What Is Under the Table...
Seeing the World As a System
best qualification of a prophet
is to have a good memory
1633 - 1695
earliest memory is from when the period I was still
crawling. My mother had read all kinds of books on
child-rearing and provided me a fairly free landscape
to grow up in. When, as a crawler, I started to get
into something that I should not, she would take my
hand - that was, no doubt, on its way to an
object too delicate or dangerous to me - and gently
squeeze it and say NO! in a forceful but
not over-commanding nor angry voice.
this way, I learned what was to be treated carefully
without being intimidated. The arrangement seemed to
work out OK. I was told all this later, of course. However,
this telling did match my first memories.
family was an Air
Force family which meant that a great deal of entertaining
went on. I remember a time when several of my parents
friends were over for drinks and talk - a common occurrence
and a fun one. I remember that they were familiar to
me and that I was comfortable with them around. At the
time of this visit, it was clear to me that the object
of attention was a new coffee table that we had
recently acquired. I knew that this was a precious object
because, as I had tried to touch it my mother had gently
squeezed my had and said NO!- as prescribed
by the books.
remember thinking that this must be something of real
value and that everyone seemed impressed. The table
was a low Chinese-style (I was to learn later) black-lacquer
piece - clearly expensive and highly finished. I was
also dully impressed.
were going well until I crawled under the table. There
was just enough room for me to do this. It was cozy
underneath with the voices of the adults making a background
of happy sounds.
I looked at the bottom of the table. Today, I still
remember the shock.
the juncture of the where the legs were attached to
the table top things were a mess. The bottom of the
top was a raw piece of plywood with sloppy stampings
on it. The legs were blocked to the rails with a poorly
fitted diagonal piece that was screwed to the rails
with crooked, clearly chewed up screws. Dried glue had
oozed out from the cracks between the pieces. In all,
no craft, no quality, no care. It seemed like a lie
and a violation.
no one looked at the underside of this table? Did anyone
remember having a profound feeling of betrayal. I did
not have the words for it then but I remember a feeling
that is the equivalent to I am on the wrong Planet.
I have had that feeling more than once since this first
a matter of fact, I still have it more than
once in any given
table was a fake. It was surface. It was not the product
of design and craft but of show. It cheated.
It expressed a corrupt and corrupting philosophy. Somehow,
at that moment, I knew what a portion of my work would
be: to create a circumstance where the logic that created
that table (and the many like examples of it)
would have no place in this world.
issue is integrity. Integrity - or the
lack of it - is the single biggest issue we humans
If we acted on what we believed, it still may not
be a perfect world but it would be one immensely
improved over what we now have. There would be a
basis for optimism at least. Why
is this - what is going on here [link]?
is said that children should to protected from
I do not know how this is to be accomplished. I do
know that I have never forgotten that moment of
I know that the Pattern Language that created
that table does more wrong than people realize.
is the pattern of expediency, of compromise, of UpSideDown
process of compromise is in fundamental competition
with integrity. It is the competition for attention.
It is about what people hold as important and what
they will pay for. It is about if we are going to
[link] or manufacture miles and miles of urban blight.
I believe - but I am extreme - that it is even about
if we will continue to think of our fellow humans
as economic objects and therefore continue
to exploit and kill them. Given the way we treat
humans, it is not surprising how we torture and kill
animals and rape Nature in general.
told you I am extreme - but then, again, the facts
are what they are.
following is a Chronology of my life to date.
of it as a quest
rid the world [link] of
that table - and the structures and processes which made that
16th. I was born
took little effort on my part. From what I am told,
I spent most of the next several years sleeping. The
family story is that whenever I was put down someplace
I work go off like a light until awakened. Actually,
I am still that way. Five minutes of nothing happening
and Im gone.
mother married my stepfather - a war started
am fairly certain that there is no direct connection.
My life as an Air Force child began.
community experience was the foundation in
the development of my view of things. To this day,
this work-lifestyle remains a dominate force in my
life. I was to live on and around Air Force bases
until 1952 Then, go to a boys boarding military
school, a boys religious high school and shortly
thereafter to Taliesin. Essentially, I spent my first
20 years in intentional communities dedicated to
specific agenda. This is a completely different experience
than growing up in civilian society.
was shaped in cultures that always had a super-ordinate
purpose which provided context. None of them had making
money as a prime objective. All of them were
idealistic in their thrust. Each demanded specific
skill-sets and actions as a consequence of membership.
All of them admired performance, All of them were
different from one another in their specific agenda.
under the table - the end of a certain innocence
I continued to sleep most of the time. However,
I do not forget.
try to fly
hearing my father talking about flying here and there
and disappearing for days to do it, I assumed it was
a family attribute. I thought about this a great deal
and carefully planned my first trip. I remember standing
on the balcony rail of our second floor porch with
my older sister pulling at my legs. I launched myself
with what I considered incredible grace and ended
up abruptly on the ground. I was quite puzzled by
it all - and stunned - and when asked what happened
said that I must have forgotten my co-piot.
This was the only explanation I could think of and
it gave me a certain fame within the Air Force that
lasted for some time.
that same year, a bunch of us tried parachuting,
which some chute opening parachutes my father had
brought home, off the top of the barn - this is
how we learned that
it took dropping some distance before a chute
two experiences ended my early experiments with aeronautics.
sister dies. This was a real trauma for
me as she was the one who raised me to this
point and I saw her killed. It was over 25 years
before I remembered this although there is a
part of you that never forgets. All I knew
for a long time was that I had a continuity
of memory of life with a sister, then “woke
up” one day in Riverside, California being pulled
to the store in a red wagon by my Grandmother.
No sister. I was told that she fell on a box
and ruptured her spleen. In later years, I realized
that there was a 10 month gap in my memory.
in Florida. Water
water everywhere and how the boards did...
mother decided that I should learn to read so
taught me using the Rhythm of the Ancient Mariner as
a text. This became my base line and caused me a
bit of trouble
when I went to school the next year.
remember every time we got a letter from my father
there was his old rank insignia in it. Promotion is
fast in wartime. There was also a picture of him and
his crew standing beside a B-24 that was totally shot
to pieces. They all looked very pleased with themselves
for getting it home. The plane looked like a piece
of Swiss Cheese. I understand it never flew again.
of my playmates fathers did not return in these
We all had to
live [link] with this as a daily reality. For
us, the war was not an abstraction.
does not look like my father!” - getting an
my first day of school the teacher started with a
spelling lesson. She had a poster with a man in a
gray suit caring a brief case. Under him was the work
Father. I told her he didnt look
like my father and she sent me to the Principal. The
Principal told me that I had set a record. That in
30 years of running schools I was the earliest arrival
to her desk on the first day of school - she asked
me if I had an explanation. I told her about my fathers
uniform and the Ancient Mariner and the stupidity
of look at Spot chase the bouncing red ball.
said that I had a point and perhaps I should spend
my days with her. This suited me fine. The school
was a private school and she was a great teacher.
We spent our days together talking in-between her
Principals duties. We talked about the world,
the War, the school, the teachers and education. It
was a great time. She had a small but comfortable
office that looked out into the central courtyard
of the school. The office had steel casement opening
corner windows. I remember thinking this was a great
way to do windows. I still love those old windows
to this day.
my mother found out I was not going to classes, she
took me out of school and put me in a public school.
An unusual mistake for her - she was usually more
discerning and less conventional in her attitude.
I was back to bouncing balls and did not pay any attention
at all until I ran into a real teacher again in the
awhile my teachers thought that I was retarded.
fondest memory of school in those days is walking
home afterward. Orlando, in the 40s, was a small town
and had wonderful brick streets with huge moss covered
trees. I thought that brick streets were the norm
and spent years wondering why other cities were so
far behind the times. There are still some of these
streets left in downtown Orlando and walking them
is like going back in time.
Air Force base was on a lake. The Officers club
had a large outdoor dancing area made of colored concrete
forming the 8th Air Force logo. Flying into Orlando
in 1982, I looked down and saw that dance floor. The
entire facility is now converting to civilian use.
of a President - the end of WWII
the President died everybody I knew cried. He was
tremendously loved in the Air Force community. We
were ending a war. The focus of the world that I then
knew was totally aimed at this effort. In a strange
way, however, I have never seen the United States
as happy as is was in those years. People knew what
they were about and everyone had a part of the action.
Strange. Sad that it takes this kind of a circumstance
to build a sense of community and unity. It hasnd
changed today except that our nation does not come
together even in these circumstances.
is the year that I met my Grandfather [link: tom Richards].
He was full of stories and we built things
He knew how to fix anything. We fixed everything
we could get our hands on including the solar
system on the roof that was always busting its pipes
(this was Florida and solar heading was big
in the 40s). Morning noon and night we were a menace
to the status quo.
taught me how to change the oil in a car, how to warm
it up and - secretly - how to drive. Grandfather approached
mechanical things like a lover his bride.
The San Raffial Military School The
Learning to shoot never give up your piece
A teacher - at last!
1946, my Father was assigned to the Philippines and
my Mother and I moved to San Raffial, California.
I went to the San Raffial Military School. The Commandant
was Major Nichols who was to become a big influence
later on in my life. The school was third grade all
the way though High School and fairly large. Once
a year the entire school had a pass and review
with a General from the active Army. This was taken
seriously by everyone - it probably had to do with
certification and money.
I was getting ready for this momentous event (uniform,
shoes, brass, etc.) my Grandfather decided to give
me a short course in military protocol. He drilled
and drilled me in what to say and how to say it if
the GENERAL was to stop and ask me questions.
It never occurred to me that this likelihood approached
unity as I was the smallest cadet in the school at
the very end of the last Platoon. The Major, of course
was unaware of this extra curricular instruction.
My Grandfather especially berated me about the rule
of never handing over my piece (rifle) except by direct
enough, after standing for over an hour as the General
inspected each of us the great man arrive in front
of me. The protocol for this is for the soldier in
ranks to stand at rigid attention with his rifle at
parade arms (held in front of the chest at a 45% angle.
This way the piece can be seen and (on command) the
cadet in question can open the bolt action so that
it can be inspected.
this point, we have to talk about scale. What the
school used were old Springfield rifles. These were
wonderful pieces and great for drilling. They were
also about half as big as I was and weighed several
pounds. The General was clearly amused and asked me
to clear my bolt - which I did. He then asked me to
hand my rifle over. At this point my Grandfathers
instructions took over. With my eyes fixed rigidly
on the Generals belt buckle (this was how tall
I was) I shouted out in my best voice Is that
a request or a command... SIR! The Major
nearly... well, you can guess. Here he was but for
one fraction of a percent through a, thus far, perfect
inspection and his career was suddenly passing before
General recovered nicely and answered back firmly
thats a COMMAND soldier! But this
is where things fell apart a bit. My Grandfather -
who was a powerful man by any standard - had impressed
me that I should never, never hand my piece over to
a senior officer in a weak or ambiguous way. Dont
be a pansy - as he so delicately put
it. He had drilled my over and over with a broom stick
as I thrust it with sufficient force (to him) into
his ready hands. Problem was, he was on his knees
in front of me as we practiced this - the General
was not. Well, you get the picture. The young cadet,
mustering all the energy of eight years and the fear
of the moment THRUST the Springfield - which
had considerably more mass than the broom stick -
straight at the lower half of the General. He managed
to capture the piece, inspect it and had it back with
a fair amount of force and walk away (somewhat strangely
it seemed to me) with appropriate dignity. I did note
that his several Aids (Generals never went anywhere
without them) seemed carefully amused by it all. My
Grandfather, who was watching from the side of of
the Parade grounds, was very pleased - and
in my world that was all that mattered.
never did debrief the incident with the Major.
Philippines via Japan... In many ways this was
my seminal growing
up year. I almost lived a lifetime in this period
and the message still burns inside. Queens
do die proudly.
June 5, 1999
voice of this document:
VISION STRATEGY DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
June 5, 1999
May 22, 2005
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this document is about 75% finished
Taylor 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005