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  • Matthew Frank
    Matthew Frank

    Flowing away from the Foliage – Sequential Forgetfulness of Plants

    In many ways, nature can be both a friend and a foe. For a crumbly leaf or a sinking rock, it is life. For us, it can be a place of enlightenment, tranquility and peace; or a wild battleground of ruthless predators, primal struggles and relentless circumstances. As things in nature come and go, so do our memories, ingrained in the foliage and rock that remain long after we have moved away. When examining the far-reaching consequences and mysteries of our memories, perhaps it is not only us that possess the capacity for recollection, but something else – something more akin to nature itself.

    The concept of such ‘natural memories’ has recently gained traction amongst researchers with the discovery of what are known as ‘sequential memories’, where plants and organisms display sophisticated encoding and retrieval abilities with no third party outside help. Indeed, plants’ tendencies to remember impacts from their environment through self-assembling ‘memory networks’ can be likened to minute minivans transporting vibrant remnants of cargo as an ‘expression pattern’ affecting the following days’ responses. Remarkably, the retaining powers of these single-celled entities just doesn’t stop there – down to core physiological structures, chloroplasts within the plant body move around in response to stimulus, allowing for a change of state that eventually gives rise to new strategies and ventures.

    But how may these networks be formed? In order to establish such comprehensive and intricate patterns of behavior requires repeatable stimulus. As up to seventy-five percent of the material exchanged between plants and their environment lies in the invisible realm of electromagnetic waves, external pressure is hard to detect. That being said, through repeated ultrasounds and photosynthesis, both indigo and tomato plants have been shown to approach their surroundings in a markedly different way to control different states of mind.

    It would therefore make sense to me if we apply a similar approach to ourselves. Everyday influences such as workplace pressures and the general weariness of life can contribute to slower responses and lack of enthusiasm in repeated situations. So to counter such internal bondage, we must rely on the same methods of reinforcement used by plants and animals alike. It seems counterintuitive, yes, but by constructing consistent daily routines, stretching energetic barriers, adapting to new environments and surviving without any hindsight, trickles of hidden memories will start becoming apparent in our day-to-day actions.

    Mentally or physically, we must learn to experiment, unlock closed pathways and open new doors in order to make our lives both unique and sustainable. As almost altruistic as it sounds, plants and animals seem well ahead of us in such matters – they know that the best form of wisdom is to forget. When behaving in this fashion, they allow themselves to gain skills and impressions free from the hindrance of deep-seated sentiment, enabling them a clearer sight of life’s potential. In a manner of speaking, forgetting truly can be freeing, allowing us to fully embrace whatever awaits us at every curve and bend.

    So we must take a leaf out of our green counterparts’ books; by accepting and capitalising off the sequential nature of our external climates, we shall soon be able to delegate the best course of action in particular circumstances. After all, in the words of Olafur Eliasson: “My world isn’t static, it flows”. Both for us and for the plants, like flowing water making its trajectory before solidifying in rocks, we must leave behind the limits of normalcy and ebb and flow away from the foliage.

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