Negative Creativity

I saw him, and for the first time, it was as though I stood outside myself. I saw the fierce pride and the anguished betrayal. I saw the fault-lines in his soul and where they lay, and how they could be exploited. There was a game to be played. He hated me, yes, but we were victims in common. I could play to that, speak cunning words, turn his hatred to a shared target. One whose justice was too harsh for his angry soul, whose mercy galled my unrestful one.
Ysandre, the Queen.
Or I could wound him with disdain, and earn his undying enmity, sealed and immaculate. There was power in that, too. Those whose hatreds are simple are easy to manipulate. He could become my creature, all unwitting.
“Kushiel’s Scion” by Jacqueline Carey

A (very) long time ago, during my studies at the university, I was being used as … let’s call it ’emotional tampon’. A fellow student used me to unload her emotional baggage.

When I noticed that I was being used, I ended the contact, but for a while I was angry. At the time I also found it a bit confusing that someone would do this — but then, I think I was in my Dilbert phase then. Being more pragmatic than sensible, I thought about sending her two CDs (it was the early 2000s) with soundfiles of me doing either encouraging sounds (“Admiration on Demand”, e.g., “hmmm … admirable!”, “incredible!”) or comforting sounds (“Care on Demand”, e.g., “that’s too bad”, “ugh!”) — combined with sounds tracks of 1-9s of silence. Given that she did not care about me, just about the feedback and support she got from me, two CDs played on shuffle would suffice as well.

I actually did create the CDs …

“Absent Conversations” CDs I created ages ago — CD image from an (now) unknown source.

… but when I looked at them I stopped. It seemed (and still does seem) petty.

And that was the moment when I promised myself never to use my creativity for ‘negative’ purposes. I would not use it to hurt others, nor to see revenge, no matter how justified or righteous it might seem. Like the quotation at the beginning of this posting — if you pay attention to others and get to know them — and if you are creative enough, you can find devastating ways to hurt other people. It takes a certain empathy to find the weak spots and a certain ruthlessness to exploit them. Fun if it’s in a game setting, but not in real life. Personally, I like creativity too much to use it for these purposes.

And for most purposes, it’s not needed. Yes, a little creativity can go a long way to obliterate stupid ideas — creating posters that mock badly thought-out positions, writing postings that criticize stupid world-views … there are a lot of things where it is tempting to use some creativity … and that’s all fair game, as long as it’s about the position, not the person. It’s then when you drive a wedge between the person and the ideas, hopefully separating the too and leaving the bad idea to wither and die. Ad hominems don’t work in this regard.

But I don’t know … sometimes it would be tempting to hit the person. So I’m curious — what do you think? Did you ever feel tempted to use your creativity to really hit the weak spot in another person — not as a joke but to really do some emotional damage? To really hurt another person? What happened? And how did you live with it?


  1. just wondering if circus ponies’ notebook continues to have problems with devonthink/dropbox or has it been resolved? sry, wrong thread but i can’t find the original thread

  2. Good question, haven’t tried it out. So far I’ve kept my CPNs in a folder on my desktop and (fingers crossed) they still work. I haven’t found any indication of any kind of test when opening CPNs, to at least warn the user when this happens. I sure as hell won’t store my CPNs in DEVONthink again …

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