“I always assume I’ve only got a few more minutes to live.” – Buckminster Fuller
Like all great spiritual beings and teachers, Bucky Fuller recognized the impermanent nature of all things, and this simple quote perfectly displays that insight. Although the “if” of our death is certain, the “when” remains a mystery until the moment it happens.
Some people diagnosed with a fatal disease have reported that it was the greatest blessing of their lives because it caused them to “wake up” and start living every moment of their lives fully. That was what Bucky Fuller did following his 1927 crisis and epiphany.
1927 was the year his construction business failed causing him to lose all his money as well as a great deal of money invested by his family and friends. In the eyes of society, Bucky was a failure – or as he later described himself at that time “a throwaway,” of no value to society.
Walking along the shore of Chicago’s Lake Michigan in 1927, Bucky contemplated swimming out into the lake until he drowned, thereby providing his wife and new daughter with the proceeds of his life insurance policy. Then, he found himself suspended two feet off the ground in a ball of white light, and a voice spoke to him. That “voice” asserted that he did not belong to himself and that he belonged to Universe. It continued to explain that he might be a unique link in a chain of information and evolution that he did not have the right to break. In reality, we are all such unique links who need to discover and uncover
Following that insight, Bucky did what great beings do – he was silent, and he vowed not to speak until he had something worthwhile to say. After months of silent study and meditation, he began functioning as if this were his last day on Earth. In the Buddhist tradition, this is referred to as “practicing like you hair is on fire.” One becomes so passionate about something that they recognize every moment as precious and act accordingly.
For Bucky that meant working on behalf of the welfare of as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and it was then that he initiated his campaign to create “a world that works for everyone.” He also began functioning as if he could die at any moment, which was true for him and is true for each of us.
None of knows when or how our life on this Earth will end, but we are certain that it will. Consciousness of that perspective makes each moment even more precious. And it’s not necessarily about what we achieve. Few, if any, people lying on their death bed expresses regret at having not spent more time working at a job that provided only material gain. Nobody wants their life to end without fully sharing the depth of their love for others or the wisdom that they have acquired. And each moment is even more important when we know that it could be our last.
One of my teachers once shared a story about when she asked one of her teachers what type of meditation is most important to be practicing. He replied, that first thing upon awakening each morning one should contemplate the impermanent nature of everything and the fact that one could die that very day.
As with Bucky’s quote, such a perspective shifts our every thought and action. It keeps us more awake and mindful as well as more compassionate and understanding of others.
May all people attain such awareness and recognize the precious nature of every moment.