What is ambition?
A lot of people associate ambition as perhaps a slightly distasteful habit as it can bring out an aggressive side of our nature – at least that can be our fear. In the world of business that is considered a good thing, a desirable trait for those that want to ‘get ahead’. But, ‘get ahead’ of what? The rest of us losers!?! I think not. I think we have been fed a story, a story that would have us believe that it is important to climb over people, including ourselves, in order to achieve the great heights of fame, iconicism and business success – commonly referenced by peer recognition and measured by fiscal wealth.
Alan Watts reminded us a number of times that we are in a machine. That the samsara of striving is a wheel we choose to engage with by our own free will, and to remove ourselves from that wheel is a choice we must make for ourselves by waking up. As he puts it ‘the point is that God is what nobody admits to being, and everybody really is’.3 To separate ourselves from this machine would be the ultimate individuation from our socio-political conditioning.
We have been enculturated into believing that there are ‘things’ to achieve. But, as far as individuation goes, it’s a matter of paying attention – we do not perhaps need to individuate from our families or our heart communities in order to live a fulfilling life (western paradigmatic psychological idealism). At this time in our cultural evolution, I think there are two ideas we do very much need to individuate ourselves from; consumerism as a path to happiness and belonging, and the idea that we have to earn love. These conditions arise from the beliefs that we lack or are in some way separate from each other (these beliefs are not ones we were born with – we had to learn them). In fact, we believe it so strongly – this sense of lack – that we are willing to damage ourselves (through deforestation, pollution, and personal psychological and emotional violence: What could be more violent than saying to ourselves that we are not enough, exactly as we are?) And what kind of violence is it that encourages us to buy things that shorten the plank we are walking on due to the catastrophic environmental impact of their manufacture? What kind of misunderstanding would have us convinced that we are not ourselves aspects of the very life forms and extended families that we are deforming, damaging and denying every day? Watts reminds us ‘if you go off into the far, far forest, and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you are connected with everything’4. And, we are.
Time & Vulnerability
When we lose that sense of authentic, deep, connection, we seek outside of ourselves to fill these perceived holes, in our achievements. We rush to achieve something that we can recognise in the great shopping mall of our lives… and so we birth ambition. Or, rather, we tie our freedom to it. And we put ourselves on a stopwatch for these social milestones, a personal clock; be it the biological clock of childbirth (e.g., if a woman doesn’t have children by the time she’s 30, is she still a woman?) the social clock of achievement (‘what will people think of me if I don’t own my own house or business by the time I’m 40, or have a corner office by 25?) the personal clock of meaning (‘who am I if I’m not famous?’). These clocks are all false. But we believe in them because they show up on our TVs, on FB, in conversation, on billboards, every time we walk past a tempting-but-too expensive shop window. Ambition begs connection, not the other way around.
Connection & Belonging
We are trained, from the day we are born, to believe that we are not anything until we have achieved everything that we are told matters in a society – at least those of us who have perhaps lost our connection to Nature and to our unifying ‘beingness & belongingness’; we are the vulnerable ones. Indigenous peoples are also affected and vulnerable in a different way. They may not have lost their inherent connection to life’s sentience, but they are losing their access to it, because of our loss. They are paying the price for our insatiable, addictive, appetites for ‘more’ as we encroach on their lands, their trees, their lifestyles, their access to clean and healthy water and food (along with our own). You could say these insatiable appetites are the persistent shadows of our inherent sensitivity and creativity, once cast away from us; sincere qualities redirected from their natural path of connection and wonderment in order to be regrafted onto an alternate, manufactured, synthetic, lifestyle. It is this lifestyle that creates this kind of life-negating ambition of ‘power over’, rather than the life affirming state of connection.
But is all ambition bad?
Is the desire for achievement inherently bad? Is ambition? What do you think? What if we, the people re-defined both? Remytholygised both? Reclaimed both?
‘What if money were no object?’
Achievement by our true nature’s measure
It might be a matter of playing with words but, if the ultimate goal is to ‘be here now’ and to recognize our own majesty, as an intricate part of a living, breathing, sentient universe, then we might ask ‘does a tree grow for itself or for its community?’ We pride ourselves on being ‘separate from’ and ‘better than’ other animals, as if that is an achievement. We look for ways to distinguish ourselves as a species, pointing to thumbs and human language. Yet, to my mind, the true measurement of success is not money, superiority or wealth, it’s learning how to belong, embed and give in a way that is relevant to others. If I can see and feel my inherent belonging then, in my experience, I have achieved greatly. Because I have achieved in a way that benefits myself and others. My belongingness is my gateway. If we can see and feel each other’s inherent belonging, then perhaps we have achieved. Coming together is more important at this point in time, than thinking we are – or need to be – in competition with each other. We find pathos in lack and poignancy in unity. There is no lack in unity. And there is no loneliness. If there is no loneliness then there’s no gap to fill with consumerism, violence or competition.
So, is it emotionally safe?
I call on you, I call on us, to fall forwards into love. To let love’s ambition be what guides us. An intelligent kind of love. A loving kind of intelligence. If love had an ambition, I am guessing it would be to celebrate life. It would be based on generosity and it would be fierce, as well as compassionate. I think love is what calls us into line when we get too far into our heads and too far out of our bodies. It’s the great protector of our sentient selves… our sensitivity to life, it is how we reach and get touched by our accountability.
Is it emotionally safe to be ambitious for a better world?
No. It is not. So, let’s change the question.
Is it important to be emotionally vulnerable in order to believe we are capable of losing, enough to make a better world possible?
Yes. It has to be.
How do we do that?
We grow, like a tree.
How do we do that?
‘Feeling’ here now
Life is achingly beautiful. Eckhart Tolle talks of ‘being here now’. A big part of that is feeling. We must let our hearts be broken by what we are doing. We must let ourselves be guided by a wisdom greater than that which can possibly ever be created by pretending consumerism is sustainable, enlightened or kind. We must feel the pain we inflict on animals, nature, rivers and seas. We must atone. And bless. And thank. We must take unimaginable personal risks. And work really, really fast together to honor the legacy of our future by rising to meet it with ambitious vulnerability. Our courage needs to be the gift we give. It is what we need now to break out of this ‘cycle of sleep’ and emerge into the most incredibly motivating time of our collective lives. We are here, at the edges of a spectacular opportunity to experience true achievement: the changing of paradigms… the sloughing off of unusable business practices, worn out relationships, devastatingly untenable economics and unworthy ambitions. We stand together at the circumference of grandmother drum’s music of pain, and hope.
A better world is possible because it lives in us. We must release it now before we lose the chance to. We can do this.
A parting thought: if money were no object, and you believed that you truly belonged as a magical and lasting expression of Nature and the Universe combined, would you be small and in lack, or would you be infinite and everywhere, all at the same time… connected to the very magic of life itself, emanating that magic? And, what decisions do you think you would you make from that place?
We can do this. Because we belong. And because we must.
‘Now Belonging, Clare Hedin’
Thank you for reading.
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Bio: Clare is a writer, recording artist, creative development coach, sound-healer, international speaker, protector of the sacred, and educator for the creative potential of humanity. Clare has been a singer/songwriter, performer and healer for many years. She researches Consciousness for Social Change and teaches Creativity & Innovation at SFSU & privately. She is developing a theory, Dynamic Emergence, for our collective evolution – you can work with her individually, or as a group. Musically, she has 7 CDs (available on her website) and has taken her knowledge of sound healing and conscious reality shifting onto many platforms including; radio, hospitals, conferences, workshops, ritual space and performs for sacred yoga and Labyrinth walks at Grace Cathedral, SF. She uses Sound for her own healing and for deepening her relationship to the Sacred. She accompanies herself with Shruti and piano. Sites: Clare Hedin, Music Consciousness & Healing & Dynamic Emergence. She has recently released a video workshop series: 7 Stages of Self-Transformation.