William Edelen: Buckminster Fuller

The Contrary Minister

God, to me, is a verb
Not a noun, proper or improper
God is the articulation, not the art,
Objective or subjective;
God is loving, not the abstraction ‘love’
Commanded or entreated;
God is knowledge dynamic; not legislative
Code, not proclamation law, not academic
Dogma, not ecclesiastical canon.
Yes, god is a verb, the most active
~~ Buckminster Fuller

On the wall of my study is a picture of Buckminster Fuller, often called the Leonardo Da Vinci of our time. We spent a week together, Bucky and I, when I invited him to lecture at the University of Puget Sound.

Every morning when I picked him up at his motel, the ritual was the same. He opened the door to welcome me, and after he called his wife on the telephone to express his love for her, we went outside and walked a short distance into a lovely garden area. On that first day, I thought to myself, “What next?”

He faced the east where the sky was increasingly brilliant with dawn colors we all know. He held up his arms and lifted his face to the heavens, eyes closed for at least two or three minutes. Then I heard from him these words: “Thank you, thank you, thank you for this new and wondrous day.” After a moment or two longer he said, “Now Bill, let’s have breakfast.”

He picked up a small grocery store brown sack and filled it with what looked like twigs and leaves, and we walked to a small coffee shop. Bucky said to the waitress, “Dear, I want a bowl, some milk and a banana.” She said, “Sir… can’t do that. You can’t come in here and make  your own breakfast.” I said: “Please get the manager and ask him to come here.” When the manager arrived and introduced himself, I said, “Mr. Johnson, this is Buckminster Fuller.” The awestruck manager in almost a shout, ordered “a bowl, milk and banana… and no charge.”

Bucky and I were left alone in our booth. He bent down close to his cup of coffee, mesmerized. “Bill… Bill…” he whispered… “Bill, look at that… LOOK at that…” I looked, but saw only coffee.

What… look at what? “Look” Bucky said, “over at the side of the cup… that bubble forming… that bubble… why? How is it forming?” “Bucky,” I said… almost embarrassed at my ignorance, “Bucky… I don’t have a clue… if YOU don’t know, WHO DOES?”

“That bubble,” he said to me, “that bubble… I must understand how that happened and why.”

Buckminster Fuller appreciated the unique in every individual thing. Each person has his own set of experiences and his own filters through which he sees, feels and experiences the world around him. I can imagine no healthier attitude toward learning than expressed by Buckminster Fuller when he said, “I have resolved to abandon completely all that I have been taught to believe…”

Here was this 85-year old genius looking with awe and wonder and imagination at a bubble in his cup of coffee, as would a child, with wonder-filled eyes. It reminded me of my 98-year old grandmother, who had not one day of formal schooling, out there in West Texas, showing me, with that same wonder and awe, a horned toad, a butterfly, a new rock, a dove’s nest.

From insights gleaned by observing nature, Fuller’s most brilliant ideas emerged. The concept of the geodesic dome came from observing spider webs and bee hives. Would we all be so awake!

One Comment

Breakfast for Bucky! No charge! Which supports the notion expressed in my favorite Buckminster Fuller quote.
“I assumed that nature would ‘evaluate’ my work as I went along.
If I was doing what nature wanted done,
and if I was doing it in promising ways, permitted by nature’s principles,
I would find my work being economically sustained.” Buckminster Fuller