Friday, 7 April 2017

These cursed ambitions

Sometimes I wonder what contentment tastes like. I used to yearn for so many things. Trivial and grandiose. Achievable and impossible. Now I mostly yearn for the pressure to be taken off. Perhaps it is a pressure I've enthusiastically submitted myself to in becoming a student, but even so it is not a trivial thing to extricate myself from.

What's the use of having so many and such high ambitions, anyway? Will they in any way make me a better and more likeable person? Rather the opposite, I think. It might gain me some respect, but of what use is the respect one gains from impressive achievements compared to the respect that comes from being a decent person? What could I do with it, other than intimidate people?

Still, the notion that being ambitious is an unanimously good thing, possibly even necessary for survival, is so constantly reinforced by today's society that it is nigh-on impossible not to believe it. Especially within academia. Either you succeed; become good at what you do through hard work or mere luck, accomplish things, earn a lot of money or fame.

Or you're a loser; through inability or bad luck things don't work out in a spectacularly good fashion, and perhaps you're unable to even support yourself financially. Notice that it becomes an identity. You haven't merely lost; you've incorporated your failure into your very sense of self. You're supposed to consider yourself lazy or unmotivated, and somehow that is supposed to make you want to work harder.

I suppose being driven isn't a bad thing in itself. Finding enthusiasm, joy and determination in work can be very enjoyable, and can produce results which are of use to people. But I think one would do well in examining where the drive comes from. Curiosity, for example, is a sweet (and often noble) thing to be driven by, but it can be easily killed off by external motivations, which often are threats in the disguise of rewards. In my case it has become almost entirely quenched by now. I'm trying hard not to let my creativity suffer the same fate.

Economic stability. Peace of mind. These are the kind of things I dream about nowadays. Right now they feel more out of reach than, say, moving to Mars.

Love and far too relentless ambition,

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