On the afternoon of December 21st, 2006, I was cut down by a tree .

Spines of hoarfrost glimmered in the pale light, and despite my fleece-lined GoreTex, I was shivering. This part of western Canada was considered a temperate rainforest; it didn’t usually get this cold. I had turned seventeen in April, and like most teens, I was confused, lonely, and had a poor relationship with the future.

But more than anything, I was afraid. Mostly of my own faults and lack of experience, but further terrified of my ambitions. I wanted to become a writer, an educator, a game designer, a scientist, an artist, a cook, a digital media producer, a philosopher, and a lantern maker.

I hated the idea of specialization, and ached at the thought of fitting into a globalized system[^1] of meaningless competition, material gluttony, and the spiritual pornography of surfaces. I didn't know what to do, nor who to become.

A confrontation with a fir sapling is just as weird as it sounds. It is difficult to convey the impressions this experience made upon my life — truly, our culture suffers from a profound poverty of language in regard to events of a so-called ‘spiritual’ nature. Legendary mythologist Joseph Campbell said it best:

“How render back into light-world language the speech-defying pronouncements of the dark?”

The fir sapling taught me courage that day. It had located the site of my internal resistance — my deepest fears — as the road to healing for myself and for those I cared about. It opened me to a world of meaning beyond my previous frame of reference, and it revealed the possibility of interlocutors beyond human society. I was clear, ready for whichever destiny would take me.

It was no coincidence that I discovered Schumacher College just a few months before.


Having grown up in the alternative mindset of Saltspring Island, I was no stranger to the values of a holistic education, the principles of ecology, or the merits of community — the values upon which Schumacher College is premised. Through my mother’s interests in Jungian psychology, complementary medicine, and systems science, I was given a lens by which to see the world — in parts, as well as in wholes.

After my strange, beautiful encounter with the fir tree, I realized that in Schumacher I had discovered one of the few institutions that could teach me how to integrate these lessons into a calling, and even a career. At seventeen, it became my first vocational dream to attend Schumacher College for their Master of Holistic Science: to bridge science and spirit in a centre for integrated research doing transformational work for society, environment, and self.

And yet, I let my dream go. I was accepted into a university the following year, and began what would later become a double major in Liberal Studies and Digital Media Studies.

The idea of Schumacher College faded into the back of my mind, but the love of nature, systems, and mystery did not. I channelled my skill and passion into writing, research, strategic management, digital production and design, equally promising myself and the future I dreamed of that I would, one day, apply these insights to society, environment and self.

That day has arrived.

It has become clear that the assumptions upon which our guiding institutions and systems were established are, in fact, derivative of an incomplete understanding of reality. Because these assumptions have collectively gone unchallenged, human beings find themselves stuck within a system that they have built, but which no longer works in their interest.

As a result, we live in a world of homeless people and peopleless homes — a world in which honeybees, the biotic vectors enabling 76% of global food production, are in major decline. A world painfully unequipped to respond to something as complex and multifaceted as climate change.

Everything is fragmented, and so are we.

How do we fix this? How do we become whole again? How do we create the sociocultural and planetary conditions for a life of meaning, happiness, and fulfillment?

I was attracted to Schumacher College because they asked these questions, but moreover, because they asked with a sincerity rarely seen in educational institutions. And, while it may not have the answer yet, I believe that Schumacher College is equipped to establish and replicate the systems, technologies, and people that together will heal the world.

Throughout my education and work, I had always desired to join this effort — to apprentice myself to a more beautiful future, to vow that I would not simply join the world I had been born into, but to help remake it: happier, healthier, more vibrant.

Nearly ten years after the dream began, I got my chance.

In July of this year, I traveled to Schumacher College in order to determine whether my ancient dream to attend the Master in Holistic Science was still the right path.

As I would later write to a close friend:

“7500km from home. I have never felt so validated by the physical and metaphysical bones of a place”.

Not only was I accepted into the Master in Holistic Science, but awarded a major bursary—dropping the program cost by half.

It’s impossible to convey what it feels like to have your dream come true. Schumacher College had been waiting for me to find it. After ten years of reading and treasuring the knowledge of speakers, authors and teachers of the College community — David Whyte, Charles Eisenstein, Bill Plotkin, James Lovelock, Fritjof Capra, David Abram, Jay Griffiths, Matthew Fox — I had arrived, myself, a lodestone of gratitude.

And now, I have one major hurdle left to achieve.

Unless I raise an additional £13700, I will lose out on this decade-long dream.

I come from a long, proud line of non-askers. Today, I put aside my ancestral pride and confess: I want this. I crave this chance. More importantly, I know how a MSc at Schumacher College will help me to serve the world.

The research I would conduct at Schumacher would concern the data-gathering, modelling and digital visualization of mycelial networks through augmented reality overlays; specifically, through the study of nutrient flows within symbiotic forms of mutualism such as mycorrhizae.

To put that in layman’s terms, it is my goal to visualize and design interactive experiences for what famed mycologist Paul Stamets has termed “Nature’s Internet”, with the ultimate purpose of improving, if not revolutionizing ecological design.

With my recently-earned MDM (Master of Digital Media) from the world-renowned Center for Digital Media in Vancouver, I’m confident in my ability to research, design, manage, program, market and collaborate on the digital aspects of this endeavour.

Historically I have excelled in academic pursuits, with an undergraduate GPA of 3.67 and a graduate GPA of 4.02.

Furthermore, my internship at THNK School of Creative Leadership granted me exposure and leadership experience at a premier international think-tank focused on collaborative solutions to society's most complex challenges.

Where my skills fall short, however, are in the fields of scientific research and mathematical modelling. Schumacher College is the place to build these skills, as well as the network that can turn this project into a reality.

The program begins this September. My bags are packed.

I have been accepted, possess a UK passport, and have received an exceedingly generous bursary. I can’t wait to get started, but I need your help.

If you decide to help me achieve my dream, please let me know anonymously what you’d like to see for me in return. As an impassioned reader since the age of seven, my heroes were always storytellers—if this fundraiser is successful, I will ~revamp my current website~, telling the full story of my time at Schumacher, what I am learning, and how my research develops[^2].

If there are other ways I can repay you for your generosity — besides simple, unfettered expressions of joy — please let me know through this anonymous survey.

My encounter with the fir sapling revealed the site of a wound beyond myself, but it also hinted at a way to heal. It called me to become something that could stitch the broken parts of itself back together, and through the very fact of having done so, heal others and the world.

Something that could repay my mother for giving away her own vitality, needs, and dreams for herself, in order that her children have “a normal life”. Something so generous that, by its very nature, it could reveal a map back into wholeness.

I have only ever wanted to simply be of service. Besides having our basic needs covered, I think this is all any of us truly want. A degree from Schumacher College will help me do just that.

Thank you for reading.


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Alex Blanes


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[^1]: This feeling can be found crystallized in my response to Allen Ginsberg's *Howl*, written at age 21. [^2]: Website revamped; posts incoming!