For some time now, it has bothered me that people seem to perceive John Taylor as one thing or another, depending upon what facet they become familiar with, and their own perspective on what activities and beliefs I have. While there are many in the world who are conventional to fit such pigeonholing, it is inaccurate at best to presume to be able to sum me up and, while I understand the human mind's need for classification and categorization, I inevitably feel slighted by the generalization. For example, those who know I'm a falconer often refer to me as The Birdman. Others think of me as a singer/songwriter, but may not know about the prose. To my fellow Aikidoka, I'm a martial arts practitioner. To those who first became acquainted with me through sailing, of course, I'm a sailor... All these are true, yet none of them are. So I thought it best to tell you who I think I am, let you know what parts of me I see as most important.
First and foremost, I am none of the activities I do, the interests I have, nor even the beliefs I hold. The author is a complex and ecclectic individual, but sublime to that is the very nature of the creature. Here we will find the true essence, that which defines all other aspects, chooses the hats and faces, and determines wht paths will be chosen. Let me list some of the traits I find key to my personality: Analytical, principled, idealistic, realistic, pragmatic, adventurous, imaginative, free-thinking, caring, and curious are probably the most driving of the basis. Allow me to address each of these individually:
Being analytical comes with the IQ. While many people learn things by rote, by memorization, I'm amongst those who learn the principle of a subject, the essence of it, and then apply that principle wholesale to other matters similar and tangent. It's at the heart of most learning, really. When one makes that leap between what's familiar and what is unknown, recognizing the familiar in the unknown, that's the moment of learning. But I do this 24/7/365. A bit maddening at times, really, but I've no more control over this than I do over heartbeat and respiration. Sure, if I concentrate on it I can be mindless, but isn't that an oxymoron as well?
Principled: If I know a thing to be ultimately Wrong, I will not involve myself in any fashion. Equally important, if I know a thing to be Right, I will pursue its satisfaction, regardless of personal cost. As I age, this latter half becomes tempered, though the mainstay of the idealism continues, suppressed. The former, though, I stubbornly refuse to compromise on. "Dolphin-Safe" chunk light tuna, for example. I *LOVE* tuna, and am hardly a rich man. Nevertheless, I will not eat the stuff, nor tolerate it in my presence. What kind of nutcase would make such a big deal over tuna? I have no idea. It's not about tuna. It's about the 167 dolphins (which I know to be sentient creatures) being killed each and every day so that we can save a buck a can. If I could remain in Oklahoma a year in order to find a good home for my cougar, I sure as hell am not going to have any part of killing dolphins to save myself a dollar or less on the difference between Chunk Light and Albacore. Perhaps it's fanatical by some ways of thinking, but I'm the person I need to please, and I'd find myself duplicious, compromised, ethically void, if I were able to ignore the reality while chowing down on a 57 cent can of chunk light. If one is to respect oneself upon honest reflection, he must stand strong in what he knows to be right or against what he believes to be wrong. It may not always be comfortable or convenient to do so, but if those are the deciding factors, then that person is not a man at all. Rather, he's little more than a plant, growing toward the warmth and light. I refuse to allow myself that possibility.
Principled and Idealistic may seem the same from the outside, but there's a key difference when examined from unbiased perspective. Idealism is the belief that Higher Callings are worth going after. Idealists fought for civil rights, for example. Principles may keep one on that path, but they are not the thing itself. Principles involve fidelity to what one knows. Idealism is fidelity to what might be, if one remains principled, loyal to those dreams. Once again, the difference is sublime, as being Principled requires no creativity or visualization.
Lynn Andrews writes "One cannot be a shaman twenty-four hours a day - how could one eat?" This is a good quote to describe my concept of Realism. In principle, I may be for or against something. But the reality is often far more complex than determining the Good or Bad. Using the tuna example again, in theory, I should boycott ALL tuna harvest, as there's not one company out there canning Albacore which doesn't also can Chunk Light. Look a bit further, though, and you'll find fishermen who provide for their families, corporations who have Everyman stockholders... If everyone were to stop eating tuna today, these people would be out of a job, and the dolphins would be far safer. But that's not going to happen. It's not realistic to expect that it will. So what's my compromise that is not a compromise of self? I continue to support the fishermen and corporations, but I encourage them to harvest Albacore by only buying and eating Albacore, and by debunking the Dolphin-Safe lie. To ignore the realities surrounding an issue is to bury one's head in the sand and hope the problem doesn't kick you in the exposed backside. As I'm not fond of such attacks, I take a Realistic posture.
Being Pragmatic is similar to being Realistic, but once again, they're not quite the same thing. A pragmatic approach is an effective one, a course that will lead to success. For example, it may be Realistic to mill one's own lumber, but the pragmatic solution is still to buy the stuff from the lumberyard, as milling is simply not an effective use of my effort. Pragmatism and an analytical mind are good partners. The analytical abilities show one what's pragmatic, cost-effective. This is one of my stronger practical virtues.
Being adventurous has alot to do with being curious, for me. I'm not a daredevil. Everything I do, no matter how radical it may seem from the outside, is a calculated risk. The greater the adrenaline potential, the longer I'm likely to spend on those calculations. A daredevil plays Russian Roulette and enjoys the experience. I am never that. When I fly, my finger tells me the tank is full. When I work with a wild animal, my experiences (and an innate, God-given talent for reading them) tell me when it is safe, how to approach, when to be dominant and when to acquiess. This is one of the most common misconceptions about me. I'm not foolish or reckless enough to be a daredevil. Rather, I'm intensely curious about the larger world around me, and remain largely ungoverned by fear, which allows me to pursue the interest, satisfy my curiosity. Even now, as I prepare to go to the boat out in California and embark upon an extended cruise, it's not some adrenaline high that motivates, but an insatiable thirst for first-hand knowledge of places I consider exotic, fascinating, captivating. If it seems I'm courageous because I go after my dreams, hunt down my aspirations, this is a misunderstanding. The reality's far more mundane. Who knows, perhaps one day I'll realize I am governed by fear. In that case, my fear will be that I'll have died without smelling, tasting, seeing, experiencing as much as I possibly can. This way has been unusually rewarding to me, and I know it'll leave me with precious few regrets in my twilight. I encourage all of you to consider doing the same.
Being imaginative and being a free-thinker are also quite similar. The imagination is what allows one to visualize that which is not or has not yet been seen. This imagination has brought me to songs about places and circumstances I've never been. I think we all have creativity and imagination. This is where free-thinking comes in. Most of us have learned to supress the unconventional thoughts, to fit in. For whatever reason, I've always valued Truth over popularity, and so have never been able or willing to have my thoughts or ways confined by the least-common-denominator mentality required of conventions. What highest purpose can such processes serve? Convention is the status-quo. We already know what that is, and can see what it has wrought. JFK said something to the effect of "Some ask 'Why?', I ask 'Why not?'" We may have been kindred spirits in that respect. I want to know what's possible, what's beyond the given, the norm. In order to allow such thoughts, one must throw off ALL limitations on one's thoughts. A good friend came back from a management seminar recently, disgusted by the speaker. "They were going on and on about 'Thinking Outside the Box'," he complained, then pointed out "If you're following that principle, you're not doing it." What he was saying is that
just lands your thoughts within another Box of those who're thinking similarly to you. One must endeavor to let loose all fetters, all conventions, if he is to be a true Free-thinker. Creativity does not flourish in a bottle, even if that bottle's bigger than most.
Being caring seems to be the most confounding aspect. When an analytical person considers the world, the most common conclusion is going to be "Why bother, nobody gets out alive anyway." The rudimentary idealist is sure to be crushed by Life as it proves time and time again that Murphy's Law witnesses that greatest force in the universe, FUBAR. (For you non-military types, the abbreviation is Fucked Up Beyond All Recongnition.) FUBAR and SNAFU (Situation Normal - All Fucked Up) go hand in hand, and are generally reliable evaluations, no matter what the circumstance. Yet in an unpublished work, "Cunning Dialogues," during the Epilogue, I ask myself aloud why I'd write a happy ending. The answer is that if one does not hold to such things, life is simply too unbearable to bother continuing, and we all end up doing the Jimmy Jones Kool-Aid thing. SNAFU may be the rule of thumb, but I see far more out there worth knowing about. My curiosity, my zeal for living is far greater than the counteracting dismal perspectives, so I keep on plugging away. Having abandoned negativity, having chosen Life, one must embrace that choice wholeheartedly. So how does one hold to such an optimistic philosophy when faced with starving children all over the world, with hatred, greed, bigotry, murder, rape, environmental indifference and social apathy? By caring. By believing, in spite of the odds, that there IS good in the world, that one man can make a difference, that there can be a better tomorrow. To do that, one has to care. Caring is the fuel that pushes one on against such seemingly insurmountable odds. Being analytical leaves me with one of two choices: I can accept the present reality (and check out) or stand up and defy the machine, care about those being crushed by it, care enough to fight when, for whatever reason, others cannot. Faced with those two choices, I choose Life.
By now, we're both mentally fatigued, so I'll just point out one small oversight: It should go without saying that I'm a philosopher as well.
I hope this essay helps you understand the man beneath the actions, activities, accomplishments, that by now you see that these things define me far more than any thing or group of things that I'm involved with or doing. In putting up this ever-expanding homepage, it was my intention to reveal myself to people I'd never met. Why would one do that? Some of it is altruistic; I'm hoping some of these perspectives will give some pause, cause them to reconsider their own philosophies in life, and find one that works for them as they'd like to be, as sovereigns of their own lives, rather than being subservient to fear. This aspect is the result of so many expressing how much they admire my life, but could never do it themselves. I'm saddened when I hear this, because I know the only thing keeping these people from such aspirations is their own fear. The other reason is that I hope the other kindred spirits out there will recognize one of their own and get in contact with me. This particular "hero" pedestal I've willed myself onto can be a lonely loft at times. It's only natural that I seek out others of my kind.
Above all else, as Shakespear said, "to thine own self be true." Don't let anyone else define you, don't let fear determine your paths. Live life to its absolute fullest, because you never know which one may be your last. Don't wait on Someday, or it ain't gonna happen. I leave you with these quotes from my email sig file:
-- Paul Lotus, Solo Circumnavigator
-- Mark Twain
-- Robert Heinlein
Peace, fair winds, and good hawking!
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