Some people live their entire lives without ever realizing the restraints the real world puts upon them. They work a regular 9-to-5 job, watch regular TV shows, and read the comics in the Sunday paper, regularly. They make small talk with everyone they know, and keep any heavy thoughts they might have to themselves.
This is fine. It harms no one. It’s normal.
But there’s a problem with that word, “normal”. It implies that anyone who doesn’t follow this path of behavior is “abnormal”. And that goes for anyone who spends their life creating art, in any shape or form.
- Not typical, usual, or regular; not normal; deviant.
- Not conformed to rule or system; deviating from the type; anomalous; irregular.
- departing from the normal in e.g. intelligence and development
When I was a li’l grade schooler, I was classified as “gifted”. This meant that when tests were passed out in class, you got the brown one instead of the blue one (or vice versa, it was a long time ago). The teachers and administration went out of their way to make sure your growing mind was stimulated, rather than simply occupied for the duration of the school day.
And yeah, when the other kids see you getting special attention, treatment and classes, you’re gonna get bullied. This is where you either learn to physically hurt people, or use your inner resources to dazzle and outsmart them instead.
I think it might have been third grade when I started getting my hand-drawn comics confiscated by teachers, because I was using class time to make them. Not only that, my comics were secretly passed around so the other kids could read them. Sometimes I’d get a nickel for this; on extremely rare occasions a mean kid would rip them up.
In any case, this was how I learned to be consistently productive, and how I learned about supply and demand. As my compulsion to draw comic strips grew, I learned two lessons in grade school that taught me more than any other.
The first was when I made a parody newspaper called “The Daily Dirt” that, while harmless, caught the attention of Mrs. Pace, the dean of students. I was called into Principal Skinner’s office posthaste, and if you want to talk about kismet, yes, my principal’s name was the same as Bart Simpson’s famed educator. I vividly remember sitting in the waiting room, confused, overhearing Mrs. Pace argue with Mr. Skinner, who looked over my fake newspaper, and calmly said “I don’t think there’s any harm in that.”
Mr. Skinner returned my work to me with a knowing smile, and I was allowed to return to class. Mr. Skinner was one of the angelic beings who, whether he knew it or not, set me on the True and Honest Path. He was truly a prince and a pal. If you’re curious, one of the “jokes” in my ersatz newspaper was a quote from a man named “Don Keykong”. I thought that was pretty clever.
The second and much harsher lesson came when I was in fourth grade. I had by then learned to approximate naked ladies and their boobies in trading card form. One rudimentary boob-sketch bore the “humorous” caption “Tropicana Juggers”, as a goof on an awful and ubiquitous TV commercial that featured a rewritten Beach Boys tune.
These trading cards touched off a pubescent frenzy among the other boys in class, who couldn’t get enough of them, and were awestruck by my seemingly magical ability to pull nude women out of thin air.
And then Mrs. Schmidt, our ancient schoolmarm, got wind of them. To give you a rough idea of her age circa 1982, one time at recess my best friend Jeff stated “Mrs. Schmidt is older than dirt.”
Up until that point in my life, I had never seen any human being become so offended by something I’d drawn. I didn’t even know such a reaction was possible. Her old-lady face twisted in shock and disgust at the sight of my creation, as she grabbed me by the bicep and literally pulled me into the hallway outside the classroom.
She read me the fabled Riot Act, and told me I was expelled from her class and possibly from school altogether. As she looked through card after card, her brow knitted in righteous anger, she told me I was a rotten little boy and a sickly pervert. I amplified the terror I was feeling until I worked up a full-on crying fit, and begged her to forgive me and let me back into class.
Eventually her little-old-lady reflexes kicked in and she relented. She ripped up the cards in front of me and threw them in the trash, and told me never to pull anything like that again. My folks were never notified, nor was the principal or Mrs. Pace. None of the kids in class witnessed my crying episode, or had the first idea anything was amiss.
I got away with it.
In one brief afternoon, I was shown how much power rests in the simple act of offending a normal person. Devastating, mushroom-cloud power. The kind of power that drives men mad, and intoxicates women. Power that shoots out of your fingertips like lightning, and makes your hair stand on end like Goku. Like Tetsuo, from Akira. Power that gods envy.
[I know I used Vegeta for the article picture. No need to email me.]
My entire life as an artist has been spent controlling this power, keeping it in check until just the right moment, then unleashing it. Until you have shocked another human being into silence with something that came from your mind alone, you cannot understand the rush that ensues.
Because with nothing more complicated than a doodle, you’ve shown someone that you wield a power they can never understand, over them. Their offense springs from a terror deep inside them, because they don’t know the limits of your ability to shock them. They can’t grok how dangerous you might be, and subconsciously, they know that you’ve changed them, forever.
You don’t just win. You ascend to a plane high above “winning”. You could get a gold medal in the Olympics while simultaneously having an orgasm and you still wouldn’t feel anything close to this level of satisfaction.
If ever you feel compelled to remark that something someone created “offends” you, whether it’s a joke, a cartoon, or an idea, know that you have surrendered your power to another being, and you will never get it back. You’ve proven that you can be mentally injured by something as innocuous as mere words or pictures, and that at heart, you are weak.
Because if you honestly consider yourself to have an open mind, literally nothing should ever offend you. You either like something or you don’t. You understand that you have no right to censor or destroy things you dislike. You understand that you don’t even have to engage them. You have a functioning, modern intellect. You can enjoy things for what they are. Take it or leave it.
You are normal. They are the abnormal ones.
Do you feel that little rush? Now, do you feel the urge to indulge in provocative ideas, words and art, to test yourself, and your own limits? Do you feel how exciting that is?
That is the dawning of your power over other people. The power to withstand things they can’t, or won’t. It doesn’t matter if they think you’re “bad” for exposing yourself to these things. It’s not even that you’re “better” than they are; you’re stronger. You have the tools necessary to be strong in the face of anything life throws at you. In time, the others will see. If you can do it, so can they.
Before you know it, “offensive” no longer holds any meaning. It’s just another special test of your mettle. Another chance to triumph. To be more powerful. To win beyond winning. To ascend.
Now you know the secret, and why things considered “offensive” are so important. You’ll never gain immunity to a poison by avoiding it. You have to ingest tiny doses, over time, until the poison no longer has any effect.
Otherwise it kills you.
Get it now?