A singular commitment

Shortly after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the White House last year, Buckminster Fuller reminisced with William Marlin:

''I was brought up by my mother, my father having passed on when I was young, who said, 'Darling, never mind what you think about things; listen, we're trying to teach you.' And she sent me to schools where they said, 'Never mind what you think, listen!'

''In Chicago, . . . I said that if I was going to get myself out of the way, . . . I had better go all the way with my own thinking. . . . I decided that human beings are here for all other human beings, that we're not just individual happenstances. . . . Maybe each of us should be looking around and asking, 'What does my experience teach me needs to be attended to on our planet, in relation to all human beings, which, if attended to satisfactorily, could bring great satisfaction and happiness in the support of humanity - things which, if left unattended to, might place humanity at a very great, perhaps lethal, disadvantage?'

''So I resolved to . . . activate the very rich set of practical experiences I had been through - as in the Navy, where I had seen the highest science going into environment controls for the sea and sky, yielding more and more performance and precision per unit of weight. I had realized in 1917 that we might be able to apply this capability to the home front, doing more and more with less and less, . . . and thus reverse our traditional rationalization of scarcity and selfishness. . . .

''When I launched this commitment, with the help of my darling wife and the inspiration of our lovely new child, many friends, and both our families, thought I was being very treacherous, not trying to earn a living in the conventional sense anymore. What seemed clear then was that I was going to have to ask myself very directly if I indeed had faith in a greater intellect and wisdom operating in this universe. And I said, 'Yes, I have.' I had to ask myself directly, 'Do you commit yourself with absolute faith that you're going to do what has to be done to solve the problems that have to be solved?' And I said, 'Yes, I do.'

''Then I said, 'Quite clearly, if you're doing what has to be done - reconnoitering familiar fields, perhaps opening some new ones - you're going to have, given this greater intellect and wisdom, some very extraordinary insights. . . . Can you be depended upon - and this was my compact with God - to never allow yourself to think that you are some kind of a new messiah, some kind of a new leader? . . .

''I told myself that I must do some writing and designing. . . . When I wasn't working, I would walk our daughter in Lincoln Park, teaching her the names of all the kinds of boats. . . . Sometimes I would walk all the way into the Loop.

''And one day, down Michigan Avenue, just south of the Chicago River, I suddenly felt around me this sparkling light. I thought it must be reflections of the sunshine dappling the water, but I seemed to be floating in it, and suddenly, from deep within me, welled this incredible voice, which said, 'Never again await temporal assignation; you have the truth.' ''

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