In the course of our random reading, we love coming upon surprising questions that we can mull during the week to see what answers, information or mindshifts emerge. Our current favorite is from a story about Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic done and briliant design scientist, that we found in John Kabat Zinn’s Wherever Go You There You Are.
At age 32, having failed at nearly everything he had undertaken, Fuller contemplated suicide for a few hours on the edge of Lake Michigan.
However, instead of ending his life, Fuller decided (perhaps because of his deep conviction in the underlying unity and order of the universe, of which he knew himself to be an integral part) to live from then on as if he had died that night.
Being dead, he wouldn’t have to worry about how things worked out any longer for himself personally and would be free to devote himself to living as a representative of the universe. The rest of his life would be a gift.
Instead of living for himself, he would devote himself to asking, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?”
He decided he would just ask that question continuously and do what came to him, following his nose. In this way, working for humanity as an employee of the universe at large, you get to modify and contribute to your locale by who you are, how you are, and what you do. But it’s no longer personal. It’s just part of the totality of the universe expressing itself.
Kabat Zinn paraphrases it this way: What do I care about so much that I would pay to do it? What is my job on the planet with a capital J?
We find Fuller’s question to be very powerful. Following his practice to “ask that question continuously”, surprising answers have been slowly emerging, becoming clearer and clearer like in the Magic 8 Ball we used to love as kids.
What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?
Image at top: User:Edgy01 (Dan Lindsay) via Wikimedia Commons