This page was Archived February 23, 2004

“To Hold an Unchanging Youth... is to reach,
at the end,
the vision with which one started”

Ayn Rand 1957

conceived by Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1797
dreamed by Matt Taylor - 1958
drawn - 2000
built - ?
This is one of the oldest pages on this web site composed in December of 1998 and posted in January 1999. It addresses a number of subjects important to me at the time - ones that have remained central to the reason why I have developed this self exploring, autobiographical section of my web site.
I have left it much as it was originally written in 1988 and revised in 2000 with the exception of reformatting, some minor edits and links to later pages that have taken up the themes of this piece and developed them further.
The questions raised here can never be answered - they are perinial. It it the asking and thinking about them that informs better action - that is the value of the exercise [link].
There also is a context to this piece. In 1998, after 20 years of innovation and work and reinvesting every nickel of profit back into MG Taylor; and, just at the moment we seemed to be moving to a new level, we lost 5 million dollars due to a single relationship gone bad [link]. In 2004, we are just beginning to earn our way out of this hole having operated in a literal state of bankruptcy and on a day-to-day cash basis for 6 years. This was the fourth “crash and burn” for me in my working life due to the reactions of people to the challenges and stress of the work. It was a sobering time and it has taken a tremendous effort to survive it and “come back.”
I used Xanadu as the masthead of this piece for a reason. It is, at present the concrete vision of THERE [link] for MG Taylor. When Xanadu is built we will have fulfilled our mission. It is possible that this can be accomplished in 5 years - maybe 10. I conceived Xanadu just after leaving Taliesin. Rand was the mother, Wright the father and Coleridge the god-father. At great teacher was the catalyst and a girl that I loved the inspiration [link]. I am the student. I will consider myself a master architect the day that I can use this environment to accomplish work of importance for the future of humanity.
February, 2004
I first read “Atlas Shrugged” at Taliesin West in 1958. This particular quotation [top of page] deeply impressed me. What is a cycle of work and life? How does it sum up to something? Is it necessary that it does? How do you live life without giving in to the despair that I saw played out in my first encounter [link] with professional work?
What is the difference between a life lived with no purpose and one dedicated to getting something done? What separates dullness, waste, aimlessness, from spirit, fulfillment and direction? When does a “dedicated” life become a wasted life of another kind? What is the difference between the appropriate and necessary energy invested to accomplice something - and fanaticism? Where is the threshold between the two? How do you find it - measure it? Test it? How do you know if you are simply sliding down the wrong slope as the years go by?
What is true human accomplishment? How is this different from an ego “trip?” Is it better to live a simple, non public, quite life seeking value in a small community of friends avoiding conflict and risk? Is it better to make a lot of money and seek refuge in some enclave of protection? It is better to shun worldliness and dedicate a life to thinking, research and teaching? Is it better to find an expression where art can be produced without complex organizational capacity - and do this if it is understood, wanted, sells or not? Is it better to take a vision of a different society and seek a way to bring into broad existence even though these is little evidence it is wanted or will be accepted?
When does focus become self-centered - and destructive? What is the best heuristic between play, adaptation, evolution and a directed self-examined life? [link]
What is the “end” - or, are there many? Is it important, or even stupid, to worry about these things?
I asked these questions years ago, when I started work - I suppose most people do. I still ask them. Life is made up of many complex and seemly competing factors. Everyone is going to ask these questions - and answer them - in different ways and at different times of their lives. The answers may not be nearly as important as the asking - and the integrity of seeking answers in terms of real action.
One thing seems clear, not to grapple with these questions, or to deliberately compromise a chosen path, is a poor strategy. Those that take this road - it seems to me - are those who live lives of quite despair and sometimes open hostility and hate. Bitterness seems to be their return. I think that is the cause of much anger in a world that is so rich in options and material resources.
To be completely captured by an idea, cause, goal, movement - until all perspective is lost and all human qualities are destroyed, is the most dangerous - as history shows us again and again. This is easy to do - to get captured in a only positive feedback loop.
Where does one find balance? How are youthful thoughts, perspectives, interests kept intact yet properly mixed with all the other aspects and (accepted) demands of life? How to be “mature” and not grow dead?
How/when/where, can concept and symbol bring meaning to life and augment it’s play without mastering it - even destroying it?
How can you accomplish important goals and still take the time to pick the flowers? What is an important goal? How to you follow “your star” and truly enjoy, support, collaborate, partner [link] with others?
Life, of course, is commonly believed to be experienced only one step at a time. There are considered to be no replays. You can, however, reexamine a past event and see it from the perceptive of many years of newer experiences. Learning is greatly augmented by these exercises. Memories change as new and old stuff is mixed, examined and used as a basis of trying new directions. This is a cybernetic discipline.
This process of examination is one part of this web site’s mission - I will explore past experiences and re-weave them with newer ones. The reason for “now” is because I am “at” one of these periods when some things are coming to a close and new paths are opening up. This is a good time to document. To rethink. To share what I am learning.
This - possibly - may be useful to others who are starting out or now looking a forks in the road ahead.
I was a teenager [link] when I read Rand [link] for the first time. The book was “The Fountainhead” - a necessary read for a young budding architect-to-be. What struck me about Rand was her uncompromising insistence that life be interesting [link] and about achieving great things. This provided me an alternative view to the “civilian” life that I was then experiencing for the first time. This “life” was a shocking contrast to the military environment [link] that I was born into. The civilian lifestyle, that I found in the 1950s, seemed anti-intellectual, hedonistic and largely banal. Jacque Barzan wrote a great book about this called The House of Intellect [rbtfBook].
Rand talked a lot about a “sense-of-life” - this was a major concept and a foundation supporting her approach to art. It is very compatible with Wright’s dictum [link] that architecture be based on “a-way-of-life.”
These are exciting - and dangerous - points of view. Exciting, because they challenge you to look at larger issues and make a stand - and to build an alternative. You have to identify with something beyond yourself - in the narrow sense of “self.” Dangerous, because you can wrap yourself around the axle big time if you lose perspective and humanity. There are no simple guidelines for navigating these waters. And, as all navigator’s learn, the art of successful navigation [link] is more than following the instructions and reading the instruments. You have to develop a sense of where you are, as well as, understand the technology. Art and science. Prospect and refuge.
I was to find, as I traveled into “civilian” society, that a great deal of the conflict that people experience with one another is centered around this one basic issue. The sense of life issue. If life has a purpose - or not. This was never a question in the culture I was “formed” in.
I grew up (until the 7th grade) in the Air Force community [link]. After, I went to a live-in military school - for Jr. high - and, then, a Jesuit high school. From these I entered directly into the world of professional work [link] 44 years ago (as of June 2000). Shortly after starting work, I joined the Taliesin Fellowship [link]. In sum, this was not a typical growing up common to our society.
I spent the first 19 years of my life in what today are called “intentional communities.” Each of these were formed around a basic central idea that shaped every aspect of their experience. The intentional community experience is intense and dedicated - very different from that provided by society-as-a-whole. There are both upsides and downsides to living this way. Whatever the consequences, this kind of life was the context in which my early thinking evolved. To this day, I am pulled to this life/work-style [link] and have always lived some variant of it. It is more than likely that when I build my Studio [link] it will be part of a community project.
The whole thing we call “creative” work is still, today, poorly defined - and misrepresented. In my youth, innovation - paticulary in the corporate environment - was largely frowned upon. Today, it is demanded as a utility. I do not relate to either approach. To me, the real question is: how do you want to live? What interests you? What excites? What, if done well, accounts for something? What has value? What is your QUEST? [link]
If what life is about is “earning a living” [link] (a totally bizarre concept!) and collecting a few goodies - why bother? There has to be a better game than this. Running after every available possible random pleasure doesn’t amount to that much either. Living according to the dictates of some jealous, demanding god, who clearly has a development and identity problem, does not seem any better. How do you create a life that has meaning, accomplishes something of value, respects that which should be respected, honors what came before and accomplishes human companionship? Not an easy challenge yet an important one.
Creating “A Life,” is the supreme creative act. All other creativity follows from this. Frank Lloyd Wright taught me that. Alexander Graham Bell seemed to have accomplished it. Steward Brand is a contemporary example of someone who has achieved a measure of balance in these respects - or it looks like he has to me “from here.”
How, you yourself, relate to you own creativity is critical. [link] The creative life, innovation - being an entrepreneur can become a self-inflicted horror. The creative life is definitely something that you want to “be in but not of.” Emotional stability is not always easy here. It is simple to see why many people fear it. Passion drives creativity. Passion can also drive far less useful things. Passion, unchecked, can drive out-and-out evil things. You do not control the creative process - you bring discipline to it, not control. The process “controls” you - or, more accurately, flows through you. It is important to choose masters carefully. You may create the “story” but you must never, never believe it.
Human psychology is, by definition, complex, emergent and not totally knowable. Existing practices are neither a true science or art - it is and I suspect always will be a measure of both. A genuine creative impulse and a neurosis is not always easy to distinguish. If you are “born to” some things or if all is choice is a serious question. Most of what is written on these issues is, sadly, not useful. Pop-psychology and conventional wisdom rules these domains. A lot of it is self-serving, and reporting after the fact, that further alienates budding, would-be creativity. The old World maps used to have - at the edge of the known world - “Here Be Dragons.” That is about as far as modern thought has gotten in mapping creativity. Here be Dragons. Let the “buyer” beware.
It seems to me that the predominate emotion that drives human activity, in our society - today - is fear. I do not understand this. It seems that humans - and human kind - cannot get enough security, wealth and technology to approach life as exploration. Those who break out and explore [link] are greatly honored for it - after success. Before, they are resisted in every possible way. A love/hate relationship. This society has a bad habit of creating heroes in order to destroy them.
One thing is sure, the creative life does require great personal investment and the reward has to be the thing itself. If this is not enough you are in for trouble if you travel this path. If fortune and fame drives you - you are in for trouble. However, there is nothing wrong with fortune and fame if it comes as a byproduct and if you have the maturity to use them well. Few do. This was Bell’s greatest accomplishment - not the telephone. He used fame and fortune well.
Vision, most often, comes early to people. “To reach at the end” that vision is to complete a cycle of work and living - it is not necessarily the end of a life although it often is a death experience in the non physical sense. Also, because you are not the person that started the quest, arriving is not always what you expected. Vision drives but it does not predict. It also does not guarantee. To accomplish a vision you have to give in to it. You also have to bring disciple to it or it can destroy you. You have to master the art of both making things happen and flowing with the energy of what is happening. “When to hold ’em and when to fold them” requires a careful discriminating facility. This is the knife edge between insanity/fanaticism and stability; failure and success; sickness and health. Healthy emergence is between choas and order.
Knowing the difference - it is all in knowing the difference. We all got here without an operating manual. Documenting a life [link] is about writing a manual - a manual to be used but not believed.
Return to Index

Matt Taylor
December 14, 1998


SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted January 16, 1999

revised November 23 , 2004
• • •
• •

note: this document is 100% finished

Copyright© Matt Taylor 1999, 2000, 2004

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