My Story

The First Decade
Remaking What Is Under the Table...
Seeing the World As a System

The best qualification of a prophet
is to have a good memory

Lord Halifax
1633 - 1695

link: Supplementary Notes

My 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 it’s 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.

In 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.
My family was an Air Force family which meant that a great deal of entertaining went on. I remember a time when several of my parent’s 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.
I 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.
Things 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.
Then I looked at the bottom of the table. Today, I still remember the shock.
At 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.
Had no one looked at the underside of this table? Did anyone care?
I 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 experience.
As a matter of fact, I still have it more than once in any given Month.
The 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.

The issue is integrity. Integrity - or the lack of it - is the single biggest issue we humans face. 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]?


It is said that children should to protected from shock. I do not know how this is to be accomplished. I do know that I have never forgotten that moment of recognition. I know that the Pattern Language that created that table does more wrong than people realize. It is the pattern of expediency, of compromise, of UpSideDown Economics.[link]


This 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 make cathedrals [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 many humans, it is not surprising how we torture and kill animals and rape Nature in general.


I told you I am extreme - but then, again, the facts are what they are.


The following is a Chronology of my life to date. Think of it as a quest [link] to rid the world [link] of that table - and the structures and processes which made that table possible.






September 16th. I was born

This 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 I’m gone.





My mother married my stepfather - a war started

I am fairly certain that there is no direct connection. My life as an Air Force child began.

This 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 boy’s boarding military school, a boy’s religious high school and shortly thereafter to Taliesin. Essentially, I spent my first 20 years in intentional communities dedicated to some specific agenda. This is a completely different experience than growing up in “civilian” society.

I 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.





Looking under the table - the end of a certain innocence

Still, I continued to sleep most of the time. However, I do not forget.





I try to fly

After 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.

Later 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 would open.

These two experiences ended my early experiments with aeronautics.





A Momentary Matter

My 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.





Living in Florida. Water water everywhere and how the boards did...

My mother decided that I should learn to read so she 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.

I 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.

Many of my playmates fathers did not return in these years. We all had to live [link] with this as a daily reality. For us, the war was not an abstraction.





“That does not look like my father!” - getting an education

On 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 didn’t 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 father’s uniform and the Ancient Mariner and the stupidity of “look at Spot chase the bouncing red ball.”

She said that I had a point and perhaps I should spend my day’s 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 Principal’s 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.

When 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 third grade.

For awhile my teachers thought that I was retarded.

My 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.

The Air Force base was on a lake. The Officer’s 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.





Death of a President - the end of WWII

When 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 hasn’d changed today except that our nation does not come together even in these circumstances.

1945 is the year that I met my Grandfather [link: tom Richards]. He was full of stories and we built things together. He knew how to fix anything. We fixed everything we could get our hands on including the solar heating 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.

He 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 bicycle.





California: The San Raffial Military SchoolThe Major Learning to shoot never give up your piece A teacher - at last!

In 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.

When 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 command.

Sure 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.

At 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 Grandfather’s instructions took over. With my eyes fixed rigidly on the General’s 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 his eyes.

The 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. “Don’t 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.

I never did debrief the incident with the Major.





Queens Die Proudly

The 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.

Indigenous tribes

GOTO The Second Decade
Return To Index
The Second Decade
The third Decade
The Fourth Decade
The Fifth Decade
The sixth Decade
The seventh Decade
My Teachers
Matt Taylor
Hilton Head
June 5, 1999

SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted June 5, 1999

revised: May 22, 2005
• • •
• • •
• • • • •
• • • • •
• • •

 note: this document is about 75% finished

Copyright© Matt Taylor 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005






IP Statement and Policy

update to Matt’s Notebook


My Teachers

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase
Sound-alike matching
From: ,
To: ,
Show:   results   summaries
Sort by: