I consider myself a kind man and a good neighbor. I look in the mirror and I see a sainted man full of the milk of human kindness, a real pillar of the community...or at least I did until the other day when a friend asked me to show him how Photoshop works. I found myself saying, "Bugger off! I had to learn it the hard way, and so should you!"
Actually I didn't say anything like that, but I rattled off some sugar-coated bromide that meant the same thing. A minute later I felt terrible. How could I be so mean, I who had my tin cup out, begging friends for Photoshop help only a short time before? I made a note to call my friend back and offer to help, and also to try to understand my own selfishness.
After thinking about it, I concluded that maybe I'm not really such a jerk after all, that maybe something about Photoshop actually encourages behavior like that. I had just learned it (sort of) and like everyone else I'd convinced myself that I'd just breezed through it, with no trouble at all. It was a comforting myth, and it made me feel good about myself. Now, with someone asking me to teach them, I was suddenly forced back into reality, and the painful memories of a time when it seemed I could do no right with the program. Nothing makes you madder than being confronted with reality.
What is it about programs that makes every user construct a personal mythology where every obstacle was painlessly pushed aside? Something about computer culture makes every initiate a collaborator in the conspiracy to make computing seem faster to learn than it really is.
The computer era I live in reminds me of the way things were a hundred and fifty years ago when refined people wore starched shirts and whalebone corsets with rib-deforming waists and hoop skirts and elaborate hairstyles. Of course the trick to making all this bearable was to put all the fuss of morning dress-up out of your mind, and imagine that that you just put on whatever was handy. Tom Wolfe nailed it when he said that human beings are status-seeking creatures and we'll do anything to convince ourselves and others that we acquired our god-like attributes with no effort at all.
Soon I'm going to try to pick up the relevant parts of Illustrator and Flash. Then there's...Groooooooan!... ToonBoom. That's going to take time. I'd much rather spend the time improving my drawing and animation, but if I want to stay employed...
Oh well, at least I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that after I go to all this stupid trouble I can create a memory for myself that I learned the programs effortlessly, in a few weeks.