The Deep State

These powerful beings connect endlessly and constantly. They are unseen but everpresent. Their resources are vast, and they draw strength from unfathomable sources, sometimes colonizing and deconstructing life, even as they burst forth elsewhere, seeking new territory. Their network can send information and materials across vast distances without arousing any suspicion. Their legacy is timeless, stretching across eons and encompassing the ends of the earth. Some say they can possess your mind, make you sick, or heal you. Those who understand them can benefit, and even live in harmony with them, but we all must respect them.

The mushrooms have some things to teach us.

If you’re not a mycologist, what you know as a mushroom may be limited to the brownish, whitish bulbs that can be purchased in a supermarket to be sauteed, stuffed with cheese or crab meat, or even grilled whole and placed on a bun in lieu of a burger. Yum. These morsels, however, represent only a small part of the underlying organism that produces them. Beneath, and powering the emergence of these delicacies is a vast network of mycelium, which can be imagined as roots. They spread through a growth medium, like the soil, a log, or even a living creature. There, they break down their surroundings and absorb the energy, in a manner resembling our own digestion. When they have had their fill and the conditions are right…

The spores must be released! Depending on where the organism deems appropriate, A mushroom emerges, and sends millions of tiny seeds that seek to colonize new areas. What is intriguing is how the network is able to transport the exact nutrients and resources needed to send these spores out into the world at the right place. Those who visualize these networks find that the connections between nodes and mycelium actually resemble our own brains. When I first understood their patterns, I too had ideas emerging and bursting forth.

My network has transported me to my present station, sending resources and support as necessary, and I have arrived in this moment feeling well taken care of, lucky, and loved. I want to bring the same to others. It is my dream that all humans feel this deep connectedness and through religion, spirituality, human contact, or passion erupt into countless particles of love, trust, and hope. Many of these spores will go nowhere, falling on barren soils, but they will be well received and appreciated by some, where they can establish a foothold, and someday send out more like themselves. The surrounding network provides aid. Perhaps each individual affected by these spores will come forth, and make themselves known to improving the world with our spread. Our combined network will be stronger than any one of us, and those given to the mission will reinforce those who need it at any given time, sending aid, prayers, resources, and power as needed. In this, I envision a growing team of individuals and families that will come together when needed to send forth more of the energy that helped us get where we are.

We will lace our way through society, nurturing, giving back, and enriching as we go. We take what is old and help return new life through our labors and natural processes. Transmutation, the upcyle, the dead made life… Whatever you want to call it, we will do it. Miracles, through understanding and belief.

These ideas are worth spreading because they come from an inspiration that regenerates and creates magic everywhere it connects. These ideas and actions will help change the world.

I have a number of silly names for this. Funguys. Mycofriends. Spore colony. All I know for sure right now is that I want to see who might be interested in joining a mutually supporting community, willing to shuttle around and help with each other’s projects, knowing that the stronger we make the network, the stronger we become ourselves. Interested? Does this idea have legs? Or are we reinventing the, uh, pseudopod? Who else can we bring in? The groundwork has already been laid.

Please Read and Advise – Here’s a statement I wrote for my application to a Human Factors program.

When I heard the explosion, I dropped to the ground. Shrapnel, gravel, and dirt began to fall around me, so I crawled under the nearest vehicle. The shockwave was powerful. I assumed our perimeter had been breached. I loaded my weapon. I hoped that the soldiers with the gear to respond assertively had the right information and that they were already on their way with a plan. I was anxious. Years earlier, when conducting touch-and-go practice landings at remote military airfield, I felt the same anxiety, and it was a similar set of hopes that I could enumerate – that other planes operating in the area would know I was there, and stay on flight paths that didn’t intersect in time and space with mine. When I have had to make decisions about what to do with my own resources, and what sort of insurance to purchase, or whether to form a series LLC or a sole-proprietorship, I’ve had the same feelings. It’s a set of concerns that virtually all humans share, and the questions that arise are always basically the same: Do I know what I need to know? Am I mentally and physically prepared to handle this set of circumstances? How can technology help me avoid catastrophe, and achieve a favorable outcome? Humans depend on our ability to respond appropriately, and that ability is deeply enhanced by the study of the human factor in any given circumstances. Thus, the study of human factors lies near to my heart, as my understanding of the discipline has certainly contributed to my survival in the past, and I believe it plays an integral role in our destiny as a species in the future.

It is because of the role that psychology and human factors have played in my past that I wish to continue my studies formally. My study of aviation revealed that we can avert mishaps through the implementation of best practices gleaned from research. The intersection of advanced machinery and human performance has many secrets yet to be explored and I want to be a part of that. I am especially interested in the ways in which humans will interact with the emerging artificial intelligence beginning to leave the lab and populate our homes in the form of self-driving cars and Digital assistants in the future. The lessons I’ve learned through my experiences with unmanned aerial vehicles and the ways in which people interacted and perceived them can potentially extend to other walks of life, now that my time in the Air Force has concluded.

As I watch my two-year-old son grow, I cannot help but imagine the drastic changes that will undoubtedly occur during his lifetime. He may never have a chance to drive a car or fly on an airplane being directly controlled by a human being. He might encounter a computer that is, in all aspects, much smarter than he. He and his future may even be threatened by machines set upon destructive paths by their creators as an act of terrorism, or even war. This last possibility is of great concern to me, as a father and former intelligence officer. I am a firm believer that the best way to prepare for the future is to have a hand in creating it. I envision using my knowledge of psychology, human factors, geopolitics, and emerging technologies to work with teams of scientists, engineers, ethicists, civil servants, and inventors to ensure the future we are creating is a safe, just, and prosperous one. I imagine that after working in the private sector with established tech companies, I might one day help to write public policy, and eventually return to teach the next generation of designers.

Good design with respect to human factors can not only increase safety, but it is vital to the wellbeing of societies. Connecting people with technology, rather than isolating them, can help fill our basic need for belonging. Belonging and integrating are more important than ever, in an age of globalization and rapid movement of potentially disruptive ideas. Following some of the more radical ideas of futurist thinkers, perhaps good human factors design combined with some of the technologies that are just now emerging will be the key to helping humans stop worrying about our petty differences, and concentrate on fulfilling our other needs in magnanimous fashion. Indeed, if I knew that an artificial intelligence was keeping me safe on the road, I could spend much more time planning how to grow delicious heirloom tomatoes to share with my neighbors. But not yet.

The attack mentioned at the beginning of this statement could have been much worse. Analysis of the explosion revealed that an improvised explosive device had been attached to the exterior of a fuel truck, essentially creating a driving suicide bomb. The device, however, had been attached poorly, so when it detonated, it failed to cause a secondary explosion of the magnitude possible with that much combustible material. I read a report that stated, had the attack gone as planned, the blast wave would have caved in the structure where I worked at the time. I am grateful that, and here to write this because of a very human error in the construction of that bomb. It seems fitting that I pursue further education in human factors psychology to enhance the safety of others.

10 Minutes

I’ve only got 10 minutes.

So here it goes.

When you have 10 minutes, there’s no time for revision. There’s little time for prep. There’s just go.

Sit in front of the computer, or the problem, or the person you love, and use that whole 10 minutes. Think, just for a moment, because the rest of the time will be best used for creating. Creating connection, creating content. Albert Einstein once said that if he were given an hour to save the world, he would define the problem for 55 minutes and act for five. That’s a nice thought, and probably perpetrated by people who love to plan, but what if you get it remotely wrong? What if you start, and then realize you’re being ineffective? Where is the time for iteration?

So, I posit to you – don’t wait anymore. I’m going to live by this. Create. Touch your loved one and create connection. Type away! Type anything (that’s what I’m doing ). Getting started is the hardest part. Attack that problem! Watch it dissolve against your determination to begin, or resolve into something easier to tackle.  Observe and see what you learn. Keep an open mind. Be ready to switch gears, or tacts, or problems all together. But start. Just start. Go now. You’ve only got 10 minutes, and this took 5 to write.

Throwing Spears and Self Improvement

Last summer, a close friend of mine came to visit. We went in the yard, lit stuff on fire, drank some beer, and looked around. I’m not sure where we got the idea, but the fence posts I had left over from the chicken fencing project were a bit like spears, so we started throwing them. We were not very good at it. But we got better. He had to continue on his way, but several days later, a composite handled, steel tipped vicious looking spear arrived in the mail. This thing just screams “badass.” I saw it, and I wanted to stab any and everything with it. It’s thoughts like those that make me feel like a pretty terrible adult, because I should know better. But I don’t. I threw it, and was even worse at throwing it. So I practiced. And practiced. I mean, throwing a spear might be an important skill in some post-apocalyptic future, or even tomorrow. Who knows when you’ll need to throw a spear? Might as well get good. So I watched some videos, and continued to improve. I also taught my wife to throw it. I got a video of her successfully lodging it in the target.

Now, when I have people over, sometimes I get the feeling that they’d like to throw a spear, so I offer. Usually I’m right. These would be spear throwers are usually pretty terrble when they start. I don’t let them know how much I had to practice – I just the spear once to “show them” how it’s done, then hand it over and watch them struggle. Sometimes they give up. Sometimes, they continue to throw, tweaking their technique every so slightly, and begin to get better and better. I learn about people by the way they handle frustration. Watching this process gives me a very clear idea about how these folks will handle other forms of adversity in their lives. Do they throw up their hands and walk away? Do they coach themselves into doing better? Do they ask for advice? What kind of concentration are they willing to put into improvement? This exercise reminds me that what one person has learned, anyone can learn.

I have been coming across many unexpected situations lately, many of which have been incredibly frustrating and resource consuming. This is one reason I haven’t been writing more. Some of these situations include being threatened with a lawsuit (non-spear related), finding a load bearing wall in  my house had been almost completely eaten by termites, not being able to get power turned on to said house because of antiquated wiring, having plumbing leaks, my dog developing a skin condition, and navigating the Veteran’s Affairs health system. It’s easy to get stressed out when encountering unexpected problems. I haven’t been mentally prepared for almost any of these situations, and I found myself wanting to throw in the towel, and walk away. But I cannot. People are counting on me to do what I have said I would do. I love these people, and I cannot let them down. I will not let them down, if I can help it. And I can help it. If I can throw a spear, I can get smart on landlord-tenant law. I can invest in professional attorney help and become familiar with legal conflict resolution. I can improve my construction skills and repair a wall. I can research and run electrical wire. I can do some veterinary work. I make the VA work for me. As much as I feel resistant to fixing plumbing because it’s a messy business, I can do that too. I can get better, and get good enough to successfully take anything life throws at me.

And I can throw too, and hit the targets I’ve set for myself. I will.

Where is my mind?

Pixies reference in full effect. Here’s why I haven’t posted for a long time: building a new thing takes a lot of energy (psychological? psychic? mental? (wo)man power? who knows… but I’ve been tired)

BLUF (but not really) so rather: Bottom line after the preamble or BLAP (highly discouraged by most report formats, as are my use of vulgarity and colloquialism): My friends and I are starting a new community.

BLAM! That doesn’t actually stand for anything, as far as I know. It’s just supposed to be an exciting noise, that gets you attention. Although, if I didn’t have it already, what the hell are you doing reading this far?

Communities need people in them (duh?). We want the right people. As I tell my classes, though, sharing your “Why” is difficult. I truly believe that words don’t do service to a person’s why: you must witness, and feel it in person. Here’s my best “why” for this next project, and I will happily expand upon it as requested.

Gig opportunity for: individual, couple, or even a family, who wants to increase their self reliance by living with a foot off the grid, growing high-quality food, and cultivating relationships with their neighbors.
 
My name is Scott Church, and I’m a Permaculturist with a penchant for propagating community. I’m in Montgomery, Alabama, and I would like the help of like minded people who want access to some land, tools, and resources, but also want to live close to town. I’m currently residing in a 7×14 utility trailer that I’ve outfitted with solar panels, the capacity to collect and filter rain water, and a detachable greenhouse. I run a small business providing more traditional housing to folks who are visiting Montgomery, and I’m looking to share what I’ve built with somebody who can help me with the operation.
 
Pay: ~$500/month, some form of housing*, utilities paid, fast internet, land use, access to greenhouse, lots of free-range, pastured chicken eggs
 
Requirements: experience with Permaculture, DIY project knowledge (or willingness to learn/try), interpersonal and communication skills, can-do attitude.
 
Assisting in this operation means being available to meet incoming guests, accommodating needs such as performing or coordinating rapid house repairs, cleaning up after guests have left, and, of course, not just maintaining but improving the garden and food forrest on the 1.3 total acres.
 
*Currently, I am looking for what kind of housing you, my operations manager will have. I am putting this ad out before I decide on precisely what I will provide because I want input from those who might live there before I start to procure something. Current options on the table are RV, trailer, up-cycled shed, tent, or anything you might want my help to build on the property.
 
If this note has caught your attention and you think you (or you and yours) might be a good fit, send me an email or PM telling me a bit about your background and describing your vision or goals for the next year or so. I’ll follow up as soon as I can to establish an dialogue and answer any questions your might have.
Holler.

Permaculture is Leadership

For students of Leadership, the study of Permaculture is an extremely complimentary pursuit.

Most recent and poignant leadership thought focuses on servant leadership – as Simon Sinek says, “Leaders who get the most from their people are leaders who care the most about their people.” Sinek’s (pronounced Sin-ek) approach to leadership is predicated on the idea that people need to feel inspired by a vision, or a nearly intangible “why” before they are ready to be moved to action. This means learning about your people, and what they need. This means people-care.

People care is a central tenet of Permaculture. People care, animal care, and earth care are what make many Permaculturists tick. We realize that without a healthy environment, which we can promote through responsible and holistic land-management practices, there can be no true people care. What good does it do to to provide for a human’s needs, and provide care, if you are participating in a system that is fundamentally destroying the environment for their children, or if the sustenance you are giving them comes at the cost of losing future fertility? So, real leadership is also helping people to realize how they fit into the web of life, and how they can help perpetuate abundance for themselves, as well as their descendants.

We protect our own, and in turn, others watch our back. That is the essence of what makes humans so successful. Alone, we can accomplish little. I tried to move sections of a downed tree into the back of my truck this past weekend. I got exactly two rounds of pine before I decided I’d rather have a healthy back than several more potential seats for my backyard gathering area. Had I a friend to help, however, I am certain we could have harvested much more. Had I a group, with the understanding that we’d all like places to sit in the future (and some fuel for a fire around which we might sit), we could have made use of the entire motherland. It is the power of teamwork that helps a group to survive against the odds, and to work with resources in a way that will benefit the entire group – and even allow us to thrive.

Realizing that, as the sum total of humanity, we are one giant tribe who all need the same basic things – clean water, nutrient-dense foods, safe shelter, community, and the ability to realize our own potential, we will also realize that we need work together to take care of each other, our planet, and interact with nature respectfully. That, friends, is Permaculture. Permaculture is leadership.