This page collects the notes from one of the transiency conversations, focused on the question: What if FoAM bxl would transform into a secular or syncretic convent? The conversation was lead by Stevie Wishart, as part of her Macrotransiency. Stevie and Lies Declerck are interested to explore the possibility of convents as experimental communities focused on contemplation and creation.

Monastic tradition

The monastic trandition knows many orders. In Egypt there were already orders of monks and sisters in Tabernacles. In Latin, known as Monasteria Duplicia

  • Mysticism & hermitism
  • Safety, repetition, reference
  • Balance of being alone and being together (butoh, Maria in the sound of music - solving a problem alone & together)
  • Letter writing (Heloise & Abelard)
  • Aesthetic simplicity
  • A refuge for feminists and philosophers
  • Eastern Monasteries - sobriety, letting go of baggage, finding space for new things
  • Rituals and repetition in daily life (e.g. prayers, same food at the same time)
  • Nomadic Islamic monasteries
  • The Inner monastery - search for the absolute at the heart of the apparatus
  • No one is fully a hermit, nor fully in the world

Stevie's monastery experience

  • space of silence, sense of peace
  • sharing with homeless and the poor
  • good way of dealing with external people (there is a dedicated host who keeps guests away from monks/nuns)
  • meals in silence (with readings of ~30 minutes)
  • focus, ritualistic points of reference
  • “could you walk around more slowly and quietly?”
  • having a clear place within a community
  • big age range
  • library
  • education for women
  • healthy debate about dogma and hierarchy
  • busy, quiet nuns - a lot to do, but not hectic; lots of hosting and visitors
  • hospitality, sharing economy, 'hostels' (money making activity), communal garden, cafe
  • lots of partying (celebrations)
  • deep sleep, a sense of peace
  • inhabitants are worldly people, aware, educated
  • most monasteries live “in the now”, they don't care about the middle ages (e.g. Hildegard makes them money)
  • singing tradition - music has a function in daily life, marking times of day, there is a structure that gives the freedom to free the mind; music flows through words of god
  • monastic life is not a retreat for the inhabitants, but for the guests
  • it's less about why they are there, but WHO is there - they wanted to be together - a self selecting group
  • Bhutan - most population is involved in monasteries in some time in their life…
  • In Europe you have to be quite driven to choose a monastic order

FoAM as a monastery

  • How does it work in the secular context?
    • individual pursuit
    • buddhist tradition (only as scaffolding) of “practice”
    • transcendent and internal aspects
  • Wandering - “The monastery of the world”, wherever you happen to be - but also having places to return to
    • Going into the world and coming back
    • Inner and outer church
    • Extending cycles (10 minutes, 1 year, 3 years, 30 years…)
    • Physical space and networked environments linked through teachings
  • There needs to be a support structure if you want to be a hermit. Where does that structure come from?
  • Selected group of people with a shared purpose (what?), symbiosis
  • Would I want to be in a monastery? → there are other forces at work
  • Climb a roof and escape from the roof - UrbEx: Taking risks together, transcending the risks and approaching the absolute
  • Counterbalance adrenaline - concentration
  • Danger: being perceived as a cult
Associations
  • Imminentising Eschaton
  • Presence in the moment
  • Shared purpose, willing cohesion
  • A place to be silent
  • Isolation + togetherness + connection
  • Focus & tuning
  • Rest in repetition
  • Alchemy
  • A place to celebrate as well as be sad
  • A place to grow your own worlds…

Speculative roles

If FoAM was a monastery, what role would you see for yourself?

  • Barbara: busy with guests, hosting, rituals, linking with other religions
  • Nik & Alkan: who knows, gradually finding peace and a place, transitioning
  • Stacey: teaching and taking care of children; family analogy, similar daily rhythms; the FoAM monastery could be an engine house of creativity and writing, experimenting with new education systems; a new university - a place of learning
  • Rasa: kitchen, voice over and guided tours, movable roles and self organising
  • Maja: vision & co-ordination - would likely be an abbess in this situation (but not sure i'd want to), designing and guiding contemplative and creative practices, writing, library, stillness, eating, solitary and shared rituals
  • Stevie: aesthetic problem solving, beautiful music (also to raise income), quality and awareness

Next steps