is a word that strangely, lacks any real ambition, ambition is frozen desire, the current of a vocational life immobilized and over-concretized to set, unforgiving goals. Ambition may be essential for the young but becomes the essential obstacle of any mature life. Ambition abstracts us from the underlying elemental nature of the creative conversation while providing us the cover of a target that becomes false through over description, over familiarity or too much understanding.
The ease of having an ambition is that it can be explained to others; the very disease of ambition is that it can be so easily explained to others. What is worthy of a life’s dedication does not want to be known by us in ways that diminish its actual sense of presence. Everything true to itself has its own secret language and an internal intentionality with a secret surprising flow, even to the person who supposedly puts it all in motion. Ambition ultimately withers all secrets in its glare before those secrets have had time to come to life from within and then thwarts the generosity and maturity that ripens the discourse of a lifetime’s dedication to a work.
We may direct the beam of ambition to illuminate a certain corner of the future world but ultimately it can reveal to us only those dreams with which we have already become familiar. Ambition left to itself, like a Rupert Murdoch, always becomes tedious, its only object, the creation of larger and larger empires of control; but a true vocation calls us out beyond ourselves; breaks our heart in the process and then humbles, simplifies and enlightens us about the hidden, core nature of the work that enticed us in the first place. We find that all along, we had what we needed from the beginning and that in the end we have returned to its essence, an essence we could not understand until we had undertaken the journey.
No matter the self-conceited importance of our labors we are all compost for worlds we cannot yet imagine. Ambition takes us toward that horizon, but not over it - that line will always recede before our controlling hands. But a calling is a conversation between our physical bodies, our work, our intellects and imaginations, and a new world that is itself the territory we seek. A vocation always includes the specific, heart-rending way we will fail at our attempt to live our lives fully.
A true vocation always metamorphoses both ambition and failure into compassion and understanding for others….
Excerpted from: ‘AMBITION’ In CONSOLATIONS:
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press 2015
Now Available http://davidwhyte.stores.yahoo.net/newbook.html
Light and Shadow: Alaska
Photo © David Whyte
November 14th 2014