Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Seeing and hearing are selective. We register what is needed at the moment and unconsciously ignore other input. It may seem that our eyes are like a camera and our ears are like microphones, objectively recording everything, but . . . our senses are not at all like those devices.
I am not so sure it is “we” who look back. The commemorating imagination seems to come alive on its own. We are not the sole instigators of remembering; memory seems to push itself on us.
Fungi are decentralized. They’re able to coordinate their behavior without anything resembling a brain. They can connect perception and action without having a special place to do so. The coordination somehow takes place everywhere at once, and also nowhere in particular.
As I strolled through a glide of water clear as air, my fisherman’s heart did a somersault when I sighted, not twenty feet away, two chinook salmon easily twenty times the size of the trout I’d been happily catching and releasing.
I suggest that morphogenetic fields work by imposing patterns on otherwise random or indeterminate activity. Morphogenetic fields are not fixed forever, but evolve. The fields of Afghan hounds and poodles have become different from those of their common ancestors, wolves. How are these fields inherited? I propose that they are transmitted from past members of the species through a kind of nonlocal resonance, which I call “morphic resonance.”
The revolution I would like to see is a devolution of agriculture. We have to let go of the notion of mass-producing food. It just doesn’t work. Cars and computers may lend themselves to mass production, but with food it has been a disaster. We have to revive small-scale food production and relearn the art of food processing, including fermentation, so we can stop relying on these huge and vulnerable food infrastructures.
Our mission, in both our business and our nonprofit, is to increase respect for the natural world. Creating more-sustainable products and processes is just an extension of that. To learn from nature, you have to become involved with what Wes Jackson calls the “deep conversation.” To learn how to take carbohydrates and water and turn them into a fiber as strong as steel, as a spider does, you go to a spider and respectfully ask, “How are you doing that?” Then you go and try to do it yourself. And when you fail — it’s very hard to do! — you go back to the organism and ask again.
A mycelial “mat,” which scientists think of as one entity, can be thousands of acres in size. The largest organism in the world is a mycelial mat in eastern Oregon that covers 2,200 acres and is more than two thousand years old. Its survival strategy is somewhat mysterious. We have five or six layers of skin to protect us from infection; the mycelium has one cell wall. How is it that this vast mycelial network, which is surrounded by hundreds of millions of microbes all trying to eat it, is protected by one cell wall? I believe it’s because the mycelium is in constant biochemical communication with its ecosystem.
How global warming will affect the fate of chinook salmon, and all that’s tied to them, is one of the many Gordian knots in natural history blithely dismissed by Americans still trying to pull Charles Darwin’s pants down.