Click here to read / download the report from this satellite D&D.pdf

Reflections on Home by Ben

I now suspect that if we work with machines the world will seem to us to be a machine, but if we work with living creatures the world will appear to us as a living creature. Wendell Berry

This is my first and last journal post for The Gathering: after almost 5 years with the Improbable, and having spent a lot of the last 18 months thinking about home within my own life, too, I’ve decided to take a break from day-to-day desk work and focus on farming, which has emerged as the place where I feel most “at home.” Curiously, lots of the clues that have led me to that decision are things that have formed part of The Gathering, too, not least reading Wendell Berry, whose essays about home, farming and nature have changed my world.

For this journal entry, I am reflecting on the Open Space conversation about home that we hosted last month.

As The Gathering has taken shape this year, we’ve often talked about the process being invitational. One of the things we mean by “invitational” in this context is the sense that our approach to finding a home feels different to how we perceive buildings are usually conceived and built. Often “Where?” comes before “what?” or “for whom?” An area is identified as a priority or a “cold spot,” and on that basis some foundations are dug. And by the time bricks are laid, there can be such a clear sense of a building’s purpose that it loses the ability to respond to what emerges during the period of construction.

At Improbable we have been experimenting with what creating a home might look like if things happened in a different order, not focussing exclusively on ‘where?’ What if we asked the communities we’re part of what home is for them? Would it be possible to “crowd source” what qualities an Improbable home might have? What needs might it fulfil? It was with a version of these questions in mind, that Lee, Matilda & Phelim wrote an invitation to an Open Space conversation on 6th November, to explore the question “What is home? Finding belonging in uncertain times.”

I thought what might emerge from the conversation would be suggestions for the Improbable home. There was a bit of that for example sessions about our work, about D&D’s various homes across the world, and about an Improbable farm (this last was a session called by Tenar, aged 5). But what emerged more clearly was the extent to which the question of “home” in its broadest sense, and all the multiple meanings of that word, resonates so deeply with so many people in this moment.

Often, discussing home was framed as a conversation about transition. Home came to stand for the locus of acceptance, change and peace in sessions about ritual, restoration, practice, loss, letting go, ghosts in the attic. Home as a place in which the self is simultaneously grounded and released. Home as much more about spirit than bricks.

Other times, people’s version of home was more physical there were sessions about isolation, especially during the pandemic, and about the aesthetic qualities that make something “homely.”

Sometimes the provocation “what is home?” was taken as an invitation to dream – about new forms of “home” made possible by new technologies; about new landscapes; about new places in which we might look for clues to where home is, like within Lord of the Rings- (a session called by Riddley, aged 9).

And there was one session, called “Home Show & Tell,” that reminded me how curious (nosy, even!) people can be about other people’s homes. That’s a pretty well established thought (why else would Through the Keyhole be a thing?) but there was something about the permission to go on guided video tours of people’s houses, rather than sneakily staring at their backgrounds & bookshelves on a Zoom call, that felt new, and reminded me how much hearing other people describe their homes helps me to think about my own.

Not all of the sessions have written reports, but you can read the ones that do here. The spoken conversation in this Open Space event is over, but the conversation can continue online on the D&D website and/or in the comments on this blog. We’d love to hear what the reports bring up for you, and what things they seed about where your – and Improbable’s – homes lie.

And now this is me signing off. Thank you to everyone who’s been part of Improbable For now, I will leave you with another bit of Wendell Berry, which seems particularly in keeping with Improbable things:

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Ben Qasim Monks, Executive Director, Improbable

Full list is sessions

  • Making belonging happen in new places

  • Our Improbable Gathering

  • What materiality surrounds the concept of home for you?

  • Ethics and understandings of Trust and Vulnerability, to create Home (=safe

    space): Virtual versus Real world

  • How can communities create a sense of home for people stuck in their


  • Seeking the peace that is already within us: exploring restorative rituals and


  • What is your vision of the farm and the Improbable home and how will we

    find it?

  • Burning Down the House?: Letting Go

  • Recognise the seasonality of our own endings. What does it mean?

  • How do we create a virtual home for Devoted and Disgruntled / Open Space

    across the pond?

  • The location of acceptance?

  • How can Lord of The Rings help us find the right place for us to be?

  • Where's the place to put all the losses I feel?

  • How can I start playing in Europe/with Europeans?

  • Rediscovering a home/known space

  • What is home going to be in this next - changing - phase of my life? Where do

    you look for what you need?

  • Home Show and Tell

  • How can theatre and creativity help us come home to ourselves?

  • The home we share called earth - awareness of COP26 within this


Click here to read / download the report from this satellite D&D.pdf