The Dao of Fungi
Spirituality as Collaborating with the Earth
This is an excerpt from the 3D documentary feature about Paul Stamets, renowned mycologist, author and visionary, on how mushrooms can save the world. The film is by Louie Schwartzerg, a time-lapse photographer whose works are included in several other JJB articles.
The documentary illustrates eight ideas that are important to those of us influenced by Process Theology and Daoism.
1. Creativity: There is creativity everywhere. Not just in human beings but also in the Earth and its animals and plants. In traditional Chinese philosophy we speak of this creativity as qi.
2. Collaborating: We can collaborate with the Earth's creativity by creating art, by building just and sustainable cities, by caring about one another, and by committing ourselves to the well-being of life. In doing so we dwell in harmony with nature.
3. The Dao of the Universe: When we collaborate with the Earth's creativity in these life-enhancing ways, we are responding in our way to a cosmic lure toward the well-being of life that is also in the fungi, and in the stars and planets. This lure toward life's well-being is the spirit of God at work in the universe. This spirit is the Dao of the Universe.
4. Relationality: The divine lure -- the Dao of the Universe -- beckons each creature, from within its own life, to realize its potential for the fulness of life. Fungi realize their potential in one way, and we humans in another, but we are both responding to the Dao of the Universe. And in both instances our response is relational: that is, it involves communicative relations with others. Fungi communicate, too. No fungus is an island, and no person is an island, either. We are part of a single family of life.
5. Goodness: A realization of our own full potential is a person's deep vocation: our life's calling. The calling is not to make money or achieve prestige or wield power over others; it is a calling to help others. It is to participate in what Paul Stamets calls "the spirit of goodness." This spirit of goodness, found in nature, is also beyond nature. It isthe Dao of the Universe.
6. Finding the Way: People can offer guidance for responding to this calling from wise people. For example, Christians gain guidance from Jesus who was, for them, the Dao of the Universe as expressed in love. Christians seek to walk in the Way of the universe by sharing in the journey of Jesus. Being guided by Jesus and being guided by the natural world can be two sides of a single way: "Consider the lilies of the field," says Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, "they neither toil nor spin, and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." He was advising his followers to learn from goodness wherever found, including the spontaneous creativity of plants.
7. Listening: If we listen carefully, we can hear nature speak. Listening is a metaphor for paying attention, for allowing ourselves to be touched by the communicative powers of nature. Nature does not speak in humanly designed languages, but in languages that have evolved over time. Science is one way of trying to understand how organisms communicate with each other, but the understanding requires more than observation and inference. It involves a sense of beauty, a humility in the presence of creativity beyond our own, a desire to dwell in creative rapport. Science is one way, and not the only way, of listening.
8. Sincerity: Each person has a way of helping enrich the well-being of life. It begins with a sincerity of heart: a willingness to relinquish cynicism and fear and say Yes to life. Paul Stamets is saying Yes to life. He finds the spirit of goodness in nature and he invites us to do the same. Is there any better calling?