Saturday, January 7, 2017

Me and the Mushroom Network (Thinking is a work in progress.)

Happy to say, I have taken the publisher's offer of a month's extension (it was in my contract all along, as my subconscious knew full well--it seems to have a good sense of time and how far it can push it out), so I have until Feb. 15 to finish the ms, which makes me happy because as I write, I keep uncovering more things and making more connections, and I want to write it all out into a huge THING, and then prune it down.
Which takes times.

I lie half-awake and think of interconnections.
You know how pleasing that is.

Its great to have more time--my brain is weak and doesn't focus on work for more than about 4 to 6 hours a day.
Though I'm not sure it's "weakness" actually, it's more like my brain gets full and needs time to digest. That takes as long as it takes. 
If I rush it, I don't get better results, I get a hairball.

(But sometimes, yeah, sometimes it's laziness. I am not a hard worker. (That has its upside too: laziness creates empty time and space.))
If my complete ms turns out to be coherent--and that is far from guaranteed (I'm not being modest in saying that)--I'd like to share online the parts that won't go in the published version. There's some fun stuff I've uncovered and lined up. 
Otherwise, or also, I'd love to put more bits and pieces here.
I want to take time to write out more of my thoughts on this past Year of Living Fannishly before they become so normal to me that I think I've always thought them, yet can't quite say what they are.
I don't know what I think right now.

This is a work in progress.
I need to write MORE about it, so my thinking becomes clearer (or falls apart in the light of day, like a vampire).
I'm aware, for instance that some of my thoughts and feelings are defensive. Feeling defensive muddies the process, and yet it's a spur to thinking too.
But those feelings take some sorting out.

For instance, I react against the train of thought that expresses little but disdain for Internet culture.
I was at a coffee shop with an old friend recently, and he pointed to a row of silent people all on their devices and said it was sad they weren't talking, like we were.
"Most of them are talking," I said. 
But he would have none of it.
I do get that, the sadness over the loss of face-to-face networks, though as someone who came from a family and schools where I felt emotionally beleaguered more than supported, I'm not personally nostalgic for these networks. 
I do share the disgust, distrust, or distress about what a trap the Internet can be, much as I sing its praises. 
I don't follow my friend jumping, as he does, from that personal sadness to saying the internet is making us lazy and bad. 
What bothers me most isn't that it's degrading f2f socializing or the English language, which I hear people say. It's allowed people who'd never would have written anything, much less published it, to express themselves--yes, badly--and as one of those people myself, I am all for that. 
What bothers me is that the Internet (and internet fandom) can be an addictive, hedonistic sucking force, like a spider immobilizing us in sticky threads to drain our fluids. And that force is us, our own nature.

So, when were people not hedonistic and self-involved? and lazy, preferring distractions to unpleasant work? Or even to pleasant work?
This is an old problem.
I always say I'm with Saint Paul, crying, Why, oh why, don't I do the things I love? 
Or Augustine lamenting over stealing pears he wasn't even going to eat, Why, oh why, do I do these stupid things?

The Internet shows us who we humans always were and what we're  like--but that includes the GOOD stuff---good stuff that gets amped up when we share it. 

It's easy to see the good gets better when it's shared. The Internet empowers and connects people who in the history of the world have been powerless and isolated.

I ask myself, does the bad get worse?
Some would say that's easy to see, but I'm not sure... 
The Bad certainly becomes more effective and widespread, and it moves a lot faster. 
Not sure if it's actually worse on an individual level?
After all, the Crusades were powered by mere biology--horses, wind, human feet... And Genghis Khan and his ilk didn't need the internet.
We can do more bad, faster--and that's a problem!!!---but are we worse people, as I hear some people say?

Ay! that's getting too big-picture for me, and my brain is wobbling.
Zooming back down, what I can reasonably ask is,
Was I doing or likely to do something better with my time before the internet? better than the mutual pleasure and help that's come to and through the internet? 

And I'd say, no, quite the opposite: some of the best things I've done in my life have come through online connections: blogging, emailing, creative fandom (e.g. making vids).
It may seem silly to put much stock in a Tumblr comment saying I was "an asset to humanity" for my photo-manipulation of Hutch gazing with love at Starsky---but why not take it at face value?
What I heard was, "Your work makes me feel less lonely and more at home in this world."

It's like the quote from the Quran I posted the other day that the White Helmets in Aleppo used as their motto:
"Whoever saves one life saves humanity."

Does that have to be as obvious as digging someone out of a bombed building?
I don't think so.

Overall, I think the web is like more those underground mushroom webs I compared it to the other day than like a spider's web.

I went and read more about the underground life of mushrooms (yay! internet). You may know (I didn't), their underground threads are called mycelium/-a, and biologists have compared them to the Internet. More on the science here:

I had no idea the fungal threads not only connect mushrooms, they connect 90% of Earth's land plants.
Ninety percent.
They are like the bees of the plant world: if they ceased to exist, we'd lose a lot more than honey and mushroom. 

I'm sure the Internet can help the good get better because it happened to me.
For instance, I look at the "me too" comments on my autobiographical vid Star Trek, My Love

They encourage me because we need to know we're not alone––solitary confinement is torture. 
I put something out there (my vid), saying this helped me, this connected me; and the comments came bouncing back. That's like the visible part of the mushroom.

And then I ponder how that same vid got translated into Russian and shown at a con outside Moscow. Now tensions are running high between my country (the USA) and Russia are once again, but I don't think of Putin as representative, I think of the fan who did the translations---and I hope they all think of me.
It's the internet fungi at work.
Not that that will save the world, (though who knows what all goes into that--that's the invisible part of the mushroom), 
but for me, Goodness like that is worth all the stupid, lazy hours I've spent staring at the curve of Kirk's hip...
And my fellow fans and bloggers and all were a huge inspiration to me: we are all part of what sets and keeps that web humming, you especially, who make stuff, and write stuff, and share stuff. 
There is no one, singular author.
That's the real brilliance of the internet, to me:
that we don't only sit there like dullards (tho' plenty of that too), we jump in and make stuff too.
Making stuff is the closest we come to being divine---we are creating out of nothingness.

And the Bad is when we destroy and tear down instead, especially intentionally--(though I contend we're mostly too dim to realize when we're doing it, and I don't exclude myself from that judgment).

The Internet can get you by the ankle and was pull you under like Beowulf.
That can be bad and sad and scary and genuinely dangerous. I think of gamers, for instance, who have died because they couldn't step away from the keyboard (console? whatever).
So I'm not dismissing the dangers. Just saying they existed before, too.  
Hey, do I sound like Kirk here?!?!
Making a speech in support of the Messy Humans? "Life is meaningless without the freedom to make our own mistakes!"
I do feel romantic about it that way.
I also see my own capacity for being complacent, oh yeah,  mean-spirited, and certainly for being thoughtless. 
I only say I wouldn't be any better if the internet didn't exist---rather, I think I'd be worse.

To wrap up with the mushroom network.
It evolved over a billion years ago to aid organisms to move from the oceans to the land.
What if a network is evolving that will aid us humans in moving beyond the self-involved, self-destructive, short-sighted creatures we are? Whether that's a social network or an actual rewiring of our physical neural networks, our brains.
I don't know. 

I just know I have to get through this life, and so do we all. 
What helps?

TED Talk about the science: 
The whole thing's mind-blowing, but info about the mushroom web ("mycorrhiza") starts around 09:30.
"How Trees Talk to Each Other" by Canadian forester Suzanne Simard:


The Crow said...

Mistakes are probably the best learning tools we have at our disposal, because they make us ask "Why?" In fact, language might have evolved from grunts so that we could explain the whys and wherefores, so we could then challenge hypothoses. I think "why" might be my most favorite word, right beside "Aha!".

Sorry I missed your post, "Star Trek, My Love."

Fresca said...

Hi, Crow--
Maybe you didn't remember my vid's title, Star Trek, My Love--you'd left a comment on it, for which I thank you.
It's here, and I added the link to this post (thanks for the nudge!):

Love the idea that we developed language so we could aska dn asnwer "why"--I bet the desire to disagree has been a great force in the evolution of language! :)

You are a good mushroom friend.

ArtSparker said...

I lie half-awake and think of interconnections.
You know how pleasing that is.

Definitely on the same page believing that Life is better sharing "a laughter, an agreement, by surprise", as Wallace Stevens put it (Of Bright & Blue Brids & the Gala Sun). The more grace notes, the better.

Fresca said...

I love Wallace Stevens but had never read that poem, Sparker. Thank you. Yes, "surprise".