I Think We’ve Misplaced Our Manual

I’ve been a fan of R. Buckminster Fuller since my bachelors degree (long, long ago). Such a great man—such a great mind. In 1968, Fuller wrote one of the first inspiring booklets on ecological awareness called: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.

There is a free PDF of the book to read if you look online. Not exactly a sedating bedtime tale, but interesting in its own right for the philosophy he shared back then on how to better maintain our “spaceship” as we travel these thousands of miles per hour circling our vehicle’s sole power source—the sun.

You might know of R. Buckminster Fuller for his geodesic dome theory that gave rise to many architectural structures still bearing resemblance to the largest beachballs one could ever imagine dotting epcothillsides and topping other standard structures. (Think Epcot Center-Disneyworld.) He made geometric discussions of the tetrahedron and the dodecahedron common cocktail fodder during his prime influence.

And if you’ve ever read Fuller, you know how challenging it can be to follow his mental gymnastics, as he filled every info-packed sentence with “thought qualifiers” that quickly turned a single sentence into a paragraph, and that paragraph then into a page. It’s amazing how the scope of his mind could consider every possible concept angle in one breath—if you could only exhale for 5 minutes straight.

By far his easiest book: I Seem to Be a Verb, was required reading for one of my early art classes. I assume the book, which was introduced at this time of our budding adulthoods, was to be helpful in shifting our naturally-narcissistic perspectives on life to focus on something other than ourselves.

From Fuller’s viewpoint, for the most part we tended to think that we are nouns or the objects of importance in the world, but he assured us it was only by our actions that we truly functioned and made a difference to our time of existence—particularly in the positive effects that we had on others, and on improving the quality of their lives

He believed that it is in making things change and evolve for humanity’s betterment, that we find our true purpose. Referring to himself as the trim-tab on the sailboat, he said that by making just a slight underwater adjustment in the boat’s navigation direction, the boat automatically changes course. And that was his chief intention.

That was his primary purpose for originally publishing the Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. He tried to shift our perspectives, to shift our thinking about how we operated this vehicle on which we live; this hugely-interactive, geodesic dome hurtling through space as it circles tBucky and domehe sun that supports our very lives in every possible way.

For many of us, he successfully shifted our self-focused perspectives, and subsequently changed the course direction of our future lives. His vision, I’m sure, was that all those individual, navigational changes would positively affect the entire world—making it a better place for all.

I hope he will eventually be proven right, but it looks like we have a ways to go to make that positive change happen for many.

Hmmm, ….maybe we should recheck our manual to see what needs to change.

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