Hey, Les. I’m gonna get a bit philosophical with you here, so hang on.
Just before Plato launches into his cave allegory in his Republic, he talks about divisions of the soul. Here’s a quote I found really interesting:
There are four such conditions in the soul, corresponding to the four subsections of our line: Understanding for the highest, thought for the second, belief for the third, and imaging for the last. Arrange them in a ratio, and consider that each shares in clarity to the degree that the subsection it is set over shares in truth.
Here’s how a kind person laid it out in a diagram, more tree- than line-like, with understanding=intellection, belief=trust/confidence, and imaging=imagination/conjecture:
You may think I’ve been in the cave too long. Or I got some kind of fever from all the damn bugs that bit me while I was working in the south. You may be right; I’ve also got a bloody eyeball that I can’t explain. But I’m trying to break it all down and get my head in order for the new year. The direction of all these philosophical meanderings is toward the notion of “goodness” (see it, modestly lowercase, in its little box up top?) and an understanding of how images and imagination play a defining role in realizing the good. And what is a good image, really? Effective propaganda, or something eternal and true?
So sue me if I go astray.
p.s. This book, in Alec’s list, about the hyper-collectors (momma called ’em packrats) and the people who come to bail them out? Maybe I should check in with that guy Schmelling, find out what he knows about it all…
I think this fear and disgust comes from the fact that mushrooms are so clearly alive but, as you say, feed on death. As Martha Nussbaum said in last Sunday’s NYTimes Magazine, “The common property of all these primary disgust objects is that they are reminders of our animality and mortality.”
Look at the names in these mushroom diagrams: Volva, Annulus, Flesh, Spines, Warts…mushrooms remind us of our own bodies.
Mostly, of course, mushrooms are phallic. We fear and disgust them in the same way we do a horse’s penis. Speaking of which, I’m a little worried that your last name refers to someone who performs animal castration.
Did you like mushrooms when you were growing up? To me, they were like, the essence of fear food (not to mention how creepy they were, squishing underfoot and popping up in the lawn after rains). Kept me at the table way after everyone else finished their dinners. Almost as hard to choke down as liver, even hidden in mashed potatoes. Kind of uncanny, really.
They are still eerie. And deathly. Often little and brown. Something edible you better not eat unless you know your fungi. I mean, it grows from death, and decay. No photosynthesis. But they grow in some of the most beautiful places in the forest, and the best ones taste like meat and peat.
I sometimes say that I feel like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed bullshit.
Speaking of death, I wish I’d known this guy Sultan. Sounds like a fascinating person; I like what I saw of his pics. Maybe he was fun. (Get it? “Fun guy”? haha)