The unMonasterian’s expectation management primer

What is it like to live and work out of an unMonastery? Nobody knows, because it’s never been done. This document is a best effort attempt at clarifying what you can reasonably expect as you join unMonastery Matera in winter-spring 2014.

Tolerate messiness (you can make it better!)

To date, the unMonastery has been exclusively a concept. You will join the first-ever prototype instance of that concept: we’re essentially building from the ground up. If you join this process then you will be playing a fundamental role in establishing its foundations. This is exciting , but it implies you should expect it to be messy and imperfect.

Take charge

The unMonastery is a low resource project (budget) - which follows the EdgeRyders ethos of “if you do not build it yourself, it will not get built” and the unMonastery stone soup methodology “if you come without your own ingredients and no desire to cook, then it’s just rocks and cold water for dinner”. Part of the experience is to learn how to make do: as an unMonasterian, you fully understand that you, of all people, can’t make demands on the unMonastery beyond those outlined in the call for residencies (travel reimbursement, accommodation, per diem, small allowance for materials, social role as the city’s innovator-in-residence). There is no unMonastery as a separate entity. The unMonastery is you and your fellow unMonasterians. Growing it as a healthy institution is your collective responsibility and nobody else’s.

Share a (beautiful) room

Unlike traditional monasteries, this iteration will not feature cells, instead it’ll be more like small dorms/shared rooms with 2 to 5 people each (building plan). Room assignment will be sorted out by the unMonasterian brethren on site. Living, working, eating and sleeping together can be an intense experience, particularly when there’s 10+ of us - like other aspects of the project we’ll have to figure out how this works, but it’s important to say this style of living is probably not for everyone.

Make the most of your unAbbott

Ben Vickers is one of the originators of the unMonastery concept and is to be Matera’s unAbbott - note the ‘un’ in the title, this role isn’t about authority but rather succinct facilitation of the collective effort. Whereas other unMonasterians, once their duties toward their brethren are done, are free to focus on their own projects, the unAbbott’s key responsibility is to run smoothly the small unMonastic community in Matera. The role of the unAbbott is designed as a service to the community; whatever actions he takes, he will do so to forward that goal. You are expected to work with him by taking his advice very seriously, even if that means occasionally putting the well-being of the community above your own. If anything troubles you in your experience in the unMonastery, talk to him and he will try to sort you out. Conversely, should you come to be perceived as harmful to the work and peace of mind of other unMonasterians, the unAbbott is entitled to suspend your per diem and ask you to leave.

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Alberto, Ben and I got in a good writing day on these subjects -

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. While the constraints of establishing our Matera prototype require that these precepts evolve at an inorganic pace, drawing copiously upon both historical monastic practice and the traditions of squatters can constructively inform our life rhythms and decision making processes.

In choice of diet, interactive patterns and work load, we shall perhaps approach the model of some self-development disciplines.  Only our development is 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.  Communion with our deepest nature through dance and most excellent food shall be our currency of conversion.  Our vow of silence may become a vow of non-verbalism.

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.