Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Learning from Slime Mold

Long ago when I was in graduate school, I took a test called the FIRO-B.  From the results, I learned that I need affection (I didn’t require a test to tell me that!) and I have almost no need to control other people.  In all honesty, my children and husband may disagree, but I truly don’t want the responsibility for interfering in someone else’s free will.  I believe our free will is the reason we’re here living lives, because our choices develop and express who we are.  I also understand that a civilized society must invent guidelines (a form of group control) to keep the masses surging together without too many clashes, so we outlaw disruptive behavior such as murder and driving the wrong way on the interstate.  Of course, our perception of these “crimes” is skewed by what we believe.  Wars, the Black Lives Matter movement, and giant accident pile-ups during fog or blizzards are examples of how confused we are about the sanctity of those restrictions.

One other tidbit of information I gleaned from the FIRO-B was that I am fiercely independent.  One of my instructors suggested the source of this insistence on freedom was that (according to my mother) my birth was induced a day early by a doctor who had an important tee-time the next day.  I really don’t recall that particular incident, but I do have a tremendous aversion to being controlled.

I’ve discovered many people actually want to be controlled—led by someone who makes their hearts race in a gleeful illusion that they’ve been elevated to superiority by their loyalty.  Some celebrate being especially pious and right.  (My birth family was exploded by warring religious doctrines.)  Some celebrate an illusion that skin color or traditions or bank accounts determine worth.  (We’ve heard more than enough about that.)  Many will gladly donate funds they can’t afford to underscore their specialness, even when they don’t know what makes them or their idols special beyond what they’ve been fed.

Last week I watched a segment of PBS NOVA about slime mold.  It may sound like I’ve been avoiding COVID-19 a little too strenuously for my mental health, but I couldn’t believe how fascinating a slime mold that looks like something growing on neglected dumpsters could be.  Apparently, this mold is akin to a substance which people who like 1950’s horror movies would recognize as THE BLOB—an expanding outer space mass the color of raspberry jelly that moves like jam sliding down the side of a jar, enveloping and dissolving people it encounters.  As it turns out, the real slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) uses its chemistry to slowly slide itself toward food.  (It doesn’t eat people, but likes sugar and has to be taught to like salt.)  Not only can this mold navigate sophisticated mazes, but if you chop it up into tiny bits and leave the bits lying all over your petri dish, the blob gradually gathers itself together into a new blob.  Apparently, the slime mold benefits from not having a brain to have to protect—not unlike some respondents on Facebook.

My point in telling the slime mold story is that human beings have a very sketchy idea of reality.  Not only do we not understand all that is our universe, but we also have only a superficial concept of who and what we are and why we’re here.  We make guesses, distort scraps of truth disseminated by sages to be what we think makes more sense, and we try to control each other because—gosh! surely we’re right so that makes anyone who disagrees hopelessly wrong and in need of correction.  What if the fact is that we’re ALL mostly wrong and need to lean on one another to find a more accurate direction for our guesses?  What if we’re deteriorating our planet by not controlling ourselves?  History proves it isn’t as much fun to control yourself as it is to dictate to someone else.

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