R. Buckminster Fuller was a good friend of my father’s, so I had the distinct privilege of growing up spending family vacation times with him and has family on Bear Island, off the coast of Maine, of having him often as a house guest, and of being with him as he spoke on many occasions. I have said many times that I believe that he, more than anyone else, has influenced me in my thinking, in who I have become and how I have lived my life as an adult.
I remember once someone asking him, “What would be the first thing you would do, Mr. Fuller, if you were elected President of the United States?” Bucky’s answer: “Resign.” He went on to explain that Washington is a gridlock of politics and special interests and – he said it so eloquently I cannot possibly quote him justly – that it is no place to get anything of real meaning or importance accomplished. A visionary like Bucky would not even waste time trying.
Now we have a visionary for President. I remember hearing President Obama’s recent tone of voice while in a gymnasium in Ohio saying, with a big breath, “It’s so NICE to be out of Washington.” He could breathe again. Last night in his first State of the Union address before he even emerged to speak the newscasters were saying that he will be campaigning against Washington as much, or more, than any other agenda. Can we overcome the “numbing weight of our politics?” he pleaded. Throughout all of his speaking I felt I was hearing, (many call me naïve and that’s ok), a person with a vision like Lincoln’s, Martin Luther King Jr.’s, or Nelson Mandela who is actually trying to work out how in the world to get something done in Washington. And, as we are seeing, there is absolutely no guarantee of success. He may not be able to accomplish anything that is in his heart to do to his or our satisfaction. But, as indigenous people know, in a true right of passage there is never a guarantee of success, or of survival. The rite would not have the power to transform if such a guarantee were there. I believe that those of us who put Obama in this position, and that he, and our nation are entering into the tremendous possibility of going through a true rite of passage. We are a young, adolescent nation seeking to pass from a stage of narcissistic, self-involved, short-sighted hubris into a stage of adulthood and maturity; to become a responsible, wise people and country. We may not make it. There is certainly no guarantee.
Once I was with Buckminster Fuller and several others having lunch in a restaurant in Santa Monica, California – I think it was about 1980. I happened to be sitting right across from him at a long, narrow table. Bucky seemed agitated and distracted. Finally I decided to ask him if he was alright. He told me, and again I am unable to quote his eloquent words exactly, that he really wasn’t sure we were going to make it, and he was fearing that we might not. I understood that “we” meant humanity on Spaceship Earth. (See his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.) He described to me the horror that he felt that it might take another 50 years for humans to wake up and move off of the dangerous path of destruction we are on, and he thought we might not have that much time. His last book titled Critical Path is full of his thinking, warnings and recommendations.
Certainly a man with a mind like Bucky’s is hard to summarize and I’m not one to attempt it. But I will remark on one of his crucial messages; that is the dangers he perceived in the increasing specialization in every area of our science and thinking, as if we are not one whole system of earth. I am reminded of Bucky every time I am assigned to go to a different doctor for every joint or organ in my body, as if my body is not one whole system. Last night Obama referred to the brief period after 9/11 when we were united rather than divided, and he wondered aloud how we might get that back. For that moment in time the issues of our infighting seemed insignificant, and we knew above all else that we are one nation, and that for our very survival we must conceive of ourselves as such. It was a transpersonal reality we were in, and I think everyone could feel it.
Bucky, of course, looked way beyond concern for unity within a nation, desperately trying to describe that for survival, we must realize that we are one world, travelling through space on a delicate, exquisitely designed spaceship. For each one of us to not hold this truth above everything else at all times is to be on a critical, suicidal path.
Bucky explained that Einstein’s great discovery of E =Mc2 proved that our metaphysical reality is master over our physical reality, and that this discovery irrevocably changes the way we must think and approach every aspect of human operation. What did we do with the discovery? We made a bomb. Einstein did not even remotely have something like that in mind.
I submit that now, in 2010, at every single level of human interaction we surely have to change course from defending ourselves against each other to helping each other. Charity begins at home, within our own psyches. How can we insist that from this point on we will look at every other human not as other, but inextricably part of our one body of humanity; and at every system on earth as a vital, living part in the delicate operation of our spaceship home. Can we together – with love, compassion, humor, wisdom, and complete focus on our purpose – make it through this right of passage? Yes, I believe we can.
I’ll stop here, but want to end with a quote from Bucky’s book, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, p.36:
“This is the essence of human evolution upon Spaceship Earth. If the present planting of humanity upon Spaceship Earth cannot comprehend this inexorable process [the meaning of Einstein’s discovery] and discipline itself to serve exclusively that function of metaphysical mastering of the physical it will be discontinued, and its potential mission in universe will be carried on by the metaphysically endowed capabilities of other beings on other spaceship planets of universe.”