Realizations of a Cartoonist
By Shen Ai, Taiwan
Almighty God says, “One exhausts a lifetime’s worth of energy fighting against fate, spends all of one’s time bustling about, trying to feed one’s family and shuttling back and forth between wealth and status. The things that people treasure are family, money, and fame, and they view these as the most valuable things in life. All people complain about their fates, yet still they push to the back of their minds the issues that are most imperative to examine and understand: why man is alive, how man should live, what the value and meaning of life are. They spend their entire lives, however long they may last, merely rushing about seeking fame and fortune, until their youth has fled and they have become gray and wrinkled. They live in this way until they see that fame and fortune cannot stop their slide toward senility, that money cannot fill the emptiness of the heart, that no one is exempt from the laws of birth, aging, sickness, and death, that no one can escape what fate has in store. Only when they are forced to confront life’s final juncture do they truly grasp that even if one owns vast wealth and extensive assets, even if one is privileged and of high rank, one still cannot escape death and must return to their original position: a solitary soul, with nothing to its name” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words are a true representation of my own life. I used to really value money and status. When I realized I had a talent for drawing cartoons, I hoped to use it as a springboard for changing my life to get money and status and become someone people would think of as successful. But every time I submitted a cartoon, it was rejected. I spent more than 30 years of time and effort pursuing my goal and the result was a tired mind and beaten up body. Only with God’s salvation in the last days and reading the words of Almighty God did I begin thinking about how someone should really live and what the value of life was.
When I was at middle school, I liked drawing cartoons. I often studied and practiced drawing cartoons. When I was 25, I met a cartoonist. Cartoon fans flocked around him and adored him and I was envious of that. I hoped to one day be like him and become the focus of everyone’s respect. I knew that I was still a way off from being as good as him. But I also believed that one day, so long as I put in the effort, I could make a name for myself too. Holding on to this belief, I spent more than 10 years drawing cartoons. During that time, to better my drawing skills, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend a few months’ salary on cartoon resources worth tens of thousands for reference. I persisted drawing every day to build up and refine my skills. After doing this for a long time, my fingers became disformed and my sight began to suffer, but I gritted my teeth and carried on for that chance of success. Whenever someone praised my cartoons, I’d be so happy. I’d even fantasize that I was already a famous cartoonist, driving a nice car and living in a nice house. But in real life, I was just a nameless employee at a company. There was no chance of me getting famous. No matter how good my cartoons were, I could only get a small amount of money for them. This wasn’t the kind of life I wanted.
In an effort to get ahead, I passed a test to get into Asia’s biggest cartoon company at the time. Because a lot of famous artists had come from there, I thought maybe if I worked there and a chance came along, fame would be right around the corner. One time, the boss of a cartoon publisher wanted to do a magazine with local cartoonists and was coming to scope out some talent. When I heard the news, I was so excited. I thought this was an opportunity from above. I finally had a chance to show my talent and make my name. I spent a lot of time thinking about this, about the conception, source material, the plot and the color of the cartoon. I got really into it and found plenty of reference materials to look at. After a few days, my cartoon was finally done. I went to see the boss, full of hope. But what do you know? My ideas weren’t to his taste. We got into an argument and I ended up offending him. In the end, the boss chose to use one of my colleague’s cartoons. And just like that, my hopes of making a name for myself went up in smoke.
After that happened, I felt upset. But I didn’t let it get me down. I sent another cartoon to a publisher. The editor really loved it and then I became an artist for the publishing company. Before long, the publisher arranged for me and an editor to work together to finish a cartoon. I was eager to give it my best shot. But later I found out that the success of our cartoon rested on the decision of that boss I’d offended before. Right away I was full of mixed emotions. I knew no matter how good our work was, once it got to that boss, it would go no further. There was nothing I could do except just give up. All those years I made so much effort trying to realize my dreams only to be met with failure each time. I felt desperate and words couldn’t describe the pain I had inside. I thought the road ahead was going to be even more uncertain.
After that, for a long time, I felt like drawing cartoons had become the most painful thing, to the point where I didn’t want to pick up a pen anymore. But I wasn’t willing to give up my dream of becoming a cartoonist. After all, for all those years, I’d spent time and money and sacrificed my health. How could I give up just like that? So, I carried on drawing … Many years went by, and I’d handed over countless cartoons to publishers but in the end, they all ended up coming to nothing. Every failure brought huge pain to my spirit. Especially when I saw long rows of cartoons my former colleagues had drawn placed on the shelves, my heart filled with jealousy. I’d spent more than 30 years on cartoons and yet nothing had come of it. I couldn’t understand why others were able to achieve their ambitions and yet I never had the chance to put my own talent to use. Why was it that the thing I’d worked so hard for and that I wanted so badly was never going to happen? Could this be my fate? Was I destined to never be rich and famous in life? Why was life so hard?
Even though I was never able to get what I wished for, my heart was still itching for success. There might have been only a small glimmer of hope, but I was willing to give it everything I had. Later, I found out that the cartoon book market in Europe and the US was really big, so I thought about switching my focus in that direction. Maybe I could be rich and famous after all. So I picked myself up off the floor and started learning western cartoon styles. After some time, I finally had my own cartoon ready. I was so elated. I planned on sending my work to a foreign publisher. It was then that God’s salvation in the last days came to me. Even though I knew that God was expressing the truth and doing the work of judgment to cleanse and save man, I was busy with my cartoons all day and I couldn’t quieten my heart, much less read God’s words properly. Right when I was satisfied and preparing to send my cartoon abroad, I found out I had to translate it into English and that was going to cost a huge amount of money. But for the past few years, all of my salary had been going on cartoons. I didn’t have the means to pay for the translation fees. All I could do was give up on the idea of sending my cartoon abroad.
Then one day, I read the words of Almighty God: “The fate of man is controlled by the hands of God. You are incapable of controlling yourself: Despite man always rushing and busying himself on his own behalf, he remains incapable of controlling himself. If you could know your own prospects, if you could control your own fate, would you still be a created being?” (“Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Because people do not recognize God’s orchestrations and God’s sovereignty, they always face fate defiantly and with a rebellious attitude, and they always want to cast off God’s authority and sovereignty and the things fate has in store, hoping in vain to change their current circumstances and alter their fate. But they can never succeed and are thwarted at every turn. This struggle, which takes place deep in one’s soul, brings profound pain of the sort that carves itself into one’s bones, as one fritters away their life all the while. What is the cause of this pain? Is it because of God’s sovereignty, or because a person was born unlucky? Obviously, neither is true. At bottom, it is caused by the paths people take, the ways they choose to live their lives” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). After thinking about God’s words, I suddenly saw the light. A person’s fate is completely in the hands of God. It’s not something we can change ourselves. We’re just created beings. We have no way of knowing even what will happen tomorrow, so how could we be in control of our own fate? In reality, as for the work I’ll do, the achievements I’ll make, and whether or not I can make a career, God already determined that stuff long ago. But I didn’t acknowledge God’s sovereignty. I was always fighting my fate using my own head and talent. I was always resisting God’s rule and vainly hoping to alter my own fate. That’s why I was living in such pain. Thinking back on the past 30-something years, I fought relentlessly to become a famous cartoonist. I failed many times, but I didn’t give up. Time after time I handed over my work and each time was another setback. This brought my spirit a huge amount of pain. I suffered all this pain because I’d chosen the wrong way to live. What caused this was me trying to fight fate, using something I was good at to try and get ahead.
Later, I read more of Almighty God’s words: “In fact, no matter how lofty man’s ideals are, no matter how realistic man’s desires are or how proper they may be, all that man wants to achieve, all that man seeks for, is inextricably linked to two words. These two words are vitally important to the life of every person, and they are things Satan intends to instill in man. What are these two words? They are ‘fame’ and ‘gain.’ Satan uses a very subtle kind of method, a method very much in concert with people’s notions, which is not at all radical, through which it causes people to unknowingly accept its way of living, its rules to live by, and to establish life goals and their direction in life, and in doing so they also unknowingly come to have ambitions in life. No matter how grand these life ambitions may seem, they are inextricably linked to ‘fame’ and ‘gain.’ Everything that any great or famous person—all people, in fact—follow in life relates only to these two words: ‘fame’ and ‘gain.’ People think that once they have fame and gain, they can then capitalize on those things to enjoy high status and great wealth, and to enjoy life. They think fame and gain are a kind of capital that they can use to obtain a life of pleasure-seeking and wanton enjoyment of the flesh. For the sake of this fame and gain which mankind so covets, people willingly, albeit unknowingly, hand over their bodies, minds, all that they have, their futures and their destinies, to Satan. They do so without even a moment’s hesitation, ever ignorant of the need to recover all that they have handed over. Can people retain any control over themselves once they have taken refuge in Satan in this way and become loyal to it? Certainly not. They are completely and utterly controlled by Satan. They have completely and utterly sunk into a quagmire, and are unable to free themselves” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
God’s words deeply stirred my heart. From the revelations in God’s words, I became aware that the reason I’d always wanted to be a famous cartoonist and fought so bitterly for it was because I’d been misled and corrupted by Satan and swept along by the idea of fame and fortune. Satan fills our heads with mistaken ideas, like “Men should always strive to be better than their contemporaries,” “Stand out above the rest,” “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards” and “No pain, no gain” through the use of school education and the influences of the great and famous. Satan causes us to set the wrong goals of striving to be better than others, and makes us think that it’s only by having fame and status, being different from others, standing out and having people think highly of us that our lives have any value or meaning. I thought of everything I could to become a famous cartoonist. I willingly spent over 30 years of time and energy, not only spending all my savings, but almost destroying my health. Even though each time I submitted a cartoon and failed it was a blow to me, making me suffer and often feel lost and helpless, and I had thoughts of giving up, my desires were rekindled whenever I imagined what being famous would be like and this drove me to fight on drawing cartoons so that when God’s salvation arrived, I had neither the time nor the energy to read God’s words. I was still completely devoted to working hard for fame and fortune and I only stopped when I ran into another wall. It was only then I realized I’d long been manipulated by ideas of fame and fortune. These ideas controlled me like I was a puppet on a string. In the pursuit of fame and fortune, I often fretted about gains and losses. I was living with jealousy and pain, complaining about fate being unfair. I’d become a toy in the hands of Satan. Then I thought of those famous people. Even though they had distinguished reputations and high standings, and people flocked around them and idolized them, this didn’t make them feel at ease or satisfied in their spirits. Instead, they felt even more empty. Some were in such despair they chose to end their own lives. There are many out there who are able to live honest lives before they become famous, but after they succeed, succumb to decadence, degeneracy, and indulgence in carnal desires. Some start taking drugs looking for a thrill and end up ruining their lives. Some vie with others for fame and fortune. They deceive, attack and kill each other. Some even sell their bodies for fame and fortune at the cost of their dignity … This made it even clearer to me that chasing fame and status to make people value us is not the right path in life. It cannot bring us true happiness, it can only make us ever more evil and corrupted. Chasing fame, fortune and status is an evil path that Satan uses to hurt us. Having understood this, my mind became clear. No longer would I covet fame and fortune so much. Without the revelation of God’s words, I’d never have seen the pain and suffering this pursuit had brought me. Satan would have continued to deceive and hurt me. I decided to make a fresh plan for my own life. I gave up on the dream of being a cartoonist and stopped sending my work to publishers.
But just as I was really about to give it up, I still wasn’t quite willing to do so. After all, I’d sunk over 30 years of hard work into becoming an established cartoonist. Was I going to give it up just like that? One day, I saw on the news that a famous Taiwanese cartoonist had passed away suddenly. He was only 51. That gave me all kinds of mixed feelings. This person was once highly revered in the industry. He’d done some excellent work that won him admiration and esteem. He’d had both fame and fortune. Who’d have thought he’d pass away so soon? I breathed a sigh of sadness. What good is fame, money and status when you’ve lost your life? Thinking back on how much pain all those years chasing fame and fortune brought me, I decided I didn’t want to go on like that. I prayed before God, asking Him to lead me on the road ahead and enable me to free myself from the shackles of fame and fortune.
Later, I read God’s words in “God Himself, the Unique III”: “When you repeatedly investigate and carefully dissect the various goals that people pursue in life and their myriad ways of living, you will find not one of them conforms to the Creator’s original intention with which He created humanity. All of them draw people away from the Creator’s sovereignty and care; they are all traps which cause people to become depraved, and which lead them to hell. After you recognize this, your task is to lay aside your old view of life, stay far from various traps, let God take charge of your life and make arrangements for you; it is to try only to submit to God’s orchestrations and guidance, to live without individual choice, and to become a person who worships God” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “If one views life as an opportunity to experience the Creator’s sovereignty and come to know His authority, if one sees one’s life as a rare chance to perform one’s duty as a created human being and to complete one’s mission, then one will surely have the correct outlook on life, will surely live a life blessed and guided by the Creator, will surely walk in the light of the Creator, will surely know the Creator’s sovereignty, will surely come under His dominion, and surely become a witness to His miraculous deeds, a witness to His authority” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words showed me the right path and direction of pursuit. To rid myself of the pain of pursuing fame and wealth, I had to let go of those mistaken goals and outlooks on life. I would no longer seek to become famous to win the adoration and esteem of others. I would give my life over to God, submit to God’s orchestrations in my career, and be a down-to-earth person, and fulfill my duty as a created being. Only this is the value in living. In the past I didn’t understand God’s will and had no knowledge of His sovereignty. I always had too many desires and plans to the point where I spent more than three decades chasing fame and fortune and lost my direction in life. I was deceived and hurt badly by Satan. Now, as God’s words showed me the path of practice, I could no longer live by the fallacious ideas of Satan. God created all things for man. He gave us the breath of life. God came in the flesh again in the last days to do the work of saving man. I’m a created being. I enjoy everything God has given me. I should have a conscience and sense. I should use my gift and talent to fulfill my duty and bear witness to the Creator. When I understood this, my mind became much clearer. I knew how to walk the path from then on.
I thank God for choosing me and taking me back to the pure land of God’s house. His words nourished, sustained and led me to understand that fame and fortune are the shackles Satan uses to restrain us and that I shouldn’t strain myself pursuing fame and fortune. I saw lots of brothers and sisters in the church focusing on pursuing the truth, fulfilling their duties as created beings and understanding the truth more and more. I envied them. In the past I had always been living for fame and fortune and suffered bitterly for it, and I longed to be able to carry out my duty as well. By carrying out my duty of spreading the gospel in the church today, my mind feels calm, at ease and I feel a sense of freedom I’ve never felt before. This sense of peace and happiness in my spirit is something that can’t be replaced by material enjoyment or fame and fortune. I thank Almighty God for saving me!