Buckminster Fuller made famous the phrase “Spaceship Earth” as a term describing the situation in which all humans live on Earth, literally as aboard a fragile spaceship planet with finite resources. The implications of humanity’s continuing to damage our spaceship are terrifying. There is significant evidence of permanent damage that has been done by humans to our planet – and of continuing trends toward harm.
In 2000, I had the privilege of leading a cross-disciplinary team that produced a strategic plan for The Buckminster Fuller Foundation where we focused on stewardship – the essence of leaving things better than you found them.
And when Thoreau said, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world,” we know that Bucky and he were sharing a similar world view.
How do you feel about the state of this planet? What kind of difference do you believe that you as an individual can make? Do you see yourself as a steward? What are the implications of either a “yes” or “no” answer to that question? What do you think Buckminster Fuller – and Thoreau – would be saying about the BP oil spill and the long-running Nigerian oil disaster?
As we celebrate U.S. Independence Day, perhaps it’s appropriate to remember that freedom does not grant license to do anything we wish just because we can. Rather, freedom is an opportunity to live into the best of which we are capable.
Have a great 4th of July Weekend!
If there’s one clear situation where it’s clear that we can leave it better than we found it, the opportunity is with ourselves.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We see this quote frequently, yet sometimes we’ve glossed over it and perhaps taken it for granted.
Assuming that the changes we want in the world are positive – better – than our current experience, what would it feel like to actually “be” the change for the better? If one desires peace, one is peaceful. If one seeks love, be loving. If one wishes progress, be forward-thinking.
How well do you model the changes that you wish to see in the world? Are you aware of opportunities that you could act upon to be more true to your core values? What needs to happen to cause you to be the change you wish to see in the world?
Leaving a situation better than you found it translates into the opportunity for taking complete responsibility in our personal relationships. Consider trying on the idea of being 100 percent responsible for the results of any relationship.
This approach is best done with zero negative judgment as a means of asking the pure play question: what is my role in the dynamics of the relationship?
Taking responsibility is central to the idea of leaving something – or someone – better than you found them. “Better” in this context means nothing even close to that you “fixed” or “improved” someone. Rather, it engages the idea of contribution to other(s).
Can you think of people whom you leave – and have left – more empowered, more loved, more attended to than when you first met them? How much of that result was intentional? Who has contributed to you in such profound ways? Have you acknowledged that person(s) for leaving you better than you were found?
Consider Winston Churchill’s quote:
“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?”
Now, try substituting other words for “this muddled world” like:
* Your romantic relationship, marriage or love life.
* The lives of the people with whom you work.
* Charitable causes that make a difference.
* The outcomes that your customers experience.
* Your school, college or university.
* Our very, very flawed political process.
You get the idea, even if the translation with Churchill’s quote is not exact. He’s essentially saying that making things better is the reason that we’re here on earth.
How do you feel about his position? Do you consider it extreme? What kind of improvements have you effected in any of the items above? Did your contributions rise to the level that Churchill describes?
When I went camping as a child, I was taught to always leave the campground better than I found it. That most often meant not only completely removing any trash that my group had left behind, but also picking up and removing the trash generated by people whom I did not know.
I remember feeling good about doing something that my child’s mind identified as noble. Making the world a better place even in the smallest way was very rewarding.
That concept has remained a cornerstone of how I aspire to live my life. But I’m human, so the aspirations have been far greater than the realities of my being able to live up to that ideal.
Do you ever pick up trash that others have left? Literally or metaphorically? It’s great to do it anonymously so that there’s no opportunity for ego gratification. How aware are you of leaving any situation better than you found it? What has been your experience and success at doing so? Is this concept something to which you resonate – or is it something else to you?