A Whole World Alive

I recently heard Michael Pollan speaking on NPR’s Science Friday show about research into plants’ intelligence. He revealed how mycelium (the vegetative part of fungus) figures into communications among the trees of a forest. (We learned about mycelium earlier in Peter McCoy’s guest post on radical mycology.)

Hyphae (branches of the mycelium) as seen under an overturned log. Photo by TheAlphaWolf (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Hyphae (branches of the mycelium) as seen under an overturned log. Photo by TheAlphaWolf (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Pollan said:

“The trees in a fir forest are networked, in a very complicated network, held together by the mycelium of mycorrhizal fungi, connect(ing) all the trees in a fir forest. A scientist in British Colombia named Suzanne Simard has studied this. She injects a fir tree with radioactive carbon isotopes, and then using a geiger counter and other devices follows the trail of that carbon.

And what she’s found is astounding! All the trees are connected. They use that network to send information, such as warnings of insect attack. They use that network to send nutrients to their offspring…They can even use that network to trade nutrients with other species…”

Isn’t that miraculous? And I suspect that—as the Wendell Berry quote in my previous post implied—everyone and everything, everywhere, might be invisibly interconnected in a similar way.

If this is true, what harms one, harms all. What uplifts one, uplifts all.

Is this possible? Perhaps. On an energetic level. What I’m talking about is rising above the zero sum game that’s so indoctrinated in us. Making space to see that without all of us being OK, none of us are OK.

We lack instruments fine enough to fully measure the energy field surrounding us (and surrounding every natural thing, every boulder and ant and trout and evergreen, every human and tulip and mountain). But I believe that through this field we have an impact on each other, on the whole of life, every moment we live, whether we know it or not.

It isn’t possible to live apart from each other. Not truly. The web of life knits us one to another, even if we are unaware of its strands.

Photo by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, via Wikimedia Commons.

The ancient sages say that if you pull one thread in the web, the others vibrate.

Quantum physics … the mycelium … the Internet even—all are outer manifestations of this esoteric truth.

For a while now I’ve taken a few moments every morning to ground myself, feeling and seeing my “roots” going deep into the earth. Lately I find myself connecting not just vertically but horizontally, under the earth’s surface, with the mycelium.

There’s a whole world alive under our feet that we don’t usually see. So it is with our energetic world.

4 thoughts on “A Whole World Alive

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