One reason why I love R. Buckminster Fuller!
Written in 2021 celebrating the 126th birthday of R. Buckminster Fuller. Polymath. Comprehensivist. Architect/Engineer/Poet.
Today, I celebrate R. Buckminster Fuller's birthday.
Or, as I would rather say, “Happy New Orbit!”
And that is the point.
Fuller’s syntax, while maddening to some and naive to others, was purposeful in its intent. One intent was to break language and thought structures he felt were based on conditioning, and ultimately rooted in the scarcity mindset of “there is not enough to go around”. Reflexive responses only keep us in “the Dark Ages” (an era Bucky still felt we were in ) Another intent was what he referred to as “operational language.” Our language, when necessary, needs to be as close to full harmony with nature as it can possibly be. Bucky, good sailor that he was, deferred to sailing as an example of this principle. Sailing, along with other high risk endeavors such as flying and space flight, require accurate relationships with environmental forces to minimize risk. Bucky, as he continually reminded us that we were all astronauts on “Spaceship Earth” operating without an operating manual, felt that humanity required the same accuracy.
The difference in risk between a sailboat and a planet is in scale alone.
The necessity remains the same. This breaking of reflexive habit is evident in much of Bucky’s writings. In doing so he makes us aware of the reflexive habits we have when we read. Simplified, these writings are prose written in a poetic format often using line breaks from sentence to sentence. This requires the reader to read slowly which allows more time for absorption and understanding. Bucky referred to his style of writing as “ventilated prose”
Here is an example from Bucky’s “No More Secondhand God” (1963)
Traditional : And God says, “observe the paradox of man’s creative potentials and his destructive tactics. He could have his new world with sufficient love for “all’s fair” in love as well as war which means you can junk as much rubbish, skip as many stupid agreements by love; spontaneous, unselfishness, radiant.
Ventilated: “And God says observe the paradox of man’s creative potentials and his destructive tactics. He could have his new world with sufficient love for “all’s fair” in love as well as war which means you can junk as much rubbish, skip as many stupid agreements by love; spontaneous, unselfishness, radiant.
I first saw Buckminster Fuller speak in 1956 at Cooper Union in New York. My friend and I didn’t know what to expect. We walked out in a daze. “He puts you into a trance” my friend said to me. “No. He takes you out of one.” — Robert Anton Wilson
Fuller was once asked what would be the one thing he would teach young children.
“That the sun doesn’t rise or set!”
Bucky referred to this often during his many talks given the last quarter of his life. He used the words “sunrise” and “sunset” as obvious examples of how we are still living in the Dark Ages, of poor operational language, and how we are being unknowingly misled by those we assume to know better. This error continues to be accepted as truth from generation to generation. Implicit in these words is that the sun is moving around the earth. A more subtle and implicit variant with this error is that we live on a flat and infinite earth attendant to the limitations of up-down perspectives and heaven-hell ideologies.
As I write this I now find that I am butting up against a statement that I made to friend a couple of months ago
“If any religion scares the hell out of a five year old then it’s b*llshit”
I don’t feel that when a baby is born it’s “pure” in the religious or metaphysical sense. What is there is whole. My love of Bucky is that I feel he speaks to that wholeness. That experience is gold and refuses to be narrowed. That children are born with omnidirectional awareness (“omnidirectional” is another Bucky term). A birthday to them is a signature of growth and a moving out into an ever expanding world.
Bucky is famous for saying, “Dare to be naive”. I argue that verbal/written language play and adjustment begins to bring one towards an experienced naivete.
Open minded and openly playful.
So why “Happy New Orbit” instead of “Happy Birthday”? Past a certain point, “Birthday” becomes regressive. A countdown. A walking backwards into the future. Our perception of time is abstract.
Minutes are a measurement like inches.
“Orbit” is pro-astronaut on Spaceship Earth. It’s what we are actually doing. New. Omnidirectional. Aware. Naive. Vulnerable. Whole. Faith-full.
So, Happy 127th orbit, Bucky. Thank you for being an outlier and cheerleader for change, your encouragement and inspiration, your love and faith in humanity, your willingness to risk, realize and express your insights openly, for your refusal to be a specialist, and for your generous spirit. Thank you for taking time to explain nature’s principles to children so that they may understand. Thank you for making them feel seen and cared for, and for leaving them feeling good. May children and adults continue to find you and your work, and may many expound upon what you gleaned from your cosmic fishing.
There’s enough Bucky to go around.
High fives, fist bumps, and high love and yeehah from your friends and fellow verbs