R. Buckminster Fuller: Interconnectedness

Contribution by Richard

With the worldwide events of this year I’ve been reflecting on R. Buckminster Fuller, an American inventor and environmentalist of the 20th century, who had insights into interconnectedness, sustainability and nature.

He was known for many ideas and inventions, especially the Geodesic dome- an efficient building structure formed by a series of interlocking triangles.

He also invented the Dymaxion Map, dispensing with usual conventions of north and south to preserve the true shape, size and relative orientation of continents. This shows a view of the earth as a single contiguous landmass, sometimes referred to as “one island”. This perspective can reveal patterns of human migration, spread of animal species, and global networks.

Human Migration from Africa [source: Wiki]
Future Global Energy Network [source: World Wildlife Fund]

He was not known as a Buddhist, but appeared to have a view of the world not dissimilar to Interbeing, as expressed by Thich Nhat Hanh. This happened after a change in life direction during his early thirties, when in the midst of a personal crisis the following words suddenly occurred to him:

“You do not belong to you. You belong to the universe. The significance of you will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume you are fulfilling your significance if you apply yourself to converting all you experience to highest advantage to others”.

He then decided to treat the rest of his life as an experiment, to “find what a single individual could contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity”

This brings to mind the Great Vows for All that is recited in our group, which is adapted from a translation by Robert Aitken:

The many beings are numberless, I vow to end their suffering.
Greed, hatred and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them.
Dharmas are countless, I vow to wake to them.
Buddha’s way is beyond attainment, I vow to embody it fully.

These words are set in infinite terms, and the task seems impossible. Things seem especially daunting during times of overwhelming climate change and pandemic.

Perhaps though, it’s less about the outcomes and more about the approach.

An action could have a simple effect, such as helping a friend with chores. On the other hand, an action could have no immediately obvious effect, but create changes that occur well beyond our vision or lifetime. For example, in cultivating the ground for a seed, there is potential for a great forest.

Whichever way it goes, just applying the right intent and right action is enough. After that, it’s outside of our control, and unknown. The interconnectedness of the world means any outcome is possible.

“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.”   – R. Buckminster Fuller


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