What do Buckminster Fuller, Terence McKenna, & Noam Chomsky Have in Common?

What do Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller, Terence McKenna, & Noam Chomsky Have in Common?

In a word, optimism. And speaking of optimism, it’s kind of odd or strange that the idea for this optimistic essay should come to me rather than another, negative, or pessimistic essay on politics. In view of the fact that I’m nearing the end of two weeks off from my job in a middle school & its Christmas break and I’ve been pretty much alone & feeling socially isolated and therefore a bit depressed, what inspired me to write this particular piece? Well, here is the rough chain of connections for today, which led me to make this connection: I started off looking for more info on the WikiLeaks ongoing scandal/debate, read several articles & came across a You Tube video which I learned after viewing it, was on the 9/11 conspiracy re: the buildings being imploded? Then I noticed a video that had been recommended to me because I’d looked up Timothy Leary in the past, it was Terence McKenna. Became intrigued and watched several short videos on McKenna. Then it struck me, Bucky Fuller was definitely a genius & had such a wide-ranging mind & imagination and Terence McKenna was also clearly an intellectual giant & from the several videos I watched today on McKenna, one thing/common thread I noticed was his empowering of us as individuals and basic pep rally that no one is smarter than us and that politics & religion are about controlling us. Then it struck me that Noam Chomsky too, is basically optimistic about our chances of survival. Chomsky has compared the activist movements of the 1960s and today, and believes there has been good/substantial progress in terms of larger turnouts of protestors and more people being aware of what’s going on.
To return to the subject of optimism vs. pessimism, I want to be clear that I’m not dismissing or denigrating the many essays I’ve written that are so critical of the U.S. government, multinational corporations, our educational system, etc., I believe awareness is the first step in the struggle to right a wrong but sometimes it is healthy to lighten things up a bit & perhaps thereby, reach a wider audience? It seems to be very common for most people to attempt to avoid the critical issues facing us & instead, to focus on comedy, sports, & other such distractions. And to be honest, the first thing that popped into my mind when the idea for connecting these three, seemingly distinct intellects was, wait a minute, they are from completely different academic fields and disciplines? And in the way of confession, I am going to explore the possible connections as I write this piece, so please bear with me, this is merely one person’s perspective.

For a start, let’s review Noam Chomsky’s contributions towards the betterment of humanity. Before I provide a basic background of Chomsky for the average American reading public has rarely heard of this great man, I want to say before I forget it that in a recent video I watched on Chomsky, he was being questioned about whose responsibility it was that so much in terms of, ugly things taking place around the world (my paraphrasing) and Chomsky’s response was typical of this truly, humble genius & compassionate spirit. Chomsky said basically that it was his responsibility as well as all of us who have been so fortunate as to have gone to a good university & received a fairly good education. This self-effacing comment on Chomsky’s part once again confirmed his great spirit & intellect for me. He doesn’t pull his punches but he always speaks in a calm & rational manner & tone of voice. He has a mindboggling ability to remember most of what he reads and he scrupulously provides footnotes so any would be challenger or skeptic, can do their own research and determine if he’s full of shit or not. In fact, Chomsky often reminds his listeners & readers to not just accept what he says as truth or valid but rather to check it out for themselves. Moreover, he will often throw out ideas for research projects should anyone be interested in pursuing some topic or issue that either has not been researched or has had very little research done on it. Do you see why Chomsky is so endearing? The majority of “scholars,” I’ve read, seen, or heard over the past 30 years, seem to be more concerned about their reputation/status and ego gratification & can become very vindictive if they feel slighted.

As to Chomsky’s influence/contributions to our world, and although he dismisses such descriptions as these I’m about to share with you, I believe they are a fairly accurate, short hand way of encapsulating this scholar’s scholar. According to part of a quote from The New York Times, “Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive.” The quote goes on to say something like, “so why then is he so anti-American?” (not sure about the last part of that i.e. “anti-American,” but if memory serves me right, it was something along those lines?) And I believe it was the major newspaper from Chicago and its parent corporation is supposedly responsible for something like 80% of the content of America’s newspapers? They said that Chomsky is the only living person on a list of the top ten most quoted people throughout history. The list includes Plato, the Bible, Karl Marx, Jesus, Socrates, etc. Are you beginning to see why I hold this humble genius in such high regard?

Continuing, I can testify that from my personal experiences or travels around the U.S. & Europe, and not to brag but I’ve been to Europe nine times so far, and every bookstore I’ve been in from Paris to Madrid to Rome, to Munich, to Zurich, to Copenhagen, to Amsterdam, etc. etc. etc., when they did have a section of books in English, it was often relatively small i.e. maybe five hundred books, without exception, the majority of that 500 or so books were books by Chomsky. This wise reader and writer who has dissected the institutions of power common to most nations, often smiles & gives his audience an impish grin that reminds me of a leprechaun. Professor Chomsky lives a schedule that would exhaust most men half his age. He’s in constant demand to give lectures around the globe, teaches part-time at M.I.T. where he has taught for over 50 years, keeps writing prolifically, & takes the time to respond to as many of the small mountain of snail-mail, e-mails, etc. he receives regularly. I believe he’s around 82 years old, and have heard that he drinks coffee like a fiend. I also heard that he works something like 80 hours a week but declares that “its 80 hours working on issues that interest me though.”

Admittedly, I am biased very much in support of Noam Chomsky because this world-famous scholar, writer, lecturer, professor, has responded to almost every e-mail or snail-mail letter I have written him, and sometimes within a matter of hours or the next day. Yeah, his responses are usually very short i.e. four or five sentences but nonetheless, he takes a few minutes out of his busy schedule to write to me, a relative unknown. I have written to many “celebrities, professors, journalists,” far lesser than this dear teacher, and they have either not responded at all or in a somewhat condescending tone. Noam has always been polite/gracious and supportive in his responses to my letters. I try to refrain from writing him too often because I sympathize with his overwhelming life. So, perhaps once or twice a year, I will attempt to contact him. Maybe it’s that every once in awhile, I need a bit of an ego-boost when the drudgery of my life becomes too oppressive?

In conclusion, if I had to narrow it down to a few sentences as to why I feel that Chomsky is so important, this is what I’d say: not only Chomsky’s top drawer, political as well as linguistic scholarship & extensive documenting of sources & etc., but his honesty or integrity is equally inspiring. There are many issues that Chomsky powerfully disagrees with from not only the conservative perspective but the so-called liberal or democratic perspective as well. If he disagrees with a point or philosophy or view, etc., he doesn’t care if everyone in the world disagrees or disputes what he says. This isn’t to say that he feels so superior that he casually dismisses others but rather that, when he gets new information that contradicts a former view he held, and he has researched the new info himself & is convinced of its superior logic, he’ll admit he was wrong & will publicly state so and offer his new perspective on the matter at hand. I tell those who have never heard of Noam Chomsky, he’s a one-man revolution and reading his work is like an education in itself. Okay, time to move on to that other magical elf, Bucky Fuller.

First of all, I want to proudly declare that I & my former girlfriend, who later became my wife, had the honor of seeing one of the last lectures Bucky gave. It was in the Spring of 1983 and at California State University at Long Beach that we saw Bucky. And to be honest, I had a tough time following his lecture because not only is he light-years ahead of me intellectually, his speech was somewhat difficult to make out. But, what stands out in that memorable experience was that Bucky was 88 years old at the time and I recall vividly his energy level i.e. he was passionate in body & speech & would jump up in the air a few inches every now & then. I didn’t learn until several years later that he died a few months after that lecture. As for a brief background on Bucky, let’s see, I first stumbled upon Bucky while flipping television channels one night and watched an approximately ten to fifteen minute bio on him. I was dumbfounded by what I saw & learned about this man who was dubbed “the planet’s friendly genius,” a modern day Renaissance man,” etc.

And speaking of “genius,” another connection between this tremendous trio is the mindboggling depth & breadth of their minds. Chomsky in linguistics, politics, economics, social criticism. Bucky in engineering, history, technology, biology, architectural design, physics, poetry, etc., etc. etc… And Terence McKenna in pharmaceuticals, biology, chemistry, spirituality, psychology, botany, etc. Of the three intellectual giants, Chomsky has been the most accessible for me and only in his political writings which are far from a walk in the park mentally. I started a class at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon several years ago and probably partly due to personal issues at the time as well as the intellectual challenge of the subject matter; I dropped-out after just a few weeks. And from what I understand, Chomsky had such a profound impact on the field of linguistics in the 1960s that it’s referred to as the Chomsky Linguistic Revolution? What I’m trying to say in my usual rambling way is simply that these brilliantly insightful intellectuals explored the deepest recesses of our minds, our technological evolution, & the machinations of the world’s political/economic/corporate etc. institutions & how they got their power and how we can or must reign them in if we are to live in a more just world.

Moreover, I’m still not able to put into words just how awesome these minds are/were and can still be if you dig into the treasure chests of their work. I believe a person of average or above average intellect with a determined & persevering curiosity and scholarly diligence can grasp at least the outlines of these fantastic minds. I have been a serious student or seeker of knowledge and wisdom for well over 30 years and I can barely comprehend the outlines of their thought but it’s always worthwhile. I come away each encounter with these great souls often mentally & sometimes spiritually exhausted or elated. It’s analogous to running a foot race against the fastest guy in your school i.e. I know I’m going to have to put out one hundred percent of my abilities & although I don’t win the race (comprehend everything they say) I always come away a winner for having jousted with their insights no matter how briefly.

To return to Bucky’s influences on humanity, he is most famous for his design of the geodesic dome. And his dome designs reflected his overriding goal of designing & making available to all of humanity, decent housing, clothing, food, transportation, etc. He designed what he called the “Dymaxion car,” which seated something like eleven people, got around 80 miles per gallon, had tires that didn’t wear out, reached speeds of 120 m.p.h., etc. I could go on for several pages listing his inventions but his motto said it all, “do more with less.” His guiding principles were to design everything always focused on serving the greatest number of people for the least drain on our natural resources and his magnum opus “Critical Path,” reveals his research into the history of man’s technology and supports his conclusion that there are enough resources on this Spaceship Earth—his term—for every living being to enjoy decent housing, etc. The reason why there is so much inequality in this world boils down to the greed of the robber barons or pirates who through their gluttony, are causing the suffering of billions of poor souls around the world.

Furthermore, Bucky was awarded over 47 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the globe in dozens of academic disciplines. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and Einstein told him that he was one of only a few who truly understood his theory of relativity. I don’t even know exactly how many inventions was the product of this charming & humble man? One of the videos I watched today on You Tube about Bucky was an interview with him & the following illustrates Bucky’s wisdom or insight into the human condition. During the course of the interview, Bucky posits that because of his nonconforming ways as a young student at Harvard University and his near blindness as a young boy which forced him to become a generalist rather than a specialist, this sense of exile or separateness from society in general, enabled him or was a blessing in disguise because he had the room, the time, the energy to devote to his study of nature and search for nature’s patterns. In perhaps another video, Bucky told the interviewer, “I’m nothing special. Any person with average intelligence could discover most of what I’ve discovered or learned.” Again, the common denominator between the truly enlightened intellects of history, a true humility or humbleness of spirit as well as intellect.

Another way of possibly understanding this humbleness on the part of great spirits/intellects is something that came to me years ago when I first became infatuated with the study of philosophy and its founding father, Socrates. When the oracle at Delphi kept telling the ancient citizens of Athens that none was wiser than Socrates, it perplexed him because he felt he wasn’t wiser than anyone and he wrestled with this for some time before it came to him that perhaps he was wiser than his peers simply because he realized that the more he learned, the more he realized or discovered how little he actually knew and how much more there was to learn. To prove his thesis, he interviewed many “masters” of various trades, etc. and discovered that a man may be say a master shipbuilder but soon because of their elevation by the populace to a position of honor & respect, they start feeling they are qualified to speak as if they were masters of all subjects whether they have any actual knowledge of the discipline or not. I digress.

As for the third wise man in my triumvirate, Terence McKenna, I must confess that I am least familiar with him but his revelations into the field of consciousness expanding hallucinogens, biology, powers of the mind, chemistry, spirituality, etc. that I have struggled with intellectually now & then over the years and the reminder today on You Tube, assure me again of his brilliance and worthy place beside Chomsky & Bucky. By the way, I had the honor of hearing him give a lecture at what I believe was called “A Psychedelic Convention,” that was held in L.A. around the late 1980s I believe? Moreover, I also had the pleasure of meeting and getting the autograph of John Lily at this conference. Another great explorer of our inner consciousness who developed the first isolation tank (flotation tank) and did extensive research on inner species communication with dolphins. Mc Kenna and his brother made several trips to places like the Amazon jungle and discovered new, psychotropic plants, etc. Again, in the few videos I watched on and by Terence McKenna, I noted his confidence in mankind’s ability to transcend the manipulative & controlling forces of organized politics and religious institutions. I didn’t detect any ego or authoritarian impulse in McKenna but again, I really have a very limited knowledge of his work. I bought a book of his years ago that was quite frankly over my head but I hope to someday crack its treasure code? I did make it most of the way through one book of McKenna’s called “The Archaic Revival,” and made extensive notes in its blank pages. Not sure if I finished the book but I recall putting quite a few hours into reading/studying it.

Unfortunately, my home now is my fifth-wheel trailer and I just don’t have enough room to have all of my books with me & can’t put my hands on my copy of The Archaic Revival right now. Therefore, I did a little research on the Internet and wish to share a few quotes from Terence McKenna with you to give you a glimpse into the brilliant mind that was his. He passed away from brain cancer at the age of 54 in the year 2000.

“It’s clearly a crisis of two things: of consciousness and conditioning. These are the two things that the psychedelics attack. We have the technological power, the engineering skills to save the planet, to cure disease, to feed the hungry, to end war. But we lack the intellectual vision, the ability to change our minds. We must decondition ourselves from 10,000 years of bad behavior. And, it’s not easy.”

“You are a divine being. You matter, you count. You come from realms of unimaginable power and light, and you will return to those realms.”

“Ecstasy is the contemplation of wholeness. That’s why when you experience ecstasy—when you contemplate wholeness—you come down remade in terms of the political and social arena because you have seen the larger picture.”

“As I said, I am an explorer, not a scientist. If I were unique, then none of my conclusions would have any meaning outside the context of myself. My experiences, like yours, have to be more or less a part of the human condition.”

“There are areas where words should be gotten rid of that empower political wrong thinking. The propagandists for the fascists already understand this; they understand that if you make something unsayable, you’ve made it unthinkable.”

“What I call the Archaic Revival is the process of reawakening awareness of traditional attitudes toward nature, including plants and our relationship to them. The Archaic Revival spells the eventual breakup of the pattern of male dominance and hierarchy based on animal organization, something that cannot be changed overnight by a sudden shift in collective awareness.”

Regarding the quote above about the unsayable and the unthinkable, it made me wonder if there could be a connection with the “common wisdom” that when you’re in a public tavern, you should never talk about politics or religion? Perhaps there’s a bit of a mischievous leprechaun in me or maybe it’s just a plain unwillingness to compromise on my principles but I’ve found the times I brought up serious political issues, etc. in a bar, have often been the most stimulating conversations I’ve had. I see people come alive and strangers become passionate & intrigued by the exchange of honest opinions. Yeah, sometimes it leads to a wall of separation & sometimes, the tension builds to where I sense a fight may break out but I have usually been able to defuse the situation by pointing out that none of us have the corner on truth & how about let’s just agree that we disagree. It’s often been amusing because I often feel like a boxing referee and somewhat guide the conversation by saying things like, “okay, it’s so and so’s turn to give their response.” And what is supremely satisfying is when every now & then, someone will say to me, “this is the best conversation I’ve had in years!” I believe most people are starving for serious, in-depth conversation/debate but American society is so intellectually bankrupt & shallow that most of us resign ourselves to a parade of distractions in the vain effort to escape the boredom that slowly kills our souls? Isn’t it interesting how nicely this state of affairs complements the powers that be?

And speaking of the “powers that be,” that gentle soul, Howard Zinn, lifted people’s spirits wherever he went by reminding them that the “powers that be,” only have power over us because we allow them to i.e. when we stop obeying them, they no longer have power over us. I believe many people are familiar with the simple yet powerful quote from Einstein that is on posters with a picture of Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” How true! If we but have the courage to imagine a better world, we can make it a reality.

Moreover, Einstein also gave humanity a very serious warning regarding the invention of the atomic bomb which if it weren’t for his contributions; the Nazis may very well have developed it before us. And perhaps the height of absurdity was when our government wouldn’t give Einstein the “security clearance,” to participate in the project at Los Alamos. This shows the ignorance of those “in charge,” because without Einstein’s contributions in terms of the discoveries he had made, I am fairly sure that the bombs we created at Los Alamos and used on Hiroshima & Nagasaki, would have been delayed & perhaps the Nazis would have succeeded in their goal of taking over the world?

The humble and gentle man who fled Nazi Germany and came to America, literally had the weight of the world on his shoulders because he knew what he had helped to create & he plead with our government to not use the nightmarish power of the atom.

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophes.”

Continuing with the connections, another great soul, Bertrand Russell, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in mathematics & came from the upper crust of English society, and who was imprisoned for speaking out against Britain’s involvement in WWI, was defended by Einstein when he was turned down from a teaching position at a New York City College. By the way, Russell is a hero of Noam Chomsky’s and Chomsky has a poster of Russell on the wall of his office at M.I.T. with a quote from Russell:

“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.”

How do I know that Chomsky has this quote on the wall of his office? Because I wrote him a few years ago and said that I felt that this quote was what he, Russell, & I shared in common, and he responded telling me that he had the quote along with a poster of Russell on the wall of his office. One last connection I’d like to make is the fact that I.F. Stone, perhaps the greatest American journalist of the 20th century, was blacklisted in the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s & started his own weekly publication. I.F. Stone (Izzy) and his wife were the writers, printers, distributors, everything and they started out with a subscriber list of 5,000 and among them were Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, & Eleanor Roosevelt. I.F. Stone’s Weekly was dubbed “the conscience of Washington D.C.,” because Izzy was as phenomenal as Noam Chomsky in his research. He’d pour through the Congressional Record, dozens of the major newspapers of the world on a daily basis, and numerous other government publications to cull the occasional kernels of truth buried in the thousands of pages of obfuscation. Because of Izzy’s tireless & relentless search for the facts, he became mandatory reading for almost everyone in D.C. They were obviously scared of this little, old man who revealed their secrets & dirty deeds and thereby held their feet to the fire.

To sum up, I heard or read a quote from Leonardo da Vinci many years ago & it has been driving me crazy ever since because I haven’t been able to locate it but it went something like “Life is like a jig-saw puzzle and the more knowledge we gain, the more pieces of this puzzle come together.” Sometimes, due to our youth and ignorance, we can’t appreciate the beauty before us but recall it in old age. This has definitely happened to me on many occasions and I lament this fact. The trio I have focused on in this paper, as well as the others I have mentioned all prove the power of a single person waging war both destructive & constructive in the confines of their study, their workshop, their studio, etc. This is the good war, a war against the greedy swine ruling the world and driving humanity to extinction & when you’re in the right, you can’t be beat!

Most of my life, my immediate family, my relatives, my “friends,” and strangers I’ve met, have told me, often in patronizing or condescending tones “it’s no use trying Rob; this is just the way things are.” If I had listened to them, I probably would’ve stayed in the army and become an officer & have most likely went to Vietnam and God knows what affect that would have had on my life? I never would’ve started hitch-hiking and have hitched across America or traveled to Europe nine times, often on a one-way ticket with a couple hundred bucks in my pocket. I probably wouldn’t have finally earned that almighty Bachelor’s Degree that took me 14 years to get. I wouldn’t have been allowed to become a teacher, although, not officially recognized because I didn’t have the “credential.” I never would’ve known the joy of having students like those beautiful souls in the ESL classes I taught. And I most likely would never have attempted such an audacious project as that which I have been working on for several years now i.e. my book “Truth Against the World,” of which I’m nearing 2,000 pages.

I know to the marrow of my bones that each of these illuminating souls learned to believe in themselves & when you reach this point in your personal evolution, no one, no institution, and no government can silence you. I have yet to reach this level of acceptance/recognition/realization, but have had glimpses of it & this is enough to keep me struggling towards it.

One person can have a profound impact on their society, and the world. Perseverance is the key. If you dare to dream big, you too can help to make this world a better, more just, more equitable, more human place in which to live. Finally, my take on Chomsky’s admonition that it is his responsibility as well as those of us who have enjoyed the privilege of a good, higher education, to counter the forces arrayed against humanity. We always have a choice and if you are aware of what’s going on and choose not to act, that too, is a choice and you will have to live with that choice the rest of your life.

From my heart & soul,
Rob DeLoss, Dec. 31, 2010-Jan. 2, 2011

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