Buckminster Fuller Geodome
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.

Synergy, Butterfly
“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.

Buckminster Fuller, Nature's Pencil
"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.