As a professional writer I sometimes turn down work because it violates my personal code of ethics. For example I was once offered a job by a man to write an ode mocking his father, and not knowing the details, and being convinced of the virtues of filial piety, in fact believing it to be an inter-generational contract whereby the older generation cares for the younger one in its helpless infancy in return for being venerated in its dotage, I declined the job. The opposing view is that professionals are hansom cabs, and should not decline offers of work due to ethical considerations. I was curious whether most professionals take the hansom cab view or whether they turn down work because in the phrase “the money stinks” and inquiring of my circle of acquaintances what their opinion was, I came upon the following interesting anecdote from a friend in the field of architecture.
My friend, N.N. was approached by the leader of a well-known self-help movement with the following unusual request. He wished a foyer constructed which would make everyone entering it feel like human garbage. It would send the message by means of design, decoration, and materials: You are a Worm. You Have No Right to Exist. The universe may have a Plan, and even a Beauty to its Design, but You, Visitor, are an Excrescence upon Said Beauty, much like a fleck of feces on the cheek of Venus De Milo, or an explosive bout of wet flatulence during a performance of a pianssimo orchestral work by Debussy.
My friend, N.N. complied with his request. The client was satisfied. I believe the final work employed a gorgeous floor of Taiwanese marble and it was featured on some prominent architectural web-sites. The client then came with a second request.
I want a room, reachable from the second room that conveys the message “There is one and only one path from your wretchedness and it is to follow me. I stand above you as an Agent of Beneficence, reaching down from realms of Clarity, Truth and Goodness with a helping hand to lift from the mire that you dwell in, and indeed, secrete.”
My friend N.N. was challenged by this request and finally suggested a solution. He made a golden statue of the client with working eyes and mouth that could be puppeted from a secret chamber within its pedestal.
The client was highly satisfied and used the two rooms — the room that sent a message of personal wretchedness and the room that conveyed he was the source of a super-human salvation — to induce many troubled people to join his self-help movement, making generous financial contributions.
In the view of my friend N.N. he was simply doing his duty as an architect.
In an interesting turn of events though, N.N. once rented the very Hall of Improvement he had constructed. He hid himself in the pediment of the statue and tried to invite a young woman of psychological weakness to visit him there, with an eye to using the persuasive powers of the hall to his own advantage viz. to convince her to participate in congress with him. The plan went awry. He cooked food within the pediment. A fire resulted. The hall burnt to the ground. He was burned alive within is own creation, and became a very fine roast of the species the cognoscenti call Long Pig.
Whether he was prepared for consumption by a chef who shared his attitudes with a side of roast potatoes and was then enjoyed at a meal shared by his intended seducee and the self-help leader in tandem is a fact I have been unable to discover.