I fell down a rabbit hole this week after taking a picture of mushrooms. River and I were returning from our walk when we came upon the magnolia tree in the front of the church. I saw amazingly shaped mushrooms in the pattern of a star. So I whipped out my phone and took a picture.
I thought there has got to be a pastor’s note in these mushrooms. That is when the rabbit hole swallowed me. For I started researching mushrooms. Don’t, I tell you don’t, google mushrooms and spirituality or you will enter a whole underworld of psychotropic mushrooms trips.
I don’t know what type of mushrooms these are that we have growing, but what I found fascinating is the researching being done on mycelium. Paul Stamet has written a book MYCELIUM RUNNING: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. He describes mushrooms as the internet of the natural world. The webs that are created by the underground, unseen part of the mushroom connect plants together providing and sharing nutrients, working to decompose the dying plant matter and providing the soil for new life to grow and flourish. Stamet’s in his research has discovered how mushrooms can actually save us, for they have some astounding capabilities. They provide a nutritious, high protein food and are a powerful medicine that has antibacterial, antiviral, and anticancer properties. Mushrooms abilities to break down tough compounds led him to the discovery that these mushrooms can be used to breakdown toxins in contaminated soil and to clean up oil spills. He has discovered that mushrooms can act as natural pesticides. They do this by in some instances killing the pest but also just their placement can draw pests away from certain areas. He is working on research to use mushrooms to neutralize small pox, anthrax, nerve gas, and HIV/Aids. Mushrooms can save the world.
So what started with me going, wow, that mushroom looks like a star, led me to find out about the amazing life and creation of a mushroom. From this marvelous creation we can learn about our place in being interconnected to those who are not like us and yet help to sustain us. There is this old growth forest in Oregon that is over 2000 acres and has an over 2000 years old fungi. This network seems invisible to the naked eye for it is woven together underground in ways that allow it to communicate and transport nutrients from one part to another. These fungi work quietly binding the plants together. But from the outside all we see is this fruit (the mushroom cap) which randomly appears here and there. We miss how these beautiful separate parts are tied together in a vast web of connection and are one organism.
We can a learn a lot from these mushrooms. We like to see ourselves as separate and disconnected from each other. Yet, if we take our faith serious, we are bound together in an interconnected web, the Holy Spirit, the piece of God that flows in and through us binding us to one another. If we took this connection seriously, how would this lead us to think about the people who aren’t part of our tribe, our nationality, our ethnicity, our race? Could we begin to think about the ways we are connected and need each other and not those boundaries and lines we have created that separate us?