Don’t forget, it’s all an experiment
Buckminster Fuller was one smart guy
Without getting all dark and scary, there are days when I ask what I’m doing here. I don’t hear too many people admit to that, so I’m not sure if it means I’m broken for even asking it, but there it is anyway.
I didn’t ask it when I was a single mom raising my son. Even during my darkest moments, my mission was clear: be there for Sean. No question, no doubt— laser-focused.
But now he’s all grown and here I am, trying to find my way and my people in a new town far from my familiar. It gets lonely, even for this hard-core introvert.
My skyscraper days never prepared me for maneuvering through the quirky waters of small town life.
So yes, doubt creeps in from time to time. That, and a ton of questions that overwhelm me at 4 o’clock in the morning. So, to calm that spinning mind wheel, I tuned into a recording on my iPod this morning.
It was an interview with Marc Allen, the co-founder (with Shakti Gawain), president and publisher of New World Library. During his existential crisis at age 30, he talks about how he looked to Buckminster Fuller.
When Fuller lost his job and was facing potential bankruptcy with a child on the way, he started considering suicide so that his family could at least cash in on the insurance.
While drowning in the booze of his lowest moments, as the story-myth goes, he had a life-altering experience in which he felt as though he was suspended several feet above the ground enclosed in a white sphere of light, while a voice spoke to him:
“From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.” [Sieden, Lloyd Steven (1989). Buckminster Fuller’s Universe: His Life and Work.]
Whoa! Just imagine that really happening to you! (I admit, I have a little ‘vision envy’ when I hear stories like this one. How come I never hear a voice? Anyway, I digress …)
Fuller changed his approach after that (who wouldn’t?). Rather than looking for an exit, he shifted his perspective and started viewing his life as “an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”
Marc Allen talks about how that notion helped him break free of his nagging doubts. It makes sense.
How many times are we told that we’ll never achieve unless we believe? And then, just as our fragile dream begins to take shape, someone admonishes us for thinking we could possibly do what we want to do and POOF! It’s gone.
Either that, or any number of pre-programmed ideas about the likelihood of our success or failure sabotage us from within.
Now switch your thinking and look at it all as an experiment. It’s easier to believe, isn’t it … and, at least for me, it’s a good reminder that that’s what life really is: an experiment.
Success or failure becomes a result to be observed, a temporary state from which to learn, rather than being some sort of end in itself.
An experiment … it sounds like a fun thing to do, like playing.
Marc Allen continues by saying that he created a one-sheet imagining of his ideal life. Nothing was out of reach for this experiment — he could build the life of his dreams on that sheet of paper.
This is where it gets interesting, because the things he wanted surprised even him. He wanted to build a publishing company when he had never taken a business course. He wanted to write books, and he wanted to play and publish his music. While doing all of this, he also wanted a white house on a hill and the freedom to work, play and sleep when he desired.
He had nothing when he started and he gave it five years. Against the common advice to focus on one thing and then work the requisite 90 hours a week, he decided he wanted it all while working as few hours as possible.
The voices in his head told him he was way off the mark — that it wasn’t possible to do all of that, never mind the way he wanted to do it. But, as an experiment, he was able to shut them all out, and he did it.
In fact, within the first six months he knew it was working.
Back to my dark and scary thoughts …
My mind wheels tend to spin around an axis of what’s “possible”. But what if Marc Allen is right? What if anything is possible and all I have to do is try, like the experiment that life is.
Granted, there are some things beyond my physical ability. I will never be a heavy-weight boxer or an Olympic marathon runner, even if I drop everything else I’m doing now and work like crazy to get there. But I don’t want those things anyway.
So, what do I want five years from now? I hesitate. What about you? Is it clear to you?
That five year plan is nebulous, at least for me, and it shouldn’t be.
We found our property on the lake. We sold a pile of our stuff along with our house in the city. We built our home on the lake.
Now I see — we are in mid-experiment and I’ve been letting my doubt get in the way of moving forward. (BTW: we are all in our respective mid-experiments.)
Many of the choices I’ve made since I got here have been around finding security in what ever way possible, even if it feels awful. It’s starting to dawn on me that I’ve become my own worst enemy.
The sheet of paper is on my desk now.
It’s time to play … and experiment.