As plants die back and the rains return in Autumn, fungi take the stage. The return of the Autumn rains awaken the slumbering mycelium, who stretch their hyphal networks through their respective substrates. In eager anticipation of the wild delicacies (and especially the mycorrhizal species like chantrelles, porcini, matsutakes, and Candy caps, which resist human cultivation as they grow only in association with certain tree roots), mycophiles and foragers hit the forests…raincoats, wool hats, cute little baskets and all.
Mushrooms have mystique. They are their own universe. Being a plant person, I was intimidated when I began learning about mushrooms. Structurally, they can resemble plants. But metabolically, they are more like animals—oxygen breathing, external-stomach-having, animalistic occupants of their own dikariotic kingdom. And throughout the centuries, certain cultures have been more mycophillic and mycophobic than others. Western Europe, for the most part, eschewed our fungal friends, whereas Asian societies embraced them for food and medicine for over 2 millenia (some sources say 4 or even 7 millenia). In the Western world, we’re beginning to befriend our fungal allies and, in the process, opening previously sealed doors of perception. Read more
The more I learn, grow, develop new skills, reach out to new groups, try to engage creative social change, I’m consistently reminded that most of our thinking and decision making is driven by unconscious processes. (One of the articulations of this is Buddha’s metaphor of the Elephant and the Rider—where the rational, conscious mind is the rider, and the elephant, the subconscious. A crude metaphor, yes. But the take-away is valuable—where the elephant goes, so does the rider. It’s why marketers, politicians, and anyone else that tries to persuade does so through engaging your deeper emotional being, despite their methods appearing so artless to our neocortex.) And I think this is a source of a lot of resistance to creative change and evoluation in groups, communities, and societies.
I was at mycology seminar this past weekend, and spent a minute or two considering ecological innovation in leading the way for subconscious thought transformation. The developments in mycology today are jaw-dropping—medicinal mushrooms and their ability to support immune system adaptation, mycelium to filter agricultural waste and water-born contaminants, bioremediation of petrochemicals & nuclear waste, mycopesticides. And I’m thrilled to be working so closely with them.