The Via Creativa: An Engineer Looks At The Four Paths

We are meditating on the Via Creativa and I present here one exciting example of that from Bernard Amadei, who is a  professor of civil engineering at University of Colorado in Boulder and founding president for Engineers Without Borders (an international organization of more than 16,000 members, who assist  hundreds of thousands of persons around the world).  He was a student at my University of Creation Spirituality.

Bernard Amadei and friends celebrate the anniversary of Engineers Without Borders International, bringing together engineers, students and others to help disadvantaged communities improve their quality of life through education and the implementation of sustainable engineering projects at the grassroot level. Photo from EWB-I.

In a recent article he proposes a plan whereby engineers should play a role in launching a peace-industrial complex. 

Bernard recently wrote me a very thoughtful letter—along with the diagram below—about the Four Paths from his engineering perspective.  I applaud him for 1) infiltrating engineering philosophy with a philosophy of values, his latest project; and 2) applying the Four Paths to his profession; and 3) sharing with us non-engineers deeper insight into the power and application of the Four Paths via his own profession—a very creative thing to do indeed.  His letter follows.

“I see the Four Paths as a tetrahedron–the strongest 3D structure according to Bucky Fuller–with each corner being a path and each corner is always connected to the other three (the web of life). As individuals we are always connected to all corners, sometimes being closer to one corner than the others, but always in the tetrahedron.

The VP-VN-VC-VT Individual Nexus, by Bernard Amadei

Life is hard and beautiful all at the same time and keeps on going despite many challenges.

I like the tetrahedron as each corner is always connected to the three others and all four corners form a system. In our daily lives, we navigate in the space of the tetrahedron. Even though we might be, for instance, closer to one node, we are always linked to the other three nodes. The central note is dynamic and its position in the space of the tetrahedron changes as a function of time.

The question is what triggers the change: internal or external factors? Another question is what is the tetrahedron in: a cosmic soup?

A specimen of magnetite from Bolivia, remarkable for the size of its tetrahedral crystals. Photo by Rob Lavinsky, on Wikimedia Commons

I teach geology to engineering students.  In my classes on igneous rocks (e.g., granite, basalt), I explain to them how different rocks and minerals are formed. Igneous rocks come from solidification of a magma. As it solidifies, tetrahedra (4 oxygens and one silicon) are formed. A morphogenic field plus positive charge elements dictate how they will be assembled.

Depending on how tetrahedra are connected, different minerals and rocks are formed. Some minerals consist of isolated tetrahedra; they are weak and cannot resist erosion. Some minerals form single or double chains of tetrahedra while other form sheets; all of them tend to split in one direction or plane. Then there are minerals like quartz where tetrahedra share all their corners with others. As a result they are strong (why we have sand) and resist erosion.

Sorry for giving you a short course on geology. To me, how minerals are formed from the magma is a great metaphor for describing the strength of communities. Communities are strong when we share our corners with each other; all of our VP, VN, VC, and VT corners. Communities of isolated individuals are not communities and weather out very quickly.”

See: Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time.

Banner Image: Tetrahedral Kite Aloft. Image by Rainer Kregovski from Pixabay

Queries for Contemplation

Reading Bernard Amadei’s application of the Four Paths to his profession, does this inspire you to do the same in your own?  Isn’t that how we renew our work worlds—by applying insights from our spiritual traditions to our every day work lives and professions? 

Take a good hard look at the diagram about the 4 paths that Bernard offers us.  Do you see yourself in it and feel the push and pull of the 4 corners as he talks about them?  Is this a help to you to see the four paths in a new perspective?

Recommended Reading

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”

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