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Life Underground?


Is this a picture of a family, a group, or a spreading army? This fifteen-foot long row of mushrooms popped up on our yard a week ago. I don’t know much about mushrooms, but I understand they could actually be all one organism, branching out and growing each year. Mushrooms are one of the essential ways that plants receive part of their nourishment. There is an underground economy where mushrooms grow tiny tendrils linking them to one another and to plant roots through which they make exchanges. The mushrooms bring phosphorus and nitrogen and they receive some things in exchange like sugars or other nutrients plants make and the mushrooms need. It’s not a parasitical relationship, it’s more like an economy in which the plants and mushrooms (fungi) exchange things. I read that they even seem to bargain sometimes, the mushroom system holding up the supply while waiting for a better deal. They can even shift the direction their flow of supplies is going when needed.

Okay, enough of this scientific talk. These big mushrooms stimulate a question for me: How much other life is going on around me underground, or inside me, out of sight?

We know there is an underground economy in our country and others, where guns are sold illegally, often to criminal gangs or rebel groups. Then, too, there is the illegal trade in drugs of various sorts. In some places you can buy a baby if you have enough money and contacts. Of course, there is the world of prostitution, and within it often, human trafficking, or slavery, some people trapped who need help to get out.

When there is a shortage of some needed or desired items, an underground economy develops. In some places during wartime, if you need a tire for your car, it helps to know someone who knows where to get one from a source behind the scenes. During my years in India, now some decades back, several items were rationed, including rice, wheat, sugar, and kerosine. But if you wanted more than allowed, you could turn down a small alleyway where you could buy more from people selling those food items for a higher price, illegally, of course.

All of this leads me to ask myself a question. How do I tolerate within myself some kind of underground life, secret sins, or habits, attitudes or whatever which I would not want to acknowledge to others? Famously a leading lawyer once said, “There are the things we know we know, and there are the known unknowns, but also the unknown unknowns,” or to put it another way, there are things we don’t even know we could find out. Perhaps only a lawyer would say that.

There will always be some things I don’t’ know about myself, but that other people know, because they see me and I don’t see myself through their eyes unless they tell me. What is important, however, is that I see as much as I can about who I am, what I do, how it helps or hurts others, and always be willing to acknowledge the truth without fudging.

That is the track to continuing to grow and become a more fully integrated, healthy, whole and holy person. When we hide things from others and even from ourselves, we become less and less what God intends us to be as his children. I think that is one reason James wrote, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

© 2022 Stanley Hagemeyer

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