Friday, January 8, 2016

On ambition

The philosopher Mark Kingwell on ambition:

The idea that somehow ambition is always about achievement in measurable ways itself needs to be queried. We’re here for a mortal span whose length we know not, and our ambition should really be to make the most of the time that we have, not knowing how much of it there is. And there is no time to be spent feeling shame at not doing things. You should find things you can do — however, whatever, method works for that — and enjoy doing them.
From the 2011 To the Best of Our Knowledge episode “ProcrastiNation,” recently rebroadcast.

Related reading
All OCA procrastination posts (Pinboard)

comments: 6

Daughter Number Three said...

Love this. I've been reading Chernow's Alexander Hamilton biography, and it's easy for his accomplishments (ignoring his unproductive outrageousness) to make the reader feel as though she has been wasting her life. But now I feel a little better.

Fresca said...

Um, I like some of this, but the final sentences undercuts the message that we needn't feel bad about not doing things by saying we "should" do things---just things we can do--and we should enjoy them too:
"You should find things you can do — however, whatever, method works for that — and enjoy doing them."

To me, this feels like the common American imperative, "Have Fun!"

Is doing nothing, really *nothing*, indefensible?

Fresca said...

P.S. Of course "really doing nothing" is not not indefensible---it's almost the subtitle of your blog,
"Having boring stuff doing"! :)

Michael Leddy said...

I’m not sure about the nothing: someone could be sitting and focusing on their breathing. What I take from these sentences is the idea that living one’s life is not a competition. I think (well, I know) my response has something to do with many years in academic life.

Frex said...

Yes, it reminds me of the line "You do not have to be good" in the poem "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver.
People who were beat about the head with "be good" find that line so liberating and welcome.
Similary, here, it seems to me the liberating message is, as you say, "you do not have to compete to be productive".

"Nothing" is a whole 'nother thing again. :)

Frex said...

P.S. Sitting focusing on breathing is definitely the hardest form of "nothing".