“What Have Fungi to Do with Athens?”: I’m at the University Bookman

“What Have Fungi to Do with Athens?”: I’m at the University Bookman October 23, 2023

and I promise that title is not the trippiest thing about this essay:

There are fungi that hunt their prey.

Fungi can communicate, trade, and defend. They reproduce sexually, fusing the little threads called “hyphae” with compatible threads from another fungus and mixing their genetic material. (“How the sexual attraction between truffle fungi plays out remains unknown.”) Fungi can eat dirty diapers, cigarette butts, neurotoxins, and radiation. If we want our planet to become a little less of, in Pope Francis’s pungent phrase, “an immense pile of filth,” fungi may be our only friends.

But these revelations—some heartening, many unsettling—are only the beginning of Merlin Sheldrake’s project in his delightful Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. Sheldrake is out to convince you not only that you’ve never really understood mushrooms, but that you’ve never really understood yourself. Halfway through this book, I found myself thinking, Wait—am I a lichen? Have I been a lichen this whole time?


Photo of mushrooms in autumn by Sandip Katel, via Wikimedia Commons and used under a Creative Commons license.

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