Last night the missus and I went to see a play, "R. Buckminster Fuller – The History (and Mystery) of the Universe." I'm not sixteeen years old, so I hesitate to use the word "awesome," but the play was, well, awesome. For several reasons:
- Playwright D.S. Jacobs synthesized thousands of pages of R. Buckminster Fuller's writing into a two-hour show.
- Actor David Novak was the only person on stage, and his talent nailed Fuller's mannerisms, even his coastal Massachusetts way of talking.
- As serendipity would have it, the set for this local production was designed by good friend Sylvia Pierce, which incorporated tekkie bits, such as film, animation, and geodesic modeling – one of the best sets I've seen in years.
But can I synthesize further? Let's see…
image via essential-architecture.com
Fuller was born near-blind. Consequently he had to use his tactile sense to relate to early school projects. While we were all using building blocks (Leggos, maybe) to construct in a fledgling way what turns out to be a most inefficient and irrational "square" reality, Fuller's hands were creating things from triangles that were far more sound and efficient than our "square" cartesian world.
He flunked out of Harvard twice, largely because he was already headed toward a reality that educating minds of his age weren't ready to accept. So he continued to go his own way. He joined the Navy. Shipboard life made him much more aware of the necessity of ultra-efficiency in sailing across "Spaceship Earth," as he came to call it.
After leaving the Navy, he quickly came to realize from his examination of the way nature works that the Darwinian, Malthusian model of scarce resources (that could only belong to the strong – and to hell with the weak and less capable) was wrong and would eventually lead us toward oblivion, extinction. His strategy, then, was to create a new mindset that would be so capable of doing so much more with less and less, hence eminently attractive, that the old divide-and-conquer model, enforced militarily, would be abandoned.
But he didn't deal just in high-minded abstractions: he devised and designed – the geodesic sphere, the dymaxion cars and homes. Still, fear of scarcity and an infatuation with inefficient thinking, building, and wealth, caused his creations to be all but ignored. But this play, and the continuing interest in Fuller's inventions and ideas testify to their endurance.
But none of this explains why I continue to write:
Fuller left the old mindset – and his Navy days – and so did I. While he reached much higher, I chose a career built on constructing instead of destroying – devising and building road systems within the U.S. Parallel with that, and following those years, I began to write fiction and nonfiction. Still, why?
While Fuller persisted with the continuing ephemeralization (doing more with less) of technology, I chose the human angle. Humanity is all about story, and the stories of us humans are replete with both our foibles and our strengths. I learned early on, of course, not to editorialize or to rant – simply to tell human stories as best I could.
In this way, I can only hope my readers will be provoked to think for themselves. If they do, says Fuller, they will increasingly leave behind a mindset – one that worked for ages, but which humanity has now outgrown. And I believe that's so. Story is a manner of mirroring our ways, of providing essential human questions that must be asked, in hopes that we'll have that "Aha!" moment and – one by one – change our lives and the world for the better.