Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Crash Course on Plants

Plants are those green things that grow all around us. If you live in the city surrounded by inorganic matter, plants are those green things that protrude from the sidewalk and fight against all odds to live within the hostile urban environment. Plants are truly amazing things.

You see, were it not for plants, humans would die. In fact, we would not even exist, and neither would the animal kingdom. The earth would be another gaseous rock in the solar system hostile to all but the most primitive forms of life...

kinda like Rush Limbaugh.

Simply put, the entirety of animal life on Earth has evolved thanks to the supportive diversity of the plant kingdom. With this in mind, it's not really that much of a stretch to say that animals, and the social intelligence of animals, have evolved symbiotically with plants. For while it is true that plants have shaped animal evolution, likewise, animals have shaped plant evolution. The fact that plants produce animal neuromodulators is itself a strong indication of our mutual symbiosis.

Modern anthropologists classify humans as "Homo sapiens" within the taxonomy of the animal kingdom. Although this nomenclature nicely describes our humanity in the scientific sense, I prefer to use the term "Homo botanicus" because, really, the "sapiens" began once we became gardeners. And so, it came to pass that humans began using plants for spices and not just emergency foods. We began using plants for fibers and dyes, and textiles, and shelters. We discovered how to turn plant parts and substances in commodities, and economies. We learned how to eat better foods, ferment better drinks, and "clean" the air around us (i.e. incense). And all this was fine and dandy, but like in Genesis, someone ate from the tree of knowledge, and the human experience became radically different.

Somewhere along the way, we began realizing how to use plants as medicines, and for vehicles to access the "spiritual" depths of the human psyche. Thus, certain nightshades containing cholinergic tropane alkaloids became tools for accessing lost ancestors and the gods. Certain mushrooms and cacti became known for opening doorways to the spirit realm and peeking at enlightenment. People began sculpting iconic deities in the shape of poppy pods. And certain plants in the taxonomic family Cannabaceae became valued for their fibers, food, and medicines.

It's hard to say what came first, knowledge, or the cognitive capacities for knowledge. Regardless, plants had a lot to do with how we humans and our distant ancestors evolved. And this is why we should not take them for granted.

If all of this is new news to you, then you probably live among inorganic matter, and you probably receive most of your information from other inorganic matter that is regulated, in some way, by the economy and government. I don't hold this against you, though. I'm just saying, maybe one should step outside of the censors.

If you would like to learn more, the easiest thing to do is start growing plants, and pay attention to them, because they will teach you what you need to know. This is both good for the plants, and it'll make you, in the truest sense, more human.

If all of this is not news to you, then I'm sorry for wasting your time. But I still hope you grow a plant anyway.