“A synaptic map of the brain.”
“Social media pathways on the Internet.”
“A spider web. If the spider had taken acid.”
The program director waited as each volunteer gave their interpretation of the sprawling diagram being displayed in the research center’s conference room.
“A force much more powerful than any robot overlords we unleash.”
The director prompted, “Go on.”
“Mycelium. The subterranean threads that weave life. The network that links the underland. Fungi. The Wood Wide Web.”
That answer is how I got here. Buried, but far from dead.
I’d been sunk into the ground deep in the Hoh Rain Forest where I’d not be disturbed, except by mycelia. That was the hope which goes a long way in explaining the craziness of the plan. Volunteering to be buried alive.
Not my physical self. That was in a very sterile lab in Olympia, ostensibly doing very well by doing very little, or so the lab monitoring systems reported. No, my flesh wasn’t six feet under. My consciousness was.
For decades we’d been waiting for the singularity. Uploading our ethereal selves into a promised digital land. But, here I was downloaded into the analog underland. My mind melding with mushrooms. The fungilarity.
This was no psilocybic psychedelic trip. I was the program’s first hyponaut, my consciousness inserted into the mycelia of one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. to tap into taproots, sound the soil, and mosey along the myriad subterranean networks that connected all manner of flora, from towering trees to microscopic mushroom spores.
A heady responsibility and a mega headtrip as well. Good thing my head was on ice in a lab. A very good thing because I was discovering how much unnecessary baggage that skull of mine carried.
Yes, humans are social. We crave connections. We search for those forever friends and soul mates, looking to form bonds that transcend–whatever. But, you see, what I really discovered down here in the underland, untethered from my physical form, is that humans have been soul searching in the wrong place. We’ve been raising our eyes and hopes upward, to the heavens, to the celestial depths, when the core of our being is right at our feet, below and within our simple earth. An earth that has been patient with us, even as we smother it.
Now, I was in it, rooted to its roots, connected as no human consciousness had ever been before and all humankind’s fears and myths of inner earth being the domain of the dead were wrong. Dead wrong. Every fiber of the underland was about life. Life bound together and dependent. A true system of survival and revival.
Fungi were among the first organisms to return to the atomic blast site of Hiroshima. From mushroom clouds to mushrooms. That is our way out, to dig deeper, into our earth, into our hearts, into the real soul of our being. If we no longer try to simply bury our mistakes, we can unearth our true potential. Not just as human beings, but as fellow beings.
Partners for life.