I wrote about the recent revival of interest in Buckminster Fuller stemming in large part from a major show at the Whitney, and about my own small personal discovery about Fuller’s impact on the iconography of our day.
A second, and perhaps more important reflection came as I walked the halls of the Whitney’s fourth floor exhibition space and I spent some time looking at bound volumes of Fuller’s notes.
Fuller was a journler of mythic proportions. He not only lived by the rule of “think with a pencil in hand” he kept and treasured everything he had ever written. His latter work exploded in volume and was stored in cardboard boxes carted off to the care of Stanford University in a special Buckminster Fuller Archive (and which are being waded through in an archiving project). But before his output became unmanageable, he had his early papers bound in leather volumes, and the Whitney has four of these remarkable books on display.
As I looked at these thick spined collections of scraps of drawings, calculations and ideas, often on odd sized papers, some reworked and commented on over the years in strata of development, I felt tremendous inspiration. To treasure your own work so much as to keep it and care for it this way spoke not just to Fuller’s legendary ego (he once created a poster sized chart of the decade’s history plotted as a function of his own work) but to the power of a creative mind to collect, preserve and extend ideas. In a certain way Bucky was showing us that he was different. He was saying in a very tangible way, I am good and I am right.
Fuller’s recording for memorialization was just as important as his collection for refinement, and I thought of the collections of notes I had bound over the years, my daily jottings on strategic plan development, acquisitions, integrations, programs that succeeded and those that had floundered (which is a nice way of saying failed) all scratched on the graph paper I used as a personal differentiator from the lesser, non-strategist executives who wrote on regular paper or gasp on legal pads. Using graph paper was like showing a symbol of your otherness just as using a an RPN calculator, the the HP 12c, was a sign of otherness from any non finance people in the room.
At the time when I bound my notes I felt twinges of vanity, taking that material and having staff spend time combing pages into books. I can count on the fingers of one hand how often I referred back to them, and less how often I revised them. And while my non-work journals are still with me, those from Corporate Life were left behind, prisoners of confidentiality agreements, protected from becoming potential hostages of the world’s litigation terrorists. I wonder if anyone has ever looked at them since, and if they did if they could understand them. I wonder what I would learn if I went over than and reworked them as diligently as Bucky had.
In Fuller’s journals he drew his visions of a Dymaxion future, often on stationery imprinted with his name, and I realized that he too was separating himself and his ideas from the throng of his generation’s competing meemes. I also realized that as fellow recorders of our thoughts we share a dream to transcend our time, to link the work of yesterday with the, presumably better, work of today that will one day impact and improve tomorrow.
With that thought in my head I rushed home, popped open my Macbook, and added an entry to my journal…
As noted on the Stanford Humanties Lab web site…
His (Fuller’s) ability, if not compulsion, to record all his activities resulted in a vast archive of materials (estimated 1300 linear ft), including 4,000 hours of videotape and the huge Dymaxion Chronofile, in which he documented his life on a daily basis from 1915 through his death in 1983. This extensive archive of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable minds was acquired by the Stanford University Libraries in 1999.
More on Fuller…
- A piece I wrote about Fuller’s imact on the iconography of our day:
In the future there are no right angles!