Stag Nation
· 29 January 2005 ·

Sometimes I wonder why something isn’t happening and then I realize it’s because I’m not doing it. It could be said about writing here, it could be said about not being more in touch will all of you, and it could be said about making this country and the world a better place. You could apply it to life in general. As humans and especially as people like us growing out of the teenage years, our greatest weakness is the illusion of being powerless. We get overwhelmed by our problems and feel overshadowed by those we perceive as more powerful.

I believe that the perception of being insignificant is just about the biggest barrier in achieving one’s dreams. If you don’t think you can change the world, then you probably won’t even try. The power of optimism is often unrealized. Even more unrealized is how much power we have to connect with one another. In an epiphany of optimism with Pat and Zack last July (7-11) I expressed how easily we could meet up with the band Broken Social Scene. I’d talked with some of them at the show they played in Seattle last spring and I knew these were wonderful people, they are down to earth while still being creative gods in my mind. I idolize them, but somehow I just knew that we could connect with them. I ranted about this to Pat and Zack, but soon afterwards that optimism quickly dissolved into the daily grind and was forgotten. I didn’t even remember this until after Pat shared with us the unbelievable experience he had meeting up with Broken Social Scene in Austria. Austria of all places for such a prophecy to materialize. They should be releasing their next album on Valentine’s Day and I certainly hope to spend more time with the social scene when they come around.

I’ve just discovered a similar connection. On the second day of this year I was in Seattle with my mom and my brother Jesse. Jesse was about to fly back to New York and we decided to spend some time around Seattle before dropping him off at the airport. We lounged around Elliot Bay bookstore for an hour or two. I recall drinking some really good chai tea, hearing Jason Webley softly emit from some hidden speakers, looking at Jared Diamond’s new book Collapse , and coming across the book for an exhibit on global design called Massive Change. I had read some amazing things about Collapse and also really wanted to see the Massive Change exhibit which was in Vancouver at the time, but the book that I ended up coming home with is called Darwin among the Machines – the evolution of global intelligence by George Dyson.

The next day I managed to make it up to Vancouver and saw the Massive Change exhibit. It was almost purely optimistic regarding the power that design has in making the world a better place. This was an exhibit of how ingenuity and innovation could solve problems in the world – like pollution and the perils of poverty in third world countries. The experience of witnessing all these examples of improving the world was inspiring – electric cars, rooftop gardens in cities, alternative power sources, biodegradable materials, etc. Yet at the same time, it all seemed really inaccessible and out of reach, there remained a disconnect between what was there, what I have access to, and the ability I have to contribute.

The next day was the first day of winter quarter and I began reading my new book. The first thing to fascinate me was that the author had attended Fairhaven College which is where Evan and Zack just started. The book discusses a number of different things and I’ve really just begun it. There’s a lot on the history of how theories regarding intelligence were developed, how logic was broken down into its most fundamental form, and how all of these theories led to the first computers. There’s even a bit of looking at modern day technology and making analogies to biology. The internet is analyzed as a global form of collective cognition and biological aspects of evolution are applied to its nature. The book doesn’t necessarily answer questions, it merely presents the history that has led to now. It asks more than it answers. An example of what reading this book has led me to ponder is how technology and our constantly increasing connectivity influenced the world’s reaction to the tsunami in Southeast Asia. We’re like some kind of all-encompassing, Earth-saturating mycelium. We’re all cells acting as an immune system, patching and repairing a shared wound.

The next day I was looking at a website I frequent regularly, It had a post regarding a question from Edge – “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” One of the answers put up on the site was from the author of my book, George Dyson. The coincidence caught my attention – I was seeing analogous concepts being laid out in front of me, with this author as a shared source.

A few days ago I was looking at the essay I wrote for my senior project – I called it “Communication in the New Media”. I happen to notice that I used a quote from Esther Dyson – someone who happens to be George Dyson’s sister. This sparked my interest a little further and I decided to look into these people a bit more. Upon looking at a website for their father, the physicist Freeman Dyson, I discovered that George Dyson lives in Bellingham. I was a little astounded and felt the need to look in the phonebook just the check… and there he was. The author of my book lives less than two miles from me. Maybe I’ll get in touch with him to grab a cup of coffee and discuss the book… and the world.

This world surrounds us. Everything we need we already have, we simply need to embrace it, open our eyes and realize we have both the responsibility and the capability to do whatever we can possibly grasp enough ambition to accomplish. It’s happening in certain shapes and in certain forms… and I think Murder Mountain is coming along to attest that.

In other news: I’ve put some photos up here, but am on my way to make a new website to better house things like this. Also, Black Mountain is coming to the DOS. And of course Murder Mountain is coming to the world.

Written by Philip Ashlock


  1. Deborah Robins    Feb 5, 03:59 PM    #