At age 31, R. Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller
found himself penniless (with a wife and small child to support)
after he had lost all of his and a good deal of others' money
in a failed business. Reflecting on his experiences, he discovered
that he had been happy, effective and prosperous in direct relation
to the number of people in whose interest he was working at any
Maximum happiness, effectivness and prosperity,
he reasoned, could only be achieved by working for ALL people,
everywhere. A true scientist, he made the rest of his life an
explicitly documented, public experiment designed to test this
hypothesis, and seems to have done very well, indeed.
He is probably best known for his geodesic
domes, but he also invented all kinds of other things that do
more with less. His goal was nothing less than the total eradication
of scarcity (and the conflicts created by the politics of scarcity)
on this small planet, which he dubbed 'Spaceship Earth.' A true
visionary, he once said, "I just invent things and then
wait for humanity to discover the need for them."
The author of numerous books and articles
in his lifetime, and countless patents and technical designs,
he offers this in the opening of his last book, titled Critical Path. Sometimes
the challenge of writing an invitation, trying to discover just
what it is that we really want to happen, approaches the poet's
We all see things differently. Seeing is sensing.
Hearing is sensing. Touching is sensing. Smelling is sensing.
What each of us happens to sense is different. And our different
senses are differently effective under ever-differing circumstances.
Our individual brains coordinatingly integrate all the ever-different
faculties. The integrated product of our multifold individual
sensings produces awareness. Only through our sensings are we
aware of the complementary "otherness."
Awareness of the "otherness" is
information. The complex of successively experienced informations
produces interweaving episodes -- and the complex of special-case-episode-interweavings
produces the scenario that our brain's memory banks identify
as our individual being's "life."
The way only-our-own, individual integrity
of being responds spontaneously only to our own exclusive sensing
of any given otherness episode is what I mean when I use the
word feeling: How do I feel about life? How do I feel
about it now? ...and again now? Our feelings often change. What
do I feel that I need to do about what I am feeling?
One of the many wonderful human beings that
I've known who has affected other human beings in a markedly
inspiring degree was e.e. cummings, the poet.
He wrote a piece called "A Poet's Advice,"
which I feel elucidates why "little I," fifty-three
years ago at age thirty-two, jettisoned all that I had ever been
taught to believe and proceeded thereafter to reason and act
only on the basis of direct personal experience. Cumming's poem
also explains why, acting entirely on my own initiative, I sought
to discover what, if anything, can be effectively accomplished
by a penniless, unknown individual -- operating only on behalf
of all humanity -- in attempting to produce sustainingly favorable
physical and metaphysical advancement of the integrity of all
human life on our planet, which omnihuman advantaging task, attemptable
by the individual, is inherently impossible of accomplishment
by any nation, private enterprise, religion or other multipeopled,
bias-fostering combination thereof.
A POET'S ADVICE
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses
his feelings through words.
This may sound easy, but it isn't.
A lot of people think or believe or know they feel -- but that's
thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is
feeling -- not knowing or believing or thinking.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not
a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever
you think or you believe or you know, you're a lot of other people:
but the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.
To be nobody-but-yourself -- in a world which is doing its best,
night and day, to make you everybody else -- means to fight the
hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop
As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working
just a little harder than anybody who isn't a poet can possibly
imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words
like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of
the time -- and whenver we do it, we are not poets.
If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting
and working and feeling, you find you've written one line of
one poem, you'll be very lucky indeed.
And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets
is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world
-- unless you're not only willing, but glad, to feel and work
and fight till you die.
Does this sound dismal? It isn't.
It's the most wonderful life on earth.
Or so I feel.
Fuller also offers the following, as if
to remind us that writer's block is no longer an excuse -- or
even an option. Can you imagine getting such a letter as a ten-year-old?
...and so good that we've still got some time left to work...
Each year I receive and answer many hundreds
of unsolicited letters from youth anxious to know what the little
individual can do. One such letter from a young man named Michael
-- who is ten years old -- asks whether I am a "doer or
a thinker." Although I never "tell" anyone what
to do, I feel it quite relevant at this point to quote my letter
to him explaining what I have been trying to do in the years
since my adoption of my 1927-inaugurated self-disciplinary resolves.
The letter, dated February 16, 1970, reads:
Thank you very much for your recent letter concerning "thinkers
The things to do are: the things that need doing: that you
see need to be done, and no one else seems to see need to
be done. Then you will conceive your own way of doing that which
needs to be done -- that no one else has told you to do or how
to do it. This will bring out the real you that often gets buried
inside a character that has acquired a superficial array of behaviors
induced or imposed by others on the individual.
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 --
and then the truth about combinations of things. Some combinations
have such logic and integrity that they can work coherently despite
non-working elements embraced by their system.
Whenever you come to a word with which you are not familiar,
find it in the dictionary and write a sentence which uses that
new word. Words are tools -- and once you have learned how to
use a tool you will never forget it. Just looking for the meaning
of the word is not enough. If your vocabulary is comprehensive,
you can comprehend both fine and large patterns of experience.
You have what is most important in life -- initiative. Because
of it, you wrote to me. I am answering to the best of my capability.
You will find the world responding to your earnest initiative.
The political and economic systems and the
political and economic leaders of humanity are not in final examination;
it is the integrity of each individual human that is in final
examination. On personal integrity hangs humanity's fate. You
can deceive others, you can deceive your brain-self, but you
can't deceive your mind-self -- for mind deals only in the discovery
of truth and the interrelationship of all the truths. The cosmic
laws with which mind deals are noncorruptible.
Cosmic evolution is omniscient God comprehensively
Path by R. Buckminster Fuller.
© 1981 by R. Buckminster Fuller. Published by St. Martin's
Press, New York.