Gnomicon 199

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  199
Tuesday 27November 2012
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 There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.
R. Buckminster Fuller (12 Jul 1895 – 1 Jul 1983)

Mr. Geodesic was an engineer and something of a polyvalent polymath, the holder of some twenty-five or so patents (among which was one [U.S. patent 2,682,235] for the Geodesic Dome).

The epigraph captivates me not only for the complex simplicity of the implied analogies but also for my personal fascination with the world of lepidoptera (begin hereand then search this blog by entering ‘lepidoptera’ in the box at upper right of this page under the tiger’s head) and its rich symbology.

What did Fuller mean?

There is in the mysteriously miraculous process that is the metamorphosis of a static egg into a crawling caterpillar (or larva) that in turn undergoes a further metamorphosis into a cocoon containing the hanging pupa that metamorphoses into a winged butterfly freed and fluttering iridescent into the open sky something magically, almost unbelievably transformative.  In the late forties at around the age of twelve or so I ‘discovered’ entomology … discovered it in a book in the La Jolla Public Library on the corner of Girard and Wall Streets (in those days nobody had even heard of computers or the  internet!).  That book was (I recall it well) Comstock’s Entomology, and I fell in love with the exquisite line drawings to such an extent that I spent a large portion of saved-up paper-route (yes, those don’t exist for kids any longer – anti-exploitative child labor laws and all that, you know!) money actually to purchase my own copy—the first of what came over the years to be probably something like four or five thousand ‘scholarly’ and other books I’ve bought so far in my life and can’t seem to keep myself from continuing to buy).  And that book led me down the seductive path to lepidoptera on which I still take the occasional walk of wonderment.

Although as the years wore on I did change my mind about becoming a lepidopterist in favor of becoming a surfing bum in Hawaii and changed that mind in favor of flying fighter jets (in college I favored the Phantom F-4, a work-horse in Viet Nam, and then found that I needed glasses …) and changed that mind in favor of becoming a neurosurgeon and changed that mind in favor of becoming a mathematician and changed that mind in favor of studying Latin and ancient Greek and sort of never did change that mind, to this day I have never forgotten my sense of wondrous awe about anything and everything to do with butterflies.

And so back to ‘What did Fuller mean?’

Buckminster Fuller’s factual statement, so true, so simple, so infinitely complex in the ripples of potential analogies that it radiates outward, lends itself for me to contemplation beyond count.


Just think of something tiny and insignificant like the butterfly’s nano-egg, like its caterpillar with pulsating if often colorfully beautiful segmentations, like its dirty cocoon – and unless you knew better no way could you ever guess what a gloriously exquisite creature will eventually, necessarily, by the codified imperatives laid down nature emerge from all that.

Is this just another way of urging patience, giving things a chance, trusting that what is to be will in its own time be.

Is that about people, too?

P.S. Perhaps from time to time you’ve asked yourself if your support of a Public Library with money or books as a private contributor or as a tax payer is worth it, even in this day and age.  I never wonder about that one!

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