Spaceship Earth: No Instruction Book Came With It

Buckminster Fuller? Richard Dreyfuss? C. S. Lewis? William Nicholson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A prominent futurist once said that our planet did not come with an instruction book. Therefore, we should act carefully while creating our own instruction book for living and flourishing. I think the author of this notion was Buckminster Fuller. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1969 Robert Buckminster Fuller published “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth”. He asserted that our planet should be viewed as a spaceship requiring care and maintenance. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1969, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller (Richard Buckminster Fuller), Chapter 4: Spaceship Earth, Quote Page 52 and 53, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

We have not been seeing our Spaceship Earth as an integrally-designed machine which to be persistently successful must be comprehended and serviced in total.

Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it. I think it’s very significant that there is no instruction book for successfully operating our ship. In view of the infinite attention to all other details displayed by our ship, it must be taken as deliberate and purposeful that an instruction book was omitted.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Traditionally, religious thinkers have suggested that spiritual texts provide an instruction manual for life. For example, an editorial in a Sherwood, Ohio newspaper in 1952 pointed to the Bible for guidance:[ref] 1952 March 13, The Chronicle, Editorial: It Still Is Not Too Late!, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Sherwood, Ohio. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

We know Him, too, as a wise God. He never promised anyone something for nothing. But He did give us a bountiful world and he gave us the Bible — an instruction manual which tells us how we could be happy in this world if we would but take its advice.

In 1969 Buckminster Fuller referred to the lack of an instruction manual for Earth as mentioned previously.

In 1982 actor Richard Dreyfuss starred in the movie “Whose Life Is it, Anyway?”. When Dreyfuss spoke to critic Roger Ebert about the movie he employed an analogy using an instruction manual:[ref] 1982 January 22, Spokane Chronicle, Section: Focus on Entertainment, Merits of “Whose Life” argued by Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Quote Page 18, Column 3, Spokane, Washington. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

“Think of it this way. If you bought an Apple computer without the instruction manual, you would probably be able to figure out more or less how to use the computer. But you’d never be able to use it to the fullest extent without the instructions. Life is the same way. We’re issued bodies and minds, but no instruction manual. Life is a process of trying to figure out how to use ourselves.”

The play “Shadowlands” by William Nicholson dramatized the relationship between the authors C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman in the 1950s. The play debuted in 1989. The fictional version of C. S. Lewis referred skeptically to an instruction book for life:[ref] 1992, The Applause / Best Plays: Theater Yearbook 1990-1991: The Complete Broadway and Off-Broadway Sourcebook, Edited by Otis L. Guernsey Jr. and Jeffrey Sweet, Play: Shadowlands by William Nicholson (1990 Copyright), Quote Page 146, Applause Theatre Book Publishers, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

LEWIS: Oh, I see. Art is some sort of instruction manual for life, is it?

JOY: Hey! That’s one of your favorite tricks, isn’t it? Redescribe your opponent’s argument with a dismissive image, and you think you’ve dismissed the argument.

In 1991 quotation collector and aphorist H. Jackson Brown Jr. published the collection “Life’s Little Instruction Book”. He created the work as a gift for his son who was leaving home for college.[ref] 1991 Copyright, Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tennessee. (Verified with scans) [/ref] A reviewer in a Hattiesburg, Mississippi newspaper wrote the following:[ref] 1991 May 26, Sunday American, Little books of sayings have lot to offer by Robyn Jackson (American Assistant Features Editor), Quote Page 3D, Column 1 and 2, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

Since most of us have said, at one time or another, “Too bad life doesn’t come with an instruction manual,” this book of 511 suggestions and observations for making life happy (“Try everything offered by supermarket food demonstrators.”) will no doubt be another best seller.

In 1991 Peter McWilliams published “Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life in School — But Didn’t” which included the following passage:[ref] 1991, Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life in School — But Didn’t by John-Roger and Peter McWilliams, Topic: Parents, Quote page 333, Prelude Press, Los Angeles, California. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Your parents did the best they could with what they knew. Like you, your parents weren’t given an instruction manual for life. They had to learn it as they went along. They had to learn how to make a living, run a home, get along with each other, and raise a baby (you) all at the same time. No easy task.

In 2003 “The Big Book of Business Quotations” included an entry for Fuller’s statement:[ref] 2003, The Big Book of Business Quotations, Topic: Business Ethics, Quote Page 37, Column 2, Basic Books: A Member of the Perseus Books Group, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) U.S. inventor, architect, and philosopher. Operating Manual for Planet Earth (1969)

In conclusion, Buckminster Fuller deserves credit for the remark he wrote in 1969. Others have also commented about the existence or non-existence of an instruction manual for life.

Image Notes: Illustration of Earth viewed from space with the sun visible at the edge of the planet. Image from qimono at Pixabay. Image has been resized.

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