shards on the adjacent stone veranda. This could also indicate that exercising demonstrative fury was not foreign to the unMonasterian mealtime celebrations. It may therefore be worth speculating on what might bring such a conceptually gentle social organ to suffer routine inharmonious mealtimes. The literature supplies no record of a liturgical contribution. Some preserved lists indicate that even with a reduced population of as low as six residents, two people were proscribed the task of cooking pranza and cena in an apparently random arrangement of paired names. Signs of injudicious distribution of duties and of what seem spontaneous task-swapping arrangements make it harder to trace the culture of their Art of Dining. It should however be taken for granted that dine they did.

An alternative theory that at least partially supports the disharmony interpretation of the fine glass chips littered across the terrace has it that the unMo pioneers had a difficult and hypocritical attitude to their own consumption of alcohol. Paradoxical snippets of ‘unRules’ indicate that while hospitality was considered a key virtue and a cornerstone of interface strategies, it was also noted that many itinerant souls brought with them nasty degrees of chemical dependency; thus, the high degree of glass finds may indicate an attempt to hide an early-stage unDignified consumption of bottled beverages.* The tradition of high volume whooping may have somehow been used to mask the sound of exploding wine bottles.
* Into this debate may be factored the obscure possibility that an infamous discotheque could have easily been situated in an adjoining building complex sharing the same terrace, and that nothing would materially hinder local youth from engaging in unRuly practices of their own design in the same territory.

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The Vow of unSomething

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.

De-tox Period
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.

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Strasbourg Frustration Management Bipolar Collective Workshop

( Il Livro dell’ Errori III )


Linguistic poverty is humiliating – steps must be made to bridge ones own helplessness without forcing others into theirs.  Occasionally the protracted pace of non-simultaneous translation can be turned to one’s advantage.  At the Inaugural unMo Party, I had Rita. 
In the Good People of Matera, I also had a hungry audience.  Patience can be a limited commodity, talk of the unMonastery had circulated for weeks, but did we really do anything?  It was certainly time to open our doors.  The population were summonsed: they would hear from us, they would also hear from one another.  We set up an open platform where groups and individuals could explain to the community the dynamics of their activities.  Some of those speaking would be well known; others could be a surprise…

There was a slot to fill.  The aforementioned good people deserved insight into what we thought we were doing.  I chose to go back to one day preceding the invention of the unMonastery idea at the first Living on the Edge gathering in Strasbourg.  I brought along two especially prepared, tall empty boxes with convenient handholds.

That historic day in Strasbourg, brother Rysiek had been concerned that his organisations tended to go down in flames.  Negative energy accumulated and found no constructive outlet.  Groups lost their edge.  He postulated a lightning rod – a negativity grounder – a totem pole that acknowledged the delicate nature of ‘Working on the Edge’ and that would protect us from a bashing when times got intricate. 

I presented my boxes as Exhibit A.  But only after having dragged dear Rita into the world of a man bent upon ‘revealing a scandal and abandoning all sense of diplomacy’.  Even if it was pointed out that since half the audience were more than likely electronic engineers everyone instinctively understood that it was impossible to create a pole of negativity without reaping the benefit of the positive fountain of inspiration, the audience were thus primed for a dangerous voyage…

The scandal bit was predicable: according to me the entire set-up of the non-Monastario was based upon false premises.  The original forty-three challenges extracted from the Materani almost exactly a year ago, were unfortunately never properly recorded.  Instead, the best our historians could produce was a limp fragment from a web artifact allegedly fed in shorthand to an Englishman!  When this document forgery had been discovered, it was already too late.  Able hands attempted a delicate restoration, but the damage had been done; the best they could manage was a good-tempered summary – a renovated, more palatable Greatest Hits now routinely presented as the twelve desirable desires and circulated to the international curious.

As the good citizens absorbed my concern; a strong urge arose that said that this misrepresentation of history shouldn’t go unexamined.  Quick to respond, I announced that I would here and now reveal the missing 31 challenges in all their nakedness.  Zipping by a slide of my intriguing ‘Culture First’ work model, I resurrected the original flimsy fragment of suppressed truths.  In a quick series of slides, I flashed the forbidden 43 Challenges in all their glory, highlighting the fact that each of them was based around a perceivable element of negativity: ( 21 examples of the word “No”, supplemented by 5  “Nots”) . Three slides later, I had deftly extracted the incendiary red words and boiled them down to a moderately poetic litany suitable for chanting with great bravata.  But, I was not there to teach Materani English – aware that my time running out, I broke off the promising howls of the masses in mid-stream.  And switched to the penultimate slide brought to us by my faithful friend Google… 

The Italian version of their litany was even juicier; moderate percussive conducting on my part was all that was necessary for the assembled multitudes to roar out their accumulated despair in convincing unison. 

No, No.
No, No.

No, No, No. 

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

Retrogrado, scarso. No.
No, difficile, no.
No, No, sporco.

Scarso. No.
La gente si lamenta molto.
No. No.
Lamentarsi interna senza fine. Troppo. non
Spaccatura. non
Pochi / dividere /sottovalutare.
No, niente.
Non- stare non-.

Starting with its crescendo of “No”s, the list peaked with Lamentarsi interna senza fine” ( Endless internal lamenting) before rounding off with a resounding, elongated. “Troppo” (Too much).  The resonance was palpable.

Rita, my loyal translator had used her unilingual quiet time to advantage; quick enough to grasp where I was heading, she was having none of it.  My negativity was not going to win the day.  I however had one more slide up my sleeve…

I quickly brought back the Culture First logo now augmented for the occasion with the desirable straight-forward linguistic adjustments.  Locating the unMonastery at the crux of a cultural environment that was easily clouded by chronic negativity – I mobilised sufficient body language to convey the effort necessary to get into a position to negotiate appreciable leverage.  It was demonstrably formidable.  People got my point.

And so it was back to my Negative and Positive Polarities of Project Management.  Despite my considerable defensive capabilities, Rita was well on her way to give me a good bashing with her Made in Italy positive energy box, when I was saved by the gong…


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The Healing Arts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey lived their life in circles,
A clustered round the warmth.

The limits of unMonastic life are legitimate.  We do indeed choose to suffer perceivable deprivation.  So much is this the case that we as palpably human beings are forced to turn to the pleasures and potential pleasures of communal living in order to renew our zeal.  Although occasions of bacchanalia are mentioned in our literature, at the moment of writing we have not yet succumbed to rites of sexual abandon.  And since neither appreciable amounts of the dance nor audible song have entered our repertoire,
our renewal mechanisms are reduced to bad jokes, genuine caring and pure human warmth as shared in our two daily ritual circles and the universal sacrament of mealtimes.

The inherent conflict between our existence as a willing service institution and the more central experiment as a lifestyle choice is now under trial.  Repulsed by our insularity some seek refuge in the fleeting pleasures of fieldwork; while others, perhaps feeling dissatisfied with the superficiality of their field presence, retreat to the confines of the manageable chores within the unMo walls.  By-passing one another has now become a routine occurrence.  The unMonastery has sprung a leak…

The clearest manifestation of leakage is in our legendary morning practice.  Despite the impressive documentary footage shot by a radio-steered helicopter on the morning of our Grande Opening Feast, we have only once celebrated full attendance.  The assembled non-multitudes do the best they can, and almost routinely lift their somewhat comatose morning spirits to levels of minor euphoria.  However, we have yet to articulate the value of this activity in integrating and consolidating the collective.  Instead of something one meets keen, prepared and eager, it has been reduced to serving as an optional augmentation to the wake-up call.  Few have proven willing to see beyond their own precious selves in this equation — not reckoning that their negative presence inevitably subtracts from the positive and that those who do choose to re-invent our fellowship in concentric flights of visceral fancy, do so in the shadow of those who succumb to temptation of another 20 minutes under the warm sheets.  It is noted that the absentee rate from breakfast is appreciably lower.

That this heartbreaking dis-integration is not subject to alarm is in itself alarming.  The investment in the ensemble is the duty of every unMonasterian.   It is certainly something worth getting out of bed for.  In the pre-unMo literature this challenge was designated as “Creating the We”.  For the ego-bred urbanite such an investment in our own ‘intergratity’ seems not to be second nature.  Can a certain fevour be renewed without resorting to inorganic strategies?  Fortunately, we can turn to the wonderful world of paradoxical therapy that suggests us that for the chronically tired, one trick is to awaken earlier.

This may not be the only diagnostic window on the health of our order; it is however ridiculously easy to count the attendant heads.

Video clip 1:11 min  

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