I listened to a brilliant podcast the other day. This one: the most recent offering from RadioLab, a podcast I don’t always listen to, but which never fails to fascinate when I do.
In short, it’s about trees, and you read that and you think, wow, trees? Really? Instant snore, and you’d be right, except the podcast isn’t really about trees, it’s about the magic behind trees. About how we (meaning you and me and the rest of the undereducated public) don’t actually know sharknado about trees.
So, with trees, there’s literal magic going on at the microscopic level, which should come as no surprise at all but it surprised the hell out of me. Turns out that trees are only able to become trees because they get a crazy amount of help. In fact, a tree on its own would never grow into a tree at all — it would only grow about knee high. But there’s this fungus that isn’t really what you think of when you think of fungus at all, and that fungus lives basically in all the dirt everywhere, and that fungus synthesizes and assimilates itself into the roots of a tree and turn it into a fargoing superhero.
But that’s not all: this fungus is not content just to piggyback on one tree like a remora swimming beneath a shark for a bit of mutual fin-scratching. This fungus is a hive-mind governmental distribution system. It can literally take excess nutrients from one tree and transfer them to another malnourished tree. It can detect distress signals from one tree and divert resources to other trees in the area. In some cases, it can even decide which trees get to live or die when resources become scarce.
And hearing about that, of course my brain kicked into overdrive a little bit, because the world is one big metaphor, right? Everything is connected, things always mean things. And if trees can only become trees by standing on the figurative shoulders of a literal fungus, then maybe there’s something in that about how everything in my life feeds my writing one way or another, or about how running is the glue that somehow drains me and energizes me all at once.
And those connections could be drawn, probably.
But sometimes it’s better to just let a thing be what it is.
I learned about a nearly miraculous situation which is happening literally underneath everybody’s feet, every second of every day. And I think today, that will be enough.
Are you listening to RadioLab? You should be!