I had the fortune last night to be invited to Peter Ellyard’s 70th birthday party at SOS, a sustainable and ethical restaurant at Melbourne Central with an amazing view over the old Melbourne Museum. I’m guessing there were about 100 people there from different sides of Peter’s life – his family, colleagues and friends. It’s was a terrific night and the tributes to Peter were all heart-warming (even mine). I had a series of engaging and vibrant discussions with a group of intelligent, articulate people from various walks of life I consider new friends, including Lauren (a Rhodes scholar), Felix (a self-described “70-year-old French Jew” who spent 30 years living in a kibbutz in Israel), Felix’s wife Shoshanna who is a philosopher/artist/educator who successfully fought off several of us who wanted to debunk the documentary she recently watched on memories transmitted through heart transplants, Ralph, a surgeon, his wife Patsy, an editor, and many others. My good mate Anthony, the guy who introduced me to Peter, was there, as was Diane, the masseuse at the Como Building in South Yarra who apparently originally introduced Peter to AJ and, coincidentally, has massaged all three of us at one point in time (separately, I might add) over the years.

ANYWAY… many of the tributes during the evening talked about Peter’s overwhelming generosity to everyone in his life. I’ve certainly been touched by this in the couple of months I’ve known him. He seems to operate on the principle that the more you give of yourself, the more will come back to you.

It reminded me instantly of a section in Buckminster Fuller’s book “Critical Path” which I was reading earlier in the day. Fuller described this principle, which I’ve learned to think of over the years as “The Principle of Reciprocity” as “precession”. He defined “precession” as “the effect of bodies in motion on other bodies in motion”. Precession was his answer to his own question “How do you obtain the money to live with and to acquire the materials and tools with which to work?”. This was the beginning of his mission when he was effectively bankrupt. His examination of the world around him lead him to believe that bodies in motion exert right-angle effects on other bodies around them. For example, the gravitational effect one planet has on another is at right-angles to the direction of motion of the planet (okay, so my simplistic understanding of the general theory of relativity would suggest that it’s actually the other way around… the warping of space-time that the mass of body A has causes body B to travel in a certain directional orbit around it… but let’s leave that aside for the time being, okay?). Drop a stone in a still pond and the concentric rings spread out at ninety degrees to the motion of the stone.

Fuller theorized that while most humans had, historically speaking, spent most of their energy trying to selfishly earn a living for themselves, some of them had, inadvertently, helped “nature” progress by making huge leaps in the standard of human civilization. These advances were “side effects” of the primary objective of being selfish.

He wrote:

“Therefore, what humans called the side effects of their conscious drives in fact produced that main ecological effects of generalized technological regeneration. I therefore assumed that what humanity rated as “side effects” are nature’s main effects. I adopted the prescessional “side effects” as my prime objective.”

What if, instead of working with the objective of your own comfort, you worked purely for the betterment of the human race? Would, perhaps, your own comfort be taken care of by “nature” in some sort of principle of reciprocity?

Fuller wrote:

“”Since nature was clearly intent on making humans successful in support of the integrity of eternally regenerative Universe, it seemed clear that is I undertook ever more humanly favorable physical-environment-producing artifact developments that in fact did improve the chances of all humanity’s successful development, it was quite possible that nature would support my efforts, efforts, provided I were choosing the successively most efficient technical means of so doing. Nature was clearly supporting all her intercomplementary ecological regenerative tasks – ergo, I must so commit myself and must depend upon nature providing the physical means of realization of my invented environment-advantaging artifacts. I noted that nature did not require hydrogen to “earn a living” before allowing hydrogen to behave in the unique manner in which it does. Nature does not require that any of its intercomplementing members “earn a living”.”

Now I don’t want to sound all “The Secret” on you, but there does seem to me to be a principle that, put simply, “if you do good things, good things happen to you”. Karma without the reincarnation. From the moment I started TPN, I had this feeling that this was an important mission. I’ve always felt like I had a purpose. And, that if I did it properly, worked hard, was focused, disciplined, and did it with integrity, that “good things would happen”.

I don’t expect miracles. I don’t expect things will always fall into my lap. But I do believe (not very scientific of me, i know) that if I pursue the right vision, diligently, honestly, and work my ass off, that perhaps I am merely fulfilling the purpose the Universe has for me. Now, again, I’m not suggesting that the Universe is “intelligent” or that there is some sort of mystical “higher power” that “has a plan” for me.

But… humans are made from atoms. Atoms obey the laws of physics and chemistry. Could you say that an atom of oxygen, connected to two atoms of hydrogen, has the purpose of being water? At the moment in time when you observe it as a water molecule, isn’t that it’s purpose? And up a level, on a macro scale, what is the purpose of that molecule of water? To make a cell function? To provide life-giving nutrients to an animal or plant? And that plant, what is its purpose? To feed me?

In the great chain of “purpose”, with every component of the Universe fulfilling its individual task, am I not merely a bunch of atoms, each of them obeying the laws of physics and chemistry? Am I, then, not also obeying the laws of physics and chemistry? Perhaps I, like the oxygen atom, have a role to play, determined, not by some mystical being, but by the laws of physics and chemistry.

Peter Ellyard is fulfilling his role, as mentor and futurist and leader. As he has done that diligently over his lifetime, he has obviously been rewarded in a variety of ways.

If I fulfill my purpose, which I see today as being a cog in the human evolution machine, dragging us an inch closer to the realization of our potential as a species, perhaps the Universe will continue to rise up and support my efforts, naturally and effortlessly?