score: 13 (3 votes) ·
Good questions. This was not intended as the Open-Source Guide, but more of an introduction or an outline of what's possible. My own understanding of How to Run a Monastery (Without Religion) is pretty shallow still, so I'm hoping to connect with others that are thinking about these things. I have some other blog posts that I might bring over that get to some specifics, based on personal experience or historical sources, but the Guide is yet-to-be.
"My first impressions on the hardest parts of making a "rationalist monastery": be getting people to voluntarily unplug from all of their input streams, and agreeing on how to run things.
Completely! The coolest and most wretched thing about setting up any kind of intentional community is that you get to choose what the rules are. (First you have to decide HOW to decide on rules, who gets to make what decisions and when, and how to change rules).
One rule could be that:
people have to give up all their input streams
but it could also be
let's all experiment for one year with not using devices after 10pm
no talking between 9pm and 9am; no sex on the Ides of March; no eye-contact when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars; no device-use in the building when dinner is hot
I guess an Open-Source Guide could be more like an API, showing inputs and outputs, and what parameters you might conceive of tweaking, and how that's gone well or terribly for others. The classical model (people of a single sex living together more or less completely cut off from the world) is pretty fucking intense, and there are groups like the Carthusians that take it to incredible extremes, living basically as proximate hermits. Check out Into Great Silence.
My only advice right now is: find people who want more or less the same thing that you want, and take SMALL STEPS together.
Some facts up front: 1) we've never owned any property, and 2) we've never paid anyone a salary, strictly speaking. These would be great, but we haven't been able to make them happen yet. A corollary of 1 is that we have always either bartered our artistic services for space to live in (e.g. with municipalities in rural Italy who want to do something with their crumbling monastery AND want people to enact artistic events to drive tourism) or rented space to live in. A corollary of 2 is that we have (almost) always relied on people who could volunteer their time as staff, artists-in-residence, work-traders, etc. in exchange for "meaningful experiences," + and sometimes room & board or a plane ticket. The long-term community has been comprised of people who have side-income. Right now we're renting a farm-house in Vermont and running summer programs ("Art Monastic Laboratories" and "Artmonk Retreats").
Financial income to run programming has largely been from:
- donations from individuals in the US
- grants from the EU
- an agriturismo (farm hotel) we ran for a couple years in Umbria
- money paid for artistic services (e.g. we had a pretty great wedding band touring around central Italy for a while)
We've made literally tens of dollars selling products made by artmonks, e.g. knit objects, paintings, and an excellent (if I do say so) Bay Leaf liqueur called Lauro based on "an old monastic recipe." (I actually met with a liquor-law lawyer to investigate setting up a distillery or an infusery here in CA, but the idea fizzled because I got overwhelmed with the capital needed upfront to start something like that.)
We've brainstormed other cool methods to bring in revenue, including but not limited to a printing press, painting icons, doing "creativity consulting", but have yet to follow through on anything to the point of steady revenue.
One thing I've learned is that people who make a living with "art" tend to have gotten used to running pretty low to the ground. They can turn a food budget of a few euros/person/day into amazing feasts.
Another thing I've learned about self-defined artists is that some of them are very narcissistic, and some of them are self-destructively generous. All told, they make unreliable non-profit administrators.