We dream we are separate, lonely individuals. It's time to wake up.
Every morning, I wake into a dream that you and I are separate
I dream that I am a lonely individual, desperate to make a mark on this world.
To do something, to get somewhere, to be someone, to be loved and not alone.
Yet something nudges me in my sleep, and I open my eyes for a second
I see us.
I see that I am part of something so much bigger than me.
In the underland of the hardwood forests of Oregon’s Blue Mountains there exists a honey fungus, Arillaria solidipes, that is two and a half miles in extent at its widest point, and covers a total lateral area of almost four square miles…
The best guess that US Forest Service scientists have been able to offer for the honey fungus’ age is between 1,900 and 8,650 years old.
The fungus expresses itself above ground as mushrooms with white-flecked stems rising to tawny frilled cups.
(From Robert MacFarlane’s Underland)
We are Tao, we are God, we are everything flowing together.
We are white-flecked mushrooms dreaming we are alone, oblivious to the four-mile, 8000-year-old super-mind that nourishes and connects us.
Something nudges me in my dream.
Asleep, I read about the Wood Wide Web
Scientists used to think of forests as war-zones between competing lonely individuals.
Now, they realize that trees interconnect and communicate with each other through fungi that grow around their root.
Trees of all different species plug into this fungal network to share resources and information.
Can you say there is a separate organism called a ‘tree’, and another called a ‘fungus’?
One of the scientists who pioneered the study of the Wood Wide Web, Suzanne Simard, writes:
The fungi and trees have forged their duality into a oneness, thereby making a forest.
We tell ourselves a story of separate individuals competing…but this is just a story, a dream.
You are not a separate individual. You are everything and nothing.
Robert MacFarlane writes in Underland:
We are coming to understand our bodies as habitats for hundreds of species of which Homo Sapiens is only one, our guts as jungles of bacterial flora, our skins as blooming fantastically with fungi…
The work of the radical biologist Lynn Margulis and others has shown humans to be not solitary beings, but what Margulis memorably called ‘holobionts’ — collaborative compound organisms, ecological units ‘consisting of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that coordinate the task of living together and sharing a common life’, in the philosopher Glenn Albrecht’s phrase.
It’s not just living beings that make up part of the holobiont. So do the minerals and gases and photons pouring in and out of us every millisecond.
Our tools shape us too. The metal pole inside my leg is now a part of me. So are the fillings in my teeth.
So are the contact lenses I put in every morning. And the social media sites I log into every day.
This blog connects us, like an underground network of mycelium, and shapes us both into one organism. It connects you to people you have never and perhaps will never meet. We pass resources and information along it.
Here’s Alan Watts, the poet laureate of holobionts:
We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms.
Most of us have the sensation that “I myself” is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body — a center which “confronts” an “external” world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange.
Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. “I came into this world.” “You must face reality.” “The conquest of nature.”
This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences.
We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.”
Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.
This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.
Just consider, for a second, that we are tiny leaves on an enormous tree, and that enormous tree is a tiny leaf on an even more enormous tree, and so on.
We are the ecosystem of the planet, and the planet is part of the ecosystem of the galaxy, and the galaxy is part of the ecosystem of the universe, and…we can’t see any further yet but who knows what enormous tree on which the universe will turn out to be a tiny leaf.
Sometimes, when one’s heart is very open, one can have a glimpse of this extraordinary interconnected web. And realize how deeply connected we are, how illusory our sense of separate individuality is.
It’s scary to realize, because we want nothing more to be in control, to be effective and be OK. To be worth something. To be safe and contained.
That’s what our family and education and society train us to want.
How worthwhile am I? Am I doing OK?
But that’s a trick. That is an exhausting lie.
We are much much bigger than that, once we let go of the individual illusion.
We can learn to relax and trust the wisdom of the Tao. It is far far bigger and far far smarter than we are.
Let go of that anxious story for a second, rest and sit by me. Don’t worry, you can pick it up again shortly. Just sit here for a while and enjoy the day.