Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin - Merlin Sheldrake

Episode Date: March 20, 2024

Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist, writer, and speaker whose interdisciplinary expertise spans plant sciences, microbiology, ecology, and the history and philosophy of science. He is the bestselling aut...hor of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures, a thought-provoking exploration into the impact of fungi on ecosystems and human societies. Currently, Merlin is a research associate at Vrije University Amsterdam, where his research spans fungal biology, Amazonian ethnobotany, and the interaction of sound and form in resonant systems. Learn more about Merlin at www.merlinsheldrake.com, and follow him on Twitter (@MerlinSheldrake) or Instagram (@merlin.sheldrake). ------ Thank you to the sponsors that fuel our podcast and our team: Squarespace https://squarespace.com/tetra ------ LMNT Electrolytes https://drinklmnt.com/tetra ------ House of Macadamias https://www.houseofmacadamias.com/tetra

Discussion (0)
Starting point is 00:00:00 Tetragrammaton Tetragrammaton Tetragrammaton Tetragrammaton Tetragrammaton Tetragrammaton Tetragrammaton So I grew up in a house in Hampstead, in London, and it's a tall, thin townhouse.
Starting point is 00:00:28 My mother's lived there actually in one of the flats since the 1970s, and then she got together with my dad, and gradually they acquired the house over time. And so it's right opposite Hampstead Heath, which is this really beautiful, there's a thousand acres of fairly wild park in London. So living there was a bit like growing up part in the city and part in a more rural environment because I spent a lot of time outdoors. You just open the door of the house
Starting point is 00:00:55 and you can run out onto the heath. So it's a special place to us. And then later on we would, we'll be working there. My parents work from home and me and my brother were also working from home for a time. And so there was a sense in which it could house us all in our various pursuits. I read your dad's work probably starting 30 years ago.
Starting point is 00:01:16 Tell me a little bit about growing up with your dad. There's always a lot of fun. He's an amazing student of the living world and a great experimenter and a great teacher. So we were always encouraged to take an interest in the lives unfolding around us. He would do experiments on us. He had a new idea for some kind of experiment.
Starting point is 00:01:36 He said, boys, do you want to try an experiment? If you go over there and have the blindfold on, can you tell me whether you think I'm looking at you from behind or not? This kind of thing. So it was a very sort of playful, experimental time, but we would spend a lot of time outside, a lot of time asking questions about the living world and doing funny things. There was one time we went to spend time on the heath together, me and my brother and
Starting point is 00:01:58 my dad, and we were looking at dogs and their owners. And he said one day, isn't it funny how the owners look like their dogs and dogs look like their owners? And you can work out which way around it was. And he said the dogs looked like their owners, the owners looked like their dogs, both. What's going on? So we went to the Crufts, which is the national dog show, to see whether this held. And we spent hours, many happy hours laughing at this phenomenon. We perceived to happen quite a lot actually then. We still couldn't work out what was going on. But we then went to see whether it was possible with rodents.
Starting point is 00:02:25 So we went to the National Rodent Show, and turns out that the mouse judges looked quite mousy, and the rat judges looked quite ratty, but the owners didn't look like their rodents. Anyway, this is the kind of thing, the kind of play that we would get up to. That's really interesting. It's really interesting growing up in that house.
Starting point is 00:02:43 Do you feel like the fact that he was your dad inspired you to go into science? I think so, yeah, for sure. I learned a lot. I think a lot of my scientific education came through him and through family friends. There was a much broader scientific education that happened that way than at school. But also my mom, you know, my mom's worked with sound and family constellation therapy and worked with groups in very interesting ways. And together, it's an interesting combination to be brought up with.
Starting point is 00:03:13 So I feel like she's influenced me as well in perhaps not in such straightforward ways. But yeah, it was a fascinating place to grow up. When did you get into music? Well, it was just something that happened, you know, when you grew up, my dad plays the piano and my mom works with sound with chanting. And my dad would just be playing the piano and playing for us.
Starting point is 00:03:31 And it just seemed like a bodily function. Like, people do this. You know, it's not something special. And so I started having piano lessons when I was five and my brother when he was four. And it was just a part of our lives, without it being a sort of fussy thing, nothing particularly special. It was an ordinary thing to do
Starting point is 00:03:48 because it was happening in your house. Exactly, yeah. Beautiful. Talk about the cycle of life on the planet. Well, I would say cycles of life. Okay. Yeah, there are so many cycles of life. There are cycles in our own body,
Starting point is 00:04:02 each heartbeat is a kind of cycle. You have these cyclical patterns that repeat. So we have heartbeats, which are a fairly short time scale cycle, then we have daily cycles, circadian cycles, and then monthly cycles, and annual cycles, and in the form of seasons, and the things that we eat, and the way that we behave at different times of year. And that's just us.
Starting point is 00:04:23 And so all different organisms are cycling on all sorts of scales together. So when that all adds up, then you get these kind of rhythmic pulses in the biosphere, and you have climate patterns and climate shifts, and then longer patterns like El Ninos and Ninos that occur over multi-year cycles, and then even larger cycles like ice ages,
Starting point is 00:04:44 and then every much longer cycles and the Earth's magnetic poles will flip. So I see it all as these kind of nested cycles. But one of the cycles of life that seems very important is the way that matter journeys through living bodies. So when we die, we decompose, and the stuff that makes up our bodies is recomposed into new forms.
Starting point is 00:05:06 So I'm very interested in fungi, which are organisms that are positioned at key junctures in those kind of decomposition, recomposition cycles. Think a lot about that. Is there always the same amount of stuff that's just being reconstituted in different ways? Well, it depends where we're setting our limits. Like, the planet is in our atmosphere.
Starting point is 00:05:26 We think of it often as a closed system, but there's micrometeorites arriving from space all the time, you know, showering down onto the planet. So stuff does enter the Earth system and become part of the cycles. And so, yeah, I mean, if you're talking about the universe, then one of the conventional parts of physics is that matter is an energy, so energy is neither created nor destroyed, but if you listen to modern cosmologists, they'll tell you that most of the universe
Starting point is 00:05:53 is made up of dark matter, which basically means stuff we have no idea about. How did you get into the world of fungi? I think it's something that happened gradually over time. I remember when I was small, I would help my dad in the garden. I would take out buckets of kitchen waste and put them on a compost heap.
Starting point is 00:06:11 And then several months later, I would shovel what had become soil onto the flower beds. And this seemed wild to me, how the banana peels turned into soil. This was a question, a kind of questioning that I was fascinated with. And my dad explained it was because of these decomposing organisms, fungi, bacteria, other microbes that oversee these transformations of matter from one state into another. And it seemed to me like a superpower at the time, and it really still seems to me like a superpower.
Starting point is 00:06:37 And mushrooms, of course, finding mushrooms or spending time outside and being curious about their forms and smells and how quickly they could appear and disappear. My formal study of fungi began later when I was at university and I was studying plant sciences and it became clear that plants needed fungi to survive, to do many of the things that they could do and yet we seemed to be told relatively little about their fungal companions and so I became very interested in who these organisms were and what they might be up to.
Starting point is 00:07:07 And then fell down a kind of fungal rabbit hole. So does it feel like a lesser researched area? I'd say that fungi are a kingdom of life that has not had a kingdom's worth of attention. It was only decided that they were a separate kingdom of life in the late 60s. Before that, they were thought of as a kind of lower plant in this slightly snobby way. How do of as a kind of lower plant in a slightly
Starting point is 00:07:25 snobby way. Why do you describe the difference between a plant and a fungi? So plants, on the whole, they photosynthesize, so they capture energy from light and carbon dioxide. Not all plants do that, but most do. And they make their cell walls in a certain way, their structural features of their cells that are diagnostic of their plantness. So do fungi not work based on photosynthesis? So fungi don't photosynthesize. So they do a bit more like what animals do.
Starting point is 00:07:52 And animals, as animals, we're animals. We find food in the world ready-made, if you like. So the energy has already been captured from carbon dioxide in the sun, and it's become energy-containing carbon compounds like sugars or fats. And we find those sugars and fats and we eat them. And fungi do that too.
Starting point is 00:08:10 They have to find those things and eat them. So they don't photosynthesize. They depend on organisms that do photosynthesize as we do. And they make their cells walls in a certain way that marks them out as fungi. And most of them live as networks of tubular cells called mycelial networks. Do you think that they're closer to animal or closer to plant?
Starting point is 00:08:34 Well, it's quite well established that they are more closely related to animals. So what that would mean is that animals and fungi share a more recent common ancestor than the common ancestor that fungi and animals share with plants, which is wild because you would often think about fungi as being more plant-like somehow. And I think because they don't move. Yeah. I think most animals we think of as moving.
Starting point is 00:08:57 Mm-hmm. No, I think that's a big part of it, their ability to locomote and go from place to place. Of course, fungi move in their way. They produce spores, which allow them to travel around the world from place to place. Of course, fungi move in their way. They produce spores which allow them to travel around the world, as plants do. And fungal networks can grow in one direction while withdrawing from another direction.
Starting point is 00:09:12 So they can migrate through a landscape, or they're more slowly than we would notice. And some of them do, they hunt worms and can behave on a kind of animal time scale in order to hunt worms. So they do do the moving, but not nearly in the same way as we do. How difficult is it to study the fungi considering the network aspect of it?
Starting point is 00:09:34 If you were to pick a mushroom, how much of the mushroom is in the thing that you pick versus what it's connected to? Yeah, so I mean, the mushroom is analogous to a fruit of a plant. It's a part of the plant, but it's a part of the plant that would typically occur for a fairly short period every year. And so the mushroom is produced by a mycelial network which would be larger and more enduring than the mushroom.
Starting point is 00:09:59 And how large would be large? How large could it be? They're very, I mean, there are so many ways to be a fungus, right? Think of all the ways to be an animal, and it's deceptive actually. I mean, an oyster mushroom and a morel mushroom are as distantly related as an elephant and an ant. So some fungi might be tiny,
Starting point is 00:10:15 and some mycelial networks might be small enough to fit on a speck of house dust, and some are some of the largest organisms in the world, sprawling over square kilometers. Do we think that the different networks speak to each other? So fungi are communicating all the time with themselves, with the other microbes they depend on, with bacteria that live in them and on them,
Starting point is 00:10:37 and with the fungi that surround them, and with plants that they live in and around. So much of life is communication, communication using chemicals or bio-electrical activity or any other number of media. And so fungi are communicating for sure, and they have to, in order to survive, they have to be able to communicate
Starting point is 00:10:58 with a distant part of their own network in order to decide in their way, decide on the best course of action at a given moment, how to grow, how fast to grow, where to grow, what chemicals to produce, do to defend itself or to prepare for sex or whatever it might be doing. So different fungi for sure are communicating with each other,
Starting point is 00:11:15 chemically, biologically, as the many bacteria and fungi in our own bodies are, and communicating with our nervous systems as well. Based on what you've learned thus far about these networks, what's known and what's not known, if you zoom back, how much do you think we know about anything based on how little we know about that? I think there's a huge amount that we don't know. And one of the reasons why I like studying fungi is because it's a field in which there
Starting point is 00:11:44 are so many open questions. And so much of the practice of the scientists for me feels like working out what your relationship to the unknown is. You know, are you going to delight in these open questions? Are you going to try and shut them down? You know, how are you going to dance with the unknown? One of the things I like about working with fungi is the unknownness. And I like open questions.
Starting point is 00:12:04 They lure me forwards into further inquiry. You know, if I was just busy closing down questions, I don't think I'd feel moved to get out of bed and do science. So then, how much do we know about anything? I really don't know. But I do know that there's a vast amount that within modern scientific disciplines, I feel like we're leaving out, because so much is just not available to the experimental
Starting point is 00:12:27 practices of the modern sciences. This is why consciousness and mind are such riddles within the sciences, right? Because sciences on the whole work by objectifying the world, quantifying the world. But minds and consciousness are inherently subjective experiences, and it's hard to reconcile those two things sometimes and to investigate subjectivity in an objective manner.
Starting point is 00:12:49 So anyway, so there's whole swathes, I feel, of existence and possibility that remain mysterious. I'm glad they do. In your dad's work, he's known for looking objectively at subjective material. And for some of us, we celebrate him, but for some in the traditional sciences, he's questioned a bit.
Starting point is 00:13:11 You know, he has a real, a serious inquiry of science, and then there are people who dismiss him because the subjects he's looking at are more elusive, let's say, than the typical hard science. What's it like seeing him go through that? Yeah, I mean, it's a fascinating thing and has been a big part of my upbringing, you know, watching the way that he inquires
Starting point is 00:13:36 and his bravery to ask questions that lots of people wouldn't feel comfortable asking. And his loyalty to the scientific procedures, like, okay, this may or may not happen. And the way to find out is to design experiments to test it. Of course. And so when people engage with him in his actual work, they might agree or disagree. And that's fine. They may agree or disagree. But what's disappointing about what he's encountered is that lots of people in the scientific establishment aren't even prepared to discuss the evidence because in their mind, there could not be What's disappointing about what he's encountered is that lots of people in the scientific establishment
Starting point is 00:14:05 aren't even prepared to discuss the evidence because in their mind there could not be any evidence because they've already dismissed this possibility as being impossible. Which is not science. Which is not scientific. No. Right, it's definitely not scientific.
Starting point is 00:14:17 There was one big debate he did when I was younger with a well-known materialist skeptic and was in the Royal Society of Arts. There was a high court judge in the chair, so it was perfectly fair. It was about the evidence for telepathy, and my father was proposing this, and the other one was, his opponent was opposing it.
Starting point is 00:14:33 And then they tossed a coin, the opponent got his allotted half hour to propose his case, or to oppose his case in this case. He got up and said, I don't need half an hour. I need five minutes because there is not possibly be any evidence for telepathy. It's just out of the question. And so my father got up and said, like, that's not really an argument. You know, I will talk about the evidence that there is. And if you want to engage with that evidence and behave
Starting point is 00:14:58 like a scientist, then that would be nice. But that's not how you want to deal with it. So there's been a lot of that, and which I think reveals many of the dogmas of the modern sciences. I think any human discipline has dogmas, right? It's just something that human opinion and feeling hardens into crusty patterns and valleys of thought and habit, and science is another human practice in which that happens. But that's disappointing, I think.
Starting point is 00:15:22 I don't think that speaks well of the scientists. It feels like the scientists who are doing that aren't behaving as they should, perhaps not being quite so honest about the practices of the scientists as they might. It's one of the great things about studying the area that you've chosen is so open that you can go out on a limb
Starting point is 00:15:42 and there isn't so much dogma attached to the world of fungi. Yeah, I mean, and it depends how we, and go out on a limb and there isn't so much dogma attached to the world of fungi. Yeah, I mean, and it depends how we, and what way you're studying them. There's so many ways to study fungi and there are lots of people who are studying fungi in ways that some scientists would think,
Starting point is 00:15:58 oh, no, that's not very reputable or that's a bit woo woo. I think you can find that in whatever field. But yeah, I enjoy it because there's a kind of terra incognita about it. I mean, there's lots of people who, I don't want to give the impression that fungi have not been studied. I mean, there have been astonishing fungal scientists for decades studying fungi, and many of the things I say derive from the careful and brilliant work of fungal scientists who've been working on this for decades before I was born. But there's still so many basic things that we don't know, work of fungal scientists who've been working on this for decades before I was born. But
Starting point is 00:16:29 there's still so many basic things that we don't know that there's a kind of a sense of real excitement and that you're always a half step away from a big question. Tell me about that process of soil that first fascinated you. How does it actually work? Could you describe it? Well, I mean, soils are astonishing places, complex places, and there's lots of different types of soil, right? It's depending on where you are and which ecosystem you're in. But one way to think about soils is just the guts of the planet, it's a place where digestion and transformation takes place. And so much of life happens in the soil, right? There's perhaps a quarter of the species alive, live underground.
Starting point is 00:17:03 Even with organisms like plants that we see growing above ground, a huge part of them is underground that we don't see. So soils are busy, busy places, fantastically busy places, and complex places as well. If you were on the scale of a tiny soil animal or a bacterium, these are the most insane multidimensional labyrinths you could imagine with surface tension of water when you're small. It's like a big barrier. There's all these patterns of water and water movement really shaping what's possible physically in physical space.
Starting point is 00:17:34 And then all these chemical weather systems as things transform and change and decompose, and then all the other creatures busily doing their things. And then big changes like when weather changes, like when there's rain or when there's heat. So great fluxes going on underground. Electrical charged micro cavities where some things can happen
Starting point is 00:17:56 and some other things can't happen. So I think of it as like a wild, seizing, busy place that would probably drive us, if you could suddenly shrink yourself to the size of a small soil animal, it would probably drive us insane, just those first few moments of experiencing it. Is there a big system at play or a series of small systems at play? For example, just using the example of us, we eat food, we digest it, we excrete it.
Starting point is 00:18:21 We're getting energy from it and transforming it into something else. In the soil, is that happening billions of times? Is that what it is, just a series of these small digestions over and over again? So you might think about it in terms of, say you're in a forest, and over a course of a year, you'd end up with lots of plant material. Twigs and sticks and leaves would fall and form a kind of leaf litter layer. And that's rich material that over
Starting point is 00:18:50 time breaks down into smaller and smaller bits of twig and leaf, which in time break down into smaller and smaller bits of organic matter. And that cycles back down into the soil in a kind of composting process, delivering nutrients from above. But also there are nutrients entering the soil through digesting of the rock, bedrock, and releasing minerals from that. So fungi might be doing that, bacteria might be doing that. So these different kinds of input to the soil. Another big input to the soil would be around plant roots. So plant roots are like leaking delicious, sugary juices
Starting point is 00:19:28 into the soil. And so many creatures come in for the feast. So it's called the rhizosphere, the area around the root. So these would be like metropolis, like really big, big sites of activity and all sorts of action and reaction going on there. So stuff would be coming in through the plant, stuff coming in through decomposition from above,
Starting point is 00:19:47 from this leaf litter layer, stuff coming in from below, from digestion of the rocks, and all of that combining in seasonal cycles, in cycles, successionary cycles as ecosystems develop and change at the time. I was trying to picture it. It's beautiful. It's hard.
Starting point is 00:20:03 Well, I know that if you look at grass very closely, there's all sorts of stuff going on. When we're standing, it looks very emotionless other than a little bit of wind. But when you get up close, you can see all kinds of activity happening. Little critters moving around, a lot of stuff happening. The microscopic world if we dive in is immense,
Starting point is 00:20:24 everywhere all the time. Totally, including on your skin, in your mouth. And our bodies are planets with regard to our own communities of microbes. There's the arid plains of your forearm and the temperate forests of your scalp and the tropical forests of your armpits or crotch. It's like we have all of these different ecosystems in us
Starting point is 00:20:43 and on us. And if we could see what was happening there at any one moment, it would probably make us feel disconcerted. But yeah, just like that in the soil, and as you say, looking at the grass and the zooming in effect. And what's weird with soil is, which is so hard for us, is visual creatures, is that the soil
Starting point is 00:21:00 is on the whole a dark place. Like light is not very useful to most creatures who live in the soil because first of all, there isn't much light and secondly, even if there was light in a little bit of soil that you were in, it's such a cluttered environment that you would never see very far. So when we try to imagine it, often visually,
Starting point is 00:21:18 I find as a visual human, it stymies me because it would be very difficult to represent soil visually and biologically accurately. So, and one of the reasons why there are more people now turning to use sound to explore soil is for this very reason. My brother does this. He's a musician and an acoustic ecologist. And he comes on expeditions that we go on and he puts hydrophones, so contact microphones into the soil, and you hear this bustling activity,
Starting point is 00:21:46 like cracking and popping and slurping and scratching. A lot of it would be from insects or other animals in the soil, but a lot of it would be also just from the movement of water around the soil pours, but you just get a sense of how busy the soil is, just from the sound. Amazing.
Starting point is 00:22:04 I didn't know that sound was used as a way of examining it. Yeah, well it's a very young part of soil science, but it's a very exciting part of it too, because it makes sense that creatures would use these sonic cues to understand their own lives. So why would we not also use sonic cues to try and understand their lives? Yeah.
Starting point is 00:22:22 What do we know about the history of fermented food and drink? Oh, more things than I could ever know. I think one of the ways to think about it is to think about how recent it is that we have refrigeration. This is not very long. There's history of refrigerators in people's houses on a big scale. And so for most of human history, we've had to deal with there being a lot of a certain
Starting point is 00:22:51 type of food at one time. It might be that there's a big animal kill, or it might be that it's the autumn and there's tons of apples and plums and pears. And then times of the year where there aren't. So feasts and famines. And fermentation is one of the ways that we preserve foods. And they might look like turning apples into cider, which you can then store in barrels and drink all year
Starting point is 00:23:11 or for years, or making conserves and jams and pickles, or fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or pickles, dill pickles, miso or cheese, yogurt. You know, think how long a pail of milk would last in a hot pickles, miso, or cheese, yogurt. Think how long a pail of milk would last in a hot country. And then think how long a wheel of cheese in that hot country can last. So I think the fermentation and human nutrition are really, they go together in a very, very old way.
Starting point is 00:23:40 And so I think for much of human life, it's been the rule rather than the exception. So now when we think about fermentation from a modern point of view, it can seem like it's this thing that you do to some foods to get these certain flavors or whatever. We forget how fundamental that coupling has been. But the signs of the history of fermentation
Starting point is 00:24:00 are all around us. I think about all the most delicious foods you know, chocolate, olives, cheese. I mean, for me, the list of delicious foods is a list of fermented foods. And are they always made with yeast? So, yeast make alcohol and alcoholic drinks, but then various different kinds of bacteria
Starting point is 00:24:19 do other ferments. So, sauerkraut, there's lactobacillus, a type of bacterium that does much of those fermentations. But usually there's waves of microbial populations that rise and fall in each other's wake, which is very much how the world works. How do you determine what's fungi and what's bacteria? Well, lots of the time it's both at once. So with the kombucha, for example, it's the scoby or the mother.
Starting point is 00:24:43 Scoby stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. And they come together to make this kind of big. But what makes a bacteria a bacteria and what makes a fungi a fungi? Oh, I see. Yeah, well, bacteria come from a different kingdom of life. They tend to be single-celled organisms. They don't form these big, large networks.
Starting point is 00:25:00 They are smaller on the whole. And they're thought of as not having very much internal organization within their cells. Fungi, like plants and animals, have fairly complex internal organization with different sub organelles that do different things. And fungi tend to be networks. Yeah, fungi tend to be networks. I mean, about 10% of fungal world is yeasts, and these don't form the same kind of network. They behave a little bit more akin to bacteria
Starting point is 00:25:32 in the sense that they divide by budding in two. Are there different kinds of yeast? Lots of different kinds of yeast, yeah. So the yeast that you would get in a commercial beer or wine or commercial baker's yeast will be a handful of different strains of brewer's or baker's yeast, but there are lots and lots of different strains of this yeast around, and there are lots of different yeasts that people have used for a very long time to ferment. So when you make a sourdough bread, for example, you leave the flour and
Starting point is 00:25:59 the water out in the air. All sorts of yeasts are going to come and land in that. It's not just going to be one kind of yeast. And that can often explain why you get these more complex flavors, because it's just more – it's the work of a greater number, a greater diversity of yeasts. Yeast just means single-celled fungus. So if you were to use the same recipe and make sourdough bread in different places in the world, you would get very different results just based on what's in the air. In principle, yeah.
Starting point is 00:26:33 So if you harvest the yeast in the air in different parts of the world using the same flour, then you'll have a different culture and that culture will produce a different bread. Me and my brother tried an experiment with this once. Actually, he'd gotten a very old, a sourdough starter that had been given to him by a friend who'd got it from an Italian friend who comes from a long line of bakers.
Starting point is 00:26:52 So he was very proud of this. My brother's very proud of this starter and would make delicious bread with it. And one year we went around, as we do in the summers, to the west coast of Canada. And we are then traveling down through California. But before we left, Cosmo divided this starter. He left half of it at home in a jar and we took half of it in a jar with us on the trip in case he wanted to make sourdough on the trip. We didn't actually
Starting point is 00:27:14 end up making sourdough on the trip, but we carried it around and wherever we went, we'd have to feed it so we'd be knocking on the door of bakers and have some flour to feed our sourdough starter. And by the time we got home, it had been fed different water and different flour and had been exposed to different microbes. So then we baked two loaves of bread, one with the starter that had stayed at home and one with the starter that had come with us on the trip. It took a while to make them,
Starting point is 00:27:36 and we drank a couple of bottles of wine while they were cooking. We couldn't actually remember which was which, although they did seem to taste different. Bit of an anticlimactic story there, there's no hard finding. But I think it's an important part of thinking about fermentation, is that these cultures are usually in exchange with their environments. You know, they're an example of how life is always in this kind of fluid exchange
Starting point is 00:27:58 with its surroundings, just as we are. Tell me about your experiments with beer. Ha ha. Well, I've always loved fermenting since I was at university and I started making beers from old recipes because I became interested in all these kinds of brewing that people have done but that today are unavailable unless you make them yourself. So, Gruitt ales, for example, using herbs that are not hops, using bogmurtle or yarrow or meads with various herbal components.
Starting point is 00:28:34 And the flavors are just so astonishing. There's such a wide variety of flavors and also the effects of these drinks. You know, they're different. It's not just alcohol. It affects you in different ways. So some meads would bring on a very amused, hilarious state. And some of the Gruer Ales were quite wild. People would feel quite energetic and boisterous. Some of them would be more like a golden heaviness,
Starting point is 00:29:02 very peaceful kind of state. So I became aware of how the realm of alcoholic drinks that we're familiar with today is just a very small part of what is possible and indeed what humans have explored historically. If we look at like Bach flower remedies or homeopathic remedies, they often come in a base of alcohol
Starting point is 00:29:21 and it's not about the alcohol. The alcohol is just the base that holds the herb or the tincture over time. So the idea that beer at one time was used as a way to preserve these different medicinal herbs is a very interesting idea and one worth re-examining. For sure. It's like it got dumbed down in the process somehow
Starting point is 00:29:43 to be about the alcohol when that's not what it's about. Yeah, I think that's true. It's about so much more than the alcohol. And this is something you find in, say, in the ancient Greek myth, for example, I was always, when I would be studying the Odyssey at school, I was always wondering how kind of smart-ass question you ask. You're like, well, look, if wine, I've been taught in my biology class that wine can't
Starting point is 00:30:04 get stronger than about 13 percent. So how can they give this super strong wine that will knock out a cyclops if wine can't get beyond its strengths? And the answer is that there is so much more to wine than the alcohol. There was all sorts of herbal admixtures, potentially quite psychoactive, and that strong mind would mean a strong mind-altering brew. Not about the alcohol. Yeah. Beyond the alcohol.
Starting point is 00:30:31 The alcohol would be some kind of potentiating force or a preservative or would just be part of it. The Greeks didn't actually have a word for alcohol as a separate principle. It's been such a long part of human experience with brewing that alcohol is one aspect of a transformation process, which has often been thought of as divine. Before we knew about microbes in the late 19th century, it's very recent really that this transformation process was thought of as a process of the incoming of spirit into matter because this grape juice turns into wine.
Starting point is 00:31:02 You drink the wine and you change. So the Greeks had Dionysus, but most cultures have had gods and goddesses of fermentation. But maybe that's closer to reality. Maybe in the same way that looking at the alcohol piece was the dumbing down, that looking at the whole process, we're thinking of it in a small way now when there's something much greater going on. I think so. I think there's a lot of that that we can reclaim quite readily by,
Starting point is 00:31:26 you know, there's a growing community of wonderful, imaginative brewers working with all sorts of different plants and thinking more along these lines in the way that they brew and the way that they serve the brewers, you know, and talk about the brewers. I have a friend called Heather Wolf, who's an amazing brewsse, and she works in this way. And really sort of resacralizing brewing and drinking of these brews. Do any of these brewers make them available publicly,
Starting point is 00:31:55 or are they more private? Some do, so there are interesting commercial breweries, but I think a lot happens in private as well, because selling alcohol officially requires, there's a few hoops that one has to jump through. I think the best brews probably will always be the stuff that people keep for themselves at home. Even if you go to a great vineyard in France,
Starting point is 00:32:15 I'm sure that the most exciting stuff is not available to buy. Describe to me what doing science looks like in today's world. Well, I think it depends what kind of scientist you are, because we forget the sciences are a really diverse collection of practices and values, norms and techniques and specialisms and skill sets, such that a professor of quantum physics might be a layperson with regard to the expert in the study of fossilized fishes.
Starting point is 00:32:46 So I think it's one of the exciting things about the sciences, but also I think one of the illusions, perhaps, that is propagated is that science is one monolithic thing. If you're an astronomer or a cosmologist, you spend a lot of time looking, observing at what's happening, but using telescopes and whatever other means you have. But you can't do experiments in cosmic space. You have to take what you're given. It's more observational.
Starting point is 00:33:13 Whereas if you work in other parts of physics or in the biological sciences, as I do, one's able to intervene in the world and to run experiments that you can replicate, where you do something to this and you don't do something to this and you compare the result. So that's the more experimental kind of science. In the life sciences there's also lots of kinds of observational sciences that one do too you know if you're going to go somewhere and document the fungi of a certain region. You're going there to observe what's going on there you're not going there to intervene and start to move things around.
Starting point is 00:33:46 So I think these are two, the observation and experiment, two fundamental strands that braid through different scientific practices. But to me, a lot of what I do working with the soil is going around collecting soil and might be in very beautiful places, might be very challenging places, might be in the rain, might be in the sun,
Starting point is 00:34:03 but scraping soil into small tubes in the field. And then there's a lot of work in extracting DNA from those soils and then analyzing the data sets. And so basically, it depends what kind of scientist one is being. Maybe I'm asking, do you always start with a theory or can you just start with observation?
Starting point is 00:34:26 So, one of the conventional ways that people talk about science proceeding is from hypothesis. You have some kind of conception, something you want to test about the world. And so you set up a hypothesis and then you test that with experiments. And that's indeed one way to go about things. But I think a lot of the sciences does start with observation.
Starting point is 00:34:49 Why do people want to be a scientist in the first place? It's usually because they're curious about something. And they're usually curious because they've spent time observing. So I think a lot of good science starts with observation. And for me, a big part of it know thinking about what it's like to be that Maybe an organism maybe a whatever entity I'm interested in like, what does it like to be you? I mean, what's it like to Do the things you do and be affected by the things you're affected by so I think I personally find observation to be
Starting point is 00:35:21 Let's say prior to Hypothesis, but there's obviously a dance between the two observation to be, let's say, prior to hypothesis. But there's obviously a dance between the two. Can you walk me through an example of something specific that you studied and the process from the beginning to what was revealed? Yes. I was working in Panama for a time
Starting point is 00:35:42 and I was interested in mycorrhizal fungal association. So these are fungi that live in and around plant roots, and they make plant life possible in all sorts of ways. So I was studying these fungi and these soils in different experimental plots in the jungle that had been, some had been treated with fertilizers of phosphorus, for example, some with nitrogen, some had been left untouched. And I was taking samples and I was looking at roots from these different plots. And when I was out one time, I noticed that a certain type
Starting point is 00:36:13 of plant didn't occur in some of the plots. So it was a type of plant, strange plant, has no green and no leaves. It doesn't photosynthesize. So it doesn't eat light and carbon dioxide in the way that most plants do. So it's very charismatic, but very small, has a bright blue flower. And it lives by drawing its energy and nutrients from other green plants through a shared fungal
Starting point is 00:36:36 network and into itself. And I'd always just, you know, I'd see them, they kind of sort of wink at you from the floor and I'd always had a soft spot for them. But I noticed that they weren't any in the phosphorus plots. And that led me down a whole rabbit hole of, why aren't they in the phosphorus plots, and what's going on at the ground that might prevent them from making a life there, and what can their absence tell me
Starting point is 00:36:57 about the bigger stories that are going on in the soil? So in that case, it started from a chance observation, which I then followed. I followed up because I just cared about these plants. Did you come to realize why? Yes. So it was because the fungal communities that they depend on to make their life possible, the addition of these nutrients changes the exchange that happens between green plants and their fungal partners. The plants are feeding the fungi with sugars and fats and the
Starting point is 00:37:30 fungi are feeding the plants with a lot of the time with phosphorus and if they're suddenly getting given a lot of phosphorus the plant changes the kind of trade that it makes with these fungi because it doesn't need the fungi in the same way that it did before. So the life of these mycorrhizal fungal organisms starts to change. And so the life of the creatures that are attached to those mycorrhizal fungal networks also starts to change. And it seemed that the trade that was being maintained
Starting point is 00:37:56 between the green plants and the mycorrhizal fungi had shifted such that the fungi would no longer sustain the non-photosynthetic plants. So it's like a second-order effect that was an unexpected second-order effect. An unexpected second-order effect that for me was interesting because I was fascinated by the way that these fungal networks
Starting point is 00:38:16 can connect more than one plant together underground. So these plants could act like periscopes in a way into the mycorrhizal underground. What's interesting to me about it is it's an example of a man-made intervention having these second-order effects that are unexpected and that's something for us to be wary of. Totally and of course I describe it as this observational thing which it was but it was taking place within the bigger context of a long on-running experiment where people were adding these things to the forest. So yeah, I think it shows how we're always living within this cycle of experiment and observation and intervention and response.
Starting point is 00:39:00 I was having a conversation the other day where the person I was speaking to, they referred to the gut as another brain, and I said like a second brain, and they said, no, really like a first brain, and the brain is really the second brain. How does that strike you as it relates to the fungi world? Well, I like to think about, we have brains that we're proud of, and they do a lot for us, but our brains are sort of an extra concentrated part
Starting point is 00:39:32 of a larger nervous system that's distributed through our whole body. A brain without a nervous system throughout a body would be useless. It would make no sense for that to evolve. So I like to think about fungal networks as distributed communicative networks, that they are the network and the body at the same time.
Starting point is 00:39:49 They're not networks within the body. Do they have the gut reaction that we think of in humans? Well, they're constantly tasting their surroundings, right? It's like the area all around the fungal network is its gut, because it's digesting outside its body. They're releasing enzymes that digest their surroundings, and then they absorb the products of those digestions. So rather than animals put food in their bodies on the whole, but fungi put their bodies in the food.
Starting point is 00:40:18 And it means that this whole relationship between what's the gut, where's the side of digestion, is inverted because they're living in their food, they're burrowing into their food, and they're digesting it outside their bodies, and then absorbing it. Describe that in more detail. I want to really picture that. Yeah, so say you were a wood rotting fungus.
Starting point is 00:40:37 Wood's your food. You're growing in these networks, these mycelial networks. You'd find a block of wood, and then you'd start burrowing into that block of wood. You start producing enzymes which can break down the structure of wood into simpler chemical units. And you start burrowing into the wood and branching
Starting point is 00:40:56 so you can touch more of the wood. The more you can touch, the more you can digest, and the more that you can digest, the more you can consume. So you're branching and burrowing your way, all the while producing digestive enzymes which are breaking down your surroundings. And so you're living within your food, but then when the food, when you've exhausted parts of it,
Starting point is 00:41:17 then you no longer need to be there. So you'd withdraw parts of yourself from that bit of the wood and explore, you know, looking for other bits of wood, but that you're always inside whatever you're eating. That's how the fundamental relationship between them and their food plays out. And we're so different where you make these, we have bodies which are centralized and neatly packaged up. Then we have those sort of suitcases in which our brains live and we can move around quite neatly because of that.
Starting point is 00:41:46 I imagine how different our lives would be if we took off our skin, took away our bones and grew our blood vessels and neurons into the world around us, stitched ourselves into place. What about your book? It's called Entangled Life and Fung fungi are the main players in the book. But such is fungal life that you can't think you'll talk about fungi for long before bumping into a whole other cast of characters.
Starting point is 00:42:15 So fungi are a beautiful way into thinking about the shimmering networks of interconnectivity that are the living world. That Donna Haraway, the great thinker, talks about the relationship being the smallest unit of biological analysis. You know, we have all these organisms that live in and on us.
Starting point is 00:42:35 Bacteria, big bacteria can have small bacteria living within them. You know, larger viruses can have smaller viruses living within them. It's relationship all the way down. And yet we forget this often, living our lives as centralized animals. viruses can have smaller viruses living within them. It's relationship all the way down. And yet we forget this often, living our lives as centralized animals with all sorts of stories about individuality and autonomy and independence. At least in modern age, these narratives have
Starting point is 00:42:57 a lot of power. But fungi lead us into more ecological worldviews of there being nothing but relationship and interrelationship. And this is a very old view for humans. For much of human history and traditional knowledge systems, this has been the way that you understand the living world is made up of intimate, reciprocal dependencies. So I think fungi lead us into remembering something we might have forgotten. And in the book, that's something which I tried to explore, bringing together the work of all sorts of wonderful thinkers and scientists who have been working over the last decades
Starting point is 00:43:31 and centuries and trying to tell a story about these remarkable organisms and how they weave the world together. So it's really about the interconnectedness of life on the planet. Yeah, essentially, as much as possible from a fungal point of view. It's the organizing principle of the book, but it talks to the bigger case.
Starting point is 00:43:50 Tell me about LSD and creativity. So this was a study, I talk about this in my book. I was working in the department in plant sciences in Cambridge, and there was, in the canteen, there was a poster on the wall and the poster said, do you have a meaningful problem that needs solving? And I was like, yes, I certainly do. Lots. And it said, if you do, then call this number. So I was like, okay, I'll call that number. I know, whatever, see what happens. So I called this number and it turned out that they were recruiting scientists to participate in a study into the effects of LSD on the problem-solving ability of scientists.
Starting point is 00:44:32 I thought this sounded like a brave study. It's a difficult thing to assess. Anyway, I signed up and they showed up in a hospital, a clinical trials unit of a hospital. They'd been quite sensitive. The researchers doing this study, they knew about psychedelics and they knew that a hospital room is not the nicest place to be tripping. And so they'd hung hangings on the wall and they had mood lights and nice music playing. And then the nurses administered the LSD
Starting point is 00:45:00 and I had this wonderful time lying on this bed and going into these astonishing experiences. And at some point, there was an assistant with me and she said, maybe it's now it's time to start thinking about your work-related problem. I was like, oh, my work-related problem. And it all becomes quite funny because there's a lot of life can become very amusing in these psychedelic states.
Starting point is 00:45:25 The thing that was most amusing about it was when they came in with questionnaires, because like this thing we were talking about, it's difficult to assess objectively people's subjective experiences. My imagination was essentially the subject of this experience, but the only way that they could access my imagination was by asking me what I was imagining. And then I was observing myself, but I was also under the influence myself. So there's all these lovely tangles. But the funniest is the questionnaire would say something like on the scale of one to
Starting point is 00:45:54 10, how do you rate your experience of infinity? And I just collapsed into paralytic laughter. And every time they had to answer this questionnaire several times over the course of the study, and every time it just got funnier and funnier. You could feel the scientific procedure groaning under the weight of what seemed to be an impossible task. But it was a brave and fascinating study because it was looking into creativity and imagination
Starting point is 00:46:19 and asking questions about how we can approach that scientifically, and I think it was very difficult for them to unify the people's different experiences. You know, the experience with the mathematician next door would have been very different from my experience as a soil and fungal biologist. The kinds of problems that we were resting would be very different kinds of problems.
Starting point is 00:46:39 How do you compare those across a big sample? So I'm not sure what the enduring takeaway messages were from this. Where did you take away from it? I took away a feeling that my mind was very much larger than I normally recognized, that I spent time in this sort of small part of my mind, usually, comparatively small part of my mind.
Starting point is 00:47:00 But there were vast, wild reaches of my mind in which I didn't normally spend so much time. And when in this state, the familiar could become unfamiliar again. Which sounds like a very productive place to be. For me, yes. I find that some of the most helpful ideas that I have are when the familiar has become unfamiliar, because you tend to see it more for what it is, rather than see what you expect to find.
Starting point is 00:47:29 Yes, and you're not taking the obvious for granted. Yeah, exactly. And it's the taking for granted that I think locks us up imaginatively a lot of the time. So I find it very helpful to be in that state of where the familiar, like a light switch on the wall or a table or a chair can be quite funny because you recognise how absurd it is that we have this kind of furniture or tool in our lives.
Starting point is 00:47:53 And so I find it very helpful to go into those places and very helpful for problem solving. And even if I don't solve the problem in any fixed way, just to re-enter the question with a sense of childlike openness. Are you a different person after than you were before the experiment? I don't think I'm a different person before or after. I had had psychedelic experiences before this, so if it was the only psychedelic experience in my life, then maybe it would be a bit more like that.
Starting point is 00:48:21 But it wasn't, so it was less of a watershed than that. Have you ever had a psychedelic experience not related to any type of plant or chemical? What I think of dreams, dreaming is a kind of psychedelic experience. You know, I mean, it's in the sense that, you know, psychedelic means mind manifesting. And when one dreams, one's mind is manifesting
Starting point is 00:48:44 in all sorts of wild and fluid ways. So that's probably the closest I've had that has not been chemically induced. A lot of people have very spontaneous and mystical experiences, you know, sometimes through traumas, traumatic accidents, and sometimes they just happen. I don't think, I've never had a kind of spontaneous,
Starting point is 00:49:05 just bolt out of the blue, psychedelic-like experience. I had bolts out of the blue, it's a powerful experience, it's a great numerosity and meaning, but I think dreaming is the closest. The shamans who work with ayahuasca explain that the way that the plant and the vine were put together to create the ayahuasca, out of the thousands
Starting point is 00:49:25 of plants available, the way that they knew to combine this two particular plants was the plants told them to do it. Have you ever had any experience with communicating with plants or fungi? Well, I've had a sense of porosity, of openness to plants and to fungi, where I'm feeling affected by them on some deep level. I haven't had an experience where a plant or a fungus has sort of arisen in my consciousness and spoken to me in English or any other sort of human language, but my feelings and my states and the kind of way my mind is exploring
Starting point is 00:50:05 and imagining change for sure and have changed quite dramatically in different places with different plants or fungi. I guess that's some kind of way to think about communication going on. I'm sure that I've been altered chemically by being just surrounded by plants or being around the soil after it's rained and the smells that come out of the soil. We're being affected all the time and sometimes we notice and sometimes we don't.
Starting point is 00:50:30 But I never had a sense that this very plant here is now talking to me in that way. It's been more subtle than that, I think. Do you ever speak to them or, shall I say, do you ever try to communicate with them? Well, I've actually been playing with this exercise recently with my wife, she's a poet, Erin Robinson. We've been working on this exercise as a kind of game
Starting point is 00:50:55 where so much of the way that we talk about the world is talking about the world and making the entities around us in the world into its. But what happens when we address the world directly? What happens when you turn the it into a you? And when you do that, you end up actually, it's happened for a very long time in all sorts of human cultures.
Starting point is 00:51:17 It's usually called prayer, speaking directly to the world rather than about the world or speaking to beings rather than about those beings. And so the exercise that we've been practicing is a kind of writing, it's a poetic exercise of just writing, addressing some kind of entity you're being around, your rock, a stone, a cloud, sun, the moon, a tree, a twig, a leaf, frog,
Starting point is 00:51:38 and just addressing them directly. And it's not necessarily that we're thinking that the frog will understand our human language, but it's more to try and find a way to behave as if humans aren't the only organisms worth addressing. And in doing so, to find a way into a very large body of practices that we might call the practices of prayer. Yeah, and it's recognizing a greater community around us that's always around us.
Starting point is 00:52:04 Yeah. Beautiful. And by turning the it into a you, you're making recognizing a greater community around us that's always around us. Yeah. It's beautiful. And by turning the it into a you, you're making it a center of experience. You're granting it the possibility that it has an experience, you know, and that just seems like good manners. Absolutely. How do you think ingesting mushrooms might change you?
Starting point is 00:52:23 All the different ways. You mean psychedelic mushrooms? No, all the different change you all the different ways. Even psychedelic mushrooms? No, all the different mushrooms, all the different ways. How is eating a mushroom different than eating something else? Well, it depends on the mushroom. If you're eating something which has a very strong flavor,
Starting point is 00:52:36 like a truffle, then there's a whole sensory, gastronomic experience that's going on. And a strong flavor, right, takes you into some kind of experiential world that might affect you, and it might not. Some people are more sensitive than others, or more open to being affected in that way. So some mushrooms might work on us through flavor. Some mushrooms might work on us through producing compounds that are medicinal for our bodies, that might help us to overcome disease
Starting point is 00:53:10 or to strengthen our immune systems. Some mushrooms, like the psychedelic ones, can deepen and expand our experience of the universe, and they might change the way that we think and feel and imagine. Any mushroom you're eating, of course, is being digested and metabolized and is somehow part of these cycles of life that we are talking about.
Starting point is 00:53:31 And some of that matter will go on to become the matter that makes up your own body. And I think there's something just more subtle as well, that when you come into contact, with this intimate contact, it's very intimate eating something that's very intimate. And that contact, that proximity is a way to be closer to this kingdom of life. In a kind of nebulous way, but just a closer intimacy. I mean, when I was writing my book,
Starting point is 00:53:58 I tried to eat as many mushrooms as I can because mushroom tea every day, different kinds of mushrooms for breakfast, lunch and dinner, just to maintain that contact with these organisms that I was trying so hard to understand. You have these ancient images of priests who had headgear that looked like mushroom-shaped headgear. Do we know anything about that? Well, there are statues of mushroom-shaped statues in Central America and Guatemala and Mexico,
Starting point is 00:54:24 which are strong evidence, But there are statues of mushroom-shaped statues in Central America and Guatemala and Mexico, which are strong evidence, together with the documented practices of psychedelic mushroom consumption in those parts of the world, that people have been using and venerating these psilocybin-producing mushrooms there for a long time. There are mushroom-like imagery, like, yeah, as you say, sort of beings with mushroom-shaped headdresses or mushrooms coming out of their, what looks like mushrooms coming out of their hands in other parts of the world as well. Of course, it's very difficult to know whether they are mushrooms or not, and if they were mushrooms, what that might mean. But humans have been
Starting point is 00:55:03 interacting with psychedelic psychoactive compounds for an unknowably long time. And on the whole, where that happens, these compounds are folded into the spiritual worlds of those humans and cultures. So it may well be that this imagery is evidence of some kind of veneration of mushrooms, whether psychedelic or otherwise. And it might be that they just happen to look like mushrooms. Tell me about the difference between hallucinogenic mushrooms and chemical hallucinogens. So hallucinogenic mushrooms produce sweets of chemicals, some of which are hallucinogenic,
Starting point is 00:55:40 and some of which also modulate your experience, but in less dramatically hallucinogenic ways. The psilocybin is the main one in psychedelic mushrooms, but you can synthesize psilocybin chemically, produce it chemically in a lab with nothing to do with the mushroom, and it can elicit an analogous experience. It would probably feel different to you because your experience is being elicited by a single chemical rather than a cocktail.
Starting point is 00:56:05 That chemical is acting on its own rather than being surrounded by its chemical aunts and uncles and fathers and sisters. Which may have some balancing or some purpose that we may not understand. Quite so, yeah. How does algae relate to fungus? So algae are photosynthetic organisms.
Starting point is 00:56:25 Plants, land plants descend from algae, seaweed to algae, on the whole algae are photosynthetic organisms that live in water or in very wet places. And fungi and algae have a very long tangled relationship together. Actually, the relationship is responsible for some of the biggest transformations in the history of life, one being the movement of the ancestors of plants from water onto the land. About 500 million years ago or so, as algae were photosynthesizing and doing their thing in fresh waters, in lakes and rivers and swamps, and they started to wash up onto the soggy shores
Starting point is 00:57:05 of these bodies of water, and over time started to make a life in the air, on the land. The land presents all sorts of challenges for them, and land at this time was a pretty barren place, extreme place, and it seems that they were only able to move onto the land because they partnered with fungi,
Starting point is 00:57:23 and these fungi could deftly explore the soil and then metabolically ingenious and can scavenge for nutrients in ways that these algae couldn't. But the algae can do the eating of the light and carbon dioxide that the fungus can. So together they could form a new kind of organism that could live in this radically new place, often very inhospitable place. And this is the basis of plant life on land, which went on to transform biological possibility. No fungi behaved as plants roots,
Starting point is 00:57:54 a plant for tens of millions of years before plants could evolve their own roots. These fungal associations are a more fundamental part of planthood than many things that we think of as very planty, like leaves or fruit or flowers or wood. So fungi and algae have, they keep bumping into each other over the history of life in interesting new ways. Lichens are another example. Lichens are organisms that arise from the coming together of bacteria, algae,
Starting point is 00:58:22 fungi and various different combinations. And they're very important organisms ecologically because they can live in inhospitable places like bare rock, you know, on the scorched surface of deserts. And they're another example of this coming together of these organisms. And which illustrate a more general theme about the history of life, which is that
Starting point is 00:58:43 organisms come together when together they can achieve something they couldn't achieve by themselves. And collaboration is just so fundamental to life and how life proceeds and in opening up new biological possibilities. And we're no stranger to this idea as humans, right? Collaboration is also, it's not some utopian concept. It's collaboration is always some kind of alloy of cooperation, conflict. It can look very different, but it can be a very fluid combination of those dynamics. When you use the example of the mushroom being a fruit on the plant, does that imply that the network is the plant and is the network a singular
Starting point is 00:59:28 plant? So, yeah, so in that analogy, so say the apple and the apple tree, the apple tree is analogous to the mycelial network and the apple is analogous to the mushroom. But what is an individual network is a kind of difficult question to… Is it the apple tree or the apple orchard is the question? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, it could be either, actually. So you could have, say we grew a fungus, we got a fungus,
Starting point is 00:59:55 we inoculate into something it liked to eat, like grain. The fungus grows through the grain and produces some mushrooms. That fungal network growing in the grain is one big connected network, and that would be like the apple tree. But if we then chopped that in half and chopped it into lots of different pieces and had it growing in these differential chunks,
Starting point is 01:00:18 each producing mushrooms, then we'd have lots of apple trees. But if we put those in a place where they could grow together, they could reform their connection. So then you'd have the different trees in an orchard becoming connected somehow into one larger tree. Would you still think of it once they reconnected,
Starting point is 01:00:35 would you think of them as one larger thing or would you think of them as their individuals? This is a very good question. So say you get a fungal network growing on a dish, and so we cut that network in half. Then we let those two halves live their lives for some time. We bring them back together, they've refused. So now they're one continuous network again.
Starting point is 01:00:58 So I think we, I probably think, well, that's now- That's now one. Yeah, but they were two and now they're one, but we could cut that into 5,000 pieces and then do the same. And we might not even put those 5,000 pieces back together again, in which case we might think of them as 5,000 different fungal individuals. But they could also become one.
Starting point is 01:01:16 So fungi play games with individuality in a very confusing way for us mammals. Is there any difference if you have one and you split it into two? Would there be any difference in what happens if there were two versus one? It depends. I mean, you could do a bit like what me and Cosmo did
Starting point is 01:01:34 with the sourdough starters. You could take one and you could put it in a different place and give it different types of food to eat and expose it to radically different environmental circumstances. And over time, it would adapt to those circumstances and change and express itself quite differently. And then if you brought them back together again,
Starting point is 01:01:49 you probably noticed quite a big difference between how they were expressing themselves, but they could probably very well fuse again and come back together into one network. So yeah, again, it's just the individuality. It doesn't really work so well as a common, it's not a neat concept for fungi. I don't think it's a neat concept for us either,
Starting point is 01:02:09 but we like to think it is. How often are you surprised by what you find out in your work? Oh, a lot, which is why I keep doing it. If it wasn't surprising, I don't think I'd stay interested. I tend to be interested in what I find surprising. But I think we can find surprise in so many. Surprised ability feels almost like a state of mind, like a mood. If I'm feeling grouchy,
Starting point is 01:02:34 if I've lost my sense of humor, it might be more difficult to surprise me, you know. In your exploration, where do you feel like you are on your path? Are you at the very beginning? Are you somewhere in the path? Are you at the very beginning? Are you somewhere in the middle? Are you towards the end? I don't know if the path is like a straight path, you know? I think of it more like some big branching structure. And so I'm really not sure how far along I would think of myself as being.
Starting point is 01:02:58 I have a general sense that like the adventures are only just beginning. Yes. When I like that feeling. Yeah, it's exciting. So maybe I'm just at the beginning, you know? But I would hope the adventures would always feel like they're only just beginning. Yes. When I like that feeling. Yeah, it's exciting. So maybe I'm just at the beginning, you know. But I would hope the adventures would always feel like they're only just beginning.
Starting point is 01:03:08 Absolutely. I'd love to ask you a bit about, you know, and that sound and vibration and imagination and how you see these things working together. Because as someone who's fascinated by sound, I love music and I play music and it's a big part of my life. And one of the reasons why music's so powerful to me is because it's a process in time.
Starting point is 01:03:31 You can't have music at a single instant. And the living world and the universe is also a process in time. We sometimes like to think of it as being made up of stuff. But that stuff is really just matter in process. And matter itself, when you boil it down, is just energy bound within fields. There's no sort of hard, billiard ball stuff anywhere. Everything is a process in time.
Starting point is 01:03:54 The stuff that makes you up today is different from the stuff that made you up a few years ago. So the life and the universe are processes. And so music feels like it illustrates something very fundamental about how existence proceeds. And I wonder how you relate to music on this level of experiencing as a process in time. I definitely feel like it happens in an instant. And when you capture it, and then you can experience it again, it's exciting. Because if you don't capture it, even if you've noted
Starting point is 01:04:25 it, it seems to never be the same. Every time you play the same piece, it's not the same piece. There's so much micro rhythmic changes that really change what it is. The subtleties are unbelievable. And I've been finding more and more that when we record things if you do anything to improve them it's like a house of cards. It's very very delicate and very dangerous. As soon as there's this moment that feels a certain way, which we don't know why, we don't know how it works. But when you recognize it,
Starting point is 01:05:08 the whole mission becomes preserving that. Whatever we do around it, we want to protect this moment that seems like we'll never get back again. If a group of musicians are playing together and it starts really coming together in a magical way, there's always this anxiety of, I hope they can make it to the end of the piece
Starting point is 01:05:28 because you can't get back. It's all so ephemeral. I mean, I think about this a lot with, the jazz for me is a very fundamental metaphor. I think about the living world as in terms of jazz and improvisation and all organisms are improvising their way through time and have always done. And all that means is that within the constraints
Starting point is 01:05:49 that you're bounded within, and within the possibility available to one, whatever creature one happens to be, one is improvising. And improvising together with other organisms that are going about their life in this way. There's other organisms going about their life in this way. Sometimes that flourishes and generates some wild creation that may only exist then.
Starting point is 01:06:12 Absolutely. Improvisation is always based on what everyone else is doing. Improvisation is not about your part. It's about where you fit into this bigger movement that's happening in real time, and you don't really know where it's going. So it's dangerous to participate. It's very interesting with really great musicians.
Starting point is 01:06:35 They can't play a piece more than a couple of times, because as soon as it goes from that delicate, terrifying improvisation of moving into spaces that you don't want to step on anyone else and you can't really see them, as soon as it becomes rote and you know your part, it's much less interesting. For the audience to hear when all the musicians are listening to each other, really paying attention to see if there's a place that they can participate. It's like potential. I think we're hearing
Starting point is 01:07:06 the potential before there's a sound. There's a feeling. I know that with certain recordings, I can put on a recording and just hearing the first note of the recording, I can know, oh, I'm going to like this or not. The intention in the first note can determine the whole feeling of the piece. Virginia Woolf has a great line where she talks about a wave in the mind which arises long before there are words to fit it. Beautiful. And I feel like that applies to so much more than just writing. It sounds a bit like what you were saying, listening to the space and then enjoying it
Starting point is 01:07:42 as it happens. But one of my favorite albums is Lingus, improvising by himself on the piano. Fantastic album. And in that space he is, I know he's soloed there in some way, maybe it's him in the piano, maybe it's his right hand, it's left hand, but he's not in the group there.
Starting point is 01:07:57 So the way that he's listening is perhaps different from what you were describing in that more group-oriented improvisational scenario. He's just improvising with time and everything he's ever heard, whatever's happening with him that day. And if you were to play the same types of pieces on another day, they would probably sound really different. Yeah. I think this right improvisation, it feels like it too often it gets locked up within just the sort of musical sphere. Of course we're improvising right now and people say, oh well,
Starting point is 01:08:31 you know, I can't improvise. Well, you're improvising every day, like we all are, which is one of the reasons why I find music a powerful metaphor to think about how we metaphor to think about how we live. But in your work in producing, do you feel an improvisational spirit in your practice? Always. I always come in basically as a blank slate. Definitely produces anxiety always at the beginning of every project,
Starting point is 01:09:00 because I have no idea it could be anything. And until it shows itself for what it wants to be or what its potential is, it's scary. Once we can see what it can be, then it's less scary because we at least have a potential route, and that's fine. And it may end up being that route or take a different route, and that's okay too.
Starting point is 01:09:22 But when it's the blank page, it's much more terrifying. Yeah. Also because there's an expectation that's going to be good. I have the expectation myself. But as long as I know that it's not done until it's good and I'm patient, at some point it'll be good. That's really reassuring. Yeah.
Starting point is 01:09:39 I find that terror with a blank page when writing, and one of the ways I get over it is free writing. Yes. Just keep writing. If you're writing with a pen, you just don't take your pen off the paper the ways I get over it is free writing. Yes. Just keep writing. If you're writing with a pen, you just don't take your pen off the paper. If you're doing it on a computer, just don't stop writing. It doesn't have to make sense. You're making a mess, you know?
Starting point is 01:09:51 And out of this, you know, you put on a timer, you know, five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour, and then you have this kind of, this kind of unformed material from which, a kind of compost, you know, from which so much can grow. Yeah, it feels like such a good answer to that. We do it all the time with singers who don't yet have a song or lyrics to listen to music and sing along, but with nonsense words.
Starting point is 01:10:14 Just any words that come to your mind, fill it up with words. And then we listen back, and usually they're just like phrases here and there, like a puzzle. And you can see, oh, this sentence sounds good in this spot, and that's gonna stay, and this other's going to stay, and this other one's going to stay, and this other one's going to stay.
Starting point is 01:10:29 And now, so it's really writing from the unconscious instead of from the conscious mind. It's like the unconscious starts the process, and then the conscious mind finishes the puzzle, but often doesn't understand what the puzzle is, just based on if this and this and this, then these are the pieces that fit together with it. But I don't know what it means, and we don't have to know what it means. Yeah, I find that too, that writing, when I was starting on my book, I had this conscious mind,
Starting point is 01:10:59 I call it my inner editor, you know, and it made it very difficult to write anything because I'd spend a whole day wrestling with a paragraph. At the end of the day, I decided I didn't my inner editor. And it made it very difficult to write anything because I'd spend a whole day wrestling with a paragraph. The end of the day I decided I didn't want the paragraph after all and it was just so demoralizing day after day. In the end I was like, I've got to get rid of my inner editor. I'm gonna send my inner editor, who I like a lot and I need in my life, I'm gonna send them on holiday.
Starting point is 01:11:20 Yes. For a year. Yes. And so I just wrote very quickly in Mercedes for a whole year. Wouldn't show it to anybody. And then brought my editor back when there was something to edit. And I just learned a lot in that process. How did you know to do that?
Starting point is 01:11:34 Well, because I'd spent so many days being demoralized. I would say it was a crisis. It was like, I've got to change what I'm doing because this is not working. The amount of work that I'm producing that I think is meaningful is so small compared to the amount of time I'm spending banging my head against this wall. See, I was prompted by a crisis, but I had to go through these processes to need to find
Starting point is 01:11:54 a way out. But I'm also interested in when you work, because you work with sound in the sound world so much. What is it about sounds that leads you to work with sound rather than like visual or textual or any other kind of medium? And maybe you probably do work with those other meteors. I do, but I like closing my eyes and I've always had this emotional connection. Also when I read, I spend more time listening to audiobooks than reading. I just tend to be an audio-centric character, but I like to
Starting point is 01:12:25 close my eyes and listen. And I've always had this connection to music that hasn't always made sense. It feels like it touches me in an emotional way that other things don't. It seems like the most poetic form in that it's so open to interpretation. There's so much like the difference if you read a book, it tells you a certain amount of information. And if you watch a movie, it fills in even more of the gaps. So your imagination gets to participate in a book more than it does in a movie. And it seems like in music,
Starting point is 01:12:57 the listener gets to be the most involved in the interpretation because it tells us so little. It's cueing us, but all of our experiences are very individual. Whereas if we look at a picture, we may notice different things, but the picture tells us much more. We participate less in the interpretation, least on the face value. And at the same time, there's a great thinker and poet
Starting point is 01:13:24 who I love called John O'Donoghue. I don't know if you've heard of him, Irish. I love him. Yeah, and he has this line, you've probably heard it, that he says, well, you know, I always say that music is what language would do if it could, you know. Wow, that's great. So I love the idea that from what you were saying,
Starting point is 01:13:40 that language is trying to specify less, but in doing so, leave more open, leave more. I always feel like language doesn't have the specificity to really explain what's going on. It never feels like it's enough. And the music maybe can convey an emotion in a way that we can feel it more, but it's also still a personal experience.
Starting point is 01:14:05 I feel like we all have our own experience and the best we can do is like smoke signals to try to explain what's going on within us, but it's really far away. Mm-hmm. Which is why songs, like bringing together of language and music can be so powerful. And it's so powerful to listen to songs
Starting point is 01:14:23 in a language you don't know how to speak, it's so powerful to listen to songs in a language you don't know how to speak, right? Where that language is still a meaningful human language if one could understand the words. And it becomes meaningful in a different way when it's sung and becomes a sound and rhythmic, melodic form. Also depends on the way the singer sings.
Starting point is 01:14:40 There are some singers who have really beautiful voices and I find that I listen to their voices more than the words and there are other singers where the words are what really come through. What instruments do you play? I play the piano and the accordion. And the accordion is a beautiful instrument for, I was very happy to start playing that after some years of playing the piano because the piano feels, it wants full frontal attention, you're there. It's more like a jealous dance partner or another.
Starting point is 01:15:10 But the accordion is on your chest, it's breathing on your chest, and you can't actually see, even if you tried, what your hands are doing. So your face is free, looking out. It's much more sociable, I find, as an instrument. I think also the nature of the bellows and the wind has to be different.
Starting point is 01:15:26 Yeah, I mean, it's breathing. It's breathing on top of where you're breathing, and there's an intimacy there. Do you use the bellows as a rhythmic tool, or is it more just keeping enough air in the bellows to propel the song? Well, the bellows are the tool to phrase it. So louder or softer or the shape of your phrase, that's all shaped by the bellows. But then it's also fun to use them rhythmically too.
Starting point is 01:15:49 So you can do various bellow patterns to create a kind of, a shimmer or a kind of, a different kind of feel. A bit like a strumming pattern on a guitar or string instrument. And they're not left-handed or right-handed version. They're always the same. I think you probably could get a left-handed version. I've never seen one like that. I've never seen one.
Starting point is 01:16:07 I don't know. But I guess on the piano, the right hand is usually doing the melody and the left hand's usually doing the bass, and that's how it is. The left hand's doing the chords. Yeah. The left hand's playing the buttons, which are usually the chords.
Starting point is 01:16:19 Of course, this is a piano. We're talking about, let's say, a piano accordion, but there are all these different other kinds of squeeze boxes that have buttons where you have a different note on the push and the pull, monica harmonica. So yeah, I've never seen one with a piano keyboard on the left hand and the buttons on the right. That would be an interesting exercise to play one of those.
Starting point is 01:16:38 With keys on both sides would be interesting too. Tell me the story of your dad's position and how his material has been received. He was working at Cambridge as a research scientist and then went on to do crop research at a crop research institute in India. And then he, over time, he felt like there were a number of unexplained problems within modern biology that at the time, current approaches were not making any headway in solving and perhaps couldn't make any headway in solving. So he wrote a book called A New Science of Life
Starting point is 01:17:15 in which he talked about a kind of field theory for biology in a way that these fields might give rise to a memory in nature that he called morphic resonance. And it was very controversial when it came out, and there was an editorial in the journal Nature, which is one of the biggest science journals in the world, written by the then editor, John Maddox, called A Book for Burning.
Starting point is 01:17:41 And this caused an outcry. John was later interviewed, and he said that Sheldrake should be condemned in the same language that the Pope used to put them in Galileo, and for the same reasons. It's heresy. He kind of scored a bit of an own goal here.
Starting point is 01:17:57 Wasn't Galileo right? Exactly. So this caused even more of an outcry. But it was very revealing because it did show very clearly that there are structures of quite strict dogma within the scientific community, as there are, of course, within other human communities, but perhaps an unfortunate comparison.
Starting point is 01:18:20 It's really interesting because he wasn't saying that it's wrong. He's saying heresy is different than being wrong. Exactly. It's not sanctioned. That's the difference. He's doing work that's not sanctioned. How many books has your dad written? I'm not actually sure. Maybe nine or ten?
Starting point is 01:18:40 Are they all offshoots of morphic resonance, would you say? I would say that's the kind of water he swims in, but they're on very different subjects. Some are on the unexplained powers of animals, like dogs that know when they're coming home. Some are about unexplained powers of humans, like the sense of being stared at, people being able to tell when they're being looked at from behind. Some are about science and spiritual practices. So there's actually quite a wide range. It sounds like they're all related to the original idea that there's some either collective conscience or memory.
Starting point is 01:19:14 Is that correct? Yeah, they relate to that, I think. And I think they all spring from the idea that the universe is not just the matter and energy that we commonly think it is. So he's often going against materialist, or what's sometimes called physicalist views of the world and of the universe, which says that everything is nothing but the matter and energy.
Starting point is 01:19:38 So he's saying there's something else. Well, he's saying basically that there are forms of causation that we might not have taken into account within the modern sciences. In some classical views and in lots of traditional worldviews, these ideas might not seem so strange. Yes, I remember one of his experiments was about the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle,
Starting point is 01:20:10 which is considered to be one of the harder crossword puzzles, and that speaking to people who do the puzzle, it's reported that the earlier they do it in the morning, the more difficult the puzzle is, and later in the day it gets easier and easier. And it's not because the puzzle changes, and it's not because they speak to anyone else, but because the puzzle has already been solved, the more people who solve it, the easier it is for others to solve it, even if the puzzle has already been solved, the more people who solve it, the easier it is for others to solve it, even if they don't know the solution. Yes, so that illustrates his hypothesis of morphic resonance. And actually, when I was at school, we had exams, standardized exams when we were 16, and everyone in the country does the same exam at the same time. So I had answered the last question first, and
Starting point is 01:20:42 by the time I got to the first question, everyone would have answered it. Of course, I couldn't tell. It wasn't an experiment, I didn't have anything to compare it to, so I couldn't tell whether it worked. It's a great idea in general, though. What is the wood-wide web? The wood-wide web, sir, it means lots of different things to different people, but it's most commonly used
Starting point is 01:21:01 to describe situations where one mycorrhizal fungal network can connect more than one plant together. Mycorrhizal fungal networks are promiscuous, they can connect to more than one plant, and plants are also promiscuous and can connect to more than one mycorrhizal fungus. So what you end up with is shared overlapping networks of plants and fungi. The Woodwide Web is used frequently to describe situations where this is taking place and often it's used to describe situations where material substances might move between plants through these networks. So these plants I talked about that I studied, the ones that don't photosynthesize,
Starting point is 01:21:43 these are plants that have to make a living by drawing nutrients from other plants through these fungal networks, which rather changes the way that we think about how plants live. Normally, you think about plants living as kind of adjacent individuals, but in this case, the plants are connected through fungi. So there's a lot of talk about how this works in ecosystems. There's a lot we don't know about these shared networks. There's a lot of claims that people make about trees feeding each other
Starting point is 01:22:09 and nourishing each other and maybe in some situations like the ones I described that's taking place. But it's not so much that the... I think of it less like the plants are feeding each other and more like the fungus is able to better balance its own needs by being connected to more than one plant. If it needs plants to make a living, then better be connected to more than one in case anything happens.
Starting point is 01:22:33 So it's a mutually beneficial system. It seems to be a mutually beneficial system. If you look at it from the plant's perspective, why would the plant want to support one of its neighbouring plants? It's possible that that's something it might want to do, you know, if those plants are related, and I think it makes more sense to think about it from the fungal point of view, where the fungus wants to nourish all these plants in order to keep itself in good connection to its sources of nutrients. But on the whole, these relationships are thought of as mutually
Starting point is 01:23:02 beneficial because the plants and the fungus over time do tend to give more or less as much as they get. Tell me about the talk that you just gave. I was in Vienna, I was talking at a fungus festival. Which was really fun because there are various fungal nerds from all around. And I'm a fungal nerd and I love talking with fungal nerds. So afterwards we had a lovely time, talking about all sorts of things from, and one of the big problems with fungal research
Starting point is 01:23:32 is that it's so hard to work out what they're doing outside in busy bustling ecosystems. And when you take a pinch of soil, you've interrupted the networks you hope to study. So we were talking about different ways we might be able to adapt techniques to better see what's going on outside and busy ecosystems. And we were talking about strange cultivation techniques, new cultivation techniques that people had worked out, this kind of thing.
Starting point is 01:23:58 Do you want to talk more about underground networks? Yeah. So I think one of the things that's really important with these fungal networks is to think of them as holding ecosystems together. You can have situations where they behave like highways in the soil for bacteria to move around. And these networks hold soil together and stop it washing away. They give soil its structure.
Starting point is 01:24:22 Does it look like a root? Depends on how closely you look at it, but it might often look like a kind of a spider's web, maybe. If you see them growing on the surface of soil, if you lift up the leaf a little there, then they look kind of like spider webs, cobwebs. So much finer than roots. And they fuse as well as branch.
Starting point is 01:24:38 So roots branch and branch and branch and branch. But these form more of a kind of mat, three-dimensional mat. And they don't have a head, so you can, if you were to separate them, both parts would live. Yes, yeah, it's really a kind of a medium of ecological connectivity. And I work with an organization called the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks, or SPUN,
Starting point is 01:25:02 and we're trying to map the microvisual networks of the planet because so many people know these organisms are important, but it's very hard for decision makers to take into account the life in the soil because we don't know where, who's living where in only one time. There's been very few projects that have brought together diverse data sets and created very big global models and maps of who's living
Starting point is 01:25:26 where. We have these maps for ocean currents, for climatic systems, for vegetation cover, but not for fungal networks. So we're working on this as a way to draw attention to underground life and to advocate for the protection of underground ecosystems and also provide tools to make that possible. Is the technology to sense them without disrupting the soil? We do have to disrupt the soil. We take samples of soil in different places,
Starting point is 01:25:51 and then we sequence the DNA to look out who's living there. So at the moment, there's no way to do this without disrupting the soil. We just try to disrupt as little of us as soil as we can. That seems interesting to find a technology, like an X-ray type technology where it would glow. Yeah, and there are ways we are working actually in the lab using x-rays in kind of transparent
Starting point is 01:26:13 soils. And people do use ground penetrating radar and this kind of technique to look at root systems, but fungal cells are so fine that right now this technology is not very good at resolving them. But if that could be developed, and I'm sure one day it will, it would completely transform our understanding. What colour are they? It depends on the fungus.
Starting point is 01:26:34 If you think about bread mould, you know, some of the purples and some of blues and greens and reds, but many of the fungi that live in the soil will be kind of whitish, sometimes yellowish, brownish. And they change colour depending on where they're growing. If they're exposed to light, they might grow into a different color or they might turn yellow as they age. Is the variety of the network related to the variety of mushroom?
Starting point is 01:26:54 Absolutely, yeah. So we often talk about fungal networks in this very general term. It's a bit like saying tree. It describes a manner of growth like tree does, but think of all the kinds of tree there are. You wouldn't expect to find a plum on an apple tree. Yes, some support multiple mushrooms.
Starting point is 01:27:13 Is that correct or no? No, so one- They're all particular. Yeah, yeah, just as trees are, right? So you have fir trees and beech trees and redwoods, and they all have different ways of growing and different habits and tendencies, and they can all live in similar areas together in like a mixed forest. But each one of those would be a different species of tree.
Starting point is 01:27:34 Do you know anything about the way redwoods communicate? Because I understand they have some sort of a network. Well, redwoods can coppice. So you can have redwoods coming up from a shared underground network of roots, essentially. You can see several redwoods can coppice, so you can have redwoods coming up from a shared underground network of roots, essentially. You can see several redwoods growing together and they might look like several redwoods, but they're actually all connected underground. Lots of trees do this, not through fungal connections, but they would just actually be connected.
Starting point is 01:27:58 It's almost like each of the trees are actually branches of the same system. Yeah, exactly. trees are actually branches of the same system. Exactly. The way that we think about organisms relating is often in terms of say there's one organism here, say a plant, one organism here, say a fungus, and they relate to each other. So we think about them as relating. We almost draw a dotted line between them in our minds.
Starting point is 01:28:22 Two entities connected. But in lots of cases, in most cases, it's less that they're connected in that kind of way, and it's more like they are making each other. They're making the conditions for each other to exist. It's more like a relational field of relation in which they are co-creating each other. It's a bit like, I don't know if you've seen
Starting point is 01:28:43 that drawing by M.C. Escher. Yes. With the hand drawing the hand drawing the hand. Yes. I think that's a really beautiful way to think about these symbiotic associations because these organisms are creating the conditions for the other to exist and they are in many ways
Starting point is 01:28:58 creating the conditions for the others to evolve in the way that they are doing. So when we see two species that have two different organisms, say a fungus and a plant, that have a close association, we're just looking at the current state of affairs. But imagine through evolutionary time, these species entwining with each other in a kind of braid, making each other,
Starting point is 01:29:17 making the conditions for each other to continue to be. From our microbiome's perspective, the body is just the thing that holds together the microbiome world, you know, from its perspective. It's like from our perspective, it's in there doing work for us, but from its perspective, we're just the vessel that it lives in, we're the house, and one's not right or wrong. And we tend to look at things from the individual perspective instead of the collective. Yeah, I mean, I think that's one of the simplest moves one can do to deepen and expand one's
Starting point is 01:29:50 relationship with the living world is just to try and change perspective. It's not that we could become a plant in a straightforward way, take on a plant perspective or a fungal perspective, but just as we do in human relations, you need to be a good human to the other humans we live with. It's so important to try and see things from different people's perspectives. It's the root of empathic connection. And I think we can do that in the living world as well. Just a question that we might not be able to answer,
Starting point is 01:30:15 but then what must it be like from your perspective? How would this look if we just took on that perspective for just a moment? So I find it a very helpful tool in a way to try and enter in, or at least to step out of my daily assumptions. Thank you.

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