07 May 2009


From a Planet Earth segment (imperative to watch in HQ):
Its infected brain directs this ant upwards. Then, utterly disorientated, it grips the stem with its mandibles. Those afflicted that are discovered by the workers are quickly taken away and dumped far away from the colony.

The fungus is so virulent, it can wipe out whole colonies of ants. There are literally thousands of different types of cordyceps fungi, and, remarkably, each specializes on just one species.
Cordyceps sinesis, for example, specializes on the caterpillar of a type of ghost moth found in some parts of China. Other types of ghost moth, susceptible to other types of cordyceps, are found in Tibet, where their medicinal use may have originated.

Photo by David Gerrard
According to Wikipedia, the Chinese name for caterpillar fungus means "winter worm, summer grass." The medicinal use of the fungus became well-known in connection with the success of Chinese athletes at the 1993 Beijing Olympic Games.
Today the most common way to prepare the caterpillar fungus is to stuff a duck with the caterpillar fungus then after boiling the duck in hot water, patients drink the liquid. It sounds unpleasant, but Vivian reports the aroma is pleasant and the broth tastes sweet. The caterpillar fungus is reported to have many benefits as a traditional medicine. Some consider the benefits to be similar to those of another valuable Chinese tonic, ginseng. Traditional Chinese medicines like the caterpillar fungus and ginseng are bought in Chinese drug stores. The price varies from $27 to $53 a pound depending on quality. The fungus fruiting body has been removed in the most expensive grade. Caterpillar fungi are also used as gifts. A large gift box costs about $400. [As of 1998.]
In addition to its aesthetic, medicinal, and shock values, cordyceps has a considerable metaphorical value, which is explicated by Arthur Schopenhauer (whose aphorisms are available to read in their entirety online) by way of another example:
The brain may be regarded as a kind of parasite of the organism, a pensioner, as it were, who dwells with the body: and leisure, that is, the time one has for the free enjoyment of one's consciousness or individuality, is the fruit or produce of the rest of existence, which is in general only labor and effort. But what does most people's leisure yield?—boredom and dullness; except, of course, when it is occupied with sensual pleasure or folly. How little such leisure is worth may be seen in the way in which it is spent: and, as Ariosto observes,how miserable are the idle hours of ignorant men!—ozio lungo d'uomini ignoranti. ...And if there is nothing else to be done, a man will twirl his thumbs or beat the devil's tattoo; or a cigar may be a welcome substitute for exercising his brains. Hence, in all countries the chief occupation of society is card-playing, and it is the gauge of its value, and an outward sign that it is bankrupt in thought. Because people have no thoughts to deal in, they deal cards, and try and win one another's money. Idiots! But I do not wish to be unjust; so let me remark that it may certainly be said in defence of cardplaying that it is a preparation for the world and for business life, because one learns thereby how to make a clever use of fortuitous but unalterable circumstances (cards, in this case), and to get as much out of them as one can: and to do this a man must learn a little dissimulation, and how to put a good face upon a bad business. But, on the other hand, it is exactly for this reason that card-playing is so demoralizing, since the whole object of it is to employ every kind of trick and machination in order to win what belongs to another. And a habit of this sort, learnt at the card-table, strikes root and pushes its way into practical life; and in theaffairs of every day a man gradually comes to regard meum and tuum in much the same light as cards, and to consider that he may use to the utmost whatever advantages he possesses, so long as he does not come within the arm of the law.
Twelve-foot high wax busts of Schopenhauer afflicted by several varieties of cordyceps fungus, which fungus he termed the Will, can be viewed in an upcoming conceptual exhibition.

1 comment:

Allan Ben said...

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