I’ve been cataloguing my books. They’re scattered across the house. Some years ago I got rid of all the IKEA shelves and built my own, as a tribute to this cherished collection. Every volume has its own tale to tell: how was it acquired, why and when? Sometimes memory fails: the tale is lost. Which is a reason for maintaining this site.
In the course of this review, I discovered three books by R. Buckminster Fuller, evidence that I was once a fan of his. Today I find them unreadable. Opening one at random, I find him claiming that the only thing standing in the way of Utopia on earth is failure to embrace the full possibilities of machinery:
Rejecting the word ‘creativity’ for use by any other than the great intellectual integrity progressively disclosed as conceiving both comprehensively and anticipatorily the complex interpatternings of reciprocal and transformative freedoms which apparently govern the universe I go along with the 5,000-year-old philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, which says ‘. . . It is only the ignorant man who, mislaid by personal egotism, says: “I am the doer”’. . .
Doer he certainly was, along with a dialect all his own. He continues:
Machines have given rise to apprehension in people throughout the world . . . I feel it important to recognize that we, ourselves, physically speaking, are machines. . . . The physical universe is a machine—in fact, universe is the minimum and only perpetual motion machine. What people are usually apprehensive about is the unfamiliar machine. . . . I don’t think that it is the machine per se that bothers man; it is just not understanding anything . . . that disturbs him.
In his lifetime he was much honoured. Today he is chiefly remembered for inventing the Geodesic Dome, and for neologisms such as tensegrity, dymaxion. The domes were enthusiastically embraced by advocates of an “alternative society”, first in USA and soon after copied here in the UK.
In 1971 my wife and I felt we had missed the 60s altogether. Now was the time to escape from humdrum normality and follow the lure of the Aquarian Age. After many adventures, we ended up in a West Norfolk community at Crow Hall. It didn’t like being called a “commune”. Two domes were being erected in the grounds. See this web page for more details.
In this photo, I’m wearing a dark moustache, holding my baby daughter. To my left is the dome designer, holding his baby daughter. My five-year-old son is at the front, with a hand to his eye as if aping the photographer, or perhaps saluting.
We lived there for nine months. It took a further 30 years before I felt ready to rejoin “normal society”. I think it’s fair to say that my two elder children, the ones in the picture above, have taken longer. Were we enriched by the experience, or scarred? How does one know what might have been, in an “alternative world” that never happened?
I cannot now explain why I bought three of Fuller’s books in the 1990s.