Here is the second of our collages and transcripts: the theme of ‘Connections’ has been taken from the group’s discussion.

“So, we began by thinking about the enduring connections that have been part of the experience of this little group of oblates … many, many years, and that is represented by this elephant who is wise and long time served, but what brought people to this place, was through relationships with other women, and this speaks of something of the gentleness that was evident when invitations and suggestions were being made to us about belonging here, about stepping forwards. And those women also, as well as the gentleness, but represent great strength, and in this little person here is strong in their faith and their support of each other, and all of us. We talked about the links and the bonding, especially going over to South Africa, the links that took people “to and fro” which continues to this day and the colours they’re representing that and then when it came to the people becoming part of this community as oblates, we had little interpretations of that, so we have this circle here, God represented in the middle there, and people gathering round, and feeling very connected. And then the paths that we have taken towards those moments represented by this little silver piece, which when it catches the light shows many different routes that can be taken but all pointing in the same direction. And then finally, not always plain sailing for people, and so there is some tension represented here, where sometimes things that have been difficult to bridge, but yet somehow do find the connection, at some cost some times, but nevertheless importantly achieved, that’s my best word there.”

Thinking about connectedness, coming across this cartoon,  it fuelled thoughts and prayers about roots and networks. The following meditations and activities came out of this.

Cartoon credit Sylvia Odhner

Consider the Mycelium: Networks will heal the Earth by Rhonda Miska, 22 April 2017 

Click here to read the full article.

Rhonda Miska starts by reminding us of Biblical references to the natural world: Jesus talked about birds of the air, lilies of the field, fig trees, mustard seeds, and big catches of fish; Job encouraged us to seek wisdom from nature: “ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you” (Job 12:7-8); and Meister Eckhart wrote that “Every single creature is full of God. Every creature is a word of God.” She then asks what if we were to apply these analogies to fungi, more specifically mycelia?

She defines mycelium (or mycelia) as: “a network of underground fungal threads, the “fruit” of which are mushrooms. Mycelial mats can cover thousands of acres, making fungi some of the largest organisms in the world.”

Rhonda then goes on to describe three ways in which the mycelium is a useful analogy for a life of connectedness, especially regarding social justice.

  1. We act as community – especially in our struggles for justice

Like the mycelium, we are deeply interconnected with one another. She considers the specific lives of leaders in various struggles for justice, for example, Rosa Parks and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and she finds that they – like mycelium – were networked and connected. They were not alone, these and other key figures were formed and supported by networks. The names of key figures are remembered, but there were/are countless others whose names aren’t, but whose work enabled their ‘prophetic witnesses’.

    1. We resource and support one another

    Mycelium have a symbiotic relationship with host plants, and therefore with the whole ecosystem, contributing to its long-term health and flourishing, for example when there are threats such as disease, pests, and drought. Rhonda quotes the biologist Paul Stamets, who encourages us to consider them sentient “thinking” organisms that take in and respond to information about their environment, thus supporting the health of the whole forest. In terms of our connectedness, she asserts that none of us has the skills and abilities to do everything or to be everywhere, and therefore, whatever our ministry, the practical support of a network(s) is key. Of particular relevance to us as Oblates, is where she quotes the Ursuline Sister Michele Morek, who compares women religious to the mycelium’s “underground network, connecting one area of need with another, connecting needy areas with resources, or supporting ministries and services.” As the mycelium connects and collaborates to support the whole ecosystem, so do we together contribute to “the common good and move towards the vision of right relationship.”

    1. Together we are a powerful force for healing of the whole

    Rhonda refers again to Paul Stamets, who writes about the process of ‘mycoremediation’, a process by which mushrooms can clean up contaminated land. Water or land that has been damaged by, e.g., bacteria like E. coli, heavy metals or other contaminants, can be improved by applying different combinations of fungi. Through our networks, in Christ, we offer healing to the world.

    To draw this together, mycelia can be seen as a model of “collaboration for flourishing” – a good definition of connectedness. As human beings, we need other organisms to “survive, thrive, and heal one another”.

    Reflection: Consider meditating on the hidden network of mycelium beneath our feet. What does this analogy tell us about our specific networks, and how does it help us to strengthen them to enable us to serve each other and the world? What does it feel like to imagine ourselves as part of the mycelium? We will never look at mushrooms in the same light again.

    To support this further, additional resources have been included below.

    More Fungi and Connections

    Mycelium Network – Earth’s Natural Mushroom Internet: YouTube link click here.

    Fantastic Fungi: A film directed by Louie Schwartzberg. This is the link to the trailer of the film (it is worth watching the film if the trailer interests you).

    Mycelium: Exploring the hidden dimension of fungi. Click here to learn more at Kew Gardens.

    Creative Activities and Meditation

    • Consider writing a poem, combining the science of mycelia with our lives in Christ.
    • Draw or paint your own mycelium network – who are you connected with/to? This could be a further development of the work started last month, based on Andy Warhol’s painting.
    • Another suggestion is to take the photo of this group’s collage, match the transcript statements to it, and then add your own words, drawings or, indeed more collage items to represent your own connections.
    • Music Meditation: Brother, sister, let me serve you (Northumbrian Community) For the YouTube link click here.

    Final Thought: Connectedness in Action

    This is a photograph from The Facebook page of “Discover World” – Roar Wildlife News:

    “The thinner tree was cut years ago and the big one has been holding and feeding it since then. They “wake up” together in the spring and “go to sleep” together in the autumn.”

    “Inosculation” is a natural phenomenon in which parts of two different trees, commonly but not exclusively the same species, grow together, self-grafting and sharing nutrients. The term emanates from the Latin ōsculārī – to kiss, embrace, to value.

    Photo credit: Rebecca Herbert, Environmental Journalist Tired World