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Final Performances: Our stories about this course

Anne Dalke's picture

This "final forum" for the Evolving Systems course is a place for you to post scripts, descriptions, photos or any other artifacts you may want to use to archive your final performances. What sorts of stories are we telling one another about the evolving system that has been this course? What new sorts of stories might these tales generate?

paige's picture

turtles, of course!

I really enjoyed everyone's performances! It was great to see both sections' perspectives on the course.
It was rewarding to do our final presentation. While making our turtles, Betrice, Meredith and I had the chance to go over the whole semester again, in a way,by looking at the questions we have asked. In writing up our questions and then seeing all of your new questions, we have reaffirmed our favorite saying: "It's turtles all the way down." I think the greatest part of our experience in this course is knowing that its turtles all the way down but still having the enthusiasm to continue to explore! Thank you all for your questions.

bluebox's picture

The Mockumentary

I was in the Mockumentary group with Kayla, Val, Elisa, and Hilary. They pretty much said everything that needed to be said.

I picked this group because I wanted to show the class in a funny way, showing our evolution from a handful of students to our own culture.  It showed how we all shared experiences, learned new things and applied them to the real world (ex. houndstooth) and how dramatically Paul can exit a classroom.

One thing I noticed in the movie (that kind of bothered me) was the scene where we all come in "for the first day" and we're supposed to be sitting down, looking slightly uncomfortable at being in a new place, picking the best seat in the house, and all that.  It didn't look like that.  It looked like we were coming into class and sitting down to have a fun chat. As Kayla mentioned, we smiled too much. I thought we all looked too comfortable and familiar. But that was because we are comfortable and familiar, we've formed our culture and (because we're not the greatest of actors) we can't pretend like it didn't happen. It's like we were told a story, the story of the emergence of our class culture. We can't take it back, we've heard it now, and it's changed us.

Summer's picture

The final class

    I saw Sarah's posting about the script of our final performance. I'm really happy with the final class performance we created. Also, I'm impressed with all the presentations of the other groups. 

    I want to say thank you to many of you, to Anne, to Paul, and to the guests in our classes. I enjoyed the process of learning about changes, evolution, and of course, writing with all of you. That's exactly what our presentation is about, the process of learning and the joy in it. We want you guys to see ourselves in this performance, so we added in a lot of monologs. Hope our presentation can make you feel that way. Also, hope Anne like Karina's performance as Anne~

    Thank you all again! I'm sure we'll meet again in some other classes!

Imittleman's picture

 Our presentation was

 Our presentation was supposed to be an improvised recreation of the class.  Which was both....difficult and surprisingly easy.

I think, in many ways, we captured the feel of the class.  The arguments that were impassioned and even nonsensical (at times) but also really intelligent and pushed us to rethink a lot of what we'd spent years solidifying and developing.  We looked at topics in ways that were new or different even if the topic itself wasn't necessarily new or different.  Eva already posted up the script.  I thought what Carolina said was interesting...that it was difficult to capture the real thing.  I agree, but what I found more difficult was to capture the people involved, which was part of our project.  I had an idea of how certain people would feel on certain topics, but to capture *them* was far more difficult.  It was either a caracature or wasn't actually them.  I guess that goes to show that we can really only be ourselves and known ourselves.

The assignment also made me think a lot about my role in the class.  Did I have a distinct personality or view point and how did I contribute to discussions?  How did I alter the environment?  The culture?  Did I do that at all?  Creating the project was a really self-aware experience and I found it interesting to examine the class dynamic after we'd stepped away from it.  (Even though we'd done so very briefly.)  

It was a really wonderful class dynamic and I really enjoyed doing the project even when we weren't necessarily working on it and just spending time together.  I'm gonna miss this class.  

Kirsten's picture

Final Performance Description: Aimee Heerd, Kirsten Johnson

        Aimee had this fantastic idea of creating a couple of madlibs from passages from The Truth About Stories by Thomas king (along with other great ideas).  This idea of creating madlibs struck me because in class we have been talking about how there is always an alternative story to every story.  This, in my opinion was the perfect embodiment of this notion!  Once I expressed my excitement for this project we decided that this would be good for both of us to present.  Aimee decided that she wanted to use the opening whit which King began each of his chapters while I accidentally slept through the fist half hour that we were supposed to have met. Once again: sorry, Aimee L. When my alarm finally went off and we got a chance to talk about potential madlib passages I thought that if she wanted to do the opening that he used why not use the ending passage that he closed all of his chapters with?  In doing so each madlib could represent the beginning and the end of the course.  The madlibs we created can be seen in the post below by Aimee.

        The night before our presentation we printed out the passages, omitted certain words and replaced them with blanks.  After we printed out the passages we cut out the words and the blanks.  We glued the words on two large poster boards and left spaces for where the blanks would be taped.  We then handed out the blanks and asked people to fill in the blank with the type of word indicated below the blank with the peers surrounding them (we did not have enough blanks for everyone to have their own word to fill in). Aimee read the story that we had created together, and I read that the actual passage sounded like. Unfortunately, when it came time to present we were beginning to run out of time, so we were only able to present my madlib seeing as it was the shorter of the two. But, in the end we all got a good laugh from the story that we had created together.  I think that it was a very fun, successful presentation even with the time-crunch.


genesisbui's picture

Reflection on ESEM Performance




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My performance was a musical collaboration that illustrates the subjects we covered throughout the course. We found that we could each contribute a unique quality towards our performance, for my case I sang a Spanish song. I took an original Spanish song Shakira’s Dia de enero, and changed the lyrics in order to express my creation story. Meanwhile, my other partners worked on performing their parts with a Jazzy twist, Chinese, and hip-hop style. We intended to create this musical mixture; because our ESEM was a construction of all our cultures…to be honest with you I was quite nervous to perform my part. I don’t consider myself a singer. Nonetheless performing in front of the classes was a comfortable experience. I’ll be missing my ESEM. I hope that this won’t be the end of a long line of great classes in my college career. I like to thank all the teachers and the girls for the experience; we couldn’t have done it without you.
If you wish to see what my song translated to here it is…note that the song doesn’t quite sound as nice in English as it does in Spanish.
Génesis-Historia de la Creación
Fue en la oscuridad del universo
Que doy a luz su matriz
Y como tenia tanto sueno
Mejor los encerró sin fin
En esto mi creación
Con un amor sensación
Y ahora que estaban el día y noche
Como sol y la luna
Paliaron con varios rasguños
Y se desasieron del mal
Pero faltaba lo peor
Falta un protector
Voy a curarte la vida en duelo
Voy a dejarte como nuevo
Para pasar la paz
Pronto veras todo brillar
Tú más que nadie mereces ser feliz
Ya vas a ver como van sanando
Poco a poco tus heridas
Ya vas a ver como va
La misma vida a decantar el mal que sobra de allá
Y aunque haz sentido el colmo-duelo
Hasta en tu pecho de allí
Sol yo te digo, “Tenga fe tu”
Luna aun dice, “Voy por allí
Y ella llora destrucción, matando la maldición
Y aunque parezcas despistado con ese caminar
Conozco tu valor, que hace enfrentar el corazón
Por eso quise hacerte esta canción
Ya vas a ver como van sanando
Poco a poco tus heridas
Ya vas a ver como va
La misma vida a decantar el mal que sobra de allá
Genesis-Creation myth
It was there in the Darkness of the universe
That she gave birth from her womb
Since she was so tired
She locked them to their end
This my creation
With a love sensation
And now that day and night
Like sun and moon
Fought with many scars
Ridding themselves of evil
But the worst was yet to come
They needed a protector
 I'm going to cure your mourning soul
I'm going to leave you like new
To pass down our peace
Soon, you will see everything shine
You, more than anyone, deserve to be happy
Soon you will see
your wounds healing little by little
soon you will see how life itself
will decant the evil left there
 And although you've been in so much pain
from your chest to there
Sun will tell, “Have faith you”
And moon will say, “I’ll be there”
And she cries with destruction, killing all of evil
And though you seem absent minded with that lazy walk
I know you’re brave, which makes you confront your heart
that's why I wanted to make you this song
Soon you will see
your wounds healing little by little
soon you will see how life itself
will decant the evil left there




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kbonds's picture

The Mocumentary Group

I decided to direct a film thing because I love making movies and I make a movie whenever a teacher gives ambiguous project guidelines. These guidelines were purposefully ambiguous so that we would be as creative as possible, and, well, this is the result of that. The first vision I had for this mocumentary was quite different than it turned out, namely because we didn't have enough time to film and edit properly, and the camera was pretty basic and crappy. I would go through the movie but Elisa did that pretty thoroughly, and Hillz and Val took the rest of the stuff I would write... so I'll write from a director's perspective. Listen to me sound all pompous.

What I wanted to show in the Mocku was more than just funny inside jokes and spoofs of what we went through in and out of class. I wanted to show the natural progression of separateness to togetherness in terms of the classroom. In the beginning, we don't know each other. We are each going through the same experiences (Serendip Sucks sequence, finding Paul's Office sequence) but we are so far apart at that point that we don't even comprehend how deep our relationships will be at the end of it all. By the way, I love Serendip, but "Navigating through the-maze-that-is-Serendip sucks" doesn't have the same flow as the simple statement. Anyway, the film might seem like it cuts from chaos to calm, but that's only because we didn't have time to film the class more and to ease it in and show the result more. But, obviously, you can see by the end of the mocku that we are a really cohesive group of individuals that have created a sort of culture of our own. That's rockin'. and I wanted to make that clear to the viewer.

This is on youtube, but I don't expect it to ever get more than 100 hits, if that. Why would it? This is such a unique experience that no one can really understand but those who have undergone the process of Making Sense of Ourselves. Here's the link, if you want to watch it again and again, and reminisce: ESEM Final Project - Mindfuck

Kirk out.

kbonds's picture

Discovering You Can't Delete Double Posts

 I just did that.

Angela_MCA's picture

Final Performance

What Eva posted was all we had written down.  But, basically what we wanted to do was have a prompt in order to hit all the major points.  We wanted to show all we had discussed throughout the course the same way that our daily discussion would take place. We  tried to, as articulately as we could, say something profound that Paul would say. (which was difficult) and then show the way the students would react and respond to what he would say.

Even though I had an organized script in front me, when we had performed, it was mostly improvisation.  From experiencing the same thing in class everyday, we were familiar with people's reactions, and knowing Paul, I knew the right time to cut in and say something "profound" to keep the conversation organized and aiming toward a point...not that we always understood what that point was. I also thought that this showed we had learned so much. And, we were perfectly capable of running the class without Paul even having to be there. (We wouldn't want that though)

I really enjoyed all the performances and I'm very thankful for having been able to take this ESem.

Hillary G's picture

Final Project Reflection

 I did the final project as a film with Kayla, Elisa, Val, and Jordan. Since Elisa already posted a detailed summary of each scene in the film, I’ll discuss our intent with the project itself.


When we formed our group, we decided that our film would not cover so much WHAT we learned, but what our PROCESS of learning in the class had been—the evolution of our experiences and our attitudes toward the class and the material it covered. We show a scene depicting the awkward, unsuspecting first day of class when we had no idea what this E Sem even really was, or what to expect from Paul and our classmates. We then depicted some of the many questions we asked throughout the semester about reality and consciousness and what does it all really matter anyway? We expressed how this class has changed the way we perceive the world (the houndstooth scene was kind of metaphorical), and how far we’ve come in “making sense of ourselves.” At the end we showed how our own class had evolved to become a comfortable environment in which we all contributed our perspectives and really listened to other people’s feedback.


Regarding the E Sem’s title, I’m not sure that we ever DID make sense of ourselves—in fact, I’m pretty sure we didn’t—but I don’t think that was necessarily the point. It wasn’t actually making sense of ourselves that we set out to do. It was learning how to ask the right questions and realize that not everything has an answer. We can’t prove every scientific finding out there for ourselves, nor can we really know the truth about most things firsthand. Sometimes we just have to accept that everything’s just stories, and deal with the fact that we will never know everything (or anything) with certainty. And most importantly, we learned that that’s okay. These are the sentiments we attempted to express in our film project, and hopefully we conveyed them. I hope you (all) enjoyed it!


I’ll miss this class. Thank you so much for teaching it. It’s been a great semester! 


CParra's picture

The Real Experience impossible to re-create

As a group we wanted everyone to see the way Paul's class functioned. Paul would say an idea and everyone in class would be in chaos. We did try to say Paul's thought in one brief sentence, but it was just too hard. Paul was able to say it all in less then a minute but as students we could not say it in less then a paragraph. The skit consisted of students and Paul. Each of the students would take the persona of a different person in class. We learned a lot through the skit. I learned that as hard as I try to re-create a situation it is impossible to create the similar experience. 

elisagogogo's picture

final project - film making

   At first, I decided to join the film making group because I’ve never made a film by myself and have always been curious about how to do it. It turned out that what I’ve learnt from this final project was much more than I expected. It was definitely a meaningful and rewarding project!


As a film making group, we decided to make the film in a vivid and lively way. Show how we, both as individuals and a class, evolved by making a comics. One the one hand, we can naturally record what we’ve been through; exaggerate some parts to make it dramatic and interesting. Even for the details that is hard to express by words. On the other hand, we thought it would be useful for future freshmen to choose their ideal ESEM classes.


The film starts by a series of black and white pictures with various themes, representing the diverse topics that we’ve covered in this semester. The pictures as well as the music accompaniment accelerates as time goes by, which represents we were more and more captivated by the topics, more and more involved in the discussion and the our finding of how the world exist become more and more unbelievable.

The second scene was about one of the unique characteristics of our class: the longest name ever. We wanted to show the complexity of the name, like what we told people in daily life when they asked about it, by messing up the names in various ways.

Thirdly, we took a scene about our reaction and initial confusion at the beginning of the class. It was awkward to ask people to do so because so many things have happened and changed during the last 3 months. While we can still see people’s constrain on the first day of the class from the video. Also, the awkward feeling that everyone experienced while shooting this scene was the best evidence of our evolvement and change.

Then, we captured another funny but real thing that everyone had gone through: finding Serendip. It took only 2 seconds for me to open this website just now, but at first, it really took like forever to try numerous likely versions of websites, eventually got to some weird ones and even became desperate. Since this is an important composition of our class and co-construction, we decided to make it as a part of the film.

After that come the most interesting and funny part: meeting with Paul in Park. By acting and shooting ourselves at Park, we wanted to show how confused the building was and how much effort we’ve paid to try to get to Paul’s office. We wanted to make it feel like a real movie so it was actually hard to be an actress. I could not redo what other people did and it was really awkward to hold a camera, crazily running in a confusing building while loudly speaking to myself. I felt so different when a video was actually shooting at me and it was even more embarrassed when I was eventually seen by someone who didn’t know what I was doing. While luckily, after several attempts, we were happy to see we did better than we imagined. This part was even better when music was added to show that time passed very quickly.

A series of questions that have been raised in the class were shown after that. Was anything real? How do we know? What influences change? Are we all just stories? Why are we like we are? What is purpose? Can we live without competition? How does our conscious affect our unconscious? Does everything influence us? What is the purpose of conscious? Is change all we have?

At last, we shoot another scene in the real class, indicating after many meetings, after taking deep thinking more than we’ve ever done, after finally reconciled with our brain, where are we now, how we are different from the beginning. We also made a dramatic scene about how students and Paul left the classroom at last. With the comparison between the second scene (we walked into an empty classroom) and the last scene (we walked out of the classroom), we wanted to show that after a certain period of time, the classroom is still classroom. We are just part of the story that existed in the classroom, existing in the universe.


It was really an interesting thing to come up with these ideas. Transform what we formed in our head into reality. In addition, I enjoyed working with other people as a group, trying various ways to work efficiently while getting to know more about each other. I haven’t really learnt about every detail procedure of editing a film on a computer now, but I got a general idea. Also, it was extremely rewarding to put it on Youtube and see the click rate gradually going up: it’s not only for the evolvement of individual, neither was it for our class. It was for the society and the world as a whole. And that is the theme of our class.



MC's picture

Turtles All the Way Down Final Project

Our group didn't have a script really, just a general sense of what we wanted to say. We let our turtles and questions do most of the talking. The questions we had in the turtles were all questions that were brought up in Anne's  class or on the forum, but they were only a smattering of those available. We organized them by unit into the three turtles, with the brain being the top turtle, the individual in the middle turtle, the universe being the bottom turtle, and culture split between the middle and bottom turtles.

Your questions were:

Can we learn to control our unconscious minds?

What happens to someone when they die? Does their interpretation and story continue in others?

Consciousness and unconsciousness: which oen is more powerful?

What is evolution?(x2) Does evolution equal to change?

How can we extend the thinking out of the ESem?

Are our lives all about stories?

How can we qualify life?

Is there truth?

What is reality? Do we even exist? Aaaaah

Is there anything everyone can agree is wrong or right?

Why do we live?

Is there objective [something illegible, sorry! There were some l's and a y in the second word though]

Why am I the way I am?

When is someone right?

What is mindfuck?


What came first? Egg or chicken?

How do I make sense of myself?

If everything is a story, is anything real?

Why turtles? Why not rabbits all the way down?

Who is "I"? Am I "we"?

What is The Answer?

Can we survive with only unconsciousness?


Keep asking questions, because even though we only seem to get more questions, having questions and being able to make them at all is better than none.

LAJW's picture

Group Final Performance: Music and Evolution


Our group final performance is about music and evolution. Hence, each of us decided to use a very entertaining way to express our understanding of evolution and our course. For my part, I wanted to sing a song in a foreign language and ask the audience what their first impression was. Actually, I can just play the song online. However, in order to make our presentation more interesting and engaging. I decided to sing the song myself. However, I was really nervous at first and theoretically did not know what I was doing. However, I managed to get encouragement for each one of you. Thanks everyone for your understanding. You are really fantastic listeners. I think I need to build up my confidence too. This is the area that I need to improve next time.

The purpose of choosing this song since this song has a very smooth and joyful melody. For Chinese people who can understand the lyrics, this song expresses the happiness of a girl who fall in love. However, my American peers may have the different interpretations of this song by just listening to the melody. I think this is due to the different cultural backgrounds we have and of course our magical brain. Haha, I am really interested in the study of brain. I list down my script and the link of the song that I performed today below.

Everyone, what is your first impression of this song? Do you have the feeling of happiness after hearing this song? Does this song remind you of your first love at high school? Or do you have feelings other than love and happiness? Actually various kinds of feelings are formulated by the unconscious part of our brains. The pleasing effect of melodies and harmonies are mediated by personal as well as our cultural preference. It has been said that individuals are greatly influenced by the tones found in their native language which in turn influence their native music. This may imply that individuals raised in different cultures have brains which are 'wired' to respond to different harmonic contours and lines . Similarly, varying neuronal connections would theoretically dictate which lines are thought to be organizable and anticipated by the brain. Hence, the emotions provoked would also vary based on the fulfillment of the anticipated harmony. As such, it could be that melodies are first processed, at the same time they are remembered, and finally organized to produce an emotional response based on the fulfillment of anticipatory harmonic balance. However, no matter what kind of cultural background we have, all of us possess the ability of interpreting music. Hence, Music is considered as a platform for cultural interaction and evolution.

The link of song:

Lyrics in Chinese:






















































English Translation:


If there is one day

I return to the past

I'm back to the original me

Would you still feel good about me


If there is one day

I am far from you

I can not meet you any more

You will find I have already said goodbye


When you are smiling

When you are drinking Coke

when you are disappointed

I would like to treat you well

You would never know

I keep thinking of you

and it has become my hobby


When you are telling your troubles

When you are telling me that you can not fall asleep tonight

I would like to tell you

But I am afraid of saying wrongly

I like you very much

Do U know about it?


If there is one day

Dreams come true

Memories have become forever

Can you still remember today


If there is one day

Both of us found out that

We can do whatever we can

Do we still stop there?


Maybe emptiness let me think too much

Maybe I should go back to sleep

I will meet you in my dream

Without hesitation

I want to tell you loudly that


When you are smiling

When you are drinking Coke

when you are disappointed

I would like to treat you well

You would never know

I keep thinking of you

and it has become my hobby


La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la

I would like to tell you

But I am afraid of saying wrongly

I like you very much

Do U know about it?

La la la ~~~La la la la la



Valentina's picture

Esem Video

Well, well, it's all over now. I guess not really all of it since I'm still writing on Serendip (I really don't think it's as bad as I said in the video) and we still have two papers (or one paper and a reflection) due in a portofolio, but we did in fact have our last class and it was an interesting one at that.

For our presentation, we chose to make a point of not as much the material we covered in class, but how we lived the material- how we evolved and created our own culture in doing so. The video was full of inside jokes, for example the haul to Paulie G's (another inside joke) office, and other aspects that made our Esem as great as it was. A big thank you to Kayla for all her editing! 

Anyways, as for all the presentations, doing them together showed me something I didn't expect- that we learned the same thing in both classes. Though we do not emphasize the "turtles all the way down" the way they did, I was surprised to see the other class talk about all the material we had talked about... as if I had expected their experience to be TOTALLY different than ours. Kind of makes me think we had less of an impact on our learning than I thought. Maybe the individual really doesn't effect the culture. Jk jk. ;)

I guess, in conclusion, I'm really thankful that I ended up in the Esem with the super long name and feel priviliged to have met such intelligent young (and some older, haha just kidding Julie) women to share this experience with during our first semester in college. As for Paul, you're not done with me yet! See you next semester in Neuro... (long name too, I'm not typing it)!

ecollier's picture

First Performance: Witty Title Forgotten

Paul's script for the skit by Angela Allard, Eva Collier, Illana Mittleman, and Carolina Parra:

Stories - Welcome to ESem section 21… call me Paul-y G. or P-Grobes. Everything is a story.  All science, history, memories are tales we tell.  In Thomas King’s novel, he notes that all of history is a story.  The truth about stories is that that’s all we are. How do these stories intersect, affect one another?  That’s what this ESem wants to explore.  We are about to embark on a story ourselves.  

Biological evolution - Evolution is a story. What one has always learned as truth is a narrative story in the creation of universe. The leading story is descent with modification. The way the universe was created according to this story involves a zero-sum game, but remember it is still just a story.

Cultural evolution - The individual changes the culture and the culture changes the individual simultaneously. But, the change that occurs cannot be totally controlled because many things occur randomly and without choice. And while this cultural change and individual change is constantly going on, all there is, is evolution.

Randomness - There is no answer to why things happen. Once the answer is found more questions will rise. Everything at its core is randomness and everything moves towards randomness. One may ask many questions but still the answer is randomness. We should move away from stability as an answer because nothing in the world in stable. We will always know more but never everything.

Reality - There is no truth and there is no reality. We have no way of ever knowing anything. Everything is relative; it is just up to us to make interpretations. There is no such thing as everything. We tend to think that reality is the prototype of the schema, but that is only a construction of the brain.

Morality - There is nothing intrinsically wrong or right. What is wrong or right to you is only a construction of your brain. Therefore, morality to each individual only exists in their own reality.  And by trying to understand each other’s own realities and finding commonalities, we can work to become progressively less wrong. You can never be absolutely right or have an absolute truth, but you can continue to work towards being less wrong.

Conscious/unconscious brain - The subconscious part of the brain is much larger than the conscious. When something happens, bits of the unconscious brain are altered for the conscious brain to make sense of later. When a memory is recalled, the conscious brain is putting these bits together and creating a story. Similarly, the brain makes sense of ambiguous figures. Time, causal relationships and meaning are a result of the relationships between subconscious and conscious brain. Also, there is no way of knowing if those around you are conscious.

Stories - The truth is, that reality doesn’t exist.  We only have our perception of reality.  Our ESem class has been a story that we created together through co-constructive dialogue.  I’ve evolved, you’ve evolved, we’ve evolved.  In the end, the truth about stories is that’s all we are.   It’s all we have; it’s all we’ve been.  It’s been a great class.  Thank you very much.  


mwechsler's picture

Here's My Slam Poem!

 I realize now that it doesn't have a title...oh well. Sorry I was so nervous ladies (and Paul)! Thanks for being so welcoming. Here it is:

It started with index cards, spread out on the bed, pink and lined with the future spreading out past their cardboard edges on to the sheets and off them into the weeks ahead. It seemed so random, random that’s something Paul used to talk about, but we’ll come back to that later, he told us that too, we’ll get back to it later. 

Look, the point is I was picking a freshman writing a seminar and I was ranking all 27 options with pros and cons and they were stacked into no piles and yes piles and maybe piles like this was the only fucking thing that mattered that summer, like I wasn’t scared to leave, like my grandfather wasn’t dying, like a brother I realized I didn’t know wasn’t suddenly home, on the couch again, like nothing had changed since I was eleven years old.  Those piles meant I was calm and confident and logical and dealing with things responsibly. They meant I was ready to get the hell out of a green house that had always been blue and off to a big stone castle in pennsylvania. 

It was my second choice out of three, neither spectacularly lucky, nor miserably unfortunate. It had the longest title of any other seminar.


we were sitting in that room day after day creating, building, sticking together with glue a community and an understanding and a language and a culture.


Knowledge, perception, comprehending

Of Ourselves.

Belonging to, our very own, in a place where I had nothing, where even my things weren’t mine because they had been stripped vulnerable and bare of their contextual meaning, in a place completely unfamiliar and more terrifying than I could have ever admitted we were making something that was ours, something we could keep, so on those stupid homesick nights when I was digging into the sheets for sleep, I could wrap my arms around our conversations, tangle them up with my fingers into knots, some I could untie, and some I couldn’t but that was okay, because hey, we were coming back to that, Paul promised.

In an Evolving Universe

Because we were all changing, we’re still all changing, and Paul said most of that change was random, and I couldn’t undo that knot for the longest time. I’m not as open minded as I say, I was taking scissors to the fibrous mess that was our class, I was cheating and trying to get away without learning, but I changed. Because that’s what you do instead of giving up when you’ve tried every other loop hole, poking your head through desperately searching for the other side of getting this. This class had no loop holes. You had to break yourself a thousand times, lay out the pieces and suture them back together carefully like maybe this time would be the last time until the following week when someone said something that made you wrap around yourself clinging to the pieces like fucking please I just got finished figuring this all out. We never let each other be finished, we pushed and we pulled and we unraveled seams until no one could say they hadn’t changed their mind at least once. Hell, our class modo was mind fuck. We were proud of it, proud to have tortured one another into frustrated reality questioning morality denying cynics. 

An Experiment

It sure fucking was. I mean it seemed like half the time no one knew what the class was even about and people would ask me and I couldn’t answer. And that was a knot I had to learn to leave tangled. My fingers stroking these filaments of thought, letting them be, letting them twine and complicate and enrich me with the infinite possibility for intricacy they contained. 

In Open-Ended 

I know that I started off closed and ended open and if that needed to happen without a road map that’s okay by me. I could spend a few hours a week blind, driving down the high way at full speed, a passenger I didn’t know whispering directions through white noise and yes that is a metaphor that doesn’t really make sense, and yes that is how I felt at times and yes, feeling like that was an experience I wouldn’t trade back. 


Which is linguistic terminology, just so you all know, it means finishing someone’s sentence, like walking into their brain and pulling their ideas out and spreading them around on the carpet until they’re something everyone could touch, could share, like staring across the table in the basement of dalton hall and realizing finally that even though you’ve never been able to hear this person before you can predict exactly, in that moment, what they are about to say, because you grew together in the same way from one itching, bursting towards the sunlight, picture on our classes website, seed. I guess it’s over folks, where do you think it’s gonna lead?  


LAJW's picture

Enjoy your performance a lot.

 It is really a well written piece. Excellent!!

Sarah Ann's picture

A look inside the minds of the members of an evolving system...


Here's the script from our final performance (Prianna Pathak, Karina Siu, Summer Han, Sarah Bristow). A lot of it was ad-libbed (at least on my part) and we all came up with our own real thoughts from these situations. (Thank you Prianna for typing up the script!!!)

It's been a lovely journey, everyone. Thank you all so much!!!

Emily Balch Seminar Performance

Scene 1

Summer: Hey Sarah! What ESEM are you in?

Sarah: I’m in…something about me…and the universe?


                                                FIRST CLASS -Karina

Scene 2- each student stands up and talks about their initial feelings towards the class






                                                TWO DAYS LATER-Karina

Scene 3

Prianna: hey did you guys write your forum paste and paper yet?

Summer and Sarah look confused.


                                                FIRST POST AND PAPER-Prianna

Scene 4

Sarah: talks about her initial reactions to writing a forum posting

Summer: talks about her initial reaction to writing her paper


                                                FIRST CONFERENCE-Summer

Scene 5

Prianna: Sorry I’m late Anne! I almost got hit by a car trying to cross that busy road at rush hour .

Anne: Don’t worry about it! Have a seat.

Prianna Sits

Anne: This conference is for you. I want to learn alittle more about you and learn what your goals for this year are. What do you hope to achieve from this course and how might it help you towards the rest of your college experience?

Prianna: ….Um…to tell you the truth I don’t know


                                                TYPICAL CLASS DISCUSSION-Sarah

Scene 6

Anne reads Bingquing’s post about human nature

Summer: I don’t agree. I think people are born good not evil!

Anne: What is evil?

Prianna: Well in Parable of the Sower I think the addicts are evil. I mean they’re burning down housse and killing people with out any good reason, unlike lauren who is killing people to protect her friends and herself.

Sarah: talks about perspective and situation

Summer: Are they evil for choosing to use the drugs then?

Prianna: we just keep raising more questions instead of answering them!

Summer: Its turtles all the way down!


                                                FINAL CONFERENCE-Summer

Scene 7

Anne: What are you writing about for this week’s essay?

Prianna: Well iw as thinking because I may continue with psych next yeartaht I would continue looking into the brain, more specifically the unconscious mind, and its role in education. I would cover topics such as how we can use it more effectively in both teaching and learning. How teachers can utilize their creative unconscious so as not to diminish the students creativity and use their intuition more.

Anne: You seem to be really invested in this topic, it sound great!


                                                FINAL POSTING AND PAPER-Prianna

Scene 8

Sarah: talks about her experience with final posting

Summer: talks about her experience with final paper


                                                FINAL CLASS REFLECTIONS-Karina

Scene 9-each student talks about what they’ve learnt from the class





Julie G.'s picture

Evolution in Song

It's incredibly weird that ESem is ending. In many ways it has sustained me this semester. All of the performances this afternoon provided such great insight, representation, and fodder for thought about our individual and collective journeys. I was blown away with all the creativity.

Okay. Our group decided to try and perform the segments of evolution that we've studied this semester in song. We each took a section and interpreted the prompt in our individual ways. Genesis sang her creation story in Spanish; I sang a song about Universal, Physical, and Biological evolution; Aijingwen sang a song in Chinese to portray cultural difference in language, but similarity in music; and Christine sang/rapped about her individual evolution in our ESem class. In the end we were going to present streams of consciousness, or pre-meditated thoughts on perceptions and consciousness to background music (vocal repetitions of "Evolution") in order to represent the final section, but we ran out of time!

Thanks for sharing all of your stories with me, and for letting me share mine with you. I have new ones now.


I haven't written sheet music, but here are the lyrics for my song if you are interested:


13.7 billion years ago,

Matter just exploded with a mighty blow.

The universe began as a bunch of gas;

Overtime it formed into larger mass.


About nine billion years

Down the line,

Our solar system started to refine.

‘Course it just consisted of a bunch of rocks:

Newly formed planets that were piping hot!


The Earth

Cooled down,

Bacteria started to grow.

But don’t get too excited,

We’ve barely even started:

This was still 4 billion years ago!


Roughly three-thousand million years later on,

Soft-bodied creatures started to be formed.

A third of the Earth’s surface was now continent.

Everything was changing relatively quick!


In the space of seven-hundred million years

There were five times that several species disappeared;

Biology transformed in seventeen new ways;

Geology underwent nine clear phases!


AND then

The dinosaurs

Had their three eras:

Triassic and Jurassic,

Then extinction in thalassic

Saw the end of the Cretateous


Then 13 billion

Six-hundred and thirty-five million

Years after

The universe was formed

Our era was born.


A mere five million years after that date

Saw the birth of the mammalian primate;

As Darwin would later speculate

They’re our grandparents with a lot of greats!


But it wasn’t until

Fifty-nine mil-

Lee-on, nine-hundred thousand years on

That the greatest thing

Happened in history:

The modern human was born!


In a hundred thousand years we’ve come so far,

We have complex societies and fancy cars!

Surely we’re the best in the universe?

But Schröedinger says this is all a farce!


Because everything is random:

Sub-particles do not move in tandem.

Man cannot seem to command them.

So what do we do?

Are we all just a fluke?

Could we just disappear in the blue?

We don’t really know. It’s up to you!


Aimee's picture

Final Performance: Kirsten Johnson and Aimee Heerd

 The Truth About Stories: Aimee’s Mad Lib



There is a story I know. It’s about the   _______________________ and

                                                                   (#1: a planetary object)


how it   _____________________         on the  ______________ of  a/n  _______

          (#2: 3rd person singular verb)                   (#3: A body part)            (#4: animal)


…And the  ____________________ never _____________________

                  (#5: same animal as #4)        (#6: 3rd person singular verb)


away. One time…a/n ________________ girl…asked about the  

                                      (#7: adjective)      


______________________ and the _______________________. If the   

(#8: Same animal as #4/5)          (#9: Same as #1.) 


_________________ was on the ________________  of  a ________________, what   

(#10: Same as #1/9)              (#11: Same as #3)        (#12: same as #4)


was ___________________ the ____________________? Another

         (#13: preposition)          (#14: same as #4/12)



________________________…And ________________ that ___________________?   

(#15: same as #4/12/14)                      (#16: preposition)   (#17: same as #4/12/14)



Another _________________________…The girl began to ___________ …So  

              (#18: same as #4/12/14/17)                                  (#19: verb)


how many ____________________________ are there? she wanted to know. 

                   (#20: plural of 4/12/14/17/18)



No one knows for sure…but it’s ________________ all the way down.

                                                       (#21: same as 20)


Kirsten's Mad Lib:



No more __________________. But then who will ___________ for

               (#1 noun, plural)                                         (#2 verb)


us? Who will ______________ for us? Who will remind us of our relationship

                        (#3 verb)


with the  _______________? Who will _____________ us our ________________?

                   (#4 noun)                             (#5 verb)                      (#6 noun, plural)


The one about the ___________ and the _______________, for instance.

                                  (#7 noun)                 (#8 noun, plural)


_________ it. It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Tell it to your

(#9 verb)


__________________. Turn it into a ___________. __________ it.

(#10 noun, plural)                            (#11 noun)         (#12 verb)


But don’t say in the years to come you would have __________________ your

                                                                                (#13 verb, past tense)


differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve _____________________

                                                                                 (#14 verb, past tense)


it now.




Erin's picture

Final Performance

Final performance by Bingqing Li, Yihua, Xia, Tiannan Zhan and Yiran Zhang

Evolutionary change over the courses:

1. Bi-parts of Brian

a.       the expression of emotion

        The emotion is first formed in the unconscious part of the brain, where a cluster structure, underneath the cortex furrow, controls human beings’ mood, appetite and emotion

b.       wondering about the meaning about the existence

Why am I here? You want advanced education. Why do I want advanced education?  Because you want to realize your dream. What role does the education play in the process of reaching the dream? It is self-betterment. Where is the motivation for self-betterment? The circumstances influence you. How does this circumstance form? 

Turtles all the way down. We never reach the end of questions.

2. The evolution in the culture about Chinese student studying abroad and individual choices

(PowerPoint about the history of Chinese student and take us as individual examples)

3. Biological aspects of evolution

Who am I? à You are human beings. Where are human beings from? à Evolving from monkey. How does the evolving process happen? à Through the natural selection. What is the initial state of living beings? à Prokaryotic cells which are gradually transformed from iorganic matters. Where did the iorganic matters come from? à From the universe. How did universe start? à The big Bang.

4. The big bang

a. Olivia’s versions of Brains

Our brains are formed of

two separate parts

one is consciousness

and another is unconsciousness-(wait)

Unconsciousness makes decision(s) before reasoning

Then consciousness choose(s) the opposite

(Which is the real “I”)

education, medication, interaction(s) between the two

cause our bi-part brain to change-change!

 b. the big bang theory theme song



Anne Dalke's picture

"a conversation about change that in turn changed us"

Our section did a "brain drain" today on "evolving systems."
Here are the terms that emerged:

stories, parts, confusion
change, space, Karina
conversation, enthalpy (thermodynamics; movement of/change in energy), movement
Serendip, biomes, caribou moss
monkey, universal, impermanence
humans, storytelling, change
change, non-individual, collective
change, growth, turtles
brain, biology, the world
eternal ("never stop changing"), model, direction
change, progress, dynamic
change, unstopping, uncontrollable
time, organize, sequence

Then a few more phrases emerged out of our conversation about these terms:
inevitable (?)
random, self-organizing, possibilities
subconscious/conscious improvement in our writing
"a conversation about change that in turn changed us"
recognizing the tension between the infinity (of the world & our stories about it)
and the finiteness of any given story we might tell
"getting more comfortable with uncertainty"
questions--> questions--> questions
"a mental workout: an exercise in abstraction," achieved
"by putting concepts in different contexts/environments"