Poverty, Chastity and Silence

I’m posting this collection of notes here in the aftermath pages because the unMo has always been a biproduct of the LOTE.  Rightly life after LOTE marks a new beginning, but experience shows that new beginnings often get buried in the ER platform…

These notes summarise sessions and conversations, and half-conversations, then they run wild.

Ben and I have discussed most of this as holding points/ places to orient ourselves when we have still to unearth what will become our collective unMo culture.

Giorgio Agamben’s book The Highest Poverty, and ten days living in that other Materan re-monastery - Le Monacelle have flavoured my meditations.

The unMo

Designed to mobilse the collective wisdom of the group, the unMonastery is an unusual workhouse where often economically marginal

nomadic freelancers take up community subsidised residencies in exchange for their often highly specialised skills. 

Parables of the unMon

If the last man finished turns out the lights, I get to write the last word.

On my secret last day in Matera, when everyone else had hopped on the bus, I finally crossed the divide.

Not to the inviting Murgia, but to the neighbouring monastery that does so dominate our view; in the unverifably old Cripta di San Giuliano sub-church that forms as an invisible appendix to the XVIII Century edifice that we see daily, for the grand entrance fee of €1, my path finally crossed those of our predecessors…  How does our unWorship witness theirs?  The XVI Century social organs that erected these monuments reflected a spiritual currency.  At the top, the ecclesiastical aristocrats who dispersed it commissioned vivid frescos left, right and centre; beneath them slaved the waves of worker nuns and worker monks who kept the grand operation churning.  Responsible for maintaining an atmosphere of religious fever, and aided by generous amounts of sleep deprivation and chronic sonorous head vibration induced by all that chanting, they staggered about in sufficient perpetual euphoric rapture to keep the entire community convinced of their do-gooding.  Is this also us?

Our version of the unHolier than thou, while it must seek this rapture, cannot afford to take shortcuts.

Traditionally,one surrendered ones robes, name and hair at the monastery gates…

The Rigours of the unMonastery

Life in the unMonastery offers a cross between an artistic residency and a spiritual retreat.  Our progression towards one-size-fits-all praecepta vitalia (vital precepts) has not yet reached its conclusion; the collective journey towards this wisdom shall in itself become a source of valuable knowledge.  The constraints of establishing our Matera prototype almost overnight require that these precepts evolve at an inorganic pace, drawing copiously upon both historical monastic practice and the traditions of squatters, can initially inform our life rhythms and decision making processes… 

In choice of diet, interactive patterns and work load, we shall perhaps approach the model of self-development communities.  Only our development and disciplines are of the collective self.  Aspects of our individual programming shall inevitably be dropped at the door.  Work is to be done.

Beyond designing a re-fit for urban geeks who haven’t yet succumbed to their gluten intolerance, the unMonastery is a service organ.  We shall survive by creating inviting rhythms and rituals that allow us to embrace a life of devotion in the face of a crumbling game.  Our medium must be internal human warmth. We seek to build a regime of personal acceptance and confrontation with a generous proportion of collective triumph augmented by sensual feedback.  Through communion with our deepest nature - the dance and most excellent food shall be our currency of conversion.  Our vow of silence may become a periodic vow of non-verbalism/ non-connectivity.

Alternative Cycles - Periodic Regulation

Women who share the same roof, often co-ordinate their ovation cycles.  It remains to be seen whether the creative powers of fellow unMonasterians will similarily coordinate to one another (and to that of the moon.)  While we shall observe the passing of each lunar cycle, our work week shall absorb the administrative rhythm of our host societies.  Life will be organised in cycles two weeks (the in-week and the out-week) culminating in our legendary thematic open door rites of celebration.

(The proposal for this cycle with parties met with considerable enthusiasm at the LOTE and has been incorporated in the sketch of our unRule/unOrder.  The deeper description as to it’s content lies buried in my unMonastery 1.0 webstuff.  The unStazione Ritual performed with help of Centro Arti Integrate on the evening of the 31st was my protoype for these rites of community interface.)

Proposed unMo Inweek/Outweek Work Rhythm:

the in-week          
monday etc etc.        
the long walk matins = moveable outdoor italiano lessons matins   matins matins  



Morning meet

wpmm wpmm wpmm wpmm wpmm
In-house work: 

cleaning and shopping

project window          
transitional coffee (loose)          
project window          
daily soup            
silent practice          
project window          
vespers =   collective evening dance explorations vespers vespers  

Bi-polar alignment

w/ vespers

dinner (best practice)          
wine ration (1) 1 2 - - - bottle
body and breathwork            
lights out            
the out-week          
  matins matins matins   matins matins
wpmm wpmm wpmm wpmm wpmm   wpmm
  the out-week pattern resembles in-week except the collective effort to prep the party absorbs more of our time    
wine ration

( - )

- 1 1 2   1
vespers vespers   vespers vespers vespers The Art of the Party

Dietary regime

Restricted as we are to a diet of ultra healthy regional produce, malnutrition cannot be seen as an immediate problem.  However, many novices and supplicants have reported to not own their own bloodstream.  A transitional, rigorous cleansing period of up to two weeks is proposed.  This seems a particular adjustment for those from colder climes who may need to adjust both their sleeping patterns and digestive tracts.

Sleeping regime:

While we recognise that certain orders evolved the form of the solitary cell, we know that in many tradition societies the practice is of collective sleeping rooms.  Many of us have grown up sleeping alone in a single room for long periods of time.  To some this is beyond a luxury and has become a neurological requirement. A community of Indian social workers once expressed dismay at the Northern European practice of giving children their individual room: What have they done wrong? What form of punishment can this be?  We are headed towards a compromise:  traditionally monasteries achieve a purity of purpose via some form of  sleep deprivation.

‘zipper problems‘   -  Vow of Transformance

At this point there is no available unCulting insurance:  internally there is a belief that we have avoided any pressure to form unhealthy, parasitical hierarchies.  No one seems to be lurking on the horizon harbouring illusions of insatiable entitlement.  However, those at the flexi-core of the collective efforts might be the last to recognise their own aberrations. 

The unMonastery cannot sidestep a stance on the historic choice to repress sexuality.

Disruptions to the Vow of Chastity have fractured many an ecclesiastical order.  Choosing, if we do, to uphold some kind of unVow of unChastity may easily prove equally disruptive.

It is essential that we evolve an Vow of unRepression that recognises, celebrates and somehow transforms our inevitable sexual life-force in the service of the community.  No one is being asked to leave their hormones behind - the question becomes what discipline are they to be subject to:

– Can erotic tension and/or the suppression of it serve and strengthen the collective in any way?  — Help !  who wants to enter the minefield of proposing the channeling erotic energy into private and collective components.

Should we chose to practice unThinking, it is always possible to let things merely evolve around the individuals concerned.  But in as few as 30% of the examples studied some kind of palatable compromise has been more or less successfully ironed out; there is therefore little in human history that suggests that this humanist laissez faire tradition, is our wisest choice.  

The proposed discipline is one of no internal unions – should this repel those who inevitably find themselves in a mutual worship configuration, we must become adroit at celebrating these inevitable potentials with festivals of projection/ denial/ heartbreak.   Should exclusive unions occur, they are encouraged to form an outer unMo ring to recycling the energy and the promise by becoming leaders of the vespers.

At the same time it is unlikely that we can creatively release absolutely everyones personal histories of trauma.  To the best of the assembled unMonastarians capacity, those suffering shall be granted ‘time’.  Meditation, long walks and periods of silence shall be complimented by periods of respectful listening.  Skills from far and wide are to be mobilised to return the unNun into a disciplined life of service.  Growth strategies are many.

Mining the unMonastery Metaphor

Ben picked this phrase in his interview with Sam.  It is apt.  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 latent power in the history of monastic practice.  

At LOTE#2 a sub-group spent three days hacking “The Lore of the unMo”.  (provide link for historians if the document still exisits)  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.  (This should be considered mandatory reading - as it traces the evolution of a decentralised anarchist movement of radical dropouts that has lasted 1200 years.)  https://edgeryders.eu/comment/6022#comment-6022 

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  “The unMonastery in a 200 year Trajectory”, 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; an attempt to replicate its central threads is performed here:

(desperately awaiting reports from 1 + 2)

Group 3 –    watershed = key breakthrough

decisive moments that enabled the unMo to so negotiate successfully.

Although a minority of historians claim to have unearthed evidence among archaic web logs that reveal that the legendary early delegates, to say, the Matera Meeting of 2013, were an unPrecedented bunch of tossers, the accepted wisdom is to praise them for their foresight.

Key initial choices to avoid the divisive extremes of visionary projection, and to hold developments to the current realities generated a robust, flexible unMo practice.  The early unMo communities became expert at the culture of change and in harnessing the collective wisdoms of groups with an uncanny capacity absorb positive organic small scale inventions that recycled much energy into their community service.

Their work was clearly  value based - not solely determined by the tasks at hand, but through an articulate shared vision that remained flexible and syncronised even when working in a decentralised, work distributed pattern.

So skilled at transforming conflict to creative friction did we become that major organisations such as the International Union of Black Sheep and the Disgruntled Young Peoples’ Alliance ( formerly unEmployed Youth of the Earth) quickly found their way to the unMo.  The total package lifestyle solution that supplied a meaningful life of dedicated service and camaraderie, rapidly became so essential to many people’s existence that the unMo practice became the cultural norm.

Once the movement reached this critical mass, it exhibited such acute flexibility as to virtually unUnmonasterise itself, providing a wide dispersement of wisdom without any signs of confining ideological dogma.

Perhaps the key development upon which the movements survival was predicated was the broad endorsement of invisible structures.  So culturally implicit in their collective decision making process did this become, that the unRule became dictated by the daily tasks and seasonal rhythms rather than any planning organ.  This new freedom quickly permeated the unMo vision of service saving considerable regulation and meeting time.

For example, since they did not seek to replicate the apartheid of the sexes, the early unMos required creative solutions to mitigate what appeared an impasse.  While the less unPalatable term of the unMonasterian still circles in the literature, (Presumably so us to not to frighten the uninitiated), the choice to adopt the universal gender of the ‘unNun’ was never unWrong.  As a demarcation of a deeper commitment to tweak historic connotations, it freed us of an insidious rhetorical constraint.  Despite initial confusion, it soon became clear that, independent of individual hormonal configurations, we could all stand proudly forth and declare that:  “We are unNuns.”

This ritual act of surrendering your gender was of course bad anthropology, most of us still identify deeply with our chromosomes.  Fraught with danger, this bold symbolic step towards redressing the wounds of the past, required  several years of contention before we acquired sufficient dis-entrenchment tools and the community was prepared to sample the wisdom in this idea.  When none of us are nuns; we can all take an equidistant step away from the subservient role historically thrust upon them.  If, during periods in our process, the work requires moving towards the traditional realm of the nun, those of both hormonal lineage could take these steps with respect.  Through the years other non-skill oriented general titles were employed.  These denoted seniority or perceptible personal engagement, and often reflected local social alliances.

The Art of the Party

The bi-weekly cycle of Open Parties fired the daily life of the unMos.  The 26 annual markings of the meeting places between what at the start must have appeared a minor, incoherent sect, quickly grew to become a vital interface with the host community.  Designing ritual celebrating for each Seasons, for the Elements, for traditional local and global traditions, and including children and families these most human of gatherings both enhanced and informed the strategies of community take-over and the de-unMonastration process.

The Book of Greater and Lesser Failures.

A key tool in the spread of the unMo idea was a capacity to admit our fears and vulnerabilities.  Not all unMo work progressed smoothly.  More than anything else the erection of Strasbourg Totems as a central ritual element of evaluation provided the unMonasterians with a tactile manner to recycle their inevitable frustrations.  Meeting regularly round the magnetic negative Pole to balance their aims and strategies and process any unPleasantness.  That they would then quickly re-form around the triumphant positive pole to dance their simple truths of humanness, allowed them to keep.


At some point ER and unMo vanished as a distinguishable organ; dropping its identity as people became absorbed by a deeper unity of purpose.  Years of respectful interdependence, while constantly promoting fresh ideas and renewal, lead to the  dissolution of formal structures at organic points.   And while the functions of a collective work station for itinerant freelancers certainly became the norm and unMo-like houses still littered the countryside, so much a part of the fabric of life had they become that other alliances defined the networks…