To Be a Benefactor: Not-quite-quotes from R. Buckminster Fuller's Critical Path
Extracts selected, rearranged & edited by Leonard Ross
Reprinted with permission from St. Martin's Press, LLC
Who was R.B.F.? How can one introduce such a multifaceted, world-acclaimed person, without clichés, without boxing him in? With family roots in the Transcendendalist circle of Emerson and Thoreau, "Bucky" (1895-1983), is perhaps most easily recognized for his now ubiquitous geodesic domes, and for his felicitous phrase coinings, like "Spaceship Earth," "One-Town World," and "Synergetics." The diverse roles he played included: author, editor, teacher, philosopher, inventor, engineer, architect, mathematician, cartographer, historian, naval commander, pilot, poet, artist, international governmental consultant, husband, father, grandfather....
Adjoined are some collated reflections in his own words, a testament greatly relevant to spiritual unfolding. They are offered here as an invitation to study Fuller's work more deeply, at first-hand: go read the book for yourself, which has something of interest on virtually every page.
Shall we begin with an especially crystalline moment?
I clearly remember New Year's Eve, December 31, 1899. I was four and a half. I had just received my eyeglasses and was deeply excited at all I could now see. At 11:45 P.M. my father opened a window of our New England home to let in the twentieth century. I remember with what earnest thinking he tried to envision the coming years in which I would live beyond his time.
That child later coming to say:
What I am trying to do is discover why God included humans in Universe, to find out what God permits us progressively to know and preferably to do if we are to continue in Universe;
The overall cosmic scheme is trying to make us a success despite our overwhelming ignorance and fear. The stars are trying to tell humanity to awake, prosper and consciously assume the important cosmic responsibilities for which it was designed.
R.B.F. challenges us:
All the individuals of humanity are looking for the answer to what the little individual can do that can't be done by great nations and great enterprises.
What could you or I do? He suggests each ask him/herself:
What was I thinking about before I was first told, convincingly, I had to 'earn a living' by doing what someone else said I had to do? What do I see needs to be done that nobody else is attending to? Then you will conceive your own way of doing that which needs to be done. This will bring out the real you.... Try making experiments of anything you conceive and are intensely interested in. Don't be disappointed if something doesn't work. That is what you want to know-the truth about everything.
We may soon discover that all babies are born geniuses and only become degeniused by the erosive effects of unthinkingly maintained false assumptions of the grown-ups, with their conventional ways of "bringing up" and "educating" their young.
He gave his own testimony, exemplifying providential economy as perhaps few have:
Acting entirely on my own initiative, I committed all my productivity potentials toward dealing only with our whole planet Earth and all its resources and cumulative know-how, undertaking to comprehensively protect, support, and advantage all humanity instead of committing my efforts to the exclusive advantages of my dependents, myself, my country, my team.
I adopted such a course formally, realizing no human could authorize nor validate my decision to do so, none to evaluate my work as it proceeded-nor tell me what to do next.
Was not this wholly involved man a true disciple of those:
artist-scientists of history-unscathed, comprehensively effective, largely unidentified? individual articulators who inaugurated whole new eras of physical environmental transformation affecting the lives of all ensuing humanity? who had somehow grown to maturity without losing the full inventory of their innate, intuitive, spontaneously coordinate faculties?
Pushed to the edge as a young man, suicidal and judging himself a discredited throwaway, he dramatically inverted his distress, resolving to commit "egocide" instead:
The great emergencies may finally force political society to "do the right things" for the right reasons. I found my way into so doing, half a century ago, occasioned only by total crises in my life-why should not others?
He saw us:
moving ever deeper into crisis without precedent, adequate to springboard humanity into oblivion or a relatively utopian future, in peril of extinction if each does not dare, now and henceforth, always to tell only the truth, all the truth, and promptly-right now. Cosmically acceptable effective decisions will not be made by leaders single or plural, political or religious, military or mystic, by coercion or mob psychology. The political economic systems and leaders are not in final examination; the integrity of each individual is. On personal integrity hangs humanity's fate. I did not know of any other humans who thought there was anything they personally could do about any such "too big" problems.
Earnestly striving for us Earthians all to see and foresee better was a lifetime vector:
at the age of twelve, challenged by Robert Burns's "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursels as others see us" (Oh would some power give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us), I sought to "see" myself as others might-and usually did-see me.
For humanity to see correctly the entire surface of the globe the Dymaxion Sky-Ocean Projection was designed, with Earth's geography displayed on one flat surface without any visible distortion in shape or relative size and without any breaks in its continental contour-the whole world surface viewable simultaneously as one-world island of unbroken contour in one-world ocean.
Keenly aware of:
the difficulties of popular comprehension imposed by the invisibility of the frontiers of everyday reality; by specialization as an obstacle to popular apprehension of "what life is about;" by humanity's inability to see more than a very limited number of rates of motion, continually exploring for the invisible power structure behind the visible official head men, for the underlying, hidden causes of individual wars; maintaining omnihistory inventories of world physical and metaphysical resources, of technical trendings and progressively evoluting group and individual needs.
R.B.F. labored that we: recognize formerly invisible patterns and thereby forecast and plan in vastly greater magnitude.
Thence his: giant gossamer, open trusswork Geoscope spheres, miniature Earths-the most accurate global representations of our planet ever realized, in proper interorientation within the theater of local Universe events;
and World Game: exploring ways for anybody and everybody in the human family to enjoy the total Earth without any human interfering with any other, without any gaining advantage at the expense of another.
Always experimenting on himself first, exhaustively:
My Dymaxion Chronofile record demonstrated I had been positively effective producing life-advantage wealth only when doing so entirely for others, not for myself: the larger the number for whom I worked, the more positively effective I became. Obviously, if I worked always and only for all humanity, I would be optimally effective. I had only the remaining days of my life to invest.
To this end, Bucky's: determination to treat myself as an historical guinea pig, able to comment objectively regarding my Guinea-pig B Self: When my subject is being effective, I am glad; when worriedly procrastinating, I am sad. When it makes mistakes, I learn the most and am elated. (And I seem to have made more mistakes than any others of whom I know.) That is the extent of my prejudice.
Yet, in candor (whose appropriateness will be empathetically confirmed by any who have similarly tried): my previously conditioned reflexes frequently contradicted my intentions, while circumstances beyond my control converged so powerfully as to divert me from my intended self-disciplines. It has taken constant disciplining and re-disciplining to get myself under control to a productively effective degree.
I sought never to "promote" or "sell" either my ideas or artifacts or pay others to do so. I sought to produce irreversible gains, reforming the environment, not the humans, determining never to try to persuade humanity to alter its customs and viewpoints. I oriented my comprehensive, anticipatory design science strategies toward primarily advantaging the new life to be born within the environment-controlling devices I was developing.
The success of all humanity can be accomplished only by a terrestrially comprehensive, technologically competent, design revolution, developing artifacts whose energy-use efficiency not only occasions their spontaneous adoption, but also the inadvertent, unregretted abandonment and permanent obsolescence of socioeconomically undesirable practices.
Sincerely engaged in trying to be "anti-entropically" useful to the Universe, how did he contribute a "fuller" meaning to "renouncement"?:
What humanity rated as "side effects" of their conscious drives are nature's main effects. I adopted the precessional "side effects" as my prime objective, focusing all my effort for the rest of my life to applying the highest science and technology directly to the realization of human livingry. Nature would "evaluate" my work. If I was doing what nature wanted done, undertaking ever more humanly favorable physical-environment-producing artifact developments that in fact did improve the chances of all humanity's successful development and if I was doing it in promising ways, permitted by nature's principles, I would find my work being economically sustained-and vice versa, in which negative case I must quickly seek logically alternative courses until I found the new course nature signified her approval of.
Producing ever more effective life-improving results with ever less investment of weight of materials, ergs of energy, seconds of time per each measurable level of improved artifact performance, I was hopeful of finally doing so much with so little as to implement comprehensive economically sustainable physical success, eliminating the need for lethally biased politics and their ultimate recourse to hot or cold warring.
Fuller's work is grandly antithetical to Malthus' overridingly influential dog-eat-dog pessimistic "realism":
War is obsolete. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary and henceforth unrationalizable as mandated by survival. Technologically we now have four billion billionaires on board Spaceship Earth entirely unaware of their good fortune.
We have the realistic opportunity to help evolution do what it is inexorably intent on doing-converting all humanity into one harmonious world family, producing and sustaining a higher everyday standard of living for all than ever heretofore experienced or dreamt of by any. I know what I am talking about. This is not an opinion or a hope-it is an engineeringly demonstrable fact, using only the already proven technology, with the already mined, refined, and in-recirculating physical resources.
I scientifically documented the emergent invisible chemical, metallurgical, and electronic more-with-lessing, the accelerating acceleration and accelerating ephemeralization, trending toward an ultimate doing of everything with nothing at all, a trend of the omniweighable physical to be mastered by the omniweightless metaphysics of intellect.
Deeply involved with the world's great housing crisis, with making high-performance shelter available to all, such environment-controlling shells and survival equipment as produced only by the most advanced aircraft and space technology and level of technical problem solving.
This brought him: to regard the history of cities, developing plans for entirely feasible and practical new ways to live together economically. Utilizing: floating tetrahedronal cities; air-deliverable skyscrapers; submarine islands; sub-dry-surface dwellings; domed-over cities; flyable dwelling machines; and rentable, autonomous-living, black boxes, man may converge and deploy around Earth without its depletion.
So what does Buckminster Fuller say to would-be benefactors, protectors and impellers, called by who-could-say-what to respond beyond themselves?:
Wishes are reasonable, defining the functions of not-as-yet invented but highly desirable technology. It is the as-yet-ungratifiable everyday needs that always inspire inventors. What you want for yourself may never by gratified. What you want for everybody, because you can see the total benefits that can accrue, is usually reasonable and technologically gratifiable, to be realized possibly within your own generation.
There is no joy equal to being able to work for all humanity and doing what you're doing well. It is difficult to match the gratification of not just crudely crafting a plaything for one child (which indeed can be very rewarding), but of producing exquisite somethings for a billion children. Activities of this kind are reinspirational to a mystical degree.
To be optimally effective, undertake at outset the most comprehensive task in the most comprehensive and incisively detailed manner.immediately undertake the greatest task with thorough commitment of attention to every detail.We are being taught to assume as closely as possible the viewpoint, the patience, and the competence of God.
Spiritual in a modern, integrated way, "Ever Re-thinking the Lord's Prayer," Fuller dreamed and worked for:
An ever-more-truly omniloving, classless, raceless, human family of Earth's planetarians-all engaged competently in local Universe information-harvesting and problem-solving, in successful support of the 100-percent integrity of eternally regenerative Universe, that being the function World Game assumes occasioned the inclusion of humans and their generalized-principles-discovering-minds in the design of Universe.
In all reality I never "leave home." My backyard has just grown progressively bigger and more globular until now the whole world is my spherical backyard. "Where do you live?" and "What are you?" are progressively less sensible questions. "At present I am a passenger on Spaceship Earth," and "I don't know what I am. I know I am not a category, a highbred specialization: not a thing-a noun. I am not flesh. At eighty-five, I have taken in over a thousand tons of air, food, and water, which temporarily became my flesh and which progressively disassociated from me. You and I seem to be verbs-evolutionary processes. Are we not integral functions of the Universe?"
Realistic, comprehensively responsible, omnisystem-considerate, unselfish thinking on the part of humans does absolutely affect human destiny.