🔓 Unlocking the Secrets of R. Buckminster Fuller: A Personal Journey
I never met R. Buckminster Fuller, or Bucky as he preferred to be called, in person, although I know many people who did. But of all the possible humans in Universe, Bucky has influenced my life more than any other.
This article is not about the man and his history, which you can quickly discover through Wikipedia and his many books and articles, but about his influence on my life and why that might be relevant to you. And why his work is ever more relevant to humanity 40 years after his death.
I am infinitely curious. The quest for truth, understanding, meaning and sense-making drives most of my actions. When, at age 26, I first heard…
Space has shape.
The tetrahedron is the minimal system in Universe.
There are 12 degrees of freedom.
Unity is plural, at minimum two.
One plus one can equal thousands. This is the principle of Synergy.
Multiplication by Division. To keep conquered, keep divided.
Nature has a coordinate system.
You can either make money or make sense.
Precession – every action has a precessional effect at 90 degrees
The principle of ephemeralisation – doing more with less (also known in our world as dematerialising)
…my immediate impulse was to understand what the hell these statements mean.
And dive deep into their understanding to get a sense of the world, my place in it, and the arc of the Universe in its unfolding.
In my question, “To what purpose was I born?” or, on those dark occasions when I have been lost in the metaphorical forest, “What is my value and purpose today?” I can refer back to Bucky and his (and my) profound belief that the orchestrating intelligence of the Universe is to have 100% of humanity succeed without ecological offence or the disadvantage of anyone. If humans followed natural design science, the world could work for everyone, there would be ample life support for all of humanity, and the game would be infinite. Not win loose. But win, win, win.
But…and here is the BUT…that depends on us. On every single person acting with Integrity.
This is no easy life path. Since I was introduced to Bucky at a Money and You seminar in Sydney in 1986 and then an immersive seven days of his work in Kona Hawaii in the early 1990s, I have chosen to be both a dedicated student and apprentice of his work. There are days I curse my decision. Frigggginnnn hard path.
Much much easier it is to drink the Kool-Aid – to take the blue pill. (Reference The Matrix movies series.)
But I am an endurance athlete. Someone who is attracted to the edge. By the fringe. By the ‘think different‘ and ‘here is to the wild ones…‘ An explorer, adventurer, a scout, always seeking the frontier. That curiosity of mine!
So, back to acting with Integrity. But what is Integrity? And why is this integral to all of Bucky’s work?
Integrity – to hold its shape. Wholeness. To be whole. Complete. I first gained a deeper understanding of Integrity by building a tetrahedron from jelly babies (gummy bears) and toothpicks. We do this exercise in the Syntropic Masterclass. As soon as you add the fourth dimension, it holds its shape. It has Integrity. Wow, says I, in a Neo/Keanu Reeves way. It is the minimal viable system in Universe because it has an inside and an outside. It is nature’s building block. I get it.
Not the cube, or square, as taught in school, but the triangle and tetrahedron.
Tumbling down the truth excavating rabbit hole I go. How much of what we have been taught is true? What beliefs have we swallowed without rigorous inquiry? Is there such a thing as a straight line? And if not, what does this mean? Is there a coordinate system of nature? And if space does indeed have shape, what does this mean to how we design systems?
My work with Bucky set me on a path to challenge all of my beliefs, all of the models I had been taught, to build my own models, to argue with them.
It has set me on a path to understanding what it means to act with Integrity. To hold my shape. To bring my whole self forward. The shadow and the light. That my feisty self is as essential to me as the joyous child.
In studying Bucky’s geometry (Geometry is the study of relationships), I learned to speak systems fluently. To have an embodied spatial relationship with Universe. To sense relational dynamics. To know relational Integrity. To understand how to build human relational Integrity.
(If I had a superpower, it might be human relational design. How to create teams where we are better together using cologies of Synergy.)
Currently, I am seeking to learn a fuller integration of Bucky’s “since complementarity is essential to the success of eternally regenerative Universe, the phenomenon identified as the opposite of positive cannot be negative, nor can it be bad…they are both GOOD for the Universe.” (Critical Path, opening page) I am asking myself what does this mean to all we hold as ‘bad’ in the world?
And that is what I love about Bucky. He was, first and foremost, a model builder, not a theoretician. Argue with the model, he would say. I have argued with his models for years. But the argument stops for me each time I commit to building them for myself.
When I need to dig deep to get off my knees when life feels hopeless, I think of Bucky who in 1930 considered the all-in-cost of a barrel of oil. From Earth creating oil over billions of years to our extraction – transport, refining, use – to the result of this use – rising CO2, the ecology of the atmosphere. By considering the all-in-cost back when we had only started extracting black gold, Bucky determined no one on Earth at the time could afford to pay for a single barrel. If only we ‘oh so smart’ humans had considered the all-in-cost we might have looked to solve our energy issues another way.
To be comprehensively considerate. To start with Universe first.
This is what Universe asks of us. This is the principle of Synergy. It is one of the many generalised principles (principles that are true in all cases) that Bucky spent his life identifying. Principles that make up nature’s coordinate system.
On the challenge side, when I have cursed my apprenticeship to Bucky, it is around this statement he made. “We either make money or we make sense.”
Money has rarely been a prime motivator for me. It has always been a precessional effect—a bi-product. At age 32, Bucky, seeing himself as a business failure and owing money to friends and family, attempted suicide. As he was wading into the water of Lake Michigan, he heard the words,” This is not your life to take.”
He decided instead to commit ego suicide and to dedicate his life to serving 100% of humanity. He wanted to demonstrate that if he did what was spontaneously arousable from within him for the highest good of the highest number of people, Universe would provide for him. He would not need to “earn a living.” This he called an experiment, Guinea Pig B, which he documented so thoroughly that you can access the most comprehensive chronofile of human life before social media at Stanford University.
Here I find myself, 35 years after being introduced to the work of Bucky, working at the edge and immersed in the world of the red pill, (Reference The Matrix movies series.) now throwing myself ever more entirely into service of humanity’s well-being, a steward to a different geometry than the world of Bucky’s physical architecture. My architecture is human relational geometry.
How to assemble humans in relationships to create a song in their Synergy. My 35-year apprenticeship now moving to stage two of the journey to Mastery—the journeyman/woman. My playgrounds are organisations, enterprises, teams, community groups, NGOs, and partnerships. People who come together around a central purpose to co-create Moonshot-type projects and to do so in coherence and Synergy.
This includes the complex geometry of a steward leader: any individual trying to navigate their way towards a more beautiful world they know is possible, consciously exploring how they are in relationship to their business, their partners, their family, their life, themselves, creatures, Nature, Earth, the whole.
The invisible dimension of my work is often missed by those who only have eyes to see ‘reality.’ They miss that space has shape. In their haste to build physical models, they step over, time and again, the invisible form—the transcontextual space. The in-between is where the gorgeousness of relationships and culture live. The energetic dynamic of people, place, time, space, intention, beauty, love. To ignore this, the field of relationship, the health and vitality of the relational space, often comes at a significant cost, with consequences ill-considered.
Yet, in the end, we reach the truth, the one Rumi wrote of
Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
What matters the most as death looks us in the eye has an infinite intangibility, a resounding defiance to measurement, to being seen with the human eye.
Love, truth, beauty – the connection between people you love, between you and beauty, between you and your whole lived truth.
‘But Integrity is the essence. In an invisible world there are no visible aesthetics. In an invisible world the only aesthetic is Integrity.’
This is the call of Beautiful Business and Syntropic Enterprises. Uncommon. Rarely heeded. Seeking the frontier of your complete becoming. Committed to Integrity.
Yes, to the red pill.
Like any great Master, Bucky has been a rigorous, uncompromising disciplinarian to me. I have broken down, wept, begged to stop, cried out for an easier path. But to do so would violate my essential self, my Pattern Integrity. I have come too far; the price is too high. There can only be onwards. There can only ever be Integrity to myself. And to my entire engagement with Universe.
And in the second act of my life, the one I find myself in now as I revisit this article eight years after it was first written, to learn to bring more fun and delight, no matter the conditions, into my path, as Bucky did.
We have serious work to do, let’s have synergistic fun doing it.
**This article was first published in 2016.