Sunday Snippet: Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)

“Everything you’ve learned in school as “obvious” becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There’s not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines.”

Think back to when you were a young child going through elementary school. As painful as it might be, think back to math class. I don’t know about you, but when I was first learning about basic arithmetic, I was essentially told that an equation like 6 – 8 = ? simply was not possible. I was told you couldn’t subtract a bigger number from a smaller number. Of course, we later learned about the concept of negative numbers. The perception of truth and reality changed.

Similarly, when we were first learning about how to take the square root of a number, we were told that it simply was not possible to take the square root of a negative number. Later on, we learned about an “imaginary number” called i that was equal to the square root of -1. At the time, this blew my mind. As my education continued, more “truths” and “realities” were shattered. We started to conceptualize beyond the third dimension. We started to discuss the limit as we approached infinity.

How does this apply to the real world? After all, it’s not like you whip out the quadratic equation on a daily basis. Well, what it means is that anything you accept as an “obvious” truth may not be as obvious as you might think. And it might not be as truthful or factual as you might think either. As with so many other things in life, it could just be all in your head or it could be beyond your current level of understanding.

Perhaps it’s only appropriate that the kind of revelation described in the quote at the top of today’s post comes by way of Buckminster Fuller, the man who acted as the president of Mensa for nearly twenty years. He was a systems theorist, an inventor, an architect, and an author of many books, including Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking.

“Belief is when someone else does the thinking.”

If I learned anything over the course of my university career in particular, it’s a sense of ardent skepticism. I learned never to take anything at face value and to question the validity of anything that I hear or see. When I read about a scientific study in a newspaper article, for instance, I immediately question how the study or experiment was conducted. I understand we shouldn’t jump to causal conclusions based on correlation alone.

Sure, it’s not practical to investigate every report and every statement personally. Absolutely. you have to pick and choose your battles. That said, relying solely on the reports of others for everything is imprudent and insufficient. Be skeptical. Come to your own conclusions.

“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.”

Life isn’t static and neither are we. Be an active part of the process, whatever that process might be.