Naomi Sherer reviews...

The Botany of Desire

Michael Pollan

Book Jacket


Pollan explores four desires: sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control.
by delving into botany and the history of people manipulating plants - or is it a history of plants manipulating people?

You will find his concept of the way plants have influenced history very intriguing. From his gardening background and his lifelong interest in the soil and plants in particular he tells a unique story of connectedness. He explores the social history of four plants and the natural history of four human desires which they stir and gratify.

Here is but one intriguing paragraph by Pollen: "No one has yet written the natural history of world religion, but we have some idea of the story such a book would tell. Among other things, it would force us to rethink the relation of matter and spirit - specifically, plant matter and human spirituality. For it would tell of how a select group of psychoactive plants and fungi (among them the peyote cactus, the Amanita muscaria and psilocybin mushrooms, the egot fungus, the fermented grape, ayahuasca, and cannabis) were present at the creation of several of the world's religions. One of the world's earliest known religions was the cult of Soma, practiced by the ancient Indo-Europeans of central Asia; according to its sacred text, the Rig Veda, Soma was an intoxicant with the powers of a god. People worshiped the drug itself - which ethnobotanists now think was Amanita muscaria, the mushroom sometimes called fly agaric - as a path to divine knowledge."
You can guess by the book cover that one plant is the apple. It is for the desire for sweetness - quite a universal desire. His choice for the desire of beauty is the tulip. Both plants have been moved around the world during human migrations as have countless plants for centuries.

Read about the human desire for intoxication and the human desire for control with some unlikely plants. Pollan's compelling accounts of evolutionary development and the relationship to cultural and physical science might inspire you to read such classics as Dawkin's
The Selfish Gene or Pinker's How the Mind Works. You may disagree with Pollon but you will surely have a different thought when you look upon your garden, whether it is a pot of herbs in your kitchen or the dandelion in the lawn. Your library should have a copy.

Do read it.



Buy it Now

Book Jacket


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Naomi Sherer


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