“Most of my advances were by mistake. You uncover what is when you get rid of what isn't.” - Bucky Fuller Maybe it's time we all go out and make some more mistakes - as long as we learn from them.
"Unconscious decisions have consequences. Innovation arises from questioning old assumptions." - Buckminster Fuller
"Take the initiative. Go to work, and above all cooperate and don't hold back on one another." Buckminster Fuller
“If the success or failure of this planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do; how would I be, what would I do?” - Buckminster Fuller
Most of us like to believe that we are “rugged individualists,” that we can stand up on our own and that we have to “just do it” if anything is going to get done correctly. Yet, even though Buckminster Fuller was the one person who more than anyone championed individual initiative he also constantly reminded us that we’re all in this together and it’s everybody or nobody. Back in 1927, he recognized the global nature of our problems and always argued for the success of all life on the planet he named Spaceship Earth.
To be clear, Buckminster Fuller constantly preached about the power of one individual taking action because only individual humans can think and take action. No corporation, religion, government or other institution can do these two things, and he trimtabbed (leveraged with those two activities into consciously creating a successful life that made a difference. John Denver even wrote a song for Bucky titled “What One Man Can Do.”
Still, that one man did not do it alone. He contemplated situations and when he came up with an idea for an initiative or solution, he shifted from solo to massive inclusion. His initiatives and solutions required the involvement of lots of other people, and Bucky was always “recruiting.” That’s not to say he was seeing out converts or followers. Rather, he was sharing his ideas and allowing others to support them or - better yet - take them on as their own so that the idea or solution would grow without him. Then, he was free to move on to yet another idea and initiative. And that’s how he achieved so much in one short lifetime of 88 years.
Fuller realized that the more people who were involved and felt like they owned an idea, the more successful it would be. Instead of holding tight to his ideas and initiatives, he was more than willing to give them away. Two of the critical elements in his successful operating strategy were inclusion and gratitude as reflected in the following quote:
“I don’t have any favorite places or people. I love the whole show. A large number of beautiful people have taught me a great deal, and I am deeply indebted to them for their support.”
So, next time you find something that needs to be done (and that could be right now if you just look around because there’s plenty of things that need to be done) remember that you’re not alone. In fact, you can’t succeed trying to do it alone. The seed of an initiative can only spring from an individual, but the initiative requires community input and support if it is to be successful.
May our initiatives soon bring Bucky’s vision of “a world that works for everyone” into fruition soon.
The Buckminster Fuller’s Disciplines - Why he quit smoking and drinking cold turkey in 1942 and kept his commitment for 41 years.
Although people rarely consider Buckminster Fuller’s disciplines or “image,” he was a master at presenting a specific, purposeful persona to the public. Because he did not come into prominence until his Geodesic Dome became popular in 1954 when he was already 59, most people remember him as the kindly, grandfather-like architect, inventor and futurist. Some recall that he was labeled “the Leonardo da Vinvi of the 20th Century” or the “Grandfather of the Future” in a popular John Denver song “What One Man Can Do.”
Bucky’s image was also that of a rebel who challenged the status quo. Still, he tempered continually championing the success of all humankind with a need to be viewed as a “normal, average man.” To do this, in the 1940’s he made a conscious choice to never allow his personal appearance or behavior to stand in the way of his message that we can create “a world that works for everyone.” In order to manifest that decision, he looked for the most innocuous personality type he could find and settled on the nearly invisible bank clerk. At that time, a bank clerk was a man in a dark suit, white shirt and tie who worked behind a caged window.
Once he made the choice of a persona, Fuller immediately changed from wearing khakis (the jeans of the day) and a t-shirt to dressing in a much less comfortable, dark three-piece suit, white shirt and plain dark tie - a look that he continued to employ publicly until his death in 1983. At some point, he did, however, add the chain of his Phi Beta Kappa key emerging from his vest pocket - which was no small accomplishment for a man who was thrown out of Harvard twice and never completed any formal education past high school.
Also, in 1942 at the age of 47 when the US was getting into World War II, Fuller dramatically changed his behavior and image by doing something to which many of us can relate. With no support or tapering off, he quit two of the most common practices of that era - smoking and drinking. As he later stated in a Time Magazine cover article,
"I drink very well, but I found that if I was talking about my inventions and drinking, people just wrote them off as so much nonsense. The war was something serious, and I wanted to be properly accredited. So I stopped drinking and smoking.”
Bucky was willing to do whatever it took to further his mission, but such tenacity is not necessary to apply what he learned and regularly shared in his speaking, writing and inventions. We can all learn from Fuller’s very successful and productive life, and use him as a model for what one person can accomplish when she or he focuses on a worthy goal.
Bucky’s way of operating is not some complicated discipline that requires a great deal of time or effort. It’s also not a pie-in-the-sky idealism. Rather, it’s a system of applying common sense, mirroring nature’s principles and keeping your awareness on what the other person is experiencing during any communication.
In other words, we all need to focus on bringing more consciousness into our relationships and not trying to do something in conflict with the natural order of Universe. Such disharmony with the whole of Universe is what causes breakdowns in society and our day-to-day lives. Fortunately, Bucky was a master at going with the flow of nature while offering alternative, highly inclusive solutions to all our problems - personal, organizational and global. Because of this, his life serves as a model for success that allows each of us to avoid the many learning experience - mistakes that Bucky had to overcome.
Bucky Fuller's Amazing View of Spaceship Earth
Buckminster Fuller had a discipline of doing his best to maintain a financial worth of zero. He often cautioned audiences that “ownership was onerous.” Bucking the cultural trend of buying and owning for most of his adult life, he made a practice of renting rather than owning, and the only house he and his wife ever owned was the Geodesic Dome in Carbondale, IL when he was working at Southern Illinois University.
Like the wise indigenous people of the world, he realized that we humans cannot own anything, and he did his best to follow that path. Although his efforts often appear extreme, he demonstrated the viability of living “as if” and showing us all what is possible. After his 1930’s calculation of the Earth’s resources, he understood that we would soon reach a point where there would be enough to support all life on our planet. He then calculated that date to be 1976.
We now know that in 1976 we reached a point where there was enough food to feed everyone, yet 50,000 people still die of starvation every day. There is also an abundance / sufficiency of all resources, and we can eliminate much human physical suffering if “we the people” wake up and stop hoarding and saving. If we make this transformation, we have the option to be successful global stewards. Without it, we most likely face extinction as individuals and as a species. Fortunately, we live in an era when our individual choices can greatly influence global and societal decisions if we follow Fuller’s lead and act as Trimtab advocates for sustainability and a world that works for everyone.
From that perspective of sufficiency and the support of all life, Bucky kept his bank account at zero as much as possible. Even though he had a sizeable income of approximately $250,000 per year (which would be about $1,250,000 in today’s dollars) between 1959 and his death in 1983, he spent everything that came in - usually on the next project that he saw would benefit the most people.
Thus, he did not become what he labeled a “clog in the blood flow of economic resources.” He was not someone who hoarded money or accumulated real estate and other assets for himself, his family or his retirement. He did not plan to retire from his quest to be as much of a benefit as possible to the most people, and that was exactly how he lived and died. Fuller made his last public presentation (an Integrity Day in Huntington Beach, CA) on June 25, 1983 just one week before he consciously died at his wife Anne’s bedside (she was in a coma and died 36 hours later). He lived a full, active and very contributory life for nearly 88 years without hoarding, building an estate or attempting to make a personal profit (at the expense of others - or not).
This is the model we each need to follow, and it is most easily done within the context that there is enough to go around. As Fuller so often reminds us, “You can make money or you can make sense. The two are mutually exclusive.”
Making sense does not mean not being fully supported in all aspects of your life - including spiritually, physically and emotionally. It does, however, mean that your actions are not initiated or fueled by a need to make and save money and other resources. Saving is for those who believe (Fuller was quick to say the he did not “believe” in anything - he either knew it or he did not know it) that there is an insufficient amount of everything to support everyone.
If you believe that to be true, go on saving and hoarding. These two ideas may be judged as good or bad, but both have the same result - a great deal of suffering among the “have nots” and the destruction of life on Earth. In a world of sufficiency, everybody eats and your cup is automatically filled up when it becomes empty. There are no billionaires in that world, and there are also no people starving or living on the streets. It’s the “you and me” world that so many claim that they support, even as they continue to save for their retirement or make sure that they have enough money to survive for six months without an income.
If you really know that we live in an abundant environment, you will begin to shift your focus from yourself and your small “tribe” - be it family, community, church or nation - to recognizing that humans on Earth are one big family. That’s how Buckminster Fuller proposed that we will succeed, and given the state of the economy on all levels (personal, national and global), it appears that he is correct.
May have the sufficiency of livingry that is the birthright of all life on Earth.
“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.” Buckminster Fuller
Bucky Fuller was not the first or the last to remind people of this truth that transformation is usually not apparent to the untrained perspective. He was, however, unique in teaching that such not perceived outcomes usually represent something he labeled “synergy.”
Synergy is not a term that Bucky coined, but he did move it from an obscure scientific phrase into the popular use that it has today. It does not, however, mean what most people think it does.
Synergy is not some magical thing that causes extraordinary results when people work together. It is behavior of whole systems that cannot be predicted by behavior of the individual parts of the system when observed separately.
In the case of the caterpillar, the parts of the system include the various elements of the caterpillar’s body, the chrysalis it creates, the food and water it ingests, air, sunlight, etc. Looking at each of these elements, including the caterpillar itself, a person would be hard pressed to say that the caterpillar will become a butterfly.
However, when all of those elements come together in the right moment, the result is a beautiful butterfly. The whole system behaves in a way that cannot be predicted by observing its individual elements.
To an uneducated child, the entire process seems magical, but once that child has a direct experience of the butterfly’s transformation (be it by personal observation or teaching), the process is no longer synergy to her or him. A new element has been added to that transformational system, and that new element is knowledge.
With knowledge, synergy disappears because the transformation caterpillar to butterfly can be predicted by observing the parts of the system. It’s still an amazing transformation, but it is predictable. The ultimate synergy of synergies then becomes an unknowable perspective some call God.
Finding "Nature's Pencil" - A Quest for an Effective, Efficient Way of Operating to Create Sustainability
"I'm not trying to imitate nature, I'm trying to find the pencil she's using."
- Buckminster Fuller
Buckminster Fuller never gave up his search to find “Nature’s pencil.” Like so many geniuses, he was constantly searching for the essence of how things worked best. And when he found such solutions in Nature, he applied them to his projects. Thus, we have his most famous invention – the geodesic dome – modeled after structures he found in Nature.
Still, his methodology is perfect for almost any quest. Bucky (and others who are wise enough to realize that Nature is far more effective and efficient than humans) constantly seek the next evolution of ideas, and the really cleaver people always look to Nature first. If all humans were to make that simple change in solving problems and other activities, we would realize that there are enough resources to support everyone. Then, all we need to do is be very careful in using exactly enough. Not too much and not too little.
Nature’s pencil is such a sustainable model. She writes and draws with a precision and exactness that humans have difficulty understanding or modeling. Still, people like Bucky and many of today’s great minds continue to search because they know that the exploration is as important as reaching the goal. They also know that we humans need to learn all we can about Nature and how she uses the exact amount of resources in order to manifest Fuller’s vision of “a world that works for everyone” on the tiny planet he named “Spaceship Earth.”
Bucky Talks About Mind, Exploration & Life.
"I seem to be a verb." - Humans are evolutionary agents of change in support of all life on Spaceship Earth
"I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of Universe." - R. Buckminser Fuller
If you believe yourself to be a thing (a noun), you limit yourself to your physical body and reality. The physical you (or me) can see, smell, taste, touch and hear, but it can't experience emotions, take action or come up with new ideas. The inactive noun perspective of life leaves out all the pleasure, pain and activity that make us human.
Following Bucky's wisdom, all people are verbs, and these days most people are like Bucky, very active verbs. We're doing a lot, and we're continuing to be more than our ancestors ever imagined possible. We're in the process of continually evolving and doing our best to make ourselves better in every way.
We do, however, need to remember that we are each here for a purpose that supports all life and the evolution of our species and our tiny Spaceship Earth. The shift from weaponry to "livingry" that Bucky championed for most of his life is more important than ever, especially as we all begin to truly Occupy Spaceship Earth.
Bucky Talks About His One-Town World That He Named