Bill is an inventor and an entrepreneur. He comes up with all sorts of hokum and then tries to sell people on the idea of buying it.
When Bill was in high school (late Cambrian), a very strict, nearly-blind English teacher named Mrs. Artman came down hard on him for being a clown in class. You see, first Mrs. Artman told Bill that he had some talent for writing, and then she told him that his clown paint was running. The sequencing is important. Otherwise, Bill might have turned into something awful, like a welfare scammer, assistant football coach, or Wall Street investment banker.
“Humor that contributes to the well-being of others is welcome,” Mrs. Artman said. Her glasses were about an inch thick, and her dark eyes looked like the business end of a double-barreled shotgun.
“Intelligent humor that contributes to the well-being of others is welcome,” she repeated.
She was bearing down on Bill from the front of the classroom, her finger on both triggers. Had she not first told him that he could write a bit, none of this would have ever happened, you see, kind of like if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to write about it, you would be reading something else right about now.
But she did.
“Don’t be a buffoon,” she said, “just . . . for the sake . . . of being . . . a buffoon.”
Lo, these many years Bill has pondered Mrs. Artman’s directive. Her words have rung in his ears like the tinnitus he would later acquire.
Then finally, over time, and ever-so-slowly, she became the voice of his conscience, kind of a scratchy alto in a Mississippi lilt.
Bill hears Mrs. Artman declaim on the morality of humor. Oh sure, that’s an unmistakable sign that he has schizophrenia. But Mrs. Artman tells him it’s okay to be crazy if you are using it to do good.
It is his creed.
Except for those times late at night when he suspects “Don’t be a buffoon just for the sake of being a buffoon” might mean if you’re going to be a clown, at least get paid for it.
In which case, Bill has been a complete and abject failure.