An invisible fungal network that benefits all.
A few years back, I stumbled upon this very interesting idea of an invisible force, a dense intelligent network, underneath the soil of every forest that interconnects and supports all the trees. I’m not talking about roots. I’m talking about fungi. Under each forest, is a complex fungal network that hooks into the root systems of trees, breaks down minerals in the soil and sends nutrients to the trees in exchange for sugar. Sugar the fungi need to stay alive. But, this is more than a sugar/nutrient exchange. This fungal system or mycelium network is a sentient organism, a vast information-sharing network that is aware, reactive to change, has the long term health of the forest in mind, and devises enzymatic and chemical responses to challenges. When a tree is in trouble and under attack by a nasty parasite, it can send a signal to the network and the network will pass this SOS to neighboring trees so they can protect themselves against the invader. When a tree is suffering and dying, other trees will send it nutrients through the network. It is the incredible, wise, completely invisible system that is constantly exchanging and sharing resources. Without the mycelium network, most trees wouldn’t be able to grow more than about six feet. That is astonishing to me. A tree can’t be a tree without this network of nutrients. The mycelium network is so tiny and dense that in one cubic inch of soil it can be stretched out to eight miles of fungi. Eight miles. In Oregon one mycelium web is thought to be 2,400 years old, extend for over 2,000 acres and weigh over 660 tons. It is a strange concept to consider. Fiber optic fungal internet cables, under the ground, disseminating information, sending warning signals, all from miles away. Trees that brutally compete for precious canopy space above ground are known to share nutrients underground. The forest can only survive if it is diverse in its species and works as a whole organism. If a bunch of trees die at once there are big gaps in the canopy and the entire ecosystem changes. They have to share. They have to protect each other. There is something so beautiful about this idea right now, this idea of being interconnected and sharing resources. Most human right now are starved for connection. We want to help. We want to share. Wouldn’t it be interesting to act as if the “wood wide web” as they fondly call the mycelium network, was above ground, connecting all humans together. To imagine that, right now, there are a multitude of tiny, invisible, energetic strings connecting you to millions of people all around the world. And whatever strength or excess you have in this moment, could be shared with the network to find the person who needs it. And, in return, whatever you need, whatever deficiency you are feeling in this moment, would then be shared with you. Imagine the healing. Imagine the impact. The interdependence of strangers, mutually helping each other. I can’t stop thinking about this concept…. trees are already doing this and have been doing it for millions of years. what if….. we could do it too?
Now, take a moment for a little visualization exercise:
If you are lucky, you can look out a window and spot a tree. Some of us don’t have this privilege, instead, imagine a tree in your backyard, neighborhood, or park. One that you know and have seen through the seasons. It can be a tree from your childhood memories, too. Now, ask yourself what strength could I give this tree? What do I have in excess that can be shared? Imagine sending that strength to the tree. Then imagine it receiving your strength. Now, imagine asking the tree for what you need. What are you deficient in right now? And imagine the tree or trees in it’s network are sending you exactly what you need right now. You could expand this into the earth, what strength can you share to the earth and what do you need from the earth? Or humanity, what strength can you share for all of humanity, then imagine strangers who need it are receiving your strength. In return, what do you need from humanity right now? Then imagine strangers in distant lands are sharing exactly what you need in the moment you need it. This process is an easy, visual way to remind ourselves, we are interconnected, we are interdependent, we actually have strengths that can be shared to the network and needs or deficiencies that can be fulfilled by someone other than ourselves. This exchange of goods and services is happening all day, underneath your every step. You might say, that, this same energetic network is exchanging goods and services, all day, above ground, invisible to ourselves but as real as the one underneath. And, we can share our strengths out into the world like a mini-signal and it searches and searches until it finds the stranger who needs it. And, we can ask for help, and it searches and searches and finds the stranger who can give it.
Now ask yourself again:
What are the strengths you can share with others?
What needs can others help you fulfill?