Real Cooperation #43 #cong23 #reality


We evolved to be social animals that prioritise cooperation, not competition. That is our reality. Our dominant ideology of neoliberalism rejects this. It is causing the destruction of our world.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Nourish others.
  2. Shun extractors.
  3. Work cooperatively
  4. Realism is better than blind optimism.

About Conor O'Brien:

I am a retired dairy farmer from a tradition of cooperative and local involvement. I am a member of the Board oversight on Mitchelstown Credit Union. Member of Knockmealdown Active that develops outdoor activities there. Also involved with a local group using walks on the Knockmealdowns and the Galtees to build the community. I help to organise an October storytelling workshop on was on Whiddy Island. Learning more about the soil every day. Reading. Local and general economic history. Evolutionary biology.

Contacting Conor O'Brien:

You can contact David by email.

By Conor O’Brien

Religion, quantum physics and reality.

We evolved to be social animals that prioritise cooperation, not competition. That is our reality. Our dominant ideology of neoliberalism rejects this. It is causing the destruction of our world.

We are all linked in community. Religion was the means of transmitting the science and values needed to live in this wonderful world in which our greatest pleasures come from associating with others. Religions evolved with our species increasing knowledge of their societies and how the world worked. Just as properly functioning markets are a very effective means of exchanging goods, so also were religions very effective means of transmitting social values and science.

Einstein said that “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” The problem of the Christian religion began when it rejected Galileo, and the science which showed the universe did not revolve around the Earth and man. It became blind to the reality of the world which science had revealed, which led to it losing the authority to speak for the values that hold society together. Evolutionary biologists such as David Sloan Wilson are now developing the knowledge of how we evolved as social animals. “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary”

In the absence of a theology that incorporated science a powerful section of society has promoted the primacy of their individual power over social and environmental needs.

Last August I brought my third cousin Bill Stokes of California and his friend Adam to visit our common Frewen homestead in the Glen of Aherlow where our great grandmothers Eliza and Brigid Frewen came from.

We visited Clonbeg graveyard where the Frewen grave is, just as another group were going in. I recognised Jimmy Barry among them from hillwalking with him.

We went in and took photographs at the Frewen grave and followed the other group down to the holy well where Jimmy was explaining it to them. We joined them and Jimmy recognised me; the visitors were going, “Does everyone know everyone else in Ireland?” Jimmy said, “No, that’s normal in Ireland; we do only one degree of separation here. The rest of the world needs seven.”

“Yeah, a likely story”

A few of them lingered to talk to us and I asked them what was their connection to Clonbeg. They were all siblings, (60-70yrs) , scattered across the US, and they get together every year, so they had decided to visit their peoples graves in the Clonbeg. They did not know the location of the grave.

I asked them what was the name?


Astonishment all around. They were from Connecticut, Texas, and all over. But some of them had gone to the same Mary Knoll seminary that Bill had been to.

Obviously I had to remind them, “It’s normal to make connections like that in Ireland”

I had recently been listening to a person explaining how a recent Nobel prize was for Quantum physics and I remembered enough of it to make the connection. In Quantum physics there are particles smaller than an atom which are spinning + and -. They are so connected that if one separates them even as far as the moon, a change in one will be reflected in a change in the other. Don’t ask me anymore: its all quantum physics.

So this was a perfect example of Quantum Frewens all coming together.

Bills friend Adam could not believe that this was all happening in a graveyard in Ireland and finishing up with quantum physics. I kept telling him that this was normal in Ireland.

Coincidences do happen, and I’m not going to say that we might not develop a theory of Irish relations that matches quantum physics. But if our knowledge of how the world works was still at the pre-Galileo stage, we would have accepted an explanation that involved saints and ancestors guiding our steps. And possibly have made offerings to St Sedna, the patron saint of the holy well.

Today we have a much clearer knowledge of how our world works, so we can use a story about quantum physics to explain how three different branches of Frewen’s arrived at their family grave together. But the story is still carrying the same messages that communities matter.

Over the past 50-70 years we have been part of a great natural experiment in breaking our social bonds. It is justified by a theory of economics which claims that individual greed and competition at the expense of nature and society will benefit everyone. It prioritises financial growth over regeneration of nature, private accumulation over community needs, ignores scientific knowledge and methodologies, is of benefit to only one per cent of the population, and glorifies norms of behaviour that are regarded as psychopathic in normal society.

The evidence is plain that the experiment is a failure. We are in the middle of a global process of destroying the environment through an exponential rate of extraction and consumption of fossil fuels and other raw materials. We need to change that reality by building an alternative system from the ground up, not the degrowth of a failed system.

We need to grow with the patterns that regenerate nature. Respect nature, diverse scale of communities, diversity within communities, make resources shareable, avoid extremes, reduce energy, recycle, reuse, use natural processes. This does not mean rejecting science, but directing our efforts to productive and nurturing ends, not consumption and domination. I can tell you from my experience of changing out of conventional to regenerative agriculture that it is one of the most enjoyable and learning parts of my farming career.

We start by changing our values and for that we need to stop basing our spiritual life on a theology based on medieval science. A theology of domination will not do this. We need to form a theology of nurturing.

The Butterfly Effect #42 #cong23 #reality


We must ‘regress’ back to nature to address climate change but what does that mean for the human race, and can we actually achieve the required homeostasis?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. ‘As you were’ is how we need to be. We need once again to reach equilibrium with nature.
  2. We, as people, are interconnected and our actions impact one another. Will our efforts at just transition in the face of climate change be for the greater good.
  3. We cannot predict all unintended consequences.
  4. We need less people.

About Angela Duffy:

I think too much and write too little.

I am a child of three who asked too many questions and turned into a scientist.

I am a generalist; I keep asking why about new things. I moved from science to business.

I escape through life drawing and see the world beyond the day-to-day through my camera lens. I am visual.

I am an inventor, investor and Mammy.

Contacting Angela Duffy:

You can contact Angela by email.

By Angela Duffy


The Butterfly Effect

The reality is we have to reverse and go back to nature and balance in the way that our ancestors maintained homeostasis between man and our environment. To our modern knowing, to the way of Indian tribes, Aborigines, African tribes. However, doing this in the stepwise progression required, or rather stepwise regression, will take too long; we have expended natural resources and increased industrial momentum to a place where reversal at the pace which supposed progress came about will not save our species nor many others.

The reality is that we will build more machines, we will introduce more technology and accelerated means of reversal. These machines and this forced reversal will solve problems but will the approach have unpredictable outcomes? Even with AI we cannot predict infinite scenarios, nor can we map all interdependencies and associated consequences. When we solve one problem, we may well compromise reversal and restoration elsewhere. We may also do the opposite.

The new machines, technology, intelligence can only be based upon the past and presents unpredictable future consequences that may well leave us is another state that requires fixing. The reality is that this is a risk that we have to take.

Can we restore nature across the world in order to bring balance per the population we have and how do we maintain this balance without getting to the same place again? Stuffing all peoples into urban centres might allow nature take its course in sufficient areas of land. Would urban centres sustain, grow, have technology, social structure and mindset to maintain the desired status quo? Our scientific knowledge and medical advancements have enabled population growth. Should we cease progress in these areas to ‘allow nature take its course’? Perhaps the reality is that we simply need less people. This ethical dilemma is rarely spoken about in the context of climate change.

We already know that the action of peoples in one geography has a nature-based impact on people elsewhere in the globe and we face the ethical dilemma of just transition. However, is this a stepwise regression that will have insufficient impact in the time required?

Interconnectedness now appears to be our enemy, when once our interconnectedness with nature was our hidden strength.

IS REALITY FOR REAL? #41 #cong23 #reality


Is there really one reality?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Look
  2. Observe
  3. Ask
  4. Question

About David Iguaz:

Studied to be an archaeologist but circumstances steered me towards the ceramic industry in Portugal. Apart from my bread earner I try to be useful in environmental activism as well as to try and raise the political awareness of the population.

Contacting David Iguaz:

You can contact David by email.

By David Iguaz

I would like to start by apologising to the organisers and participants of this year´s edition of CONGREGATION for my late submission but only this weekend everything came together after a few months of reflecting on this nuclear subject. I did not want to write just anything to just satisfy Eoin and that of course meant some unbridled reflection on my part which requires some degree of not just free time but peace of mind as well.

It all came together somehow this weekend when I participated in this year´s EXODUS AVEIRO FEST which is a big get together of photojournalists and travellers that takes place every year in Aveiro on the north of Portugal where I have lived for the past 30 years. In a way it is a kind of visual CONGREGATION if you like.

The presentations I assisted made it very clear once more that the “reality” that the Western world lives in is very far away from the reality that countries outside this peculiar world actually live in. When you see images of dead whales stranded on the beach because of plastic poisoning, dead bodies on the street in Bucha, starving situations across the world, environmental catastrophes north and south and migrations crisis arising in every corner of the planet you continue wondering if the “reality” we live on in the western hemisphere and particularly in Europe is a reflection of the world as a whole.

Of course, is not but we Europeans tend to think it is because quite normally we unconsciously try and reflect our “reality” on everybody else and when the result does not come up to our expectations we somehow think that everybody else will sooner or later see the light of our “reality”. This idealist projection is a mental thriving force that keeps us going unconsciously mainly because we do not realize we live in a golden bubble. To see other widespread realities, we should ideally exit our comfort zones and get out onto the brave new world out there but I realize this is easier said than done. Funnily enough, the need to get out and see the other realities is becoming less needful since those other realities are knocking on our front door almost daily making the need of an actual trip outside our bubble almost useless. Climate change is one of those calling warnings. We do not need to go to Antarctica, Greenland or the South Pacific to feel the consequences of our actions. Pity we always have the comfort of our own homes to shield us from the everyday pain.

The fact that the news we receive everyday are a tiny representation of the truth does not help either. This of course varies from country to country. In Spain, where I am originally from, the news are more biased than the ones from Portugal but again it depends on the medium you get your information from.

At the end of the day, no matter where you live in this world, you should always assume that somebody somewhere is trying to manipulate you into their point of view.

To avoid that, one should always use two powerful tools at our disposal. They are simply two question words, made up of three letters each, they are the words WHY and HOW, and I firmly believe they are very powerful indeed. They are the ones that invariably spark our instinct and imagination and above all our curiosity. If you keep asking them long enough until you are satisfied you will eventually come up with a satisfying answer that will explain the reality at hand.

This is not very different from our teenage times when we were growing up. For some reason at one stage, we stopped asking those two simple questions which explains in a way why we find ourselves where we are today. History and Prehistory play a crucial role in finding some of those answers and imply looking back in order to understand where we are and where we are going (or should be going).

Observation is another powerful tool at our disposal and we should always use it and abuse it at will. Nowadays there is a lot of background noise in our brains and it prevents us from thinking clearly but in those cases, we should always fall back on the two words we spoke earlier. In theory, it should pave the way to make things clearer and simpler.

I would like to finish with a simple thought:

Realities are all around us, we should always strive to perceive the ones that matter.

Is this the Real Life? Is this Just Fantasy? Caught in a Landslide, no Escape from Reality #40 #cong23 #reality


In a time of deepfake, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence can we believe anything we hear, watch or read without witnessing it ourselves. Even when we witness something people interpret and experience differently.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Is there more than one reality? Are Freddie and Elvis really dead?
  2. Can you consider yourself a positivist, a constructivist or a pragmatist in a time of deepfake?
  3. Can you identify deepfakes?
  4. Are we in fear of losing our creativity, innovation and individuality to the technology.

About Noreen Henry:

Academic Develop (N-TUTORR Project) and Lecturer in Computing at the Atlantic Technological University.

Contacting Noreen Henry:

You can connect with Noreen on LinkedIn or send her an email

By Noreen Henry

When I read the Congregation 2023 theme of “Reality”, this is what started to play in my head:
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (Lyrics) 🎵 – YouTube

In the world of research, we have ontology which examines “what is reality?” At a basic level there are ontologies:

  1. There is one single reality or truth.
  2. There are multiple realities.
  3. Reality is constantly negotiated, debated, or interpreted.

While Epistemology examines the question “How can I know reality”. It relates to how we understand knowledge, how we understand our own thinking process, and how we think other know. At a basic level we can consider three epistemologies:

  1.  Belief that knowledge can be measured using reliable designs and tools.
  2. Belief that knowledge can be measured to discover the underlying meaning.
  3. Knowledge should be examined using the best tools available to solve the problem.

Combining your own position on ontology and epistemology together you will get a holistic view of how you understand knowledge. This is your research paradigm. In Social Science there are three research paradigms:

  • Positivism
  • Constructivism
  • Pragmatism
Research Paradigm  Ontology  Epistemology 


One single reality or truth.


Knowledge can be measured using reliable designs and tools.




Multiple Realities Knowledge can be measured to discover the underlying meaning. 
Pragmatism Reality is constantly negotiated, debated, or interpreted Knowledge should be examined using the best tools available to solve the problem.

Looking internally, you may identify with one of the three paradigms but in the current world of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, deepfake, alternative facts etc., can we clearly identify?

Gamage, et al. (2022) define deepfake as “synthetic media generated using sophisticated algorithms which reflect things that did not happen for real but computer-generated for manipulation purposes. … created in the form of image, audio and video by leveraging AI are far more realistic to identify if its being synthetically created by replacing someone else’s voice or video.” A high-profile example goes back to 2017 when two advertising artists used images and voice of Mark Zukerburg and a well know news channel imagery to present a recording of Zukerburg hyping about having data from billions of users. (Somers, 2020)

Somers (2020) recommends three areas to pay attention to in recognising deepfake as face, audio, and lighting. But with advances in the technology this is no longer as beneficial.

To test your ability to detect deep fake try out:
DeepFakes, Can You Spot Them? (

If you scored as poorly as I did go back again and ask yourself, are you still a positivist, a constructivist or a pragmatist?

If you scored as poorly as I did go back again and ask yourself, are you still a positivist, a constructivist or a pragmatist?

So, who does thrive in the deepfake world? According to Wel (2023) in Psychology Today is it the those calling the “liar’s dividend” that is those that claim that anything and everything is fake even when there is data to show that it is true or does exists or did happen. Putting doubt of misinformation is enough to discredit a source.

To combat this Wel (2023) recommend investment in detection tools and education on identification of AI by individuals. We see similar recommendation in education today in relation to AI and particularly generative AI in education but no solutions!

Gamage, D., Ghasiya, P. & Sasahara, K., 2022. Deepfakes and Society: What Lies Ahead?, Tokyo: s.n.
Queen, 1975. Bohemian Rhapsody. London: Queen & Roy Thomas Baker.
Somers, M., 2020. Deepfakes, Explained. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 20 11 2023].
Wel, . M., 2023. Who Thrives in a World of Deepfakes and Misinformation? The “liar’s dividend” benefits people who cast doubt on objective evidence.. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 20 11 20023].

Those Pesky Rabbit Holes! #39 #cong23 #reality


Reality sometimes isn’t reality because we’ve altered in some way in the language we use. It is a useful exercise to sometimes become aware of the thoughts and images in our head, and in our conversations with others and try to be clearer, to avoid the use of rhetorical devices.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Language is useful, but treat it wisely.
  2. 50,000 thoughts a day – we don’t need all of them.
  3. Like electronic devices, it is important also to turn off our rhetorical devices.
  4. A disaster might not be a disaster, and if it is, it is nothing to worry about

About Bernard Joyce:

A human first and foremost, living in rural Mayo with a vision for a better place for everyone. Company is called New Paradigms. Doing rural-type things like chairing the local GAA club, playing a few tunes in the local, amateur drama and kayaking

Contacting Bernard Joyce:

You can connect with Bernard on LinkedIn, follow him on X or send him an email.

By Bernard Joyce

Reality! What a great topic for Cong 2023. I mean there are all sorts of ‘rabbit holes’ one could down on this subject. But hold on a second! Rabbit holes are real, but humans can’t really fit down rabbit holes, and besides, there are possibly some animal welfare issues at play here also. Furthermore, if we did manage to fit down, how would we get back out? So, oops, I think I may have opened a can of worms just now. Well, firstly, I’m not sure if worms are kept in cans, and then why would one need to open them if now going fishing? Perhaps it might be safer just opening a “Pandora’s Box” but then we might have to address the ‘elephant in the room’.

Language is wonderful. We used words to share information, to convey meaning, and to elicit an emotional response. Words can inspire, persuade, and convince but they can also destroy and even kill.

We can paint pictures with our words, in our imaginations, and in the imaginations of others. For millennia, we have told stories and employed rhetorical devices often borrowed from literature to communicate to the world.

But sometimes the images we create can have an adverse effect. We allow ourselves to become crippled by debt, crucified by taxes and might even end up dying from a cold. Many might identify with the feeling of being immobilised or tortured by their circumstances. Both these images, however, convey a sense of powerlessness, of helplessness, of not being able to do anything to extricate oneself from one’s circumstances.

What can be worse is that we often use language when speaking to ourselves. We risk continuing to be immobilised long after the debt is paid and tortured by our circumstances and life events.

Rhetorical devices can be powerful in literature, in business and even in our day-to-day living but like all ‘devices’, we are advised to turn them off occasionally. Sometimes, we need a language detox! Advocates of meditation often speak about becoming the observer of our thoughts, of becoming conscious; of developing our awareness; and of experiencing nothingness.

Awareness is key, and the key to awareness is clarity, of being able to see something clearly. We might say seeing something as ‘black and white’ but even that expression lacks clarity,

If we take debt, for example, it might be as simple as taking a pen and paper, writing down the amount owed and then writing a list of expenses and seeing what actions can be taken to improve the situation. In the process, recognise and acknowledge any thoughts or images that emerge as just thoughts and images, some useful, others not! Great innovations and solutions very often emerge from a much deeper place within us. To access that deeper place, we sometimes need to quieten the noises in our head, to tone down the language, to “call a spade, a spade’ Aagh!! There I go again, but you know what I mean – call a bill, a bill, a cold a cold and that elephant in the room, a topic that needs to be discussed.

The late author Richard Carlson in his book “Stop Thinking, Start Living” (Carlson, 2012) recommends that to avoid confusion, anxiety and overstimulation, we need to develop the ability to dismiss thoughts when they enter our mind. The average person will have 50,000 thoughts in an average day, and not all are useful to us.

Reality is closer than we think and it is important in our week, and in our day to factor in a few ‘reality checks’, just stop for a second, take a few deep breaths and notice how we are feeling, notice what our mood is like after spending time on social media, or watching the news, or coming in from an autumnal walk in the forest.

Nothing is real, only that present moment for us, and our experience of it.

It is really useful also to become aware of the language we use in our head, is it possible to tone down the rhetoric? Perhaps try “I feel hungry” rather than “I’m starved” or, “I feel tired, rather than “I’m exhausted”.

In our dealings with other people, our family, and our work colleagues, it is also useful to be aware of the language we are using. I was on a flight recently which announced that it had to make an emergency landing. After the cabin crew advised passengers to wear warm clothing and gave a quick demonstration on what to do on landing, there was a surreal calm silence as the plane circulated the countryside to burn off fuel for the following 30 minutes. An opportunity in the face of disaster for some perspective, clarity, and no need for hyperbole or superlatives. So, in a work conversation a few days later, when a minor difficulty was described as a ‘disaster’, there was an opportunity to reappraise the situation.

Of course, it is important to occasionally tone down the language that we use, and there are other occasions to ramp up the rhetoric “….when the multitudes they flock in throngs to the true capital of Ireland where the world’s finest minds will congregate….”

#cong23 Press Release

Cong Gets A Dose of Reality

(14.11.2023) Cong Village in Co Mayo will get a strong dose of Reality from Nov24-26th with the celebration of the 11th annual CongRegation  ( mind mesh unconference.  Over 100 people will probe, discuss and share insights on this year’s theme of ‘Reality’ over 3 days and 7 different events.

The event kicks off with a night of ‘Reality Talks’ in Ashford Castle on Friday 24th November with Astronomer, David Moore from Astronomy Ireland,  Shaman Aldo Jordan from the Irish School of Shamanic Studies, Philosopher Stephen Costello, founder of the Viktor Frankl Institute of Ireland and virtual world avatar creator Aileen Carville, CEO and Co Founder of COLONII.

Saturday will see 100 attendees discuss their submissions in rotating huddles spread through multiple venues in Cong village during the full day unconference while their children enjoy ‘Forest School bushcraft workshop.

Following the unconference clowning artist Mitchell ‘Moshe’ Cohen, who is flying in from the United States especially for the event, will deliver a 1 hr session that will awaken playfulness in a mature way and develop the power to transform the energies that create disturbance and disconnect.  The workshop’s explorations and practices draw from physical theatre practices, clown improvisations, elements from butoh dance, qi gong and feldenkreis movement.  A second workshop led by Chris Reina from MakerMeet will use generated graphics to put attendees into places that are not real.   Using AI generated graphics and real humans along with a green screen and chromakey technology the workshop aims to take and make art, reality, illusion, confusion, ineptness and incompetence – while having lots of fun!

Saturday will finish off with a special performance of ‘The Magic Play’, which has recently completed its run the Bewleys Café Theatre in Dublin.  Branded as fusion of comedy, magic and theatre this play will take place in the beautifully restored All Saints Centre in Clonbur Village.

Sunday will finish off with a GeoWalk with a geologist from the Joyce Country Ecopark mixing myth, reality , fact and geology.

In order to earn a ticket each attendee submits a 600 word article, via the website, outlining their own unique perspectives, thoughts and experiences on the theme of ‘Reality’, all of which are published on the event website.  These submissions form the basis of the presentations on Saturday November 25th in small huddles of 10-12 people.  Each huddle is chaired and attendees are given 10-15 minutes to share the insights from their submission followed by a group discussion.  The huddles rotate 4 times giving all attendees the opportunity to present and meet as many of the other attendees as possible, in a peer to peer environment.

“The Reality theme builds on previous themes with submissions exploring the scientific and spiritual nature of Reality through to the grounded reality of everyday life.  Outside of the rich and stimulating discussions the event also forges deep and serendipitous connections, due to the informal presentation style and social locations used for the event.  In order to spark off inspiration attendees can also pick one of the curated books on reality that are available free of charge from the website” commented organiser Eoin Kennedy.

CongRegation is a free event and would not be possible without the generous support of its sponsors, Blacknight, MKC Communications, Informed Decisions, Grow Remote, IRDG, Blockverse Ventures and the Advanced Productivity Skillnet.  All the submissions to date can be viewed on the website.  Submissions are now being accepted via the online form

  • Ends –

For further information

Eoin Kennedy

086 8339549

Briefing note for #cong23. Full Details of All Events for CongRegation 2023

The following is a breakdown and the details of the 7 different events over the three days of #cong23 Nov 24-26th so you can orientate yourself in advance.    For those of you joining virtually the login details please contact Eoin for details..

For the first timers this may all seem overwhelming.  Although its spread over three days the main event is the unconference on Saturday 25th and there is no obligation to attend for three days or go to all events – it’s just they are all fascinating.  5 of the 7 events are family friendly so your kids/partners can also attend.  It really helps if you just add the names to the spreadsheet (access on request).

For those of you who still compiling their submission, please send over as soon as you can.  For those of you who won’t get around to the submission my ask is that you just give yourself time to reflect on the theme of ‘Reality’ although its probably ever present in our minds.  Everyone is treated equally on the day and you decide when, where and how you present.

CongRegation is a very relaxed affair.  We don’t schedule speaking slots or police who has spoken/not spoken, the submissions are a catalyst for discussion – not a test and for most events we flex with the numbers.

This event is for you and you are the beating heart of it.  Just let you mind go for gallop for a day into the real and unreal.

Now the details.  This is a long read.

Overall Schedule.

Friday 24th  Ashford Castle (Almost booked out )

19.00-22.00: A night of Reality.
22.00-23.00: Drinks in Danaghers, Cong Village

Saturday 25th Unconference. Cong Village

09.30-10.20 : Registration in Ryan’s Hotel
10.20-10.30 : Opening address and move to venues.
10.30-11.30 : Huddle 1
12.00-13:00 : Huddle 2
13.00-14.00 : Lunch
14.00-15.00 : Huddle 3
15.30-16.00 : Huddle 4
16:00-17.00 : Photo at Cong Cross followed by Workshops
17.00–17:30: Closing reception in Ryan’s
17.30-19.30 : Dinner in Lydons/Ryans/Pat Cohan
19.30-19:45: Buses leave for Clonbur
20.00–21.00: The Magic Play, All Saints Centre Clonbur Village

Sunday 26th. GeoWalk.

11.00 am Meeting at the Abbey, Cong Village

Ashford Castle Evening

This year the ‘Reality Talks’ in the private cinema in Ashford Castle will see an astronomer, shaman, philosopher and virtual world expert tease apart the tricky world of reality.

19.00-20.00: Reception Ashford Castle
20.00-2010:  Introduction & mood setting by Moshe
20.10-20.30: David Moore of Astronomy Ireland
20.30-20.50: Aldo Jordan founder of the Irish School of Shamanic Studies
20.50-21.10: Dr. Stephen Costello philosopher, existential psychoanalyst and head of the Viktor Frankl Institute in Ireland
21.10-21.30 Aileen Carville, Colonii
21.30-22.00 Open discussion moderated by Joan Mulvihill

This event is down to the last few seat but we have a waiting list on the registration sheet.  The venue can only hold 32 people so please check the sheet to see if your name is included. The full line up is also on the website.  Also, please note although we may have a reception beforehand, please grab something to eat before you get there as we won’t be serving food.

There is a reception in the castle from 7pm with the presentations kicking off at 8pm sharp.  Parking is in the car park located behind ‘Cullens At The Cottage’ (on the right before the bridge entrance) as the hotel is fully booked. There will be a shuttle service from the car park to the castle for attendees who would prefer not to walk but it is a 1 minute walk.

After Ashford Castle we will retire to Danaghers for chats, networking and ice breakers.

Saturday Unconference Running Order

Registration takes place from 9.30-10.20 in Ryans Hotel with huddles beginning at each of the 8 venues at 10.30 sharp.

We are doing the registration in the breakfast room.  Tea/coffee and scones will be available.  If you fancy a hot breakfast my best tip is to head to the Spar shop where they have a nice deli counter.  Things get a bit testy when people swipe the sausages meant for guests.

On arrival you will collect your lanyard from the hanging rack before signing in and getting your number.  This is a sticker that goes on your lanyard and tells you what venue you will be in and at what time according to the table so signing in and getting a number is important.

Each venue has a chairperson who guides proceedings and will be completely briefed. The chairperson will ask 3 people to volunteer to speak at each huddle.  You have 10-15 minutes to discuss your topic, followed by a 5 minute Q&A. You choose how, where and when you wish to present.  We may have a card/clock system in operation and you will be given notice of midway, 2 minutes left (green) and 30 seconds to wrap up (red).  Each huddle will kick start with a short introduction of who you are and what you do but please limit this to a few short sentences (plenty of time at the breaks to share more about you).  The ice breaker is a ‘life hack’.  This is tip for helping with personal or business life and could range from a handy online tool you use to a philosophical perspective.  This is designed to get everyone contributing from the start and is really helpful to all.  The earlier huddles will start with 3 speakers and the later ones may have two but this all depends on the final number on the day.  Those who have experienced CongRegation previously might volunteer for early presentations to get things moving.  The chair has a difficult task to keep things running smoothly so I would ask you to follow their guidance especially on timing, keeping on topic and including everyone in the narrative.  Expect robust exchanges but please be respectful and probe with questions rather than direct conflict.  Be willing to agree to disagree.

The spreadsheet/table on your lanyard is designed to try to ensure you meet new people at each session. Each session lasts one hour and you have 30 minutes to move to the next venue and chat with the other attendees. There are 4 sessions throughout the day – two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  The final huddle is being reduced to 30 minutes to allow for the two workshops at 4pm. We finish at 5pm with a group photo at the Cross in Cong Village.

We will all congregate in Ryan’s Hotel for a post unconference reception.  Dinner will be in Ryan’s/Danagher’s/Pat Cohan’s and Lydon’s.

16:00-17:00 Workshops (Ryans Hotel)

Following the unconference clowning artist Mitchell ‘Moshe’ Cohen who is flying in from the United Stated will deliver a 1 hr session will awaken your playfulness in a mature way, develop the power to transform the energies that create disturbance and disconnect.  The workshop’s explorations and practices draw from physical theater practices, clown improvisations, elements from butoh dance, qi gong and feldenkreis movement.

A second workshop led by Chris Reina from MakerMeet will use generated graphics to put attendees into places that are not real.   Using AI generated graphics and real humans along with a green screen and chromakey technology the workshop aims to take and make art, reality, illusion, confusion, ineptness and incompetence – while having lots of fun!

19.30-19.45: Bus shuttle and those driving will depart Cong Village for the Magic Play in the All Saints Centre in Clonbur (F12 H9R2).  The centre is a short drive (5km) and the meeting for the bus is outside O’Connor Spar Shop.

20.00-21.00: The Magic Play, Clonbur and return to Cong Village.

The Magic Play
I am delighted to announce that this year we have a treat for you with a special performance of ‘The Magic Play’, which just finished its run the Bewleys Café Theatre in Dublin.  This will replace the music workshop on Saturday night after the day of unconferencing and takes place in the beautifully restored All Saints Centre (built in 1840)  in Clonbur village.  Branded as fusion of comedy, magic and theatre it blends in nicely with this year’s theme.  Officially its for over 12 but baring a few curse words its suitable for all ages and you can bring your kids along.  We will have a bus shuttle and many of you will be driving.  I will shuttle stragglers in my own car.  We have 65 places for the performance.  From next week on I will offer seats to members of the local community so please add your names to the spreadsheet so we can reserve your seats.  We still hope to try have the poetry open mic when we return to the village.

09.00-17.00 Kids Forest School/Bush Craft 
This year we will be making the most of the forest and are organising bush craft day with activities from nature identification, rope skills, den building, nature arts and crafts.   Personally I love the ethos of the day “This is a child led programme to encourage resilience, confidence, and self esteem through nature connection and hands on learning”.  This workshop will take place regardless of rain so good rain gear is needed.  Under 5 year olds will need adult supervision for insurance reasons.  We have 20 places available so we can take mixed age groups.
Children can be dropped off from 9.30 and collected before 5pm.  Lunch will be provided but please bring their lunch if you have any special dietary requirements.
Names needed to be added to the registration sheet.

Sunday 26th GeoWalk 11.00am
The last event at CongRegation this year will be GeoWalk by a geologist from the Joyce Country GeoPark. Mixing myth, storytelling with explanations of rock formations this walk will begin at the Abbey in Cong Village at 11am.  The woods between Cong and Clonbur are home to an amazing karst landscape.  Limestone is soluble to acid water (like rain).  Over time cracks become fissures and entire cave systems are formed, like the Pigeon Hole in Cong Woods.  Expect surprises like fossilised coral to how the village location was once in warmer climates millions of year ago.

Please bring a good rain jacket and walking shoes.  This is a walking tour.

Venues and Chairs

The chairs and the 8 venues for #cong23 are:

  1. Barry Kennedy | Hungry Monk Gallery | One group here. Lunch in McHughs.
  2. Richard Millwood | Danaghers | One group in the café to the right. Lunch served.
  3. Damian Costello | Puddleducks | One group. Table at the window. Lunch served.
  4. Don Delaney | The Courthouse | One group. Round table. Lunch in Danaghers.
  5. Noreen Henry | Lydons | One group. Downstairs. Lunch served here.
  6. Alan Costello | The Irish History Bookstore | One group. Lunch in Ryans.
  7. Mike O’Rourke | McHughes | One group. Lunch Served.
  8. Tony O’Kelly | Ryans | One Group | Upstairs area over the bar. Lunch served here.

Hashtag and WhatsApp
We are using the hashtag #cong23 for the entire event.  If posting to social media please tag with this.  I am also toying with the idea of a group wide WhatsApp group.  If you think its a good idea let me know your number and I will try to set up.

All venues have wifi but be warned it can be temperamental at best, so treat as a nice to have rather than guaranteed.   Similarly on phone coverage, some sides of the village are better than others.


You will have free tea/coffee in all venues and lunch on Saturday is all covered by the generous support of the sponsors –, Blacknight, MKC Communications, Informed Decisions, Grow Remote, IRDG, Blockverse Ventures and the Advanced Productivity Skillnet.  Outside of the three venues (The Courthouse/Tourist Office, The Irish History Bookstore, The Hungry Monk) lunch will be in the last pre lunch venue.


There is now one ATM in Cong located in Danaghers Hotel but best to bring some cash with you just in case. The next nearest ATM is Clonbur Village about 5km away.


At the moment Lydons, Ryans, Pat Cohan and Danaghers will be serving dinner.  It is best to reserve in advance as there are other events taking place in the village that day.  Lydons has reserved tables for us and Ryans should be ok for last minute bar food.  However  I am equally aware that many of you have yet to meet.  As the day progresses people self organise into dinners groups.  Please be open to welcoming any new comers into your groups.  This is a great chance to solidify friendships formed during the day.  If booking start with Lydons as they have tables held for us.  We finish up at 5.30pm so that gives you 2 hours to have dinner.

Blog Submission

In preparation for #cong23 I really encourage you to read the other submissions and start the process of connecting with each other by either posting them on social media or commenting on the website.  The synopsis will help you speed read and focus on the ones that interest you. I have found my own perception of the Reality theme being modified and evolving as I read other contributors.  For any still to submit please send them to me as soon as you can or let me know how you are getting on.  We are flexible on timing but really need to know that you will be there on the day.  For those who might not get around to a submission just give yourself time to reflect on the theme – the other submissions can really help.  All opinions are valid and valued.


Please use the large car park at the entrance to the village at the roundabout or behind O’Connor’s Spar Shop/Garage (closes at 7pm) and behind Ryans Hotel (be care of the tight turn – we have had a few bumps in the past).  Please do not park in front of Ryan’s Butchers and narrow points of the road (especially the front of Ryan’s Hotel) as large trucks have difficulty passing.  Daily we have in excess of 40 large articulated trucks passing through the village.

Getting to Cong

Most people are driving to Cong and the list of those willing to car pool is on the registration sheet.  If you are happy to take someone with you (great chance to get to know people) please let me know and similarly if looking for a lift please consult and connect with people.  There are a number of people looking for lifts from Galway.  You should allow for at least three hours for the car trip from Dublin.  If you are travelling by car for Friday evening in Ashford Castle my strong recommendation is to avoid Galway City and to detour off the Motorway for Claregalway, Corrundula and then back on to the Headford road to Cong Village.  This involves 20 mins of national roads but will save you a lot of time getting through Galway traffic chaos.  On Saturday morning this will not be a problem.

Buses to Galway (from Dulin) are available every half hour from Citylink, GoBus and Bus Eireann. The nearest train station is Claremorris (30 mins), Galway (45 mins) and Castlebar (40 mins).  In theory you can get a bus to Cong but involves a transfer in Headford so a but messy.  Car pooling will help those taking public transport to finish the final leg to Cong and would be my preferred option for lots of reasons – carbon footprint to social engagement.


Let’s assume it will be wet and cold so please bring warm clothing and wet gear especially if planning on walks in the woods and the GeoWalk.


As it’s a tourist venue Cong has a good supply of hotels and B&Bs but most of the immediate rooms are booked out.   However last minute places do become available.   If you have yet to book please check out the listings on the site but a quick search will produce more options a short trip away in Clonbur Village.  It is best to phone the hotels as they have block booked rooms for us. Taxi services are available to get back to your accommodation if outside the village.  There are also some nice options still available on AirBnB.  Don’t let accommodation stop you attending.  There are options.  Contact me if in trouble.  The registration spreadsheet has a section for those looking for accommodation.

Teas and coffees will be served in most locations on demand.  As we will be taking tables for most of the day  I will be leaving a group tip in McHughes and Puddleducks but if you feel like you got good service please acknowledge with a tip.  It all helps oil the machinery.

Centralised Registration

I have centralised registration booking with 7 separate tabs for the events where I need to know the numbers.  The really important ones are Ashford Castle (we cannot squeeze any more than the lucky 32 in so check if your name is on the sheet before going to the castle), The Magic Play (for buses and we will offer tickets to others if not taken up by us),  the children’s forest school/bushcraft (for the number of instructors) and last minute accommodation. Please check out the different tabs and put in your names and numbers.  (Contact eoin at congregation dot ie if you dont have access to the registration sheet)

Remote Attendance

We have a number of the US and the Netherlands.  We really appreciate that you will be getting up extremely early to attend.   Learning from last year we will run the zoom link from the Irish History Bookstore as broadband let us down last year in other venues.  Alan Costello will be managing this and the first huddle Zoom link opening at 10:30am Irish time.  I am hoping to have a larger screen for the remote attendees so that you will have the best opportunity to hear their contributions.   Expect a few minutes delay as I set up.

Health & Safety

Dr Michael Regan is the nearest doctor located near the entrance to Cong Village in the Lynn Medical Centre  (094) 9546006.  The is one modern pharmacy in Cong Village run by Cormac on (094) 954 6119.  The defibrillator is located outside O’Connors Spar Shop.  Please report any medical incidents to Eoin on 086 8339540.

Respectful Debate

The range of perspectives in the submissions this year will be a catalyst for lots of debates and sharing of insights .  Expect divergent views and opinions.  I just ask you to be respectful but don’t shy from challenge and the richness of discussion this offers.  I am also extending a challenge to the more confident to encourage the quieter voices through inclusive contributions.  Please also take the guidance of the chairs who have a difficult task and only wish to have all voices heard.

In the event of something unforeseen happening could you please add your mobile number to the registration sheet or send to me.

Christmas Shopping

For those of you looking for a really nice Christmas present the Hungry Monk (one of the huddle venues) has some lovely artwork, the Irish History Bookstore has some really nice early edition books and as it happens the Christmas fair will be held on Sunday 26th in the Crossroad Centre opposite the gates to Ashford Castle. There are normally some nice craft options here.

At this point we are on target for over 80-100 attendees, 8 chairs and some observers spread over 7 events on three days.  Your attendance is really important to the smooth running of the event and if by any chance you cannot make it please let me as soon as possible as we will need to find replacements.  It is also not too late for new people to attend so if you know of anyone please share this email, direct them to me or the website.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of, Blacknight, MKC Communications, Informed Decisions, Grow Remote, IRDG, Blockverse Ventures and the ICBE Advanced Productivity Skillnet  and I would like to show my sincerely appreciation for their leap of faith in enabling this event to take place.

AI, Consciousness Expansion, and Subjective Control #38 #cong23 #reality


The impact of artificial intelligence on our perception of reality, considering existential risks and ethical concerns.

William Burroughs’ views on reality, altered through psychedelics.

State media manipulation in various countries and how it impacts on some citizen’s reality.

Call to action is for discourse about the ethics involved in evolving digital realities.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. AI could profoundly reshape our conceptions of reality if it achieves superhuman general intelligence. But we must pursue its development cautiously and ethically to avoid existential risks.
  2. Psychedelics and other techniques like meditation, ayahuasca, and AR/VR can reveal hidden depths of reality not perceivable through ordinary consciousness alone, according to thinkers like William Burroughs.
  3. We construct subjective realities through the structure of our consciousness. By expanding our perceptual modes, we can uncover new truths about the nature of reality.
  4. While we do not have absolute control, we can influence our experienced realities through intention, wisdom, and shaping both our inner and outer worlds.

About Maryrose Lyons:

I am a future focused digital operator.

A marketer and communicator, a UX designer, I have recently been enjoying considerable success helping people augment their skills using AI.

I am on a mission to help people to not get left behind.

I am excited to be back at Cong this year. I haven’t been in person since long before Covid. Can’t wait to see you all – meet new people – and have a holiday for my mind!

Contacting Maryrose Lyons:

Connect with me on LinkedIn:

By Maryrose Lyons

My research for this very interesting topic began with a book, immediately discarded for being too academic for my taste, then followed up with travelling in directions that interested me personally. I brought all of my thoughts together to Claude 2 (AI) and asked it to act like a Professor of Philosophy and ask me questions to help me get my thoughts down into some sort of coherent form.

A theme that will probably feature greatly in conversations about Reality is artificial intelligence. What happens to our perception of reality if AI achieves advanced general capabilities surpassing human intelligence? It could profoundly reshape our collective conception of reality in ways we can’t yet fully anticipate. While I’m all in on the benefits of AI, I’m also all in on the need to actively pursue the mitigation of existential risks. However, on this Saturday morning I feel quite despondent about our ability to do that. There is a genocide taking place in Palestine by the Israelis before our very eyes and we are doing nothing to condemn or stop it. How can we expect governments of the world and people to get together and respond in time to the threat posed to our reality?

A more enjoyable avenue of exploration for me was to dig deep into the writings of William Burroughs. His book “The Doors of Perception” dissolves the very notion of reality and speaks of how expanding modes of human perception can play a role in unveiling hidden dimensions of reality. Techniques like psychedelics and ayahuasca can temporarily dissolve the constructs of our normal consciousness, opening doors to deeper truths about the nature of existence, consciousness, and our place in the cosmos. I have engaged, I have seen for myself, and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to open their minds at least once!

Next I went to the control of reality, and the dark side of state manipulation of media. In places like Russia, North Korea, and China, restricting access to information and shaping narratives through propaganda controls citizens’ perceived reality in ways that support authoritarian aims. In places like USA, UK, Ireland, social media also presents a certain view of reality that supports other aims.

Finally I gave some thought to VR/AR and the role they might have in shaping reality now and in the future. More immersive AR/VR experiences may start displacing some physical/social activities where the virtual version offers clear advantages in convenience, customisation, or enjoyment. But a full replacement seems unlikely. Humans are biologically wired to need in-person interaction, touch, nature, etc. Our recent experiences during lockdowns have reaffirmed the intrinsic human need for in-person interactions and natural environments.

As a forward-thinking digital operator, I am deeply excited by the possibilities at the intersection of technology and consciousness. AI, undeniably, will play a significant role in shaping our reality.

The future remains unwritten, and it is our collective responsibility to approach it with care, precision, and an inclusive perspective.

In conclusion, our understanding of reality is constantly evolving, influenced by technological advancements, global events, and diverse cultural perspectives. As we navigate this ever-changing landscape, it is imperative to engage in thoughtful discourse at events such as this one, to consider diverse viewpoints, and to actively participate in shaping an ethical and balanced digital future.

Looking forward to meeting you all at Cong.

Reality Change(s). #37 #cong23 #reality


All our realities are our own. Recognising others realities may help us change our own. If we can change our reality by seeing others, thus the world changes bit by bit.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails” – adaptation is good
  2. In all encounters – strive to make them better
  3. Be tolerant
  4. Be interested in the small things

About Chris Reina:

Chris Reina has been involved in education since 2002, technology since 1981 and Making since 1971. (You do the maths). He is 1/3 of – who deliver Maker-led, project-based S.T.E.A.M. workshops nationwide to primary, secondary, third-level and other institutions.

He feels passionately that education is the most important thing in the world and that teaching using Maker skills is the most rewarding job there is.

Chris loves cats, kayaking, kite-flying, steampunk, pedantic semantics and knowing the meanings of ligatures, aglets, gallibanders and lexiphanic.

Contacting Chris Reina:

You can see Chris’s work in MakerMeet or send him an email.

By Chris Reina

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller

As often happens – when asked to write words and the opportunity to include a quotation arises… I turn to Buckminster Fuller.

A polymath of wonderful quotations and a deep thinker, he never fails to deliver. As I pondered this quote… initially it appealed to me for its rebellious nature. After some thought, I realised it works far better as a quote to inspire research, creativity and deep thought.

We all live extremely different lives. Geography, generations and a lived experience all affect what we think, do, how we act and what shapes our personal reality.

As technology expands and progresses, the world in turn becomes smaller and all of us are swept up in the flotsam and jetsam of living. Reality changes for all of us, sometimes that reality is public, sometimes private, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

In the dawning of the new age of (AI) Artificial Intelligence, the world is set to change dramatically in the next few generations. This will certainly affect us all in many diverse ways. While we can’t predict what those changes will be – one thing is for certain – there will be people who use this for the benefit of others and there will be those who use it for the detriment of others.

We will need to learn how to use this new technology to shape our new realities.

While AI is the newest, greatest shiny thing… I find myself ruminating even further on how much we affect and change our own realities. How much do we shape the world we live in? Family, work, community? Those of us that are more privileged have the ability to shape our environment to a higher degree than those that are less privileged. Choice plays a large part in how we interact with the world, how we feel emotionally about it and how our mental health is impacted. The less choice we have, the more anxiety and downward spirals our brains inflict on us. Of course, the opposite can be true.

Being aware of people around us and how we can impact others reality has become a challenge for me. I actively try to be less grumpy and more aware of others who may be feeling anxious, down or just shit-sick of the way life is treating them. 2 cases in point…

1) Having come from a meeting which didn’t go very well, I stopped for a sandwich. The chap behind the counter was clearly just going through the motions and appeared to have been mentally kicked by this employer, customers and perhaps everyone else.

I simply commented on his tattoos and that I liked them. His demeanour immediately changed, he became more animated, interested and forthcoming. We chatted for a few minutes while he made my sandwich, we bid each other farewell and I walked away.

I don’t know how I impacted his life – quite possibly he thought “what a strange person that was” – but I know I left the experience feeling better.

2) I was in a supermarket purchasing my goods – got chatting to the young man at the counter who was scanning things nearly quicker than I could load them. Rather than feeling under pressure – I let myself consider what that skill could be used for… I thought he would be great at knitting. I commented that with hands that fast, he could knit a scarf in just a few hours.

He nearly exploded with joy – and asked how I could know he was a knitter? I (surprised) didn’t of course, but just thought he would be good at it. He explained his grandmother had taught him from a very young age and it was one of his favourite activities to do. At this point, the rest of the queue were listening to his story and he apologised to them starting to speed up. The lady behind me began asking questions of him we all stood there for almost 5 minutes just chatting.

After I paid and began to walk away, he gave me a fist bump. I swear to you… I’m still living on that encounter. The lady behind me waved and thanked me… I don’t really know why… but again, I know I left that encounter feeling on top of the world.

Perhaps we do shape reality more than we know and just maybe we do reap what we sow.

The Reality of Tech Jobs Here for Her… #36 #cong23 #reality


The reality of tech jobs here for her – is a reality in which we are not utilising the full potential of our species.

During CV19, a surge in hiring in Ireland saw a huge increase in hiring him, with companies increasing their hiring from outside the EU by 80x and more, while in a study of 450 IT hires on LinkedIn, found only two women from the EU. So, this video contains real research data that you could not possibly know, comparing the loss of women in IT in the UK in the 1950’s & 60’s to Ireland during CV19. The UK Gender Pay Gap Bot – @PayGapApp is only an indicator of a time and status where the only thing that matters will be the reality of your results.
Video – Under 4 minutes

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Key Takeaways:

  1. CV19 disconnected Irish jobs in STEM from UK & EU talent.
  2. This had a huge impact on the levels of female talent hired.
  3. Measures to help CV19 hiring need to be re-examined for continued use.
  4. The status of ‘her’ in STEM jobs is obscured by awards, posts and events that hide the outcomes of reality.

About Sean Fay:

An immigrant, dyslexic entrepreneur, with all the charm of a young Steve Jobs, just much less success. I did post to Cong in 2016 that “The future of virtualisation in communication will reduce the constant need for the physical collocation of staff” – so was right then 😉 Now I am working with colleagues in Dublin & Ukraine (and with support from Google) on tech for hiring that does not leave so many behind. Widening the Gate, but not lowering the bar.

Contacting Seán Fay:

You can connect with LinkedIn, X or send him an email.

By Sean Fay