sailing Thanksgiving 2000
of An Unrepentant Idealist
admit to a certain ambivalence as I write this. Certainly,
from the perspective of today [in
2000 when this was first drafted], I have
a bunch of questions I would ask Wright, Bucky,
Ayn Rand. Questions I did not know enough to ask
them at the time. Even if I had thought
of these questions, even if I would have had the
experience to ask them, I would have presumed the
answers to be self evident.
Now, I am not so sure. I have no idea how they would
have - or even if they could have, or would have
- answered them. One of my major motives for writing
this biography is to answer these questions and to
make them accessible to those who will come after
me. These questions - and the answers - or, at least,
a framework to think about the answers, would have
been useful to me when I started down the path that
has become a lifetime. This assumes, of course, that
I would have recognized their value - which is not
a given. The illusions of youth are strong and extremely
important to the progress of the world.
I would ask them, if I could talk to them today,
is how they summed up their life - was it worth living
the way they lived it? Would they, fundamentally,
approach life differently if they had to do it all
over again? I do not mean would they better grasp
a certain opportunity, avoid a clear mistake or take
a different tack here and there. My question would
not stem from a concern about risk avoidance - or
even optimization along a path, once selected. No,
I mean would they
the root of it -
do it differently?
I knew them, they were almost god-like to me - they
had lived, failed, fought and succeeded - and in
my view - won. I knew them, late in their life, at
the peak of their careers and personal powers. We
doubts, unanswered questions
or the ambiguities of life and work. To me,
what they had endured seemed well worth it given
what they accomplished. They were going on, as strong
as ever, and it never occurred to me to ask them
if they thought it was worthwhile. I assumed,
to the extent I thought about it, the answer was
an easy yes. If I had known them better, if I had
to ask and how to ask - would their answer
have been different than what I expected? What should
I say, today, to a youngster starting out, who asks
me a similar question? The truth - certainly. What
is the truth is the issue.
would no doubt tell them that in some things there
is no choice. The great sin is to turn away from
your own experience of what has value.
did not model my life after Wright, Fuller, Goff
and Rand. I was already ruined before
I met them. They influenced me in many ways but did
not set the attitude nor the direction that I took.
They did, intentionally or not, encourage me along
the path I was already on. They were all great encouragers.
was the one among them most cautious to impose the
least of his own personal stamp. He was, in this
regard, one of the greatest teaches I have ever met
- inspiring yet not imposing and commanding.
I known more, I would have asked them how they resolved
the conflicts of living a purposeful life with living a
life; of contributing to the human venture while
remaining a member of humanity. How to do
the work necessary for the creation of art while
a life of variety, adventure and value. Did they
have regrets for the options turned down, the paths
not followed, the conflicts left unresolved? What
is the SINGLE thing, at the end, that they
would have changed?
other essays, in this series, are written from the
perspective of time. I started this process in 1997/98
with 1947 [link].
A fifty year vantage point. I started writing this
one piece in the moment - November 2000 -
at a junction point when many aspects of my life
were in great change and transition. My last edit
of it [may
2005], is made at the end of this autobiographical
effort - I am just filling in the holes now (of which
there are many) - as I shift the focus of this web
site more toward the
future than the past [link].
have choices now - far more than ever before. There
are always were choices, of course. However,
in the past, these were constrained far more by circumstance
than today - they were also far simpler - and in
many ways less critical. Now, I can take many paths
that apparently facilitate the same end-state. Real choices.
There exists, of course, new constraints of another
Years ago, my social options were far more limited
than today - my personal options seemed unlimited.
Today, it is more the opposite - or it seems so.
issue I address is not the normal ambiguity of life
- that you always have to act with imperfect information
and that you can never replay the game - that the
outcome always brings with it unanticipated consequences.
The issue here is about the creative impulse and
what that means to day-to-day living. The work required
to produce a work of art - in any field - is far
greater than that required to do the same thing on
the level of adequate utility. In fact, the difference
is quantum - it is not simply more. The vast majority
of people choose to settle for the good - not the
the conflict is far, far greater the further you
try to go. With this comes greater risk. The time,
effort, dedication required to succeed goes up as
does the social isolation - the simply pleasant things
in life get tradded off. One question is: why does
anyone do it? The other question is: if you can see the
outcome, how can you not?
this conflict between a serious life
and an average life normal - or is it a byproduct
of of our social system? Is it a choice - one or
the other? Or, is it possible to get to a point that
resolves it? If is is a choice - that the two are
incomparable - which is the better one?
it were possible to know the end result of years
of effort - effort that has had little recognition
or apparent positive impact - then the choice would
be easy. The reality, however, is that you cannot [link] know.
You have to play the game out not knowing the end
of it, or else, you have to play a very simple game.
This is what I think many do - they base their decisions
on what looks predicable. This preempts a great deal
of life. Are they happy? No real evidence of that.
Are they secure? Not really. Will they know what
they missed? Not likely.
suppose, at minimum, I will know what my failures
are - at least many of them. By my standards, my
life has so far been made up of many more failures
than successes. Would Wright, Fuller, Goff and Rand
they left work undone. I wonder, sometimes, how they
felt about this.
even given all of it - I remain unrepentant.
never have - and still do not - believe it is a choice. Hell
remains one thing: to turn you back on you own vision.
remains the condition: those who choose
the path that I have are not the most pleasant people
around. They can even be dangerous if they get unbalanced.
A conservative society - legitimately - worries about
this. I think about these things a great deal. I
not to allow
make me into some kind of insensitive monster-type.
I have never believed in the conventional models
of creative behavior - the half crazy inventor and
so on. I must admit, however, that it seems, often,
to play out like
B movie. This make me sad at times but it does not
compel me to change [link].
fact is I have a few friends - less than a handfull
really. There are many I like and who like me. But
friendship implies a certain kind of relationship
and requires a certain investment. My work, for all
practical purposes, pre-empts both. If I maintained
modest social life, the margin of my time
would be lost. The time it takes to reach the creative
peak would be chopped in unpredictable ways. Focus
- across time and projects - would be nearly impossible.
As disciplined as my work process is, I cannot predict
when it will be time to push on or relax. A diner
appointment two weeks from now can be a disaster.
There is much that has to be done to maintain any enterprise.
The extra effort of the creative part
is almost always extra time, after hours, weekends
and holidays. Like most people I look forward to
weekends but for an opposite reason I suspect. It
is on weekends that I can get some work done unobstructed
am very productive. I can multitask with the best.
Still... the condition remains. As new opportunities
come my way, I am confronted with all the work that
was not done, all the projects not finished
- I regret every hour that I have spent not bringing
this body of work into existence. As I grow older
and face the prospect that much of what I set out
to do will not get finished by me, I wonder if my
documentation is adequate to pass on these ideas
with enough clarity so that they may find a champion
in the future. Ideas do get lost. I wonder if I have
squandered my life. That somehow I approached it
all wrong. Was their a choice - or number of choices
- that would have lead to a far better outcome? If
I could travel back in time, what would I tell that
who stood in front of that glass
door [link] so
long ago so full of desire?
I ask myself why do you care? The answer
is perhaps the the most difficult thing that I have
to confront. I cannot answer it. I simply do not
know. I know that my life would be much simpler if
I did not. Yet, I look at those who just drift through
life with no apparent purpose except to go along
for the ride and their existence looks like living
death to me. I have worked to resolve this conflict.
So far, I have not succeeded. It seems to be bound
by time. It seems to be a requirement of the mental
focus required to do seminal, extraordinary work.
It seems to be a design tradeoff that demands a very
high cost for anyone who chooses to cross the line
from an ordinary life to one with a certain kind of
I am not sure that the question can ever be answered.
after all the questions, I will not repent. I truly
am sorry for the discomfort and pain that this has
caused some. I have tried to resolve this dilemma
- I will continue to try. I will follow this star
to where it leads me - heaven or hell. I will document [link] so
that those that come after may do better or, at least,
November 24, 2000
voice of this document:
VISION • STRATEGY
November 24, 2000
May 24, 2005
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this document is about 60% finished
Taylor 2000, 2001, 2005