“To be or not to be” is no longer the question. The question most of us now struggle with is, to answer or not to answer the inner call. We all have a nagging voice within that tells us, “this is the way, this is the fight, this is the path towards your birthright.” For some, the call may be free of desire, while for others it is consumed by it, but for all it is some form or another of ambition.
Let us say that you are called to the political fray by a monster-in-chief. You have to join the fight for the heart of your nation. This may be an unavoidable ambition that rises like volcanic lava from your moral conviction that your country is greater than the despot who is taking it down a path towards destruction. That would be a purer call than the cold-blooded politician’s who are riding Trump’s coattails until they get everything they want from him, like say, cementing the next half century of conservative Supreme Court rule with the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and then after that’s finished, pretending that they can’t live any longer with Trump’s amorality. The purer form of ambition may not look like ambition at all, but for the purposes of this article, ambition is anything that leads us towards leaving the station in life we were born into for another path.
When I was a kid, I had a romantic notion that it would be easier to be a faithful Christian, and an honest patriot that could hate gays, and criminals and be ready to fight wars for the protection of corporate interests. I wished that I could walk down a path that would lead to a traditional wedding, a button up job, and the house with the lawn and the white picket fence. But I knew early on that I wasn’t that guy. It felt to me that it would be much easier to be that guy at school, because then I wouldn’t always have to heed my inner voice and stand up and argue for the underdog. This is pretty funny in hindsight because, I had no idea that I was also the underdog. I was the worst at sports, the worst at music, the most awkward with the ladies, and always underachieving with my academics. I had no idea about any of these facts, however, because although I may not have been first in skill, I was first in ambition.
There is something very romantic about moving out of your station – for those locked in a mundane existence.
There is something very romantic about a mundane existence – for those tortured by the relentless fires of their determination.
Is it better to enjoy the simple pleasures of an ordinary life, or have an aching ambition to make our mark during our lifespan? This usually comes down to the inner call – and how strong that call is – and how open we are to letting that call be our guiding force. Of course, we do fall prey to corporate bred worldly ambitions that keep us locked into ideals that will sell their products, but some hear a call that goes beyond this. Some take as sacred their commitment to following up on dreams that seemed glamorous before they started them, but after there undertaking these jobs are found to be not as exhilarating as previously thought. Paths such as public service, volunteer work, a life dedicated to the clergy, or a life where the recognition of others define our success, take daily rededication to keep them up.
We all take ourselves so seriously, but we’re just animals with overactive imaginations, trapped in a journey we are not able to understand. Trapped in a journey we don’t care to examine lest that leads to an understanding that strips all purpose from our existence. Examining our lives can sometimes be the worst things for our ambitions as we may find that our dreams don’t actually match up with our worldview.
Whenever I hear the phrase, America the home of the free, I always say you haven’t seen India. Like many other countries, India hasn’t reached the level of regulation as America has. In India, you can still stand at an open door on a train, with the wind in your hair and death awaiting one small slip. In much of India there is no such thing as noise pollution and you are free to play your music as loud as you want and involve even neighboring villages in your personal home festival. This may excite or scare you, but we all have to consider that the lessons we grew up with are not an actual reflection of the world when looked at with open, untainted eyes.
The complications keep adding up. When our ambitions don’t match up to our world view, do we then change our ambition or run back to the life that always seems to be waiting for us; the life in our lane, in our home town, in our mother or father’s line of work.
Well, if you’re me, you just say, fuck it, I want it all. I’ve always been first in ambition, although I didn’t know it. So, I write my books, and tell my stories, and play and record my music, while moving to an ashram on the other side of the planet to serve and meditate and try to go beyond the limits of an illusory ‘I and mine’ world. But I was never ‘that guy,’ so maybe this is indeed my lane after all.