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Jumping Out of the Circle

“Whenever I draw a circle, I immediately want to step out of it.”

-R. Buckminster Fuller

Many years ago, my then-optometrist shared a story about his daughter. He really got a kick out of his preschooler’s nonconformist ways. We’ll call this little girl Ellie.

My optometrist talked about the time he gave Ellie a box of crayons. Drawing a circle on paper, he suggested that Ellie color inside the circle. Ellie took a crayon and filled in the circle, but all in black. Perplexed, dad drew another circle and encouraged Ellie to try different colors and to stay inside the perimeter this time. Mischievous and a bit stewed, Ellie took an eraser and erased the circle. She cleared the hedges, and colored freestyle. The colors danced haphazardly inside and outside the soon-forgotten circle.

Ellie’s scuffle with circles came to mind the other day, while I browsed through a book store in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles. A quote, on the cover of a tiny sketch book, prompted a smirk. “Whenever I draw a circle, I immediately want to step out of it.” The words came from architect R. Buckminster Fuller.

Mr. Fuller’s sentence stirred my senses. Invigorated, I felt like jumping outside myself and simply dancing. Weird, right? I love coming across things that unlock a little bit of something from within. I dug a little into the architect’s background and learned that Mr. Fuller was a 20th century inventor and visionary who did not limit himself to one field but worked as a 'comprehensive anticipatory design scientist' to solve global problems. (

I learned of Fuller’s many accomplishments, which included 25 patents. But I snickered a little when reading that Fuller entered Harvard University in 1913, but was expelled after excessively socializing and missing his midterm exams. He took a break from academics and worked with machinery, learning to modify and improve manufacturing equipment. Fuller returned to Harvard in 1915 but was again dismissed. Sigh, that nonconformist.

Of Fuller’s many inventions, the one that dominated his life and career was the geodesic dome. Lightweight, cost-effective, and easy to assemble, geodesic domes that can withstand extremely harsh conditions.

In 1953, Fuller designed his first commercial dome for the Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. The U.S. military became one of his biggest clients, using lightweight domes to cover radar stations at installations around the Arctic Circle.

I find it interesting that a man, who constantly placed himself outside the circle, created domes. Domes, as you know, resemble a hollow upper part of a sphere…not quite a full sphere. Just like Ellie, Fuller had entanglements with circles.

Now and then, I wonder what became of young Ellie; she’s gotta be in her early twenties. I picture her paving rocky roads. Maybe she’s busy building rocket ships that crack the sound barrier. Wherever she is, I am almost certain Ellie spends a lot of time jumping and creating outside the circle.

In sharing my ruminating, I am not promoting unhealthy rebellion or law-breaking conduct. But just like that tiny quote stirred a little bit of spring in my spirit, I simply hope to rouse you to spring out, paint, color, dance, and splash yourself outside the circle. Don’t just think outside the box, play outside the circle. Life is a playground that can fuel momentum and creativity.

In that spirit, I leave you with the words of Henry David Thoreau.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

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