Monday, July 14, 2008

Life's Unforgettable Moments: Driving Bucky Fuller

I've enjoyed seeing the resurgence of writing about R. Buckminster Fuller in the media recently. Newsweek ran a story titled, "Bucky's Very Large Dome", and a new exhibition opened this month at the Whitney Museum in New York called "Buckminster Fuller: Starting With the Universe." Other stories have appeared in the New Yorker and the International Herald Tribune and PBS previously ran an American Masters program about Fuller.

I had an unforgettable life experience with Bucky Fuller over 35 years ago. He gave a lecture at my church in Akron, Ohio and I volunteered to take him to the airport for his return home after the event.

Bucky's lecture was a totally mesmerizing experience for the overflow audience. He spoke extemporaneously about his ideas and inventions on "Spaceship Earth" for about five hours non-stop! He was 76 or 77 years of age at the time (which forever changed my views about elders!).

I've never met a more brilliant man. Funny. Lots of wacky and wonderful ideas. A poet, architect (unlicensed), philosopher, visionary, futurist, genius, and oftentimes a "crackpot."

My volunteer driving assignment for Bucky was definitely unforgettable. Soon after he got into the car (after his ever-so-long lecture), he went right to sleep. Of course, I had been hoping to be able to ask him questions about things he said in his lecture .... but that did not happen.

I drove to the Akron airport in silence and when we got there, I got out of the car with him and carried his luggage to the check-in counter. We quickly learned there was no flight to check-in for! Bucky's ticket was for a flight leaving in a half-hour from the airport in Cleveland -- too far away to get him there on time.

Bucky was unfazed by the experience. No explanation or apologies needed. So, back in the car we went, heading my aging Toyota Corolla north for the Cleveland Hopkins Airport. And Bucky went back to sleep, getting in another hour of snooze time.

When we got to the airport, I woke Bucky and told him I'd come in to help make alternative flight arrangements for him but he said "that would not be necessary" (in his memorable New England accent). So I got his one bag of luggage out of my car and handed it to him. He thanked me for the ride and walked through the doors into the airport.

Somehow, in my mind's eye, I can still see the small, balding man (with very thick-lensed glasses) dressed in a dark suit and tie carrying is bag through those doors.

I never saw Bucky Fuller in person again. I read more about him. Enjoyed seeing what he was proposing for inhabitants of Spaceship Earth. And I grieved our world's loss when I heard that he had died in 1983 at the age of 87.

I liked what the Newsweek writer, Cathleen McGuigan, said in the conclusion to her story:

"... his central message, if you can boil it all down still hits home. 'We are on a spaceship, a beautiful one,' he wrote. 'It took billions of years to develop. We're not going to get another. Now, how do we make this spaceship work?' Earth to Bucky: we're still trying to figure that out."

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1 comment:

FirstPersonArts said...

This is a great little story! Through a friend I once happened to visit Bucky Fuller's former home on the upper east side in Manhattan, and his personal library was still intact.