Wholesome ambition

In the vast wilderness that we call the internet there’s an endangered habitat that I shall label “The Wholesome”. In this habitat reside stories of extraordinary humanity, examples of kindness, generosity, empathy, sacrifice and good humour. Of course, there are also non-human stories and examples. There are cats curled up in mugs, otters holding hands, dogs being dogs, and records of many other things that bring a smile, not only to the face, but to the soul. Yet I wonder, in such a place is there space for ambition?

The typical perception of ambition is of something unclean, of something that, if touched, transfers its filth to our own skin, irreversibly. If ambition were an animal it would be a creature that skulks about in the night, whose pursuits were reprehensible and best suited to the cover of darkness. Thus, we feel embarrassed for, and by, the unashamedly ambitious. We think it unbecoming for a person to proclaim their intentions; especially if those intentions extend far beyond the realm of what a “normal” human should be able to influence. But not all ambition is a festering, necrotic wound on a person’s being. There is such a thing as wholesome ambition.

For example, as a young child and as a teenager, I didn’t appreciate the burdens my parents endured on my behalf. I didn’t know enough about myself and the world to even conceive of such unconditional, un-selfish sacrifices. But as I matured, I slowly came to recognise them. Alongside my maturity came this flowering of gratitude, and in the wake of this gratitude comes ambition; I want to do well in order to give back to them. This cannot be a unique occurrence. Surely others, those who win the prizes of status, glory, wealth and respect and those who die trying, are mobilised by similarly humane motives?