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  Stories and Reminiscences by Aaron M. Cohen
 
My 4 Hours with Buckminster Fuller
And a Letter to Boot                                               by Aaron M. Cohen

Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller (1895 - 1983). Visionary, designer,  architect, inventor, philosopher, artist, poet, educator, seminal futurist and global thinker. Known, popularly, as the inventor of the geodesic dome.

Buckminster Fuller popularized the term, synergy. Much of his work was about exploring and creating synergy. He found synergy to be a basic principle of all interactive systems, and developed a body of thought called Synergetics, a "Geometry of Thinking".

Buckminster Fuller, in the opinion of many, was the 20th century's Leonardo da Vinci. His endless intellect, prescience, and body of work was always ahead of his time. It will take centuries to fully comprehend and apply his wisdom.

Hopefully, however, his influence will grow in less time than that. For, one of his primary concerns was whether humanity has a chance to survive successfully on "Spaceship Earth." "If so, how?" he would ask. Then he would explain how — always with a sense of urgency. I hope we listen.

My first 2 hours

I first encountered "Bucky" at a 2-hour lecture he gave at M.I.T. in 1973 or 1974.

Bucky challenged common perceptions of reality, and added new realities to mathematical, architectural, intellectual, and social landscapes.

At the M.I.T. lecture, I remember one his observational rifts in particular. He asked:

"What is a baby doing when he or she in is a high chair and keeps dropping a spoon on the floor? You pick it up, the baby drops it. This continues."

The traditional explanation is that power play dynamics are at work. But here is Bucky's explanation.

"Here is what is really going on: the baby is discovering gravity."

The next 42 hours

A couple of years later, I decided to travel to Harvard to attend one of his renowned 42-hour "Everything I Know" sessions.

The content of "Everything I know" session is best described in the Preface to "Session Log" published by the Buckminster Fuller Institute:

"During the last two weeks of January 1975 Buckminster Fuller gave an extraordinary series of lectures concerning his entire life’s work. These thinking out loud lectures span 42 hours and examine in depth all of Fuller's major inventions and discoveries from the 1927 Dymaxion house, car and bathroom, through the Wichita House, geodesic domes, and tensegrity structures, as well as the contents of Synergetics.

Autobiographical in parts, Fuller recounts his own personal history in the context of the history of science and industrialization.

The stories behind his Dymaxion car, geodesic domes, World Game and integration of science and humanism are lucidly communicated with continuous reference to his synergetic geometry.

Permeating the entire series is his unique comprehensive design approach to solving the problems of the world. Some of the topics Fuller covered in this wide ranging discourse include: architecture, design, philosophy, education, mathematics, geometry, cartography, economics, history, structure, industry, housing and engineering."

The Session Log is being updated constantly, and various recordings are transcribed and added. The First Edition was published by the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Copyright © 1997 Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller. The most recent iteration can be found at: Session Log

I sat in the first row — looking up at Bucky and the spread of models he used as his his Energizer Bunny-mode of lecturing cascaded through the hours  — a non-stop talk filled with "Bucky-isms" — the unique special phrases he was continually coining. Seemingly disparate thoughts strung together, manipulated, woven together, turned inside out . . . run-on sentences of complex terminologies and principles of math-science-architecture-art-philosophy-psychology-politics-social science-history-and common sense integrated into gifts of epiphanies.

He warned people at the beginning of his stream-of-conscious lectures not to fret about understanding anything he said, while he was saying it. In the end, it would make sense. And, it did.

As the hours passed, most of what he said seemed incomprehensible. But then gradually — even if one could not understand the complex geometries, geologies, cosmologies, anthropologies, physics, and calculus tumbling from his mind — illumination began to seep in. Dots became connected.

Bucky continues to exert a huge influence in my own life and thought.

I think of him often — especially every time I use the word "synergy" or try to teach strategic thinking and creative problem solving.

I also think of him when I see human suffering from such natural disasters as Katrina and recent earthquakes — where many people are left homeless.

Bucky invented an expensive portable dome house, complete with self-contained power and plumbing. It could be easily delivered to disaster areas, and assembled quickly. Because at the core of its design was the triangle — which, in his lectures and writing, Bucky demonstrates is so much stronger than square and rectangular structures — the unit could withstand additional threats from nature.

While following the Katrina tragedies, I was saddened at how our continuing national  inability to literally think "outside the box," to look for innovative solutions, to challenge  corporate power that prevents alternative, quicker, more effective solutions.

People made so instantly and tragically homeless can be better served.

As can people who flee violence and oppression and populate refugees camps with horrendous living conditions that could be alleviated so easily if politicians and relief groups looked to Bucky, and embraced his deep understanding of human potential.

In 1980, Bucky wrote:

"For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. Only ten years ago the 'more with less' technology reached the point where this could be done. All humanity now has the option of becoming enduringly successful."

Author James T. Baldwin, author of "BuckyWorks: Buckminster Fuller's Ideas for Today," a useful introduction to Fuller's work, wrote:

"His alternative to politics was radical and deeply subversive. If we are designed like other animals to be a success, then nature must have provided enough of everything needed for all to live a healthy existence.

People living well would have little interest in fighting and destruction. Bucky decided that reliable information and efficient design could identify and fairly distribute the Earth's resources, bringing a good life to all. Developing that information and putting it to work would be [his] mission."

Bucky's prescience and influence are yet to be measured. But, if we look closely, we can sense his impact around us everyday. He was a student of the history of human communication and change. He measured the acceleration of change — instinctively perceiving, understanding, and predicting the impact of the Worldwide Web. His world map demonstrates what no other maps do. Echoes of his three-wheeled Dymaxion car, a colossal flop after its invention, can be sensed every week as new three-wheel vehicles are finding applications. And on and on.

Anyone with vision, a drive for innovation, an instinct for strategic and creative thought — should delve into this man's work. It will be a transforming, life-hanging experience.

And certainly, young people searching for solutions to our most difficult challenges will find comfort and inspiration in getting to know Bucky.

One of my most treasured possessions is a letter I received from Bucky in the late 1970s after I sent him a copy of "eclectic," a magazine I had published and edited. Since it was inspired, in part, by my 42 hours with him, I was thrilled when, after I sent him a copy, he wrote me: "It is well done."

 
 
 
   
 
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