Friday, February 06, 2004

The Living Tissues of the Sequoia

Because my parents were life masters, I could never generate much enthusiasm for learning how to play bridge. For similar reasons, I’ve also shied away from botany, content to leave the plants in the hands of my relatives. Nevertheless, I find myself borrowing a botanical concept to understand how the knowledge increases in the sciences and humanities. While the growth of animals typically takes place by cell division throughout the whole volume of the developing organism or swelling tissue, plant growth occurs only on sheets or tips in zones called meristems. It occurs to me that human knowledge also grows in this botanical fashion, though the bushiness of these particular weeds multiplies the number of apical meristems and creates an illusion of volume. What appears to be a continuous mass is really a spidery patch of briars, or, if I may, for metaphorical purposes, be allowed to branch out into mycology, an intricate mesh of mycelium.

As a relentless tourist in the world of learning, I’ve noticed that at any given time the live wood of the various arts and sciences is really a tiny fraction of its mostly inert mass. What I try to do here is to advertise to my friends some of the live places I encounter.

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