Richard Buckminster Fuller was born on July 12, 1895, in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Buckminster Fuller and Caroline Wolcott Andrews, and also the grandnephew of the American Transcendentalist Margaret Fuller
As a young child he loved to create from things he found in the nearby woods. He even made some of his own tools. One of his creations was a human propulsion system for small boats. As an adult, reflecting back on those years, he expressed feelings that this was the birth of his love of design and familiarity with materials he would commonly use throughout his life’s work.
As a young adult Buckminster earned a machinist’s certification.
He was expelled from Harvard twice. The first time for spending all his money partying and again for what was termed his “irresponsibility and lack of interest”. By his own account, he was a non-conforming misfit in the fraternity environment.
Between sessions at Harvard, he worked in Canada as a mechanic in a textile mill, and later as a labourer for the meat-packing industry. He also served in the U.S. Navy in World War I, as a shipboard radio operator, as an editor of a publication, and as a crash-boat commander.
In 1917, he married Anne Hewlett.
During the early 1920s, he and his father-in-law developed the Stockade Building System for producing light-weight, weatherproof, and fireproof housing. The company failed.
In 1922, his 4 year old daughter Alexandra died of complications from polio and spinal meningitis. His coping skills at that time were hard work and hard drinking.
In 1927, at the age of 32, Buckminster decided to seriously consider suicide. This was not simply a despondent reaction to a hard life, it was something to be weighed carefully and decided consciously.
He was aware that he could not live with the system he had been taught. It just didn’t make sense to him. So he decided that if he could not make his life work based on his own observations and choices, rather than those considered right by his society, that his family would be better off without him and he would take his own life.
The first step he took along this journey, which lasted the remaining 61 years of his life, was to arrange with his wife that she do all the talking for the family for 2 years. He went almost completely silent for that time in an effort to rid himself of stupid, meaningless uses of language that had been programmed into him.
His second daughter Allegra was born in 1929 and it was about that time that he began speaking again, his words were more carefully chosen than most and would remain so for the rest of his life.
As he continued to weigh his observations against what was expected of him, he determined that animals and plants do not have jobs and yet they always have enough. So he worked out a theory that stated: if you fully and courageously follow your nature, nature will take care of you.
He clearly had married the right person, his wife backed him up on this and they devoted their energies to exploring and living their truest natures. This led him to embark on a life-long experiment, to find what a single individual could contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.
R. Buckminster Fuller was a man of strong faith, he once stated “there is no free will without God.” His faith was not a dogmatic one, he applied the same rigorous standards of observation to his faith that he applied to his works. He was not at all afraid to say “I don’t know” in fact he coined the phrase “Dare to be naïve.” To illustrate the power of living in the question.
His faith included the belief that life is not physical, but rather metaphysical and has no weight. He stated that he had no opinion on the subject of reincarnation. He scoffed at the Garden of Eden story and many others that simply made no sense to him. He also held that woman was of absolute necessity in the survival of humankind, while man could be disposable once he had sufficiently planted his seed.
His observations led him to be one of the early environmental activists. He recognized that the natural resources of Earth were finite and that we were using them carelessly. Doing more with less was the basis of his work.
Buckminster Fuller was one of the first to propagate a systemic worldview, he explored principles of efficiency in architecture, engineering and design. He was a pioneer of wholistic thinking.
He defined wealth of knowledge, as the “technological ability to protect, nurture, support, and accommodate all growth needs of life”.
By the 1970’s he had come to believe that the accumulation of relevant knowledge and the quantities of recyclable resources already extracted from the earth had reached a critical level. He believed we were now beyond the need for competition. Cooperation was the key to survival now. He stated “Selfishness is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable…. War is obsolete.” He also believed that for such a Utopian life to succeed it had to be planetwide.
During his life’s work R. Buckminster Fuller filed 28 patents, published 28 books and received 47 honorary degrees for his works to improve the quality of human life.
In his 1970 book I Seem To Be a Verb, he wrote: “I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.”
There were many efforts to deify the man, to hold him up as an example of what a person should be. He shunned publicity and refused any potential followers cold. He believed such hierarchical thinking would dilute the message and might even keep people from striving for their own inner genius; which he held, everyone has.
So, what was Richard Buckminster Fuller’s Soul Contract with the world?
He grew up knowing that he was unusually intelligent, and as a child he never really felt challenged by the world around him. Throughout his childhood, adults would say to him “We don’t care what you think, shut up and listen. We’re trying to teach you something.” This rang so completely false to him that he never forgot it.
He never lost touch with his need to make a difference in his world either. This simple, fundamental desire common to all humans and so frequently compromised into non-existence was, in Buckminster Fuller, a beacon of hope that would one day illuminate his purpose.
He had huge failures. The death of a daughter, his first business gone bankrupt, his revolutionary car design never given a real chance to affect the world as he knew it could have; for some time he took to drink and over-work to cope with disappointments.
He had a singular moment, the near suicide at age 32, when his life turned completely around.
He had huge successes. His 65 year marriage, their second daughter followed in his footsteps, his decision to make a significant difference in the world based in his own observations; Clearly Buckminster had devotion and clarity of purpose very much at heart from the beginning.
He is still affecting the world. His Geodesic Domes dot the planet and are still recognized as the essence of getting more from less. The Buckminster Fuller Institute still supports independent thinking in design, engineering and social responsibility. His concept of Earth as a Space Ship changed, not only the public’s understanding of our planet, but also the scientific world-view.
He eschewed publicity in the knowledge that he could become a guru and that would not serve humanity or him.
Let’s look at the highlights.
He knew he was smarter than most and never lost touch with his desire to make his world a better place; he was a leader.
His disappointments and successes were all large-scale; he put his whole self into his efforts.
His works, words and perspectives all outlived him and will continue for generations to come; he truly spoke to the needs of his world.
He did not want to have a following because he knew that the message would get lost and the message was the most important thing he had to leave humanity; he truly cared and never lost focus.
R. Buckminster Fuller was a Christ. Had someone called him that in his lifetime he might have argued the point, but his priorities, his trials and transcendences and the effect he had and still has all point to one whose total life centered on the divine message he was sent here with.
As further evidence; his greatest message to humanity was: Everything I have done could have been done by anyone. I just happened to do it. There is genius in everyone if they will access it.
There was another Christ who said something very similar about 2000 years ago. A religion has been based in his reputation and his works. His greatest message was: “This you can do, and more”.
I believe people like R. Buckminster Fuller come here to show us that when Jesus said that, he meant it.
To learn more about Soul Contracts, and what yours might look like visit my website at www.curtisfolts.com