Monday, June 02, 2008


An interesting little piece in the 6/09/08 New Yorker issue on Buckminster Fuller brought back memories still attached to some mental cobwebs. Both the ever-loving wife (ELW) and I had experiences as audience members in a "Bucky" show. The ELW had the spectacle of Mr. Fuller at her graduation ceremony, where he landed his space pod on a muddy, sunny Saturday. I experienced Mr. Fuller on a dark and wintry day in Montreal in the all-things-are-possible undergrad years. Since the latter event occurred a good 2-3 years before the ELW’s caps-thrown-in-the-air days, Buckminster Fuller" was a bit more tethered to the ground, with emphasis on a bit.

He was bow-tied at both events but that little bit of cloth at the neck was insufficient restraint on the ideas that poured forth. I was at least more fortunate than the ELW that questions were allowed after his, ahem, presentation. Not that the questions, some as long-winded as Mr. Fuller’s philosophical slalom runs on man’s future, were answered in any manner resembling the key topics inquired of. I expected a puff of smoke to appear at any moment and a "Bucky Ball" to encircle him and disappear into efficiency. I couldn’t recall anything specifically said that night although the following quotes attributed to him seem vaguely familiar.

Thinking is a momentary dismissal of irrelevancies.
Man is going to be displaced altogether as a specialist by the computer. Man himself is being forced to reestablish, employ, and enjoy his innate "comprehensivlty." Coping with the totality of Spaceship Earth and universe is ahead for all of us.
Universe is non-simultaneously apprehended.

In some cases, he was dead on.

When I was born (1895), humanity was 95 per cent illiterate. Since I’ve been born, the population has doubled and that total population is now 65 per cent literate. That’s a gain of 130-fold of the literacy. When humanity is primarily illiterate, it needs leaders to understand and get the information and deal with it. When we are at the point where the majority of humans them-selves are literate, able to get the information, we’re in an entirely new relationship to Universe.
We are at the point where the integrity of the individual counts and not what the political leadership or the religious leadership says to do.

Politicians are always realistically maneuvering for the next election. They are obsolete as fundamental problem-solvers.

..and he definitely was a Love Child.
Unity is plural and, at minimum, is two.
The highest of generalizations is the synergetic integration of truth and love.

I do remember a bunch of us went to see Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” immediately after the lecture and discussed how humour eases the swallowing of deep thoughts so much easier that a tightly tied bow-tie. Some of our other friends had attended a lecture by Mr. Fuller before so they came to the event better prepared than we were and seemed to get a lot more out of the opinions and philosophy presented. Although……their expositions of the lecture tended to a style less vigorous in its mental gymnastics, but a lot funnier.

By the time the ELW was introduced to his act, Mr. Fuller was much closer to boarding that space pod to the next take-off point. The folks in attendance were not there to soak in any truthyisms that Mr. Fuller was launching that day. The ELW remembered it as a day that a quaint old gentlemen tottered and sweated his way onto the stage and dealt as best as he could with the swelter of the day, while the audience, half duly inebriated to combat the elation/sadness of the day, paid no never mind to the garbling coming their way. Frisbees and hats were thrown amongst the gowned audience and one wonders if Mr. Fuller thought that space pods were perhaps landing.

My favorite bit from the article?

" Stewart Brand, the founding editor of the "Whole Earth Catalog" and an early, self-described dome "propagandist," called geodesics a "massive, total failure":

"Domes leaked, always. The angles between the facets could never be sealed successfully. If you gave up and tried to shingle the whole damn thing—dangerous process, ugly result—the nearly horizontal shingles on top still took in water. The inside was basically one big room, impossible to subdivide, with too much space wasted up high. The shape made it a whispering gallery that broadcast private sounds to everyone."

Among the domes that leaked were Fuller’s own home, in Carbondale, and the structure atop the Ford Rotunda. (When workmen were sent to try to reseal the Rotunda’s dome, they ended up burning down the entire building.)


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