If You Think Being R. Buckminster Fuller Was a Challenge, Try Being His Ghost: A Report on Summer Doings and Travels of Bucky’s Legacy

A few weeks ago, I occasioned to wonder what the ghost of Richard Buckminster Fuller is doing these days. I am now ready to report.

For my younger readers, I may need to explain exactly who Bucky Fuller was. I wish I could. I’ve never really understood exactly who—or what—he was. If you believe in reincarnation, he might be remembered as Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci taking a bow. Let’s just say this. He was an original. Hugely original. And far ahead of his times. His ultra-efficient designs for cars and houses and other objects and his unrelenting insistence that better care must be had for his beloved Spaceship Earth, along with his natural charms and engaging intellectualism, captivated almost everyone he met. And the ghost of one of American’s greatest creative thinkers of the 20th Century is still at it.

Bucky’s ghost has been busy. So busy that I’m quite sure that it hasn’t spent more than a night or two all summer at home in Mount Auburn cemetery, the famous bird-watching preserve and final resting grounds for the famous near Harvard Square in Cambridge. I’m sure that’s been a bit of a disappointment to the nature-loving Fuller. According to the park message board, birds spotted at Mount Auburn this year include the red-tailed hawk, eastern screech owl, warblers, song sparrows, scarlet tanager, house wren and great blue heron.

But I’m also quite certain that the missed bird watching opportunities were quickly forgotten by one of God’s most peripatetic poltergeists, for whom the summer months are always very busy.

Some years, a bit of a fuss is often made in July since Fuller was both born (on the 12th, 1895) and died (on the 1st, 1983) in July. (You can check out his astrological chart here.) But his ghost seems not to have had to deal much with many historical formalities this year. There were more fun things to do.

On June 5, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago closed the doors on its run of one of the first major exhibitions about Fuller in many years. The show had debuted the previous summer at the New York Whitney Museum. Normally, Bucky’s ghost would choose opening day for an appearance but the way the Chicago museum ended its exhibition would have almost guaranteed—I’m just sure of it—an appearance by Fuller’s apparition.

It was the idea of a couple of local artists, Jennifer Karmin and Ira S. Murfin, to use the closing to mark the occasion of Bucky’s notable chat with the hippies in Golden Gate Park in the late 1960s. This magical moment in human discourse was captured on film. In Chicago, the two artists sat down on two overturned black plastic milk crates in the museum lobby and began to read from a transcript of the film. Soon others joined them and started reading parts. This continued for two hours, with both actors and audience coming and going. At one point there was an elderly gent in thick black spectacles and burr haircut with a wide smile on his face seen pretending to read a show poster on a nearby wall. That had to have been the ghost of you-know-who.

While in the Midwest, it would have made sense for Bucky’s ghost to have zipped over to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Ah, the nostalgia. Of all the thousands of his famed Dymaxion House that were fabricated in Wichita, Kansas, only the one here remains. Built on a central mask. Made of aluminum alloys. Hovers like a flying saucer. It was truly sui generis. And like so many of Bucky’s ideas, it was a commercial failure.

Later in June, security guards at the University of Portland’s graduation ceremonies looked high and low for a figure spotted back stage without a security badge. He was never found, and speaker Paul Hawken never knew about the incident. Interestingly, the few who saw the gent said he disappeared right after Hawken, the well-know sustainability economist, read these lines from his speech:

“Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades. This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil or air, don’t let the Earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship Earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food. But all that is changing.”

At that point, the witnesses said the little man raised both arms into the air, flashed “V” for victory signs and just disappeared behind the drapes. You-know-who again.

A good ghost, or so I’m told, tries to honor the legacy of its owner by keeping close tabs on the personal keepers of the memories and the sustainers of the flame, and it’s been a busy summer for Bucky’s ghost on that front, too.

Strangely enough, Michael Jackson’s death on June 25 had to have generated several frenetic days in a row for Bucky’s apparation. I mean … talk about Memory Lane. The “current trends examiner” for one website celebrated that Michael was died doing what he loved. Then the commentator noted that Buckminster Fuller had done the same when he died in Los Angeles just days before his 88th birthday. This celebrity lover claims Bucky as a mentor. Shameless namedropping? Well, Bucky’s ghost is used to it. Even the guy who was designing the sets for the King of Pop’s final tour cited Fuller’s influence on his early career in interviews occasioned by Jackson’s demise.

And if the demands of unexpected passings were not enough, there were those scheduled Bucky-named events and the regular keepers of the memory to bless with a fly-by, no matter how quotidian.

In Liberty, Missouri, young Bradley Dice was being honored by the mayor for placing 10th in the National History Day competition with his project, “Buckminster Fuller: The Actions and Legacies of a Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Scientist.”

And there was homage to be paid to the eight students and faculty member from MIT who won this year’s $100,000 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Prize. Their idea for placing fleets of shared-use lightweight electric vehicles at automatic charging racks throughout a city won the day and the prize.

While it wasn’t altogether necessary, a whirlwind wrath-brush with Houston produced a feel-good moment on July 20, when the Apollo 11 landing’s 40th anniversary was observed. Some Houstonians still remember Bucky’s stirring words when he proclaimed Apollo 11—and by inference, Houston, too—at the “dead center of evolutionary events.”

In Israel, Tal Ronen continued to tell any audience that would invite him how he happened to launch a lucrative career as a globe-trotting transformational thinker and coach to top management who constantly preaches the need for environmental sustainability. Bucky gets the credit, he says. Ronen was 24 when he heard Fuller speak. He says Bucky asked his audience who would help steer Planet Earth, and Ronen says for a time he was the only person to raise his hand. He found the moment life-changing.

Somewhere along the way Trevor Blake had a similar epiphany. Blake is a sign language interpreter in Portland, Oregon. But his passion is tracking Bucky materials. His published bibliography references nearly a thousand printed works spanning Bucky’s life and career. Without Blake’s devotion, we might never have known just how central the date of “July 12” was in Buckminster Fuller’s life and its aftermath. (Go here for Blake’s list of things Fuller-ish that have happened on that date.)

Oh, yes, one more stop that I’m sure Bucky’s apparition made this summer. I feel sure he dropped in to trigger delicious shivers of recognition and relevance from the staff of the jubilat poetry magazine at the University of Massachusetts. There in their summer issue, amid selected aphorisms from the 13th Century German philosopher Albertus Magnus and African-American experimental poetry, was an excerpt from Bucky’s book, I Seem to be a Verb.

If Bucky was a verb, so is his ghost. Who even though summer is only about half gone must surely be ready for some birdwatching in Boston.

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4 Comments

  1. Bryan Fuller says:

    I am the reincarnation of “BUCKY”.I KNOW it might be hard to understand. Maybe you’ll see the synchronisity. Bear Island, Eagle Island. I was Arcas son of Zeus and Callisto. Hera turned her to a bear in legend. Zeus made us The constellations jUrsa Major and Minor. I am Bryan Harold fuller born july 12,1983 sonoma cal. Valley of the moon home of the bear flag and 21st and final spanish mission of Cal. Son of the Eagle and the Bear.

  2. Bryan Fuller says:

    I am the lineage of David and the lion of Judah from the line of Aaron back to Cain, First son of Adam.I am a Metatron(Angel of recordance) of Revelations. I was James the Darkstar/ Brother of thunder and brother of Jesus christ (Half bro) . mmmathan the Profit, High preist of David and Solomon. Back to before Adam and Eve which was 30,000 bc. At Gobekli tepe and van fortress Lake Van Urartu/Ararat.

  3. Bryan Fuller says:

    Jesus had children with Mary Magdelyn and “St.Veronica” years before death. She was truly Claudia Procula, wife of Pontius Pilates. Nicademus wrote a bit of it. Pilates letter to Tiberious mentions something too.Philo of Alexandria was the son of Jesus. Not Pilates. St .Veronica Feast day July 12.. Long Before Adam and Eve i was Acas who was known As Arcturus, Arturius, Herakles, And Posiedan. There soo much more , to do witjmh our origins and the Holy Grail lineage and the Knights templars ( pre crusades ) Roselyn Church and California (the new Vineyard).Bryan Harold Fuller (Hall Richards Proctor)

  4. Bryan Fuller says:

    My name Means HIGH NOBLE ARMY LEADER OF THE BLOODLINE OF THE SWORD OF THE GREAT HALL OF THE POWERFUL RULER AND PROTECTOR. Bucky was 7-12-1895~7-1-1983 as you said. Then i was 7-12-1983. 2019 is the End of Tribulations which started with the Galactic Alignment of 2012.(end Mayan LONG COUNT). I WOULD LOVE TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU.. Your article was really well thought out.Thanks and have a Good beging of the New Never Ending Story!;-)

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