Saturday, June 25, 2022

The resourcefulness of rot, the wholeness of fungi

A forest floor, the Woodland villagers knew, is a living thing. Vast civilizations lay within the mosaic of dirt: hymenopteran labyrinths, rodential panic rooms, life-giving airways sculpted by the traffic of worms, hopeful spiders' hunting cabins, crash pads for nomadic beetles, trees shyly locking toes with one another. It was here that you'd find the resourcefulness of rot, the wholeness of fungi.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers, is about the unlikely encounter of a tea monk and a robot, centuries after the Awakening, when robots left the factories to venture into the wilderness.

Needless to say, Dex learns more about their own humanity from the wild-built Mosscap (assembled from old parts), who has undertaken an anthropological investigation into the needs of humans. In Mosscap's wisdom, they distinguish what they are doing from their reason for being.

Nothing has a purpose. The world simply is. [...] It is enough to exist in the world and marvel at it. You don't need to justify that, or earn it. You are allowed to just live.

Dex has a restless soul. They were tired of city-living when they sought a change of vocation. I'm just tired. Tired of feeling I have to justify myself. There are lessons here for me too.

[Even when I enjoy lazy days, I have to convince myself that I have earned them. Even when I have earned them, I often reframe my laziness in terms of accomplishment. Simple rest becomes an exercise in wellness, meditation, communion with nature — as if one must be active in one's passivity. Productivity is overrated. We should stop valuing it.]

As an example of solarpunk, this novella has a relatively positive outlook on our future, with humans coming to terms with their place in the world.

It is difficult for anyone born and raised in human infrastructure to truly internalize the fact that your view of the world is backward. Even if you fully know that you live in a natural world that existed before you and will continue long after, even if you know that the wilderness is the default state of things, and that nature is not something that only happens in carefully curated enclaves between towns, something that pops up in empty spaces if you ignore them for a while, even if you spend your whole life believing yourself to be deeply in touch with the ebb and flow, the cycle, the ecosystem as it actually is, you will still have trouble picturing an untouched world. You will still struggle to understand that human constructs are carved out and overlaid, that these are the places that are the in-between, not the other way around.


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