Mushroom guru Paul Stamets showed the first video ever of mycelium in action a year or two ago at the Oregon Country Fair. His laptop kept shutting down, and he rebooted five or six times before ending his presentation early. I had been building the Front Porch that year, and Paul’s talk was the one presentation I made it to at my camp’s booth, wandering by in the early evening on my way back to camp and realizing I’d happened to make it to the talk even though I’d forgotten about it from a full day of frolicking in the woods. I lay atop the numerous carpets and cushions we had spread under the canopies hung from the forest and watched little streams of material flow along the fungal network. Stametz had discovered from making the video that mycelium make a web of routes so that if there is a dead-end at any point along the network, the fungus always has an alternate way.
When my van wouldn’t start on a drizzly Saturday recently, I found myself at a mechanic’s shop instead of my yoga class. I thought about all the ways I could find meaning in the unexpected change in my schedule, and Taoism came to mind. The ancient eastern philosophy reminds us to go with the flow and not see the day’s turn of events negatively, since, as Alan Watts once said, they aren’t done yet. After studying and doing my best to live according to its principles, I have arrived at a sense that Taoism is mainly about going with circumstances instead of resisting and judging them, since they are a part of a large orchestration that didn’t start at a specific point in time and doesn’t particularly have an end either. It seems that fungal mycelium are directly demonstrating this principle.
What if circumstances provide the architecture for energy to flow through our lives and carry us somewhere? Under the colorfully lit nighttime canopy of Oaks and Vine Maples that night at the Country Fair, I’d reasoned that the streaming stuff within the fungal network of the mycelium was information of some kind, and that it had to move, but that it didn’t necessarily have a destination or end-point in mind.Stamets showed slides of the human brain next to the mycelial networks, and it appeared that the human neural network is practically the same as the mycelial one. In a macro/microcosm, the most mammoth principle can be seen in the smallest forms, and vice-versa.
Considering the events of that Saturday provided me with insight into new ways to work with circumstances as if they are the architecture through which my experience is able to flow, suggesting that accepting the avenues that present themselves will allow me to continue to move and thus grow, change, and evolve. Mycelium provide a striking visual example, thanks to the videography work of a mushroom pioneer.
In the larger scheme of things, if nothing else, evolution is certainly a prime goal, for we do not know what we are, regardless of what our science thinks this week, and we cannot see where we are headed, except that there is a path opening before us in every moment. We can live in a rut, retracing the same path until we move into the Great Mystery, or we can choose to see the beauty in the ever-changing structure which houses the immaterial substance at the core of our bioenergetic species identity, and go with it.