Saturday, December 27, 2014

Can we live without ambition?

"Is it not possible to live in this world without ambition, just being what you are? If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation. I think one can live in this world anonymously, completely unknown, without being famous, ambitious, cruel. One can live very happily when no importance is given to the self; and this also is part of right education.

The whole world is worshipping success. You hear stories of how the poor boy studied at night and eventually became a judge, or how he began by selling newspapers and ended up a multi-millionaire. You are fed on the glorification of success. With achievement of great success there is also great sorrow; but most of us are caught up in the desire to achieve, and success is much more important to us than the understanding and dissolution of sorrow."

- Jiddu Krishnamurti, The book of life

When I first heard Krishnamurti's take on ambition I was shocked. I have never seen ambition portrayed in a negative light before.  All my life I was taught that ambition is a desirable trait that will drive me to success first in school and then later in life.  Upon little thinking I understood.  On the surface there is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition, except that often times we become so driven that we forget the true meaning of life.

Sometimes in our race to success we forget how to be a simple human. We forget how to BE without the need to BE SOMEBODY. We go to school, study and push our way to the top, to be the best in the class. Then we graduate and find employment and once again we push and plough our way to the top. We don't want to be average. We want to be the best so we can have the most money, the best looking car, and the biggest house.  We want to be the highest boss, best attorney, the army general or the most powerful politician. Our ambition doesn't let us rest until we show everyone what we are made of.

We might think this is part of the survival of the fittest, that we strive to be the best to earn the living, but is it really?  Do we stop when we have enough to survive or do we continue on the never ending path of wanting more and more and more?  More recognition, more power and more riches?

Do we ever stop and ask what's that chugging along with our ambition?  That thing in the shadow that doesn't want to show its face?  What is its name?

That is misery.

Misery is ambition's ugly sister.  On our road to success we rarely see the misery that comes along with our ambitious pursuits.  The people we trample over to get to where we want to be or the people that die in needless wars that we create through our greed for power.  We think we accomplish great goals and shoot for the stars but what exactly is left in the dust we leave behind?

Can we live in this world without ambition?  Can we live in the present moment and accept that what we have is enough?  Do we really need more power, more riches, more success?  Do we really need more "progress"?   And what is that progress we are going after exactly?  Niftier computers, improved gadgets, faster cars?  Do we really need all that?  At what cost? Can we stop all the wars and the misery that come with them? Can we just live and let live?

Very few people actually stop and think of these things.  The gap between the rich and the poor has never been greater than it is today and for every person enjoying great success there are far too many people suffering in silence.  Our civilization is like a runaway train speeding downhill with no brakes. We have to figure out how to slow down and bring this train under control again before we crash and burn.

Live in the Moment

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