The Hunt For Buckminster Fuller
This week’s FLASHBACK FRIDAY is from an adventure in Boston during summer 2010.
Once upon a time, I was being followed by Buckminster Fuller.
Yes, I know he’s dead; no, I wasn’t on drugs.
It’s just, he was EVERYWHERE. Everything I read had some reference to Buckminster Fuller. A local theater announced they would do a play about Buckminster Fuller. Overheard snippets of conversation on the street were about Buckminster Fuller. He was in the parentheses, the footnotes, the asides. Buckminster Fuller. Buckminster Fuller. Buckminster Fuller.
I became obsessed.
I also realized I didn’t really know much about Buckminster Fuller. I knew his famous name. I knew he had something to do with architecture or engineering or something. I knew he was following me.
So I looked him up on Wikipedia, of course.
The first thing I learned was that Buckminster Fuller was really, really cool. He was a dreamer, an inventor, a scientist, a creative, an inquisitive man. He was quirky and offbeat and someone I could admire.
The second thing I learned was: “[Buckminster Fuller and his wife] are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”
WHAT! I lived right outside of Cambridge.
BUCKMINSTER FULLER WAS MY NEIGHBOR.
So I took it as a sign. My roommate Swaldo and I decided we had to find the grave of Buckminster Fuller.
We would bicycle to Mount Auburn Cemetery from our apartment in Davis Square—not a long distance, but just twisty enough to be confusing for us navigation novices. The first attempt started out fine. We made it to the cemetery and started wandering around, hoping to stumble upon Bucky’s grave. Unfortunately we didn’t realize that Mount Auburn Cemetery is massive, and the chances of us finding the grave were slim. After exhaustedly giving up, we made the discovery that Mount Auburn Cemetery provides MAPS at the entrance. So on a different day, we got back on our bikes and tried again.
And this time, our hunt for Buckminster Fuller was successful!
After doing a little victory dance in the middle of the cemetery and commemorating our success with some of my precious Polaroids, we took the time to contemplate the quote at Bucky’s grave: “Call me trim tab.” We didn’t know what it meant, then. Later on I looked it up… and it was like a light bulb turned on. Buckminster himself explains trim tab best:
“It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trim Tab.”
A creative and engaged individual can make a difference—and Buckminster Fuller might be the patron saint of those people. It’s the kind of person I’m constantly trying to be. So while searching for a grave might seem like a trivial thing, for Swaldo and me it was a moment of enlightenment. Our quest for the spirit of Buckminster Fuller led us exactly to the place we needed to be. We can be trim tab, too.
And so, to commemorate our adventure, I named my bicycle Bikeminster Fuller.