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Mycelium Demonstrating Taoism by Jadene Mayla Fourman

Today began as I’d hoped it would, with work on my book about zombies. The raindrops only picked up after I had walked 2/3 of the way to Seven Virtues Coffee, and my $4 mug of mixed soy chai soothed my sleep-deprived body. I did research for 45 minutes, and then left to get to the yoga class I haven’t made it to in a month. I thought, this has got to be the day.

The rain had picked up since I’d started sipping chai, so I decided I was going to drive to yoga. Usually, yoga on Saturdays had been my weekly solace point. I’d ride up the foothills of Mount Tabor and arrive early to soak up the singular moments of calm in the studio before the owner’s sister launched into her typical explanation of basic asanas. Then I’d ride home up through the foothills again and not have to worry about my body (and mind) for the rest of the day. Driving seemed wrong, somehow, so when my car wouldn’t start, it was easy for me to switch gears and go directly into problem-solving mode without getting upset that I was going to miss another Saturday yoga class.

I asked for a quote from the shop and waited for a tow truck to show up. A former coworker had once been a tow truck driver, and he’d bequeathed to me a ripe wariness for tow truck drivers in general, having told me stories that involved surreptitious car stalking in the middle of the night. His three mag lights still reside in his possession, lined up like cell bars. The man who showed up smiled and “got” me immediately, something I have learned through healing from P.T.S.D. that certain zombies are too wound up in their own dramas to do at all. His cheeks were rosy, which seemed to say, ‘watch for fun’ despite the way things seem.

On the drive to the shop, I learned towing wasn’t his dream job, that he’d worked as an on-site property manager before his current job, and that unemployment disbursements had run out so he’d found the tow company. When he was ready to leave after dropping me and my van at the shop, he came into the lobby and shook my hand with another smile. I’d recognized that he was gay during the drive, and I smiled inwardly, which I wasn’t doing when my car wouldn’t start that morning.

My trusty roomie came to pick me up at the shop, and on the drive home I shared my experience with the tow truck driver. Somehow I began talking about mycelium, and then it hit me.

Paul Stametz 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 working on the Front Porch crew 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 lied 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.

Paul 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. In my roomie’s car, I had been talking about Taoism, reminding myself to go with the flow and not see the day’s turn of events negatively, since they weren’t done yet. In 2010, I decided that being a Taoist, which I’ve been since roughly 1996, was mainly about going with circumstances instead of resisting and judging them, since they were a part of a large orchestration that didn’t start at a specific point in time and didn’t particularly have an end either (read Alan Watts to really get into this stuff). It seemed to me today, when I happened to find myself in my roomie’s truck instead of the yoga studio, that mycelium are actually 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. Paul 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.

Today has given me insight into how to be a better Taoist by working with circumstances as if they are the architecture through which my experience is able to flow, that accepting the avenues that present themselves allows me to continue to move and thus grow, change, and evolve.

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 out of a living death 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.

Jadene Mayla is Scottish-Irish-Swedish, unmarried, a Permaculture Designer by education, and writes because she loves to connect ideas. In addition to writing about Landscape Architecture and related topics for her forthcoming book, she dances on a performance troupe, makes clothing on an old sewing machine in her basement, and generally loves to think up faux commercial ideas. She can be reached at: [email protected]

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