Last night I saw R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe at the Arena Stage in DC - written & directed by D.W. Jacobs - based on Fuller's life, work and writings - and awesomely performed by Rick Foucheux. It was FANTASTIC! A one-man show with integrating storytelling, multi-media, scientific theory and universal mystery, it, for me, was its own hybrid genre of theater - one where where engagement, education, inspiration, entertainment, resonance, audience interaction and evolutionary invitation converged.
Years ago, I had read his well known Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth and some of his articles and became enthralled with his ideas, vision and wisdom. But it wasn't until I took a design class that I really appreciated the power of physicalizing structure with those ideas - and "nature doing more with less." We were given toothpicks and glue and one egg. We had to create a structure for the egg by which we had to stand on a chair and drop the egg, encased in our toothpick structure, on to the ground...and the egg was not supposed to break. Long story short: only one person succeeded at not breaking the egg as he dropped it with nothing but a few toothpicks to protect it. His secret: he had created a geodesic dome around his egg. He used the least number of toothpicks, and he used them most coherently - just like nature creates. That was a powerful learning for me.
Last night I was reminded of Fuller's work and the magnificence of nature's creativity. I left inspired, re-invigorated and deeply grateful for the legacy of this brilliant, heart-centered pioneer who not only thought the great thoughts, but animated them with great actions and creations - and all is service of the good of "spaceship earth" for which he cared passionately.
A small piece of his story: Until 4.5 years old, when he got his first pair of glasses, he could barely see so he learned to live in and create from his imagination and internal experiences. In kindergarten, while other kids were putting together simple toothpick models based on everyday structures they observed (like box houses), he was designing triangles because they "stayed together - they made sense."
After diverse jobs, many hardships, and no particular direction, at age 32 he had a mystical experience that changed the course of his life while walking in the streets of NYC. He emerged from that experience committed to think for himself, discovering and speaking Truth. And in a way that is in integrity with nature. He wanted to find "the coordinate system that nature employs." Later on, in thinking about patterns, and especially "patterns in a mutable kind of way," he later discovered (what he had hints of intuitively at a young age) that "the triangle is the only stable structure" which eventually led to the development of the geodesic dome among his countless contributions. (More on him here).Below are bits of his wisdom, as shared in the performance last night (in no particular order).
While some are not so cutting-edge anymore, they are still not universally accepted, let alone enacted or embodied. Other are still pushing at the edges. He was talking organic complexity, systems thinking, patterns, non-linearity, emergence, intuition, creativity, dynamic movement, biomimicry, sustainability and heart/mind/brain integration 60 years ago...steeped inside of a static, linear, dehumanizing, mechanistic world view and accompanying set of values. When I think about not only what he cultivated, but when - the context in which he, like all out-of-time visionaries before and since, emerged his insights - I'm inspired by his courage uncommon. The following is from the play:
• It is only through feeling that you are truly yourself. Thinking and knowledge can be learned form others,
but feelings can only from within you.
• Change is the normal state, as opposed to the Newtonian view where rest was normal
and motion was abnormal.
• Out of information comes synchronized principles.
• Nature is about doing more with less. Economists, on the other hand, have been about doing
less with more.
• I m not a re-former. I am a new-former.
• We need to re-orient production away from weaponry - away from killing-ry to living-ry.
• Behavior of the whole is unpredictable by the behavior of it parts.
• Oppositeness re-generates life.
• Each individual is a verb.
• You as an individual must have courage to go by the truth or you will be swayed by the crowd.
Only the individual can let go of his fear and plunge into the design science revolution.
• To reform the environment is the design responsibility of Spaceship Earth.
• Selfishness made sense when humanity didn't know there was enough to go around.
Now that we know there is, selfishness does not make sense anymore.
• All is expanding and contracting.
• We need idle time. It allows people to think, "What do I see that needs to be done?"
• Intuition is the key to thinking - the contact between the conscious and the subconscious.
The mystery is ever more entrancing and ever more beautiful.
• You can deceive your brain self, but not your mind self. The mind deals only with the truth.
• Everything is energy. Instead of seeing is as fixed - up or down - see it as inward or outward.
• We have a choice: Utopia or Oblivion. If we make it, we'll make it because of truth and love.
In an age when "visionary" and "renaissance" is found in every other manifesto, I think we need a more discerning word or phrase to do justice to the Bucky Fullers. For now, I am feeling gratitude for the "verb" of who he was.
The image is of the geodesic dome donated to Expo '67 in Montreal.