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Feb 22 2014

Fundamentals of Fungi: Red Caps (Plus a Rhapsody on the Universe)

After a week full of creationist crap, it’s time to relax with some lovely shrooms. These delights were happily growing in the new landscaping at work last fall. Here’s a lovely young button pushing up through the red leaf litter:

Mystery Fungi I

Mystery Fungi I

I don’t know whose genius idea it was to plant deciduous bushes in place of the grass – it looks rather stark in winter – but at least it’s given these shrooms a place to thrive.

Mystery Fungi II

Mystery Fungi II

Focusing so much on creationist crap lately has left me puzzled, frankly. Their god seems so… limited. I mean, you’ve got this all-powerful being, and it can’t set up a few fundamental rules and let the universe unfold, revealing undreamt-of complexity? Seriously? You’ve got to believe he poofed it all into existence in the blink of an eye? What a boring barstard you worship, there.

And what a dull view of the world. I mean, really. Look at these mushrooms.

Mystery Fungi III

Mystery Fungi III

I could get lost for hours, figuring out what we’ve discovered about them, puzzling out how and why they evolved their form and size and color. If I were more of a shroom woman than a geology buff, I could trace their lineage back through the billions of years, until I encountered a single little cell. The stories this one little fungus can tell about life on our world are staggering.

Mystery Fungi IV

Mystery Fungi IV

I could stare into that brilliantly-colored disc for the rest of my life, and never learn all there is to know about it.

A creationist? “God made it. Praise the Lord!”

Sad, sad, sad.

Mystery Fungi V

Mystery Fungi V

I’ve not found any gods outside of the human imagination. We of course can’t rule out the deist sort of deity, the one that came up with a few rules and set the universe in motion to continue creating itself – there’s a vague possibility such an entity exists, although it’s so vanishingly small and so surplus to requirements that I doubt even that. Still. That god is far more interesting.

Mystery Fungi VI

Mystery Fungi VI

The universe, unfolding incredible complexity from ultimately simple rules, is astounding. I’m frequently boggled by it. I look at these mushrooms in their stages from button to burst, and I’m delighted. I’m even more delighted that I live in an era when we’re figuring out so much. Being able to admire is awesome: being able to comprehend is sublime.

Mystery Fungi VII

Mystery Fungi VII

There was a time when I felt the numinous, when it seemed like there was a divine something-or-other around, and it was nice and rather exciting. It made me feel special, and the world was full of mysteries. But it blinded me to so much. I couldn’t see just how fascinating this really-real world is, because it was dismissed as “mundane.” Science seemed so restrictive with its rules and its insistence on proof, so sterile, without imagination. But that was only because my imagination had been confined by this fiction that the supernatural exists. Once I got past that, I discovered a world far more endlessly beautiful and extraordinary than I’d suspected existed. I found out that science isn’t where imagination goes to die: it sets it soaring. And I wouldn’t trade this. You could promise me ecstatic bliss, a sense of the divine that would make me deliriously happy for the rest of my existence, and I would decline it.

For all the pain, the struggle, and sometimes frustration, it’s far more rewarding to me to have those moments of breakthrough, those moments when I understand, and see, and know, real things.

I’ll never put myself back in a tiny god-box again.

Mystery Fungi VIII

Mystery Fungi VIII

I hope some of those folks who have been so stunted and confined by their indoctrination will eventually join me out here, and see a red-capped mushroom with brand-new eyes.

3 comments

  1. 1
    Al Dente

    Creationists don’t have a lot of respect for their own god. They look at one book, written, edited, translated, modified, revised, redacted and emended for centuries by different groups of people each with their own agendas, and decide it’s The Truth™. They also claim the universe was created by their god but if their god’s universe doesn’t match what’s in the book then they reject the universe in favor of the book.

  2. 2
    rq

    Definitely a limited god, who can’t be bothered thinking outside the box.
    I like your rhapsodies on the universe. With mushrooms, flowers, birds or space pictures. They’re always inspiring and uplifting, and a great reminder of the wonders of the natural world around us.

  3. 3
    Lithified Detritus

    Thanks for this, Dana. Life has been a bit trying the last few months, and our brutal winter hasn’t helped, because I haven’t been able to get outside much. Seeing those mushrooms nestled among the leaves took my mind to one of my favorite places on the planet. I associate it with canoeing, stargazing, hiking in the woods and fields, and good times with friends and my late father. I needed that – I’m really looking forward to spring/summer.

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