Unreal Nature

February 12, 2018

The Utterly Invisible Quality of Integrity

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… The question is how truthful human beings really are; do they go along with the gang thing or do they do their own thinking?

This is from the Buckminster Fuller interview (1981) found in Robert Storr: Interviews on Art edited by Francesca Pietropaolo (2017):

[ … ]

Buckminster Fuller: … I had very bad eyesight — I was very farsighted. That made me cross-eyed: I didn’t have glasses then and my family just found my eyes to be goofy. And the family doctor said, “We don’t know much about eyes [nowadays] and they are a complicated subject. Hopefully, as he gets a little older, the muscles will take over and straighten out in a parallel fashion. If the situation doesn’t clear up by the time he is four years old, then as soon as he is four and a half you should take him to the eye doctor.”

[line break added] And that’s what happened. I was very farsighted and all we needed was for me to use some lenses to correct it. In recent years the lenses for glasses have reached a greater amplification power, but the degree of correction for my eyes is exactly the same. So all I have to do is take off my glasses to see what I saw before I was four and a half years old. I just get color. My mother couldn’t understand why I used to be in love with colors.

[line break added] When I went to kindergarten — this was before I wore glasses —one day the teacher brought wooden toothpicks and semi-dried peas — we didn’t have plastic in those days or things like that — and she told us kids to use those peas and stick the toothpick into them so that they would hold their shapes. She told us to make structures. All the other children with good eyesight saw rectilinear buildings and immediately made rectilinear structures, boxes. I didn’t see it and therefore I felt with my hands what would hold its shape. And only a triangle holds its shape.

[line break added] The fact that the peas semi-held it didn’t suit me at all, and so I made triangles and soon began to build a tetrahedron, and went on to make all these different structures out of triangles. This comes out of what I call the tetrahedron truss. Today it would be the isotropic vector matrix, the very essence of the core system of nature. At any rate, I made that with my hands and I remember the teacher calling all the other teachers to look at the strange thing this kid had done.

[ … ]

BF: … I had learned early on that there are different ways of seeing things. So when things seemed to be going badly for me, I’d always say to myself: “You know you’re able to lay down and see this very differently.” I think it has really helped me to grow and overcome through some terrifically difficult periods that most people would not, because they would see things and would not be used to the idea that you may see things in a completely different way. Psychologically it must have a very powerful effect on my life.

Robert Storr: There was a period like that in the 1920s when you had extreme difficulty making your ideas known to people, wasn’t there?

BF: Well, in fact there were several factors. First of all, I had a sister three years older than me. And she’d continually tell me what she could see, and I couldn’t see it, therefore, I assumed that she was making it up. And I wanted to respond and so I would tell her things that I could see, and I always got enormous laughs because [laughs] it was truly make believe.

[line break added] When I finally got my sight I realized that she hadn’t been making it up at all, but by this time I had a reputation for being funny and making up things and people would enjoy that. Now, this also brought about the fact that people did not tend to take me seriously or believe me. So when I had a serious invention and I found that people paid no attention yet, I said, “It’s going to be very important for people to get oriented by what is the truth.”

[ … ]

RS: I would like to read you a quote from your writing and ask if you could comment and enlarge on it. It says, “The great aesthetic that will inaugurate the twenty-first century will be the utterly invisible quality of integrity of the individual in doing the scientific discovery.” Could you expand on that a little?

BF: Aesthetic used to be visual. We are going completely into the invisible world. Think of all the chemistries, the alloys, the electronics that you can’t see. In the invisible world of electronics people make discoveries with the computer. But we [have] got to do it in such a way that we can have the confidence that the computer is not being corrupted. In dealing with the invisible, we have to have more and more confidence in the integrity of those operating in it.

[line break added] So I said that the great aesthetic will be integrity. And it will not be the integrity of corporations — they don’t have integrity anyway because they are simply drawn by how to make money or how to avoid taxes. The question is how truthful human beings really are; do they go along with the gang thing or do they do their own thinking?

My previous post from Storr’s book is here.

-Julie

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