21 June 2010

On Ambition: From THE IMPERFECTIONISTS

In young Tom Rachman's first book, a character who's death is imminent speaks on the place of ambition (and some other things) in her life:

"I say ambition is absurd, and yet I remain in its thrall. It's like being a slave all your life, then learning one day that you never had a master, and returning to work all the same. Can you imagine a force in the universe greater than this? Not in my universe. You know, even from earliest childhood it dominated me. I longed for achievements, to be influential -- that, in particular. To sway people. This has been my religion: the belief that I deserve attention, that they are wrong not to listen, that those who dispute me are fools. Yet, no matter what I achieve, the world lives on, impertinent, indifferent -- I know all this, but I can't get it through my head. . . Here is a fact: nothing in all civilization has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshiped by man."

And this: "We enjoy this illusion of continuity, and we call it memory. Which explains, perhaps why our worst fear isn't the end of life, but the end of memories."

pp37,38