The ambit of ambition

Looking after Number One, Bedford Square. By Steve Cadman, London

Looking after Number One, Bedford Square. By Steve Cadman, London

It was a bright and still morning as he stepped from his elegant Georgian town house in Bedford Square, the ad-be-clad double-deckers delivering the day’s first visitants to The British Museum on the far side of his familiar Fitzrovian neighbourhood. Sunday. Church bells pealing. An absence of sharp tailoring on the now ambiguously accoutred. More of a crinkled linen state of affairs, for those consciously á la modish. A day of rest, not of work, not for most. Free of the throbbing urgency of nine-to-five-ness; though usually for him, for my erstwhile friend, it was seven-to-ten-ness. Long days keeping his holed ship afloat. A captain of business anticipating, in some dread, any skipper’s final obligation should the waterline be holed.

A resting day, yes, and so he strolled towards a wooden bench in the tweet-filled square oasis, these days now twice tweet-filled, but then just sparrow emanations. A time to consider: options, options. In the past, Virginia Woolf may well too have weighed her fate here, before in time lining a weighty overcoat’s pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse on a similar Spring day four decades ago. Across the square, another local resident, John Maynard Keynes, would have sat considering means to palliate Capitalism’s frequent waterline breaches. Later still it would be Madonna Ciccone, then Lady Gaga, eyed at discrete distances by ex-vets, they too bereft of options within their muscle-twitching watchfulness. This quadrant, hemming in.

Madonna's Blond Ambition Tour Corset. By Brandon Carson, San Carlos, USA

Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour Corset. By Brandon Carson, San Carlos, USA

A short stroll to the workplace; thirty seconds to key the alarm codes; an ascent to a now eerily quiet office; a passive stare at his Mac Classic and the sleep-depriving spreadsheet printouts; pour a single malt; more – at least three fingers; slump in the chair; toss the carton of Pethidine onto the desk; options, options. The ship was going down, and it needed half a million to stay afloat. These days, his home in Fitzrovia would amply cover that sum, nine or tenfold. But this was back in Thatcher’s day, and besides, the bank already had a charge over the house. Options, options none. He takes a pill, the first of forty. Clarity pacifies the mind where options once had wearied. Each pill a pocketed stone; each bell-tolled minute a step closer to the river.

And so it was, upon that bright sun Sunday, my friend found his way out. A victim of his own designs, sunk by ambition. Now I’m told that such striving is a healthy, natural human quality, hearing politicians’ endless mantras of ‘aspiration’, of people wanting to ‘get on’, to ‘work hard’, to ‘climb the property ladder’, and thereby ‘doing the right thing’. The message is clear: compete or fall by the wayside. I must set goals to ensure my security, must compete – perhaps even against my own instincts – so as to propagate and extend familial interests. Who, ultimately, is served, though? I witnessed so many follow this ambition-laden trajectory over the years, and learned that whatever promise was fulfilled, and mostly it was not, the price was heavy.

Thatcher bags, displayed on the day of her funeral. By Rachel Clarke, London

Thatcher bags, displayed on the day of her funeral. By Rachel Clarke, London

Can sufficient ever satiate my fundamental desire for contentedness, or am I bound to a striven life irrespective of my material needs? As I heedlessly clamber, eyes directed skywards, over the failed ambitions of the many less able to compete, as I turn my thoughts away from the price others pay for my cutting myself a larger slice of the pie, do I feel true to the ethics I would so glibly espouse, in knowing I really am ‘doing the right thing’? Again, who or what is served in my assumed, self-centric ambitions, other than a vague article of misplaced faith which somehow came to inhabit me as if a given of nature? If my contentedness subsists in the ambitious pursuit of wealth or status, so my innermost needs are met. The thing is, it seems it is not so.

The ambit of ambition is exposed in asking just such questions, and yet why would I ever doubt my assumptions; why should my ambition be bounded? Is it not so that, just as my erstwhile friend believed, an endless succession of frontiers are there to be conquered, each elevating one to an ever higher degree of fulfilment? Or has what I serve now become a vacuous promise, a point at which my remaining time – perhaps a span shorter than I suppose – would best be passed in restraining my purblind acquisitiveness? Oh, the justifications leap quickly to one’s defence, do they not? As always, we find the complex though habituated easier than the simple yet uncustomary – a perverse trait in many higher animals, even we, the paragon amongst them.

The house was sold; the bank and preferential creditors paid off; the Mac and remaining assets auctioned; and in short time, Madonna arrived in the square – for the very first time – and Thatcher, in tears, left Downing Street – for the very last time. Unlike so many, and would he but have realised it, my friend could have attenuated his pernicious cupidity, spared himself that opiate-dulled submersion into the darkened waters of quietus. Most have not even the choice to indulge likewise such avarice, their ambitions extending no further than providing essentials, with perhaps the occasional purchase of some brief cheering. So it is that my words are as irrelevant to them as ineffectual they are to those spellbound by an ambit-less ambition.

256 thoughts on “The ambit of ambition

  1. That door looks like, or rather those doors look like, our front doors. Except ours are less grand. But, I don’t need large doors. They aren’t even my doors, we merely maintain them, they are the doors to our block.

    Oddly, I was contemplating contentedness last night, or maybe the night before. The night I had a kidney stone thing, so one needs a distraction. I was always puzzled when people asked my father if he was happy and he replied that he was content. It didn’t seem enough. Surely he should have been full of gayous mirth rather than just . . . content with his life. But, happiness and contentedness are a very different state of mind.

    Apologies if I’ve said that before, but it’s obviously at the top of my mind; well, for a day or so.

    • Those are currently the doors of Cameron Mackintosh; you know, Les Mis, Cats, and all that. I can’t say my own front doors – correction, ‘door’ – has quite the same cachet as your or Cam Mac’s; although it does have an old, clockwork steel bell that is wound-up by rotating, from the inside of the door, the domed cover that houses the mechanical gubbins. That’s about as posh as I get around here.

      Good grief, a kidney stone. You have me wincing considerably. I can only pray to my imaginary god that I’m not similarly afflicted. Commiserations, and I mean that most sincerely, as dodgy old Hughie Green used to say. I’ve heard tell of the distress such blighters can cause, and trust these days they can be dissolved, or something, rather than having to be passed? We’ll make that rhetorical, as you can spare me the detail.

      As I’m sure I would you, I tend to bore people here with distinctions between happiness and contentedness, and which is the greater prize. Save to say, your father seems to have been a wise man, unless I am misreading the intent of your words. Anyway, would ‘gayous mirth’ not be a little un-Whitby’ish, or am I stereotyping dreadfully about North Yorkshire folk?

      • A good front door is a must. I have suffered some less than desirable windows but never a poor front door. One must make an entrance.

        I shall write about the stones. ‘Tis bizarre. Indeed painful. But, there are home remedies . . . of sorts.

        My father was a mix of wisdom and otherness. Much like all of us. But his contentment with his wife, daughter, home, dog, business, and whatever else, was genuine. Possibly compared with his meagre upbringing. Who knows?

        West Riding. Although we holidayed on the coast and I worked in the North Riding, we were from t’dour West Riding.

        • “One must make an entrance” – a useful dictum for the blogosphere, I’ve found, though it also sounds like something you may have learned from your days in the Civil Service; or perhaps I read too much into your pun. Anyway, West Riding, you say:

          Give it ’em Hot.

          Give it ’em hot, an be hanged to ther feelins!
          Souls may be lost wol yor choosin’ yor words!
          Out wi’ them doctrines ‘at taich o’ fair dealins!
          Daan wi’ a vice tho’ it may be a lord’s!
          What does it matter if truth be unpleasant?
          Are we to lie a man’s pride to exalt!
          Why should a prince be excused, when a peasant
          Is bullied an’ blamed for a mich smaller fault?

          O, ther’s too mich o’ that sneakin and bendin;
          An honest man still should be fearless and bold;
          But at this day fowk seem to be feeared ov offendin,
          An’ they’ll bow to a cauf if it’s nobbut o’ gold.
          Give me a crust tho’ it’s dry, an’ a hard ‘en,
          If aw know it’s my own aw can ait it wi’ glee;
          Aw’d rayther bith hauf work all th’ day for a farden,
          Nor haddle a fortun wi’ bendin’ mi knee.

          Let ivery man by his merit be tested,
          Net by his pocket or th’ clooas on his back;
          Let hypocrites all o’ ther clooaks be divested,
          An’ what they’re entitled to, that let em tak.
          Give it ’em hot! but remember when praichin,
          All yo ‘at profess others failins to tell,
          ‘At yo’ll do far moor gooid wi’ yor tawkin an’ taichin,
          If yo set an example, an’ improve yorsel.

          – John Hartley

  2. Hi Hariod,

    While I was reading this ecliptic reflection about ambition, I scrolled back to look at the dodgy door that raises the desires so as to accomplish soaring ambitions, and a thought passed my mind. What if we get ‘number one’ engraved on our house’s nameplates, just to have the satisfaction of being number one? So what if it is self-styled? It is self-satisfying for those who remain ‘sunk in ambition’!

    ‘Ambition’ is a hazardous and misleading word just to keep you striving, to let you stray into the realms of the unexplored, to spend half your life clambering uphill. And yes, the price is much heavier than anticipated. Yet we advise the youngsters to be ambitious. Isn’t it paradoxical?

    Thank you for a wonderful video, I enjoyed watching it.

    • Thankyou very much for your interest and for your subsequent reflection, dear Balroop. I titled this offering ‘the ambit of ambition’, because I wanted to put across the idea that there are limits to the extent to which ambition serves us, and caution against arriving at a situation in which we end up serving it. If we fail to recognise the boundaries between benign and malignant ambition, we end up in a world that needs sedating with anti-depressants, which is fundamentally ill at ease, and which has become enslaved to and hypnotised by a sort of cultural mantra that espouses boundless cupidity and expansionism. We are creatures of habit, and once subsumed within them, no longer can objectively see our predicament, one that to a large extent has become self-inflicted.

      As with so many things in life, ambition can be helpful and beneficial to us only up to a point, yet beyond that, it becomes highly pernicious, and damaging to our well-being. So yes, perhaps there is something of a paradox in there, as you suggest, in that ambition can both be a beneficent motivational force, and also a highly destructive one if left unchecked. It is, of course, for each of us to work out where the ambit of ambition may lie within our particular lives – either that, or perhaps look back in our dotage with regret at all that it has cost us in our blind pursuit of its aims. Thankyou once again for your engagement and kind consideration, dear Balroop.

  3. I’ve been looking forward to your next post, and here it is. *smiles*

    So many questions within and farther within there, Hariod. Though questioning need not be a bad thing, one must reassess and consider the lilies that float in our minds occasionally and I found your introspection married with the sad tale of your friend there a finely wrought piece.

    I have seen the video before, but enjoyed it again, and for myself, contentedness, whilst well worth striving towards from the outside and expanding upon from within, doesn’t gel with how I perceive ‘ambition’ at all. Esme has never had much in the way of it, yet abounds with hope. *smiles* This comes naturally mind you, and I consider myself lucky for it too. I may be drifting, not making myself clear, but that’s no shock, let’s face it, and anyway, you know what I mean and where I am in regards to capitalism, politics and all that gumph. *nods* Excellent post.

    I say all that, but I really covet your bell.

    – Esme wearing a pointy-nippled corset made of stars with string theory lacing upon the Cloud.

    • Always the greatest of pleasures to see you here, dearest Esme, and a treat to read your reflections, as ever also. Your words of encouragement are a boon too, as the more I attempt to pen my thoughts, the greater is the realisation of my meagre capacity to do so. This is no bad thing at all, yet the balm of a few kindly generous words assists in my not feeling too intimidated by those same increasingly apparent shortcomings.

      To the nub of it: I can only agree wholeheartedly with you, in that ambition defines within us a certain sense of lack, even if only in terms of unfulfilled potential, and that must of necessity connote a state in contradistinction to contentedness, which means nothing if not perfect ease with what already is. Negating ambition doesn’t produce contentedness, of course, though pursuing ambition beyond its benign ambit will ensure we are at once removed from that perfect ease.

      This is not all about material cupidity, though, and can affect, for example, cupid’s other concerns, too. If I fall in love with someone who is already married, say, and who in all respects feels a natural fit to me, then my ambition to love and to be loved immediately discovers its ambit, and contentedness can only exist as a consequence of this discovery. I can still love and be loved, but in being ambition-less within that, I can also be contented too. On reflection, I would like to have expanded upon this idea within the piece, as it perhaps might chime more readily than pointing up the dangers of unchecked ambition in material matters. After all, money of its own can always be considered useful in some way, so long as in disregarding the physical and emotional price we pay for its acquisition – which is the mistake my friend made all those years ago.

      You mention ‘hope’, which seems to me to be altogether more passive than ambition, and in any case we’d need to be quite nihilistic not to be with hope in some degree. Philosophers seem to disagree about hope and whether it is a good or not, though for myself, I believe it is. I see hope as an aspect of trust – a trusting that things will work out in the fullness of time, no matter our current difficulties. To me, it feels something like religious faith, but without the religion – *laughs* – and with some trust that there is some greater good awaiting us, yet which is currently out of sight. If I create in ambition some vision of what that greater good is, some objectified and quantifiable situation, then I really create no more than a mirage. But if I hope and trust purely in that greater good’s existence, then somehow it brings ease here and now, and which as a pragmatist, makes a lot of sense. *nods along with Esme*

      “I say all that, but I really covet your bell.” *wags a finger at Esme for being a wicked woman* Isn’t there something in The Old Testament about coveting asses and bells? Well anyway, as I was saying just above to Roughseas, it’s a domed affair that needs twisting through 360 degrees several times each evening. I can’t pretend to understand how it all works, it being something of a marvel of a bygone age, but it’s there awaiting the arrival of pretty much anyone who cares to visit, primed and ready to do its job. The whole thing vibrates at an astonishing rate as soon as it’s set off by the lightest touch of an outsider’s finger, and almost gives me a seizure if I’m not expecting it. It takes kindly to a drop of WD40 now and again, and of course, looks all the better for being burnished with Silvo.

      – Hariod wearing a pinny and buffing the old bell with Silvo.

      • Re: love and those free, or not, regardless of love’s depths plumbing away – I agree that it is a fine example of a situation where contentedness would come into its own; acceptance and examination of the best that love can bring outside of any ‘rules’ that tell us one cannot love another unless they are free to love back as one would wish, and anything otherwise must be some form of torture or devilish deceit; no, love them, love their being and beyond. Enjoy the actual possibilities. [Esme loves lots of people, but there’s a waiting list so think on.] All you need is love (and a bag of sticky buns to sigh over in a garden shed whilst wearing electric blue nail varnish, howling, and dancing the samba in the moonlight, obviously) – getting a tad random there, but making it work she feels. Contentedness goes hand-in-hand with kindness for me, and kindness involves loving those who earn your love and vice (misses, no funny business) versa, regardless of sexual possibilities. It’s the future man (and woman, just covering all bases).

        Hope and positivity – make it so like Jean Luc Picard! (That will be lost on a sci-fi philistine such as yourself H *laughs*) – And I’ve done just that many times, but without a bald head and tight uniform on.

        I grew up in a house that had just the same kind of bell, so I’m soft on them. I insisted on being the one who wound it up long before I could reach it on my own; plus, it made one hell of a din too as I recall. *laughs*

        You’re a brilliant writer H, and need to get to grips (good grief) with the fact. Really. Take those compliments that meander your way and accept them, enjoy them, wear them as a cape and fly. The people who hand them to you do so sincerely, and it takes something away from them to nay say. *wags fingers and toes at H* Meagre shortcomings my arse. Hahahahaha. But you do see a boon and a balm in there and that’s a very good thing *beams widely after telling H off and shoves a fairy cake in H’s pinny pocket (no double entendre intended) for later*

        – Esme the Cloud dancer. x

    • Yes! This is such a “finely wrought piece”, dear Hariod, and Esme is right! I see her in your wonderful photo wearing those bright stars of hers! Hugs to the both of you, bright beings – with love.

      • Thankyou, dear Meg; it’s lovely to feel your warm presence here, and to see you engaging in the comments with interest. Esme is right, indeed, and in the two or three years I have had the privilege of knowing her – and it is just that, a privilege – then I have never known her to be wrong or misguided in anything. She is someone I listen to very carefully, a wise and creative woman of great rarity and integrity. Hugs and love to you too, bright being of the lakes.

        • Thank you Hariod, I am genuinely honoured you think so highly of me, and the appreciation is returned, you are a very fine friend to have found up here in the Clouds. *hugs abound*

          – Esme beaming happily upon the Cloud

  4. Ambition, it seems to me, is one of those many things that require moderation. No ambition leads to shiftlessness and, usually, unhappiness. Excessive ambition has a lot of evils. It seems like the trick is to find what we really want to be ambitious about (as opposed to what we think society expects us to be ambitious about), and then do so without becoming consumed by it. All things in moderation.

    Reacting to the video, capitalism definitely has its evils, but to me the relevant question isn’t whether it has costs. Clearly it does. I think the right question is, is there another system that provides more benefits with less pain? I can’t say that I’ve found Marxism’s historical track record encouraging. Of course, many will insist that it shouldn’t be judged by the Communist regimes, but then I have to wonder what we should use to judge it.

    The pragmatic historical answer seems to be (as is often the case) a compromise: a mixed economy composed of a capitalist private sector, but regulated and tempered by a public sector providing a social safety net, and other services that haven’t worked well in markets. Messy and chaotic? Yes. Sometimes cruel, unjust, and painful? Sadly, true. But the question always is, what’s the alternative?

    • Thankyou Mike, it’s always an honour to have your engagement here, and a learning process for me too. I think we’re more or less in agreement on the healthiest ways to treat ambition, though you speak of it requiring moderation, and myself of the need to recognise its ambit – two slightly different approaches, perhaps, but broadly similar in intent.

      As to alternatives to the current economic paradigm, then in fairness to Harvey he does say at 10’10” in the video: “I don’t have the solutions; I think I know what the nature of the problem is”, so he’s not saying Marxism per se is the answer, rather that we need to be thinking of alternatives beyond that offered by the political classes – global, free market, and untethered Capitalism, or Neoliberalism, as some would call it. The Occupy movement similarly offered no alternative manifesto, yet maintained the need to bring the sharpest minds and the greatest levels of expertise together in order to formulate possible alternatives. That seems a sensible approach to me, one in which there’s no rush to emulate political parties with their manifestos and leaders, to scramble for power in bids to capture some (now evaporating) centrist ground of the electorate.

      It feels to me as if profound change is coming, in that I sense the deep desire for it amongst people – the younger generation in particular. But it can’t just be an Obama-like mantra, of change for change’s sake, or far worse still a garbled T-Party style polemic and demagoguery, and must be a rational but radical formulation. That’s going to take years, most likely, both in gestation and in acceptance once formulated. It also needs to be ushered in peacefully, though perhaps driven by some disobedience to the ruling systems, and which I suspect may be a necessary correlate. Non-violence must be a foremost tenet of the transition, though it will be met with force, legislative and physical, from the powers that be; of that I feel quite certain, and as evidenced by how Occupy were crushed in recent years. Your closing suggestions sound perfectly sensible and reasonable, but I wonder how the corporates can be regulated when they are the sponsors and often agenda setters of the legislature? Maybe a necessary first step is to disengage the lobbyists in Washington and Brussels?

      Anyway Mike, you’ve rather grabbed the question at a level that’s way beyond my capacity to offer anything useful, though I do have some perspective based on some 35 years in business and seeing people make the same mistakes over and over on the personal and micro level. Some aspects can be scaled up to the macro level, I suppose, and the erroneous idea of constant growth and expansion seems one of them. It leads me to believe that global Capitalism too has its ambit, that we should recognise that and no longer listen to the increasingly hollow-sounding promises of our current leaders. Ideologues like Sanders and Corbyn are being noticed and supported widely, perhaps not so much in the belief that they have answers, but that like Harvey, they’re offering a level-headed sense that they have a grasp on the problem. As always, it seems, one has to follow the money to find the answers.

      • Thanks Hariod. I’m reminded again to be careful of my word usage, as key terms often mean different things for those in other countries. Neoliberalism to me connotes a preference for laissez faire capitalism, fiscal austerity, and deregulation. I think we’re in agreement that rigid adherence to that paradigm is destructive.

        I think we also agree that having as much money in politics as we do is the root of a lot of evils. If I could change only one thing about the US political system, it would be to put in place a constitutional amendment forbidding any public office holder or candidate from accepting donations, with any campaign with a certain number of signatures funded publicly. Of course, any attempt to actually pass such an amendment (a profoundly difficult process under the best of circumstances) would be ferociously resisted by moneyed interests.

        A profound change coming? Interesting. I sometimes wonder if the internet might not eventually lead to radical changes in governance, like direct democracies where every law is voted on by the entire population. I’m not sure it would lead to wiser decisions, but it certainly would make it harder for corporate interests to sway the outcome.

        • Thankyou Mike, and your brief definition of what Neoliberalism connotes these days is better than my own inadequate one. We could go on to talk about how its insidious and pernicious effects gave rise to the financial meltdown eight years ago, the scandal of the Panama Papers, the degradation of the ecosystem, the rise of Neo-Fascism, the Western epidemic of depression, self-harm, social phobias and loneliness, the concentration of wealth and power being offshored to a very few, and so forth. At its heart is the notion of competition being fundamental to the human psyche, and of an ambit-less adherence to efficiency, both of markets and of the means of production, as if these alone would deliver what planning for any collective good could not. It’s about the privatisation of public goods – utilities, transport, health provision, food supply, roads, prisons, energy, and even money itself. It’s about the creation of the hierarchies which flow from these forces, with those at the top claiming their success had nothing to do with their education, their social class or their inheritances, but are entirely the results of their own inherent merit.

          As you know, Friedrich Hayek, via his writings and the formation of The Mont Pelerin Society, was one of the first to define this ideology, back in the late thirties, as a model rejecting the Collectivism of Roosevelt’s New Deal and Britain’s nascent Welfare State, both of which were seen as crushing Individualism and setting society on a path to Totalitarian Control. And as very well you know too, a series of think-tank’s, each spawned from this ideology, went on to finance academic positions and entire departments of American universities (Chicago, Virginia). In later years, Milton Friedman adapted the ideology, abandoning Hayek’s view that governments should prohibit the formation of monopolies, and that such risen powers were a beneficent result and reward for efficiency. Still, the ideology had yet to become mainstream, and diametrically opposed Keynesianism prescriptions were applied widely throughout The West in the post-war years. Then along came Thatcher and Reagan, and with it the deregulation, privatisation, dismantling of trade unions, lower tax rates for the wealthy, competition in public services, and so on. The former parties of The Left – Labour here in Britain and The Democrats in the US – adopted Neoliberalism wholesale, and that’s where we are today, inhabiting this zombie doctrine which holds us unquestioningly in its sway, working for nameless, placeless masters who hide themselves away in offshore secrecy regimes whilst they evade their obligations to the societies from which they transfer their wealth. Rant over. 🙂

          So yes, I think a change must come, and it can’t simply be a return to Keynesianist demand management, to an old model that ignores the environmental crisis. I could be wildly misguided about all this, quite obviously, and yet the more I engage with public opinion, the more I sense both the disenchantment and disenfranchisement gathering force, and I feel we’re close to a tipping point. It’s a dangerous time, as we don’t have a clear vision of the new paradigm that awaits. The next 20 or 30 years could be messy. In the meantime, there’s hope, but not much more.

          • Hariod, I appreciate your passion on this. It sounds like you know much more about people like Hayek and related movements than I do. Other than knowing that he opposed things like the New Deal and influenced a lot of Libertarian (or classically liberal) thinkers, my knowledge of him is pretty superficial.

            I can’t speak to Labour, but I wouldn’t consider the US Democratic party to be Neoliberal, although I suppose that might depend on where you are on the spectrum. I’m not a fan of throwing labels like Neoliberal, Socialist, or similar designations in a relative manner. Many Conservatives here in the US consider anyone who advocates more services than the government provided in 1928 to be socialist, an attitude I find dogmatic. So I’m more cautious in labeling anyone to the right of me economically as Neoliberal (or “fiscally conservative” here in the US).

            That said, the Democrat Party is definitely more openly Keynesian. I say “more openly” because while Republican rhetoric is often about austerity, their policies are more often Keynesianism in a more clandestine manner, typically implementing tax cuts but never getting around to the promised spending cuts, effectively creating a Keynesian stimulus from the tax side, albeit with more limited multiplicity since the tax cuts usually skew toward the wealthy.

            On changes, we’ll have to see. Certainly the people who are getting the short end of the stick of globalization are unhappy, and have shown that if their interests aren’t taken into account they’re more than happy to burn the globalization ship down. The problem is a lot of their angst is more cultural than economic. I think economic issues could be addressed with better access to training opportunities and related measures, but the cultural parts are much tougher.

            • Mike, you’re far too reasonable! Throw those labels willy-nilly! Seriously, it seems that what I’m calling here Neoliberalism has been accepted almost as if a Law of Nature, a Millenarian faith adhered to as a given despite it promoting inequality almost as if it were a virtue, defining us as consumers where the reach of our democratic choices amount to little more than what we may put in our shopping carts. And I don’t hear Hillary suggesting anything different. So yes, then even relative to the other side, I would still consider her party to be tacitly upholding Neoliberalist values. It is a pejorative, but I feel it best to give a name to what has largely been a nameless yet hugely influential and pernicious ideology. Anyway, I must restrain myself or set in train another rant, the first of which, by the way, was directed more to a sort of red-mist enshrouded mid-space and any passing casual observers than it was to you personally, which would’ve been entirely unnecessary given your insights into the matter.

  5. I really enjoyed this, Hariod! As I began reading it felt like a ‘who dunnit?’. Now we know. Let us all be careful what we wish for . . . and what is expected of us. Finding balance though awareness is key.

    “As with so many things in life, ambition can be helpful and beneficial to us only up to a point, yet beyond that, it becomes highly pernicious, and damaging to our well-being.” So well said.


    • Oh, that’s really nice, Val; I like the idea of readers enjoying what I write. I think I’ve probably made my writing too hard-going or dryly prosaic in the past, as I struggled to get to grips with short-form blog writing. The trick seems to be something to do with not being too ambitious – how ironic! So nowadays, I put forward simple ideas but framed more anecdotally, and that’s proving quite effective judging by the feedback so far. You’re the first to be overtly enthusiastic as regards any pleasure-taking though, so that’s a tremendous encouragement.

      Anyway, enough of me and my small ambitions; I’m only hoping that your own circumstances are proving manageable, and that whatever challenges may recently have entered your life’s orbit, they are being met with your renowned capacity for finding equanimity upon the middle ground. I know sometimes it feels as if that middle ground is as if a truth with a sliding floor, yet somehow the knowledge and vision accumulated in the past rescues us from falling through, much as it may feel as if we might do just that at first. I trust this is so. H ❤

      • Listen to Esme’s mental wisdom, Hariod❣ I really appreciate how you are unfolding your wings in a new way!

        Thank you for your kindness and tuning in. Life for 2 weeks out of 4 is unremarkable and beautifully normal. However, for the remaining time I sometimes imagine a lift going up and down very fast in the shaft . . . But the floor is still solid as it lands on the bottom. Tomorrow is another chemo day and a week of expected challenges and pain lies ahead. There follows a week of nourishing and nurturing before energy returns and life is on an even keel. This will be the last round before tests to see if treatment is working.


        • Oh, rest assured that I do listen to Esme’s mental wisdom, Val, all the time. She is my mentor. Or rather my mentalor.

          Someone I love is currently undergoing chemo, so I have the vaguest, but only the vaguest, sense of what you describe. If and when you feel it appropriate, I daresay we’ll be hearing more on the treatment’s efficacy at your place. In the meantime, I send you and yours my love, and hand over to you right now a little virtual dragon for your protection. There, do you see it? It’s a very old Scottish dragon, in fact. Place it on the roof above your house, and send it thoughts of loving kindness whenever you step outside. It will look after you both, I promise it will. H ❤

          • Touched with tears . . . An ancient Scottish Dagon no less. I could tell by the kilt. Thank you for keeping us in your hearts.

            May your friend have the love and support that we are so lucky to have. It makes such a difference.

            If you want to connect by email then please reach out – – I have learned a lot along the way. And it is not as scary a place as it once appeared to be.

  6. [Forgive my cynicism, but this is a ramble. 🙂 ]

    Funny/odd that you mention Madonna. Blonde ambition. Blind ambition. I am so often reminded these days of the rise and fall of (the Roman) Empire(s) … Human greed? Nervous rattling? That driving force that compels us to succeed, often with the price your friend paid as an end game … but at least it’s dramatic. Who wants to die in obscurity, old and filled with memories of failures? Focus, focus, who has time for reflection? Damn the consequences, full speed ahead …

    Perhaps it’s a remnant of the survival instinct, and not having mastodons to face off with any longer (let’s not touch on all the species of whatever remains wild in this world being hunted/captured and enshrined in zoos or obliterated from this earth), we take our jacked-up adrenaline energies further amped up by caffeine or other more pernicious stimulants and compete, compete, eyes on the prize, stumbling over our fellows to reach … ahhh … the mirage … disappearing … another leaps into view! Go for it! Go! Life as a video game …

    If we are lucky to live ourselves back into the senses we were born with, the dawn may arise, later than sooner but better than never, and little nagging questions pop in. Flits of mindfulness begin to dawn like stars on the horizon and we might well question the meaning of existence, first timidly, then perhaps more audaciously. But this requires a bit of clearheadedness, at least that’s my opinion on the matter. And pulling free from illusion requires a great deal of willfulness, either that or life tosses a few corpses of beloveds into our path and our world enlarges, tear by tear, inch by row, and if we are lucky as well, we begin cultivating the contentedness you refer to.

    I once was lost, but now am found, ’twas blind, but now I see. I thank the powers that be within that grace found its way to my door. On the heels of a good deal of heartache, but still.

    Love the post, as always. Aloha, Hariod. ❤

    • Well, if a ramble it be, then ’tis by far a better one than I could pen myself, dear Bela. Actually, I’m rather rambled-out following my latest diatribe on Neoliberalism which I directed toward the unfortunate – and far more learned than I – Mike at Self Aware Patterns, above. Your own ramble is altogether more poetic and visceral, and it seems my piece has chimed deeply with you somehow. I wondered whether I should write my thoughts on this subject, given the political dimension that necessarily comes along with it, but to see the passions stirred in readers I greatly respect, such as your very good self, is all the retrospective validation needed. Perhaps we’re each of us having to become political now – what would you say to that? Don’t tell me you’ll stand idly by whilst Trump sweeps into The White House. I know your conscience won’t allow it. Shame the alternative is Hillary, but the rest of the world will take her any day over the master demagogue. My god, I hold my breath firmer, and sigh ever deeper notes of sadness, as each terrorist atrocity hits the headlines, knowing that it all plays into Trump’s hands. Tell me it won’t happen, will you? Thankyou dear Bela, for being one of the sane and beautiful ones, always with heart and integrity. H ❤

      • Yes, my eyes glazed over on the Neoliberalism bit, sorry to say. It’s all I can do to stay focused on the shitstorm hitting the US, these days. Good Lord, you can’t be serious – I think you know me better than to ever, ever presume I would regress into the kind of person it would take to vote Trump into office.

        I’ve long known the backlash that, having voted a black man into the Presidency, would dawn, and it has – in the form of every racist and bigot crawling out from under the rocks they’ve been clustered under since the 1960’s and ’70’s – not all of them, mind you; plenty have been ‘out’, but still. From the belligerence in the House and Senate to the outright hunting and lynching, er, shooting of innocent young black men and the occasional woman, the nation’s Shadow has been revealed for the monster it is and has been since the days of the Civil War. What a shameful, shameful past this country has. I knew the likes of Trump would arise, sooner or later, for the unwashed masses to cling onto like some filthy life raft to ferry them, amongst all the debris dumped into our precious oceans, onto a rubbish and rat-infested shore.

        I fear for ‘our’ future, but not a quaking fear; rather a sort-of ‘I knew it would happen and I’m prepared for anything’ kind of fear. We at least have the resources and the heart to relocate, if necessary, to another country, another adventure. Many do not. And it’s no cop-out, I’ve fought for Civil Rights since I was a teenager. Fought for equal rights of all sorts. Went to political speeches and rallies, met the candidates, championed the underdog. Women’s rights, children’s protection, a man’s rights to express his own vulnerability. Animal rights. Environmental preservation. But I’m older now and the ‘fight,’ along with much of my work in the world, has moved more to the pen, to the energetic level. Let the younger generation have their say, although I’m right with them and Bernie Sanders. Sad, that. Predictable, but sad this nation is still not ready to mature to that level.

        For awhile, I swore I’d vote for anyone but Trump or Hillary Clinton, knowing her history of duplicity and caving in to the monied powers that have largely hijacked our Democracy (haha – first I typed “Demoncracy” – perhaps that’s more accurate! See, the pen does know!). But really, I must, for all the good my vote may or may not do, cast it for that Devil over the more dangerous one. Never fear, some of us actually are awake with hearts and minds engaged.

        I am off and running today – hope the rest of your week offers you contentment. I look forward to returning to read more comments. 😉 Love ❤

        • You’re on fire, Bela, burning with integrity. You’ve led a very noble life, and that much is perfectly obvious. Looking back, I wish I’d been as engaged as you, but politics came to me late in life, and now I can only rant in words. H ❤

          • I’m not sure of the accuracy of your praise, Hariod, but I thank you. I think we all do what we must, followed by what we can, if we can. I always had an abundance of energy, so why not share it where it might help? It is all the more frustrating if one has expectation of result, which I did for years. Now, thank the years, I no longer do. I realize humans are humans, as it has ever been. Progress moves slowly, then steps or falls back. Then plods on again. Trite as it is, because I detest overused phrases which among them exists, “It is what it is.” Yet at the same time, I recognize there is truth in it, too. And so I live, love, garden, and write, perhaps in that very order(!). Big hugs to you, and hope you enjoy your weekend! Aloha for now. ❤

            • I suspect that, far moreso than with yourself, I needed to focus on putting my energies largely into sorting myself out, rather than looking to affect the world in any minor way that may have been possible for me. I also suspect that you may have been more generous than I in extending your energies towards others. I was, as they say, a ‘slow developer’. Mahalo Bela!

  7. I don’t really know how many times I’ll read your post and watch the genius video you included, dear Hariod. In the aftermath of the Brexit vs Bremain tension, and not only because of that, I find your post really timely; a well-constructed work on solid and healthy foundations effectively contrasting Capitalism’s schemes with its rotten roots. All your references to the system and your personal experiences strongly convey your outcry and your message.

    Pervasive materialism, consumerism, and philistinism dominate in our societies, and uncontrolled ambition leads to destruction. We have reached too high in our ambitions, I am afraid. Is matter the only reality in our ephemeral world? Where is veracity and oneness, dear Hariod?

    Presumably, we are entering the post-capitalist era. To my eyes, Capitalism, the Greedy Monster, is like an atomic bomb ready to explode. The world is trapped in a paradoxical Catch 22 situation, it’s in a vicious circle, wherein we sometimes feel like hamsters on a spinning wheel. Some economists support the idea that there is something unseen in the old system which will soon take over, something like a utopian scheme for equalising wealth. Tender is the night, and I think I’ve started seeing ‘square’ dreams; I don’t really know if I am on the Lineland or on the Flatland.

    Best wishes to you dear Hariod, & and so many thanks for your motivational thoughts.


    • It truly feels like an undeserved honour to have one so steeped in culture and philosophy as yourself read my humble offerings, dear Doda, and I thankyou so much for your interest and engagement. I never fail to learn something from your words, and from the vast and eclectic store of knowledge from which they issue – your beautiful mind.

      I’m so pleased you appreciated the video; those animations from the RSA are really very good in conception and execution, I think, and a wonderful accompaniment to ideas I’m unable to express as eloquently or learnedly. Actually, I thought it best to keep the politics largely out of my post, but include them below the line. Sneaky of me, eh?

      I had to look up your, what were to me in my literary ignorance, oblique references to multiple dimensions. 🙂

      As to Post-capitalism, then I too presume – and hope for – the same. I don’t know whether you will have caught it, but there’s an excellent panel discussion on the subject, based on the also excellent thoughts of Paul Mason in his eponymously titled book, available on YouTube. If you’re interested then there’s a ten minute excerpt of it here:

      Thankyou once again, dear Doda, for your delightful and always thoughtful contribution.

      Much love,


  8. I must say, Hariod, that reading your posts and the comments that follow is like a window opening onto an unfamiliar – yet fascinating – vista yet unexplored. Some of the expressions I read, for instance, are totally unique and ‘ear-tickling’; I feel rather like a small child grasping a trusted adult’s hand, head up and trying to figure out the gist of the conversation. Thanks for the glimpse into the intellectual vista and please be assured that’s it’s my ambition to keep trying to sort out the difference between happiness and contentedness, all the while hoping I am experiencing both. 🙂

    • Oh, that is so very kind of you, Carmen, and your gentle words of approval are such a great encouragement to me here. I mentioned to someone earlier that I’m somewhat amazed at having any readers, let alone such a supportive and intelligent bunch – it really is most gratifying, and I thankyou warmly for your own most welcome and sensitive engagement. I daresay your ears are only being tickled due to the novelty of what’s under discussion, in respect to where your own current sphere of interests lie, and I quite understand that some of the things touched upon may well seem a little oblique or even irrelevant at times, just as they have appeared to me in the past.

      This particular offering flirts with politics, I think it fair to say, which is something I usually avoid doing. Nonetheless, it appears we’re all increasingly touched by world events and the precarious state of the paradigm we inhabit. It seems to invite the question as to how we can ameliorate the more damaging resultants, if only within our personal, familial sphere, and in the belief that doing so assists the collective, which I believe it does. Reducing our own cupidity and self-centricity spins off into the wider world, rippling out, and the lighter we can tread upon the earth, the greater the chances our offspring and future generations will be able to live in harmony.

      Thankyou once again for your very kind and encouraging engagement, Carmen; I truly appreciate your presence. 🙂

  9. Maybe someday I will make an entrance or have something close to that front door. At the moment, I seem to only move through space passing between barriers.

    The reflections about your friend gives this post a personal touch on where ambition can lead us. Am I ambitious? Some people have told me maybe not, that I am too laid back, but then, I don’t have a problem with it.

    • I think a doorway like that is not for the likes of you and I, Mak; although unlike myself, you may well have the skills and wherewithal to construct one such for yourself. I wouldn’t plan on saving up to buy that particular one though, as it would probably cost you upwards of £15m these days. Yes, ambition is not something that afflicts everyone, and although I have noticed it fading in and out of existence in my own distant past, I am now completely free of it. I have hopes for humankind, which is something our mutual friend Esme brought up earlier, but these are largely passively exercised, my own modest contribution to that end being no more than living harmlessly and treading lightly upon the world. I wouldn’t describe myself as ‘laid back’ (your expression), necessarily, but neither am I heated and goal-driven in going about my affairs. Blessings upon the day, my friend, and many thanks for your interest and engagement here.

        • Central London property is quite absurdly priced these days, Mak. It’s become a safe place for dubiously acquired money from all over the world to be parked. Many of the up-market properties are left empty whilst below, homeless people huddle for the night in shop doorways or, if the weather permits, on park benches. It truly is scandalous, and is visible evidence, right in the nation’s capital, that Capitalism in its current form is creating unparalleled inequality. Between the two extremes, most of the rest live on debt.

          • Don’t mention it.

            I have heard of people blow hundreds of thousands of KES in one night of drinking while in this same town there are thousands who can’t recall when they had a decent meal. It’s a scandal in every sense of the word.

    • I have always thought that ‘laid back’ is one of the most flattering of descriptors, Mak. 🙂 You should be proud of that designation.

  10. I would think that ambition comes from desire, and the nature of desire is that as soon as one is met then another one takes place. Often a person doesn’t even take time to savor the fact that the goal of an ambition was met before taking off in another direction. I believe peace of mind, stillness, bliss, and contentedness comes when the mind is quiet and free of desires.

    • Classical Buddhist doctrine, Karuna, as you will know very well, I am sure. Does Amma teach this, or does your knowledge stem from reading Indian philosophy more generally? My apologies for not being more familiar with her teachings and the deeper aspects of the path you follow.

      • Amma teaches that bliss comes from the mind being still and free from desire. She used to use the example of chocolate. If we’ve been craving chocolate we may experience bliss the moment it touches our tongue. If the bliss was from the chocolate we could eat more and more of it and get more and more blissful. That obviously isn’t the case. She says the reason we feel the bliss is that in that moment our mind is still and free from desire.

        I’m also very influenced by Wayne Mueller’s book The Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood. A lot of the information he presents comes from Buddhism.

        • A great example of how craving cannot be appeased in externalities, only in relinquishment by and of the mind. This really is the buried message in the post above, and which I tangentially point to in advocating the analysis of where our ambitions have their bounds, or ambit. The unconscious and driven aim of ambition is towards contentedness, an inner state of rest, and yet we miss this in conscious projections and false assumptions of needing an endless supply of external supports for it. We’re rather like the Buddhist’s ‘hungry ghosts’, never being able to satiate our desires no matter what we may consume and indulge, as we’re fed the mythical promise of consumerist culture meeting our innermost needs, which are not about acquisitions once the essentials are catered for. Preferences may remain – for chocolate, or whatever – but our contentedness does not rest or subsist in their indulgence; rather, as Amma says, in being free of any emotively heated and self-centric desire itself.

    • Thankyou Mick, your interest and words of appreciation are most certainly an encouragement to my ongoing efforts here. And yes, ambition is not inherently pernicious, though most certainly can be if left unchecked. One can take your route, of predefining its objective, or the route I suggest here, of recognising the limit, or ambit, of what is conducive to one’s sense of well-being. My experience in business over 35 years tells me that few do either, and that kind of free-ranging acquisitiveness goes along with the economic and political paradigm we all inhabit, and which one might characterise by the term ‘Neoliberalism’ and what ideology was spawned in the era of Thatcher and Reagan. Our generation is well set, but those that came after us were increasingly disenfranchised, and now are gathering a political awareness about the state of affairs. I think changes are coming as the centre ground dissolves, and I only hope that they come about peacefully.

      • Yes, I think there will be change, Hariod. Interestingly, as a member of the ‘well-set’ generation, I always feel a little alienated from everything. As a ‘baby boomer’ or whatever the current term might be, I should be set up for life, rich and comfortable, but I have never been much bothered about earning more than I need to survive, with the consequence that I approach retirement age with no savings, virtually no pension other than the state one, and a tiny terraced house. This is certainly not a complaint, since I am better off than many others, but there does seem to be a feeling about that our generation are all grasping and greedy, and are hoarding the wealth that should rightfully belong to the next generation or two.

        • You’re quite right to pull me up on my gross characterisation of us boomers. [Don’t tell me, your tiny terraced house is in a mews in Kensington. Just kidding!] We’re alike in these respects, then, as I semi-retired without cashing-in on the rich pickings that lay before me in my London years. I threw my hand in after the eighties and went off to spend most of my time in a Buddhist monastery, listening to the grass grow. If I hadn’t done that, and if I’d pursued the route my friend in the piece above did, I doubt I’d be here today. I’d never have killed myself, but the work could have done it for me, I think. In any case, I was never driven by acquisitiveness nor status-seeking, so it really wasn’t so difficult to walk away from all the grasping cupidity of those Thatcherite years.

          I don’t agree with the notion that we boomers are all, as you say, ‘grasping and greedy’, but I do believe it true that relative to today’s generation we’ve had it easy, and are sitting pretty on the whole. We were never disenfranchised from education and housing based on our inability to pay for them. And the rampant Neoliberalism – see my lengthy rant to Mike at Self Aware Patterns, above – has protected our interests with property booms, QE and Zirp, all at the expense of the younger generation who have no assets to protect, and no prospects of acquiring any. My sense is that they will have their say, and that change is afoot. As I said to Mike, Mick, I think it’s going to get messy before we settle into a new paradigm. Get ready for stagflation and social unrest.

          • I agree, Hariod. Kensington Mews? Hmm . . . no. And I am with you completely when it comes to acquisitiveness and status seeking; the idea of the time in a Buddhist monastery sounds much more agreeable – I’ve spent the odd week in one, but never more than that. But I took the choice to downsize my life and spent the last 20 years as a freelancer (I just accidentally wrote that as ‘free-lancer’, and it reminded me where the word came from – but I digress), so that I could decide not to work when I didn’t want to, and just disappear to the mountains for a week. The downside, of course, was no holiday pay, no sick pay, whole weeks or more with no work, and no job security, but – heigh ho – that was my choice in life, and I wouldn’t go back and change it even if I could. But the current generation are unlikely to get that choice, so I have been part of the fortunate generation in that.

            • May I ask, Mick, did you spend time in a Sri Lankan monastery, which would be a Theravadin one, and did you go to meditate, to do Vipassana? Perhaps you went to study, or to give Dana and be of service in some way?

        • Replying here, although your later comment is also relative. I think we were one of the last set of dreamers . . . able to fulfil a lot of our dreams because the economy let us, but also because of this we now may be stranded when retirement beckons. Like you, Mick, I have a small private pension and the state one. I still have a mortgage and am still working longer than the basic 45 hour week. I also have been happy to earn “just enough” to pay my way (mortgage, food, holidays), and that’s fine with me. I don’t need to squirrel away, or maybe I should have? I envisage working for quite a few more years. One, because I want to, and two, because I shall need to. I love my job but sometimes want to do the wonderful journey of life you and Hariod have discovered. As you say, we are in for a bumpy ride and it’s all about to get interesting . . . for my industry in particular, but isn’t that what makes life fun?

          • It does, Jackie, although I am frequently reminded that ‘may you live in exciting times’ is an ancient Chinese curse!

            I don’t know about the squirrelling away; now I’m only a few years from retirement, and aware that we will be hard up when we do, a small part of me does regret not having taken the opportunity to put even a tiny bit more away. But then, I’ve always felt that I should live the opportunities that life offered, rather than regret not having done so later, and so I think ‘what the heck? We’ll get by.’ I do know people who have decided that they would save for retirement and have their fun then, only to find out that they no longer wanted to, or were unable to.

  11. I am in the presence of a genius. My Heavens, above . . . that is one good piece of writing. If we are talking about aspirations then I can only aspire to write a fraction as well as you. I felt I was there, following his life like a voyeur. Excellent stuff. Quite excited to read it . . . oh, and the photograph of the door is somewhat ‘Secret Squirrel’ and Masons, don’t you think? Wonderful throught provoking stuff, as it should be. Thank you, dear H!

    • You had me at ‘genius’, and even though I know you’re pulling my leg, it does get quite a thrill from such undeserved flattery. Still, it sounds as though you enjoyed it, which is a fantastic encouragement to me. Thankyou, from the heart. Actually, I was just this minute mentioning your good self to Mick somewhere here in these comments as your own words arrived. Good timing. As to the doorway, then that is to the home of Cameron Mackintosh – you know, Les Mis, Cats, Phantom – though it does look a bit ‘secret society’, or somesuch, granted. Thankyou once again for such kindly generous words of support; it truly is appreciated. 🙂

      • H – you know I am not sycophantic and therefore my comments were heartfelt. I genuinely enjoyed the read. It drew me in. It made me think. As they say ‘darn sarf’ – “job done!”

        • I most certainly do know you’re not sycophantic in the least, though I suspect you’re more than capable of the odd leg-pull. Not that I have any odd legs, you understand, they’re both quite normal really. And yes, aside form the ‘genius’ bit, I could tell you sincerely approved of my effort, and it really does feel most gratifying to know that. Frankly, I’m somewhat amazed to have any readers here at all, but when they make themselves known, and with such kindly supportive words, it makes putting my neck on the line here all the less intimidating, and more pleasurable, an experience. So once again, I thankyou from the heart, EH.

  12. I loved reading this piece Hariod. I found it moving, poetic and with a felt sense of tenderness, a compassion for our human journey. Lines that I took in and savored:

    “… ad-be-clad double-deckers …” – Took me to a couple of reads to understand, and then the image of the double deckers in London came back to me so clearly. I love the sound, the rhythm of “ad-be-clad”.

    “… before in time lining a weighty overcoat’s pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse …” – Such a powerful image. A sense of time slowing down, presence to the moment. That in a moment of despair this option, this choice is a door opening.

    “… we find the complex though habituated easier than the simple yet uncustomary …” Ah yes, the familiar thought of could it be this simple? Naahhh.

    I have been sitting here with you for a while now, contemplating ambition. How do I relate or understand this word, this state of mind? At 66, it is not a part of my life, and whenever that thought crossed my mind over the years I experienced it as exhausting, sucking energy outward. I didn’t enjoy watching how ambition manifested in members of my family.

    Did I not do many things I could have done? Yes. Would my life have been any better? Different for sure! Moot point. I am exactly where I am meant to be. Something about allowing intentions, of who or how I want to be, guide me. Internally guided, rather than externally driven?

    Thanks Hariod. I greatly enjoyed this visit with you. 🙂

    • This is such a lovely, kindly and supportive comment, Arati, for which I’m truly grateful. Gentle words of encouragement such as yours are really very welcome as I set about here coming to terms with expressing my ideas in short-form writing. I think I may slowly be evolving a style that doesn’t bore the readers overly, whilst setting out at least the bare bones of some idea worthwhile a moment’s mulling over.

      And you have chosen my own very favourite and self-styled portmanteau word from this offering – ‘ad-be-clad’. I wasn’t at all sure that anyone who was not from England would get the meaning, allied as it was to an equally oblique reference to ‘double-deckers’, but you have. You may be alone in so doing, but you’ve encouraged me to be similarly adventurous again in future. Thankyou! 🙂

      I agree with you completely on the energy-sapping effects of being in the presence of self-centric ambition. I find it equalled only by being with those who are wrapped in neurotic self-concern and those who would be negatively sniping at others behind their backs. I can feel the energy draining out of me; it truly is a debilitating phenomenon, and one I seek to avoid if at all possible.

      It sounds as if we may be at a similar point in our development, from what you say in your closing remarks. I suppose we might look at it as “internally guided, rather than externally driven” – your words – although it seems as time passes the dichotomy of inside and outside, subject and object, appears to lose weight, and awareness, in knowing itself as un-localised, has its own gravitational influences aside from those constructed in thought. I think the same is perhaps true of moral virtues, in that they operate of their own accord then most authentically, rather than as any prescription of the mind or strictures transferred to personal consciousness from hearsay, books, philosophy or religion.

      You are a very welcome guest, dear Arati, and I am grateful for your noble and gentle presence.

      With metta, Hariod.

  13. I’m left with nothing more to wish for, Hariod! I’m content knowing you’re cared for and I’ll take my leave before wanting to take or give more. 🙂

    • There is indeed much to be said for being content with little, David, whether such resultant be from one’s own endeavours, or in the modest offerings of kindly supportive others. With metta, Hariod.

  14. Good evening, dear Hariod. I thought I would come by to see if you had another thought-provoking post and was so pleased that you have. 🙂 It’s late, so maybe I need to read your post several more times to allow its full message to sink into my brain. But I feel I get the message. This jumped out at me though: “I witnessed so many follow this ambition-laden trajectory over the years, and learned that whatever promise was fulfilled, and mostly it was not, the price was heavy.” So true.

    This brought to mind, as I watched also that excellent video you posted, how those seeking profits sent all of the textile trade overseas. I made many a Basque that would suit those like Madonna too. 😉 As a sample machinist in the 80’s, I would make underwear garments from their initial conception with designers, and put many a bone and eyelet in just as shown in your picture. 🙂 I then saw how, through greed and wanting more and more profit, the orders eventually were placed overseas. In later years, I would be part of a convoy going out to Sri Lanka with the London Chamber of Commerce as our factories overseas took jobs such as those I once did.

    Your video choice is so appropriate, in that it all eventually comes full circle, as it did for my ambitious bosses who befell just the same fate as those whose greed once caused them to venture overseas. Their ships ran aground also. I too was once ambitious, climbing the ladder within the world of the textile trade. My health got shipwrecked, and so I steered to another heading – one that gave service to others. It was the best choice I ever made. It not only saved me, but I hope I helped others through the ups and downs of their life’s waves also.

    Thank you Hariod, for your thought-provoking post.

    Sending love and blessings your way, my friend.

    Sue ❤

    • Thankyou so much, dear Sue, for taking time away from your lovely vegetable garden, your family and many creative pursuits, to cast your eyes over this offering; I appreciate it greatly, as always. I am of course aware of your considerable experience within commerce, and see that your rough-edged experiences seem to fit quite well with what I describe in the piece. It’s a tricky thing, to permit ourselves the pursuance of our, perhaps deeply felt, ambitions, yet whilst retaining the recognition that they will necessarily have their limits; it being hard not to take an all-or-nothing approach, perhaps? Our consumerist culture promotes this notion of pursuing unlimited ambition, encouraging it as if it were naturally beneficial in any degree. As I think was clear to you, I didn’t mean to suggest in the piece that ambition was a bad thing per se, because I don’t believe it is, solely to convey the idea that it always has its ambit – a point at which it turns from beneficence to being pernicious, just as your own so vividly told anecdote recounts. I’m so pleased you survived the shipwreck of others’ failed ambitions, and that you emerged, if temporarily a little bedraggled emotionally, upon the safe and dry shores that you now inhabit. 🙂

      Sending love and blessings your way too, dear Sue, along with much gratitude and respect.

      Hariod ❤

      • Thank you, dearest Hariod, and no, not all ambition is healthy when we use it excessively in order to succeed and prosper. It’s so often overstepping that line of excess which in some quarters then leads to greed and ruthless practices taking hold. The world is geared such today so that many are kept on the perpetual wheel of ambition, like hamsters running in circles and working ever harder, seemingly getting nowhere fast, whilst society throws out those plastic cards that enslave us, getting us into more debt as the banks quietly continue to do their worst.

        Anyway, life for me today is so much more laid back in the land of cabbages and the like, where I busy my head with the soil whilst looking back upon my former life, wondering how on earth I did what I did in the past. There has been many a lesson learned from my dealings in the textile trade, teaching me that life is not always about competition, but rather that it can be about cooperation. Some may learn such lessons and channel their ambitions into the collective healing of the world; well, at least I hope that happens more widely in time, although it’s doubtful to be in our lifetimes, Hariod. But I always will keep trying my best to dream it into existence.

        Love and blessings, and thank you so much, Hariod, for that wonderful reply, my friend.

        Hugs, Sue. xxx ❤

    • As ever, it’s all a work in progress, or hopefully it is. There were one or two little moments in here that were quite satisfying, and I’ve recently been thinking of doing a few short pieces which are purely story-telling, or anecdotal, rather than trying to shoehorn in some overarching idea that fits the purpose of this site. You’re unpleasingly quiet of late; what’s up – lost your blogging mojo? I can quite understand that perspectives may have shifted a fair bit since your loss. Or maybe Geordie Boy’s keeping you more than occupied? Give him a tickle behind the ear from me, Tina, eh? Many thanks for casting your eyes over this one, and for your words of encouragement. 🙂

      • I think you should go for pure story telling! You’d be a great fiction writer. You seem to have the knack for grasping at relevant details, and a way with words. Have you written short stories?

        As for the blogging mojo . . . yeah, lost. But I’m considering writing a post soon. Truth is, I’m mostly working on getting the energy to write my novel. At that point, it’s time to cook dinner then veg out in front of the TV. If you can really veg while watching political conventions. Oy.

        • More encouragement – be careful what you wish for, they say. 😉 I can’t write anything like as subtly as you, Tina, and my tendency to paint legs on snakes, or as they say in the North of England, “boil my cabbage twice”, would likely be my downfall ere too long. That said, I could risk it with the odd 1,500 word piece, perhaps. Maybe you can mix philosophy and fiction, after all? 😉

          I too am following your country’s interminable political theatre. Aside from his ideas on God and Hillary, I couldn’t argue with this fella though:

          • P.S. Virginia Woolf in ‘Modern Fiction’ (1921), on life as a narrative, and on writing:

            “Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

  15. What an interesting, thought-provoking piece. Third time reading, barbecue I enjoy the conversations underneath. My previous comment, that I deleted, came from that wonderful un-edited blah-blah stream, and spoke about carpal tunnel, and various other random things, seemingly incoherent to this display. I can never quite, sum up a proper enough comment for your words, and often, do not know where I sit, in regards to the issue. But that is quite common, I think, never really thinking one thing is right.

    Just looked up, and because it was auto-corrected to ‘barbecue’. I will leave that, because it is funny.

    Perhaps, consumerism is a barbecue. Stay on the grill too long, and you are well done, or just over-cooked. Who knows? If you see imbalance, perhaps there is imbalance. If you don’t see imbalance, is there balance? Perhaps the world is meant to destruct. Again, who knows?

    Thanks for making me think Hariod!

    • Thankyou very much, Jessie, and please, never feel inhibited in doing some ‘blah, blah’ if that’s what comes up from having read. What was this piece about anyway – suicide, ambition, Capitalism, the eighties, habituation, London? I could have put all those tags on it, and many others besides – a skewered Shish Mish of thoughts. Maybe Gaga was the essence of it, dear lady? Any and all of those things really, so there’s plenty of scope for interpretation, and I don’t really feel there’s a ‘proper’ (your word) response; it just depends what’s triggered, if anything – barbecues, it would seem, which takes us neatly back to our ubiquitous Shish Mish. All is dobro!

      • I didn’t want you to have to edit my comment, and besides, it is good for me to take the time, and to create a detailed, well thought-out approach; even though the above one didn’t quite cut it, in those terms. You’ll most probably see responses, within posts on my blog, that reflect certain aspects of this one.

        I haven’t yet Googled, but did Virginia Woolf kill herself? I remember vaguely, my friend, who gave me her book, told me she was crazy, yet wrote wonderfully. When I read it – her – for the first time, I didn’t see ‘crazy’. What do you think about Ms Woolf?

        My mind seems to be Shish Mish, at present. And there is a storm approaching donkey island with the bells.

        Depends on what is triggered. I like that. When was the last time you ate icecream?

        • I ate a Magnum last weekend as I bought a multipack when I went down to Devon to see my granddaughters. Magnums are pretty good, and I like the vanilla ones best. Mind you, our friend Esme turned me onto Mango sorbet recently, which I think I prefer. Plus, it has far fewer calories, so you can eat loads more! I have a picture in my gallery here of two little Italian kids eating ice-cream, and which is one of my favourite photos. It was taken by Jorgé Royan, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago, but who was a very generous and talented photographer and architect.

          Yes, Virginia Woolf did kill herself, and precisely by the method I describe in the post. She lined an overcoat’s pockets with stones and walked into the River Ouse down in Sussex, just to the South of London. What an incredible thing to do; I can’t imagine the resolve it must take to do such a thing. By comparison, then swallowing Pethidine pills, as my friend did, seems incredibly easy – or might do after a few stiff drinks. Here is the note Ms. Woolf left her husband:

          “Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V”

          • Magnums are the bomb diggity, except quite undandy on the not-too-good-for-you front. Such is life. I love the almond Magnums. Always eat the chocolate first, then the ice cream. Sorbet is great. I shall try mango, as currently I seem to be stuck on lemon. Super refreshing.

            Oh, the photo in your gallery sounds splendid. I’ve been watching people eat ice-cream (there are many) here, where I find myself currently, with bells etc. – and find complete joy in watching their expressions of fufillment. You could say, it is the face of contentedness, for many of them. They seem to be of adrift, in bliss, with cone in hand. Bless.

            I can’t imagine the mind of someone in such a state, and perhaps ‘leaving’ is the only option. The letter is somewhat melancholic.

            • ‘Bomb diggity’ – what a great expression. I would steal it but as an oldie it would be frowned upon if ever I were to use it. It’s actually a pretty good alternative name for the revered Almond Magnum. Speaking of which, then I think I like them equally to the aforementioned vanilla ones. I eat the chocolate first too, but in stages – nibble it away for an inch or so, then eat that inch of ice cream. It’s all very methodical and an exercise in devotion. Bottom teeth deployed for removing base of chocolate coating from stick.

              • It is a great expression, and one that I’d hardly use, if ever, in speaking face to face with someone, even as a young ‘un.

                Haha, it is so methodical eating Magnums. Seriously it is, and you described it so well. That last sentence, is worthy of a bell tower symphony! I’d absolutely love to make a questionnaire and ask people how they eat that last bit of chocolate on a Magnum.

  16. What an elegant, brilliant piece of writing (and drawing), Hariod! And followed by an interesting discussion to which I do not have much to add. Somehow this piece, with its refined description of the many faces of human ambition, made me think about something quite the opposite, my paternal grandmother. And this is not because she had posh handbags, but because she was radiating contentment. A simple life lived in perfect harmony with earth, with only one desire, to leave a trace of kindness in the tapestry of humankind.

    • My goodness, with such kind and generous words of encouragement, you must surely get the red carpet treatment – Lady Gaga style, no less! Your grandmother sounds as if she was just the kind of person we need more of in this turbulent and increasingly self-serving world, Helen. I have a strong feeling her one desire was fulfilled, and what greater legacy can one leave than to touch the world with kindness? Those same touches are the ones that get remembered, long after the material inheritances are spent or have decayed, not least of all in their genetic imprint, which doubtless travels, impressing throughout you and yours. Thankyou so much for taking the time to consider my offering here, Helen; I appreciate it greatly. Sending you, the birds, and Lady CawCaw all best wishes, Hariod.

      • Thank you, dear Hariod. My GM’s legacy is still bright 30 years after she moved on. I hope to walk in her footsteps, literally, in the next couple of weeks, and of course it is my humble wish figuratively as well. The birds, Dylan and I send you our best, Helen.

        • I feel certain that you’ve already succeeded in your ambition to walk in your dear grandmother’s footsteps, figuratively, and all that remains is to wish you well in the ambit of your upcoming literal steps. My apologies, I forgot to include Dylan in my earlier best wishes, so add them now, of course.

  17. Good discussion, Hariod.

    As for myself, I find there’s a corseted Lady Macbeth inside me, no doubt next to some inutile organ such as the appendix that, so to speak, directs the traffic of my thoughts. A curse, to be sure, but I suppose a surfeit of Shakespeare can occasionally cause indigestion and is nothing to worry about.

    • Thankyou for your interest and engagement, EP. A basque beclad Lady Macbeth resides within many of us, it would seem, either urging us on to an ambit-less cupidity, or admonishing us to consider a Woolfian wander into the river when the going gets tough. You and I, being contumacious by nature, have nothing to fear from her flagitious promptings.

      • Fear, it must be said, is a great motivator and can sometimes masquerade as ambition; for example, Kanye West (and you may here substitute a celebrity of your choice) once feared he had no talent, yet somehow he had the drive and audacity to prove, quite conclusively, that he in fact had none. L’ ambition démesurée des gens célèbres.

          • The lives of the rich and famous and deservedly untalented are such fodder for the contumacious among us.

            • Quite so, and even though young Kanye performed in the field opposite my home only last June, then still I declined the ease with which his talent’s many minor enticements were offered. Speaking of which, then do please forgive my contumely as regards Ms. Kardashian’s butt.

  18. Not only do you have a way with words, but apparently, so do all the people who leave comments on your blog! I’ll add my small contribution, which will not be nearly as well-written as these other comments, but they are my own. I’m not at all sure whether it’s better to aspire to be happy or content, but I do know that neither can be attained merely by accumulating more wealth and power. [And personally, I’m suspicious of all politicians, because no matter what they may say about wealth, each and every one of them wants power, and lots of it.] For me, I believe that maybe the answer is to simply always do my best, and to learn to be content with the results of that effort. There are so many things in life that we can’t control, so I think our measure of success, and the goal of our ambition, should simply be to be our best self – which is often a better person than we believe.

    • Thankyou very much indeed, Ann, for your kind engagement and reflection. And yes, I am greatly gratified to have a modest readership and to receive feedback on my offerings here. It has been, and continues to be, a learning curve of how to write so as to stimulate interactivity, which is what I find most rewarding about blogging, and perhaps you would agree? I must say, in the two years I have been in the blogosphere, I have learned far more from others than they may have done from me, though quite often that has resulted from discussions below the line, so to speak, triggered from the main post – either mine or theirs.

      As to your further reflections, then we hold a similar stance as regards the state of politics, it would appear. I am unsure as to your whereabouts – are you in the States, or perhaps elsewhere? – but in any case there are many similarities between Europe and the US, with the rise of demagoguery and the Far Right, the rejection of Global Capitalism (Neoliberalism), the mistrust of authority and the so-called ‘elites’, and also, worryingly, the absence of much morally inspired ideology that might extract us from this mess. I did watch an interview last night with Jill Stein of the Green Party in the US, and was extremely impressed, yet had heard absolutely nothing of her presence or campaign in the mainstream media here in England – it’s all been Trump and Clinton, yet with a perverse fascination with the former. It would seem as though never before in American history has there been two frontrunners for the presidency who are so ubiquitously disliked. It just shows what money and fascination with celebrity can do, I suppose?

      As to your closing remarks, then again we are in agreement, and I have long felt that success really only has one true measure, and that is the extent to which we succeed in advocating harmlessness, extending kindness, and being empathically understanding as regards others. Other than for the psychopathic, those are all innate, if latent, dispositions of the human animal, regardless of culture, societal status, genetic inheritance, or even circumstance. I don’t believe there is an end to this path towards success, but that we are all works in temporal progression, relative to one another, and co-dependently with one another along the way.

      Many thanks once again, Ann.


      • I do live in the States, and trust me, the only candidates who get media coverage here are also Trump and Clinton. Sadly, most of us are not fans of either candidate, but to my knowledge, no candidate who was not either a Republican or a Democrat has ever won or been taken seriously by the media, or won a presidential election. [Ross Perot came the closest, but he may have simply paid for his own coverage.] So, we are a rather uneasy nation these days.

        But thank you again for this post, I would have been very sorry to have missed it!

        • Thankyou Ann, I had the impression it was very much not only a two horse race party-wise, but that in truth, and because of what has been primarily (post-FDR) corporate financing, the presidential election is more or less ensured to remain so in perpetuity. Billionaires like Perot and Trump can muscle in up to a point, but even were such a self-financed candidate to win, they soon would be dancing to the tune of corporate sponsors seeking to influence legislation through their 35,000 lobbyists in Washington. Few are the politicians, be they even billionaires, who can resist the not-so-discrete payback of Wall Street that so surely comes in the years ahead. Unless and until those links are severed, I fear American politics is fated to the pernicious effects of corporate and corporate-serving self-interests. In Europe, we’re just a bit behind the curve, but are getting there – fast, sad to say.

  19. Enjoyed navigating through your maze of reflections on the ambit of ambition and the animated presentation on the destructive aspect of unbridled Capitalism. If Capitalism is destructive and dehumanizing, so is excessive Socialism, which kills initiative and creates communities of lotus eaters. On balance, it is desirable to encourage free enterprise within the limits of prudence and keeping the ends of social justice in view – as W.H. Auden put it famously when he quipped that private faces in public places is better than public faces in private places. It is enough if public faces function as facilitators. The checks and balance must operate at the level of consumption. The trajectory of ambition is limitless. But such limitlessness must not manifest in acquisitiveness and wanton exploitation of resources, but must necessarily dwell on crossing milestones in development of individual capabilities cumulatively augmenting into developmental ripples across entire communities encompassing the gamut of societal strata. Ambition, whether in the form of benevolent Capitalism, zeal for social reforms, or inclined towards science and technology, directed toward altruistic horizons, will always be filliped. Ambitions of a materialistic nature will eventually meet with resistance and run into decline.

    • Thankyou very much, dear Raj, for bringing your unquestionable eloquence and erudition to the table on this one – I was rather hoping you might. You say: “If Capitalism is destructive and dehumanizing, so is excessive Socialism”, which takes us back to the question of whether it may be possible that some new paradigm will emerge and which abandons the old, dichotomous one, avoiding the extremes of apathy and cupidity. A Buddhistic Middle Way perhaps, for an emergent Post-Capitalism; although the middle ground seems fast-disappearing in the world these days, as ostensibly Centrist political positions lose any allure to electorates with pocketsful of broken promises. Your idea seems altogether reasonable, save for my reluctance to hold faith in market forces – is that what you mean when you say: “checks and balance must operate at the level of consumption”?

      • By the level of consumption, I mean at the level of consumer, who must draw the line between sustainable consumption and extravagance. The marketing machine of Capitalism will, of course, maintain its relentless push to jack up demand for goods and services, where sales strategists will brainwash prospects by making luxurious consumption appear as filling a latent need. The trick is to sell the product as if it is meeting a need when in fact it will be catering to a luxurious aspiration. It is deft conning all the way. Discerning consumers are realizing it and spreading the message across their circles of influence. The other regulatory approach to curb excessive growth of big corporates is to broad-base our patronage by encouraging smaller players in the MSME category (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises). In India, we are already seeing the amusing spectacle of many of these MSME players taking on well known brands of multinationals and giving them a run for their money. In the process, a few of these players are fast growing into big names themselves. Yet another check is at the level of the state (again in India that is) with governments making CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) mandatory for all companies with high financial turnovers. They are required to spend a percentage of their annual profits on community development. In short, the solution may be for the regulatory and balancing function to operate at many levels, by agencies of the state, NGOs, and power of intelligent choice exercised by consumer.

        • It would seem there are some encouraging signs that in India the excesses of corporate expansionism are being ameliorated in enlightened legislation, Raj. The problem in The West is, as I’m sure you know, that corporate lobbyists are themselves influencing legislation; so whilst we hear of the EU, say, being touted as if some supra-national protector of worker and consumer rights, the fact is that externally situated multi-nationals are able to dominate internal European markets whilst failing to contribute in taxes at levels relative to those of SME’s and sole traders.

          I can only hope that what appears to be so in India (from what you say), that ‘intelligent choice is exercised by the consumer’, will take hold here. I think it is, in a small though gathering manner, as consumers buy more ethically, or see value in artisanship and craftsmanship, or baulk at generating yet further profits for multi-nationals who avoid their obligations to contribute taxes. Tax paying for multi-nationals has become as if an option here in Britain, with Google, Starbucks, Facebook and others unilaterally offering tax ‘donations’ to The Treasury in bids to appease consumer disquiet over their tax avoidance.

          • Public discourse and opinion in Europe and Americas must consolidate on the side of larger public welfare, also resulting in leadership who will uphold these concerns coming to the forefront. The opinion mobilisation process must continue to make it happen.

            • Agreed, and to the extent that we as bloggers exert any influence at all, then still I admire those such as yourself who do. Thankyou Raj; you always offer such measured and insightful reflections.

  20. Good morning (here anyway). Your video is especially poignant, given that it was done in 2010, before Brexit, Bernie Sanders, and the precipitous rise of Trump.

    And how timely your theme, for me. Yesterday, two long-time friends and I talked over breakfast about the difficulties of accepting the disrespect one expects if you choose, as we all did, supporting a husband and kids over a career.

    It’s an odd way to live these days, a luxury in fact. Since what counts most in our world is ambition, it’s assumed that housewives aren’t educated or ambitious, or intelligent. This is not to say we aren’t ambitious — we all suffer regularly from spasms of ambition and regret — or that we don’t support women working, equal pay for equal work, or the importance of a woman in the White House. I am perhaps the most feminist-minded woman I know. It’s simply that all three of us recognized when we were in our mid-30’s that making our own money wasn’t what we cared about most. The decision was made easier by being married to people with fine jobs, who had no problem with sharing the income — but those jobs, highly stressful, were part of the reason to stay home as well.

    It’s complicated.

    Still, I love the images and the approach you take. Beneath the highly publicized machinations and utopian theorizing, there is just human behavior in a universe we barely comprehend. Did you ever wish you could shake your friend by the shoulders and tell him, this is all so small?

    Anyway, a lovely and sad piece. Thank you.

    • Thankyou very much, Julie; you always take an interesting angle on things, one not covered by others. When you write of being in your mid-30’s and realising that making money wasn’t what you cared about most, then that has close echoes with my own life. I was in business(es) myself, but decided to scale things back hugely and work in them part-time – way before conventional retirement age, where I am now. I took a lot of sardonic flak from friends and acquaintances – I think they call it ‘passive aggression’ – who felt somehow I was making a statement about their own decisions and (what were often) unthinking commitments. Even though, after time, those same people could see I had made the right decision for myself, that I had become more engaged and sensitive, still I could feel a residue of resentment that I would spurn my past, seemingly inevitable, trajectory along the harsh edges of the commercial or careerist world – their world.

      I believe we often have an innate sense of what is right or not for us within life, and yet it only voices itself quietly for many, at the back of our heads, or perhaps in subtle signs and signals within our body that we need to change tack. Actually, for myself, it was reading a book that triggered something of a liminal re-evaluation, and that decision to move in another direction, though I think that chimed with those subtle inklings (in my dimness) that I had been charting the wrong course for myself, and I needed the book to point up what I was feeling at the edges of my being. I’ve always felt a little like one who went against the flow, despite my outwardly appearing and undoubted conventionality in most respects, and yet it doesn’t feel perverse nor feel as if setting obstacles before myself.

      All these big decisions have costs, I suppose, and actually, there does seem to be a kind of ‘balance sheet’ way of looking at life, if one is calculating, like some sort of human Casio. My friend was rather like that, following very much in his father’s footsteps actually, having been handed the proverbial poisoned chalice in inheriting a business. And to answer your question concerning his predicament, then no, I never suggested to him that he was too emotionally submerged in the thing, because in business you rarely have any option but to be driven by its demands. You either sink or swim, and the swimming is relentless. In the end, he took Ms. Woolf’s way out – that of remaining in the water but not swimming. Back in those days of Thatcherism, swimming felt so effortless, that is, until the inevitably cyclical lunar pull of recession came ’round and the attendant undercurrents began to be felt.

        • I know next to nothing of life in the literature world, Julie. I did once pen a little guide to contemplative practices, but it had absolutely nothing to do with literature, that’s for sure. *laughs* The book I alluded to was written by a Christian Prison Chaplain, oddly enough, given I’m not, nor have I ever been, religiously inclined. [My decades-long interest in Buddhism being purely as a phenomenological method – I’ve never concerned myself with religious cosmologies and the like.] The book was called Instead of God, which might explain why I picked it up *laughs again* and which seems an odd title for a professional Christian, one might think. This is not the book of the same title written by the wonderful Andrew Solomon, by the way, but just an obscure English volume that seems to have no trace of existence on the internet. It captured a vague feeling I had at the time that perhaps we were on the edge of some paradigm shift, that it might take a certain faith to progress towards, but that such faith must be based on experiential realities in the here and now, not putative future cosmological realms. That was back in the late eighties, and as time has passed I feel more certain that this paradigm shift is occurring. It’s going to be intensely uncomfortable for a great many, I suspect, and if we don’t ruin the planet in the meantime, we’ll have to see if it turns out to be a good thing or not.

          • A holy ghost of a book. Agree with you about the paradigm shift, and faith, and share your hopes for our planet. It’s hard not to get frustrated by our human inability (refusal?) to see ourselves as dependent on an ecosystem that we didn’t create.

  21. Hello Hariod,

    Another lovely and thought provoking piece from one of my favorite writers. Truly, my friend.

    While I think clearly that the mantras about climbing to the top are misplaced if we are to encounter what you would describe as genuine contentedness, I think the situation is more complicated than chiding one another, “Don’t do it!” Do you agree? I don’t mean that as a response to your piece, but as a rhetorical question of how to respond within oneself to the discovery of ambition.

    It seems we are driven to and fro by these whims that grab hold of us, and I think ultimately what we are seeing is a perversion of something within us that is true and good. I’m not saying there’s a captain of industry in each of us, but I am saying there’s a sense of meaning and purpose, and a lack of understanding of what it is driving towards. And in certain situations, when presented with particular opportunities, it expresses in ways much as you have described.

    But I don’t personally subscribe to the idea that the way out is to be without desire altogether, for I think the desire to share in and to witness moments of beauty, for instance, to experience the movement of one’s life as being related to a larger whole perhaps, are all good things. But when expressed through the lens of a fictitious self, they lead us astray. That is in essence the perversion I think – the fictitious self requires the ambition to sustain its baseless proposition of existence in a sense. Without that and resting in peace which precedes any particular action, there is a fresh take on what it means to desire I think.

    I also enjoyed the discussion you’ve had with Mike and others on Hayek, Keynes, Capitalism, etc. What do you think of the idea that the mechanics of the solution are not quite as important as the collective mindset behind them?

    Policies certainly make a difference, and derive incremental improvements when they are well-placed, but we simply have no examples, really, (that I’m readily aware of), where a policy-based approach has yielded a truly holistic (encompassing the human and the environment) solution that the vast majority were pleased with. Am I wrong?

    It strikes me that it falls upon us collectively to apply that innate desire to ‘achieve’ – that ambition you have described – towards an even greater ambition. One we are reluctant to say we stand for, so foolish a notion it must be, of a world that works for all of us. The trick, it seems to me, is that we haven’t the slightest clue what such a world would ask of us. We don’t know how to be the types of beings who live in such a world, and there lies our true problem. The problem so rarely discussed.

    We simply don’t know how to live, such that the world we truly desire, will be.



    • Hello there Michael!

      Thankyou very much for your typically generous engagement, your interest and the way you gently invite me to look beyond what’s already seen by myself and others here; it’s really most helpful in my seeing beyond the end of my nose!

      Firstly, I want to stress that I wasn’t aiming to dismiss human ambition in this piece, rather to recognise that it always – I think that’s right, ‘always’ – has its ambit, its limits beyond which it perhaps begins to eat itself parasitically, and those poor souls such as my erstwhile friend, who issue it. So yes, I do agree, in answer to your question, that it’s both futile and unhelpful to conceitedly demand of others that they abstain from what is a perfectly natural and altogether necessary human trait. It makes no more sense to do that than to suggest another abstains from food as too much of it will kill them, even though it true that it may do. And actually, moderating ambition is somewhat problematical, so it’s rather a case of just remaining aware of the purpose to which it’s exercised – seeing its ambit, marrying and defining our ambition’s objective accordingly. It seems quite obvious in some ways, yet from what I observe, and from my own dullness too in this area, very few of us do that. We plod on, ploughing what may be an increasingly deep and unnecessary furrow, just because perversely, it seems the easiest thing to do.

      As to your remarks about desire, then I walk a bit of a tightrope on this one. For me, and this is only a personal categorisation, ‘desire’ has a slightly heated emotional breathlessness about it; it’s a reaching toward some object but with what can be a pernicious narrowness of vision – a blindly presumptive conditioning, perhaps? – or at the potential expense of our well-being as we over-expend our energies, or quite often in some sort of unthinking conformity such as acceding to peer pressure, familial expectations, the assumed value of status acquisition, and so on. I contrast this with what I think of as ‘preference’, which can be applied in most areas desire might otherwise, but absenting the heated irrationalities and emotions that attend so frequently with it. I would exclude the spiritual search from this idea of supplanting preference in desire’s stead, as it seems that does require a sort of burning quality within its reaching out, and a laissez-faire approach is all but useless here until the higher reaches are inhabited. I think this accords with what you’re saying about our witnessing moments of beauty and relationship, and which very much sound bound up with the spiritual and aesthetic side of life.

      As to politics and so on, then yes, change is only going to come about through a movement and transition in consciousness of society as a whole, or better to say within a segment of it that causes the reaching of a tipping point for the whole. Quite what the mechanics of a Post-Capitalist world will be, I don’t know at all, though I feel sure that Paul Mason is on the right track in thinking it shall be more about sharing and exchange, than the neurotic pursuit of competitive profit-seeking and beggar-my-neighbouring. You strike an idealistic note in your closing remarks that I find within myself, too. For what is the alternative? Look at it in your own country, where the choice of your new leader is from two greatly disliked and mistrusted figures, the one offering Neofascism, the other yet more Neoliberalism. The idealists, like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, make far more sense to me; but then when was politics last about ideals? It seems we have to start believing in them once again, or the future looks horrifically bleak.

      Many thanks, dear friend, for indulging me and my ambitions for a better understanding.


  22. This reinforces the idea that independence and enjoying the simple pleasures of life are healthier, for me at least, than ambition. The cartoonist was fascinating; I like watching an interesting parade and then wanting to take a raft to a calm lake and drift in the afternoon sun as I listen to the sparrows. Thank you for this post and for sharing Rev. William Barber from my home state. There is hope for us yet.

    • Thankyou very much, JoAnna, for your interest and kind reflections. Wasn’t that speech by Rev. William Barber something else? He has a very powerful presence, a charisma, and such conviction in what he expresses. Thankyou also for taking the time to view the RSA cartoon video, which I thought was a relevant adjunct to my thoughts here. Just as a note, then I hope I didn’t create the impression that I thought ambition was always a bad thing of itself; rather I think it’s vital to always recognise its limits and be clear as to what its purpose is. Failing to do this seems invariably to lead to it becoming quite parasitical in nature, whereby we become consumed by it, so to speak, as did my friend in the anecdote. I send you my very best wishes and gratitude, once again. Hariod

  23. Oh, Hariod! I just typed a small book in response to you here – one that ended with the thought “I have to press ‘comment’ now before I change my mind about writing it” – and poof! I lost my internet connection in that moment and when I got back here my response was in the ether! So I would say that my sharing of those feelings was not appropriate!

    I am grateful for you, for I always stop and think – really think – about what you have written (just for the record I think you are an incredible writer), and just as Dennis encourages me to be more in-tune with the artist part of me, I would love it if you embraced the writer part of you!

    So, in a nutshell, what I commented about is how your post affected me on a micro level: the way we humans can either complement each other in our ‘Ambit of Ambition’, or how we can actually not resonate at all, and therefore, it does not make for a good relationship. I shared things that in retrospect I should not have – though thankfully my words were lost in the ether – that spoke to this in a recent relationship fail in my life. The bottom line was that I did not sacrifice my heart, soul, or principles, for the ‘good life’ (if that’s what they call it) of money, a life’s dream, and a condo on the ocean! [Leaves some wondering if I have any ambition at all!]

    It’s all good. I have learned a lot about who I am – I am Blessitude! And my ambition has much more to do with spreading love and gratitude than waking to the crystal clear aqua ocean. Oh, but maybe someday I will fulfill that dream – just not at the expense of who I am!

    Much love to you, Hariod. ❤ I hope that all is well in your world. I feel I have been missing you of late, and when I do, I send you a quick thought of light and love. ❤

    • Dear Lorrie,

      I have had precisely that same problem myself today. At Michael’s place earlier, I wrote a couple of paragraphs in response to his wonderful new piece of prose, and for some reason the page refreshed and my comment vanished in the process. Then, following that, I was trying to load a huge HD video file onto a Flickr page – it takes forever as my internet here is chronically slow – and all the power in the house went off! 35 minutes wasted as I hovered over the uploading process making sure it was proceeding well – sometimes Flickr rejects HD video.

      Anyway, thankyou so very much for reading my latest offering and for posting such a generous reflection. Twice, no less! I must also thank you for your words of encouragement, and I can only presume you spotted me commenting here about my various failings as a writer. As far as others go, then mercifully for them, I publish here only very infrequently these days, and I certainly have no allusions as to writing, say, long-form fiction or anything that may stretch me further still. My métier, such as it is, seems to be in short-form writing, and strictly of a quite prosaic nature. Still, I am hugely grateful for the interest that some kind folk show, your good self very much included, naturally. 🙂

      One of the things I perhaps could have made clearer in my piece is that I believe ambition to be a perfectly natural human trait, and in many areas, an altogether necessary one, even – I wonder if you would agree? Some things we have to work at with a concentrated volition to get where we want to be, and I think I may have suggested to Michael (above) that the spiritual search is very much one of them, it seems to me. I have no idea if your own experience might accord with that, Lorrie, and perhaps for some they can seek spiritual fulfilment without ambition? Do tell me if I am wrong, but as I understand it then it has to be a great thirsting, almost a primal and irresistible impulsion, if we are to progress beyond the foothills of understanding.

      Relationships too, such as those you candidly allude to, are another such area, and it seems the human need for reciprocated affection can often only be sated having been set as an objective, albeit sometimes a heavily disguised one, perhaps? As you rightly say, though, the heart is very much the primary force here – as it may be in the spiritual search too, I think – and so we may find our trajectory of ambition doubly treacherous, or hopefully, doubly rewarding. I am of course aware of your recent trials in this area, and can only sympathise with the pain and anguish you must have felt. I hope you are better equipped than me to cope with such things, as I tend to take around eighteen months to mend my broken heart – be it caused by romantic love or grieving for one lost. It really can be quite a visceral experience, and it is so important to take care of oneself whilst one endures it. Do take good care of yourself, won’t you?

      My heartfelt gratitude and warm hugs to you, dear friend.

      Hariod ❤

      • I did think about my spiritual journey in relation to ambition before I responded to you, Hariod. It is funny that you volley it back to me to consider it more. 😉

        My mind was racing while reading your response, and when I got to “but as I understand it then it has to be a great thirsting, almost a primal and irresistible impulsion, if we are to progress beyond the foothills of understanding”, then I was screaming on the inside, ‘yes’!

        So, now I would have to compare ambition to something that is bubbling out of my soul on a fast paced journey, one that picks up momentum and really doesn’t feel self-directed at all. And that seems to be just where the distinction between the two, at least for me, resides. Ambition implies that I am in control, that I am directing the course of my actions (or inaction) to fulfill a yearning, while my spiritual journey also fills a yearning I am more led to the places I find; and allow Spirit to move through me. Of course, there are times when my ego wants to get involved and force some kind of action. I won’t say that I have never gone that way, which to me resembles ambition, but I am always much more graceful in the process when I sit back and go along for the ride. I don’t mean to imply that I don’t take action, because I do, on a daily basis. Maybe what I am trying to say is that I listen to my intuition, and I always try to do what feels right. If I do that it has rarely hurt me. 🙂

        Here I go blabbing away, and I feel a little under the weather so I hope it makes sense! I really am taking good care of myself, Hariod, perhaps for the first time in a situation like this. The sad part is every time I start really feeling at peace about the situation, my friend goes on the attack and tries to malign my character. It is sad and hurtful but I am able to eventually get to a place where I can forgive her because she doesn’t know how to handle her pain.

        Thank you for your friendship, you are very dear to me! ♡

        • Fabulous, Lorrie; I think you’ve made the distinction very clearly and eloquently between spiritual and material/status ambition. The former is responding to an intuited sense of what one is aiming at, however vaguely; the latter a premeditated and far more acquisitive, accumulative attitude. That said, then what some have termed ‘spiritual materialism’ can also be a great source of cupidity, so one has to caution against falling into its clutches, I think. Still, I do believe the theory I put forward here that ambition always has its ambit – its self-limiting bounds – still applies to one’s spiritual work. What I’m saying, and I wonder if you might agree, is that in the end we have to trust that spiritual peace ultimately arrives of its own accord, and no amount of personal involvement, however well-intentioned, can cause actualisation of what is in fact, the uncaused.

          Blessings on the day, dear Lorrie! H ❤

          • A course for ‘seekers’ has appeared on my radar called “your sacred ambition” . I must admit I’m tended to dismiss it as a money making venture by a new age spiritual entrepreneur, though perhaps there is something here. What are your thoughts, dear Hariod?

            • I had a quick look at the site, Val. This is the three-day course @ $400, right? First off, then I’ve always very much warmed to the Buddhist principle of voluntary donations – ‘Dana’ – as against fee-charging for spiritual teachings. It’s been demonstrated over many centuries that individuals and whole monastic communities can be sustained by Dana if what is offered is authentic and transformative. That said, then people have to make a living, and I completely accept that.

              We all have different notions of what is ‘sacred’, and what the spiritual search actually consists in. And of course, even a humble little pebble picked off the beach can be sacred to us, and making a pot of tea can be a profound spiritual practice. I think it was J. Krishnamurti who said that if you take an ordinary stone and you make a little shrine for it, placing some flowers, candles and incense around it, and if you bow to it, acknowledging it daily, then before very long it becomes a holy stone, a sacred stone, to you.

              For myself, and I think probably for you and Lorrie also, then the spiritual search has something at its heart to do with actualising what we might call a sense of unicity. Whether we call this ‘Godhead’, or ‘Freedom’, or ‘Non-duality’, or ‘Moksha’, then it doesn’t matter at all, but the sense is of a starkly obvious non-separation, a unicity. We still very much remain as an individual, a time and space-bound physical body, a unique set of dispositions, a self as a social construct, and with qualities to express by myriad means. But central to the search is this movement, by one means or another, towards an intuited sense of that unicity. Somehow we know it is that, but it isn’t the intellect that knows it; it’s a far deeper knowledge.

              I call that deeper, hidden knowledge, or rather the way it acts upon us below the level of consciousness, ‘the sway of contentedness’ – it’s an influencing (a sway) that has as its aim the complete acceptance of, and non-resistance to, whatever is, and ‘contentedness’ seems to me the best term for that, whilst remaining unfanciful as a word. In a sense, this is an ambition, because it’s what drives each of us, in our various ways, towards just that goal. We resist things and states, or desire things and states, when we believe we are, or can be, separated from them in what is not a unicity and in what we might call a feeling of selfhood, or self-centricity.

              None of this will seem controversial to you or to Lorrie, I know. So, to come back to the idea of a ‘sacred ambition’, then yes, I think such a thing could be said to exist, despite its slightly awkward phrasing with connotations of spiritual materialism. Much of contemporary spirituality is tied up with just that, though, driven by the consumerist notion that for a fee I can acquire whatever it is that fulfils my ambition. It seems more attractive to hand over my money and place the onus on some self-help guru to get where I want to be. A fair trade. A balance sheet matter. And as my guru is talking about ‘fulfilling my dreams’ and ‘finding the real me’, then it all sounds tangible, palpable; it seems to be what I want. Actually though, ‘what I want’ is not a dream (which is borne of the intellect), nor ‘the real me’, because there is no unreality – ever – and nothing is or ever was unreal.

              My own way to spend the $400 would be to forego it in earnings so as to buy some free time for going inwards – maybe at a monastery to contemplate and to work in the gardens or kitchens, or just to be alone with nature. I would spend it on quietude and drawing the mind into tranquillity, from which point it has the very best chance of realising its place within the entirety of awareness. Instead of just living in its own, thought-filled, world of consciousness, the mind then sees the house it’s unwittingly constructed and lives in as consciousness. At the same time, awareness silently sees and knows itself, as itself, and which both embraces and transcends consciousness, or mind-objects and the subject/object dichotomy. That’s perhaps a very dry explanation, but that is the ‘sacred ambition’ fulfilled, it seems to me. Still, we all are different, so what suits me is not entirely relevant, and there are many paths up the mountain, as they say – it’s just better to avoid all the colourful cul-de-sacs along the way. Time keeps on ticking. We must spend it wisely, whatever that way may be.

              Much love, Hariod.

              • I do so appreciate your clarity of thinking, and putting into words that which is felt rather than spoken about. Much gratitude for your intellect and kindness, Hariod❣
                ‘The inner sway’ … ‘Unicity of being’ … ‘Going beyond the thought-filled world of consciousness’. These juicy words resonate deeply. The uneasiness I felt was around the consumerism and attainment-of-the-dream objective, and a sense that more “thought filled world of consciousness” is no longer a preference. I’m definitely swaying towards retreat. ☺️

                Thank you, my friend. xo

          • Bravo, Hariod! I agree with you wholeheartedly. I love the term, “the uncaused”, and the idea that “spiritual peace ultimately arrives on its own accord.” It is a relevant theory that, for me, is upheld when I have a sudden – thump on the head – realization of a spiritual truth that for all intents and purposes I should have seen before. It all comes exactly when it is supposed to – doesn’t it?

            Thanks Hariod! It is always a pleasure. 😊

            • It’s funny, Lorrie, how these spiritual insights and intuitive realisations seem so obvious and starkly clear when they arrive, and yet somehow remain completely undisclosed before the moment they manifest. I suppose you’re right, these things can seem to happen when they’re supposed to, meaning when their relevance is most readily and helpfully absorbed, perhaps, but I honestly have not the faintest idea how they occur at that point in time. I suspect the deeper insights don’t bubble up from the unconscious, so they’re not arrived at by means of immanence, and yet I’m also reluctant to say they’re definitely transcendent, given that far from feeling left behind, one feels more complete and engaged, so to speak. I’m happy for it all to be mysterious to my reasoning, quite honestly. I consider awareness (meaning the illuminative aspect of consciousness), to be my home, my sanctuary, and the play of phenomena in consciousness, and how it comes into being, is only interesting up to a point – causal relationships, and so on.

              Looking forward to seeing Andy (Val’s Scottish compatriot) pick up a second Gold in Rio later! Or will he? o_O

  24. I feel sorry for your friend. On reading his story, my first thought was to be highly critical. I was not a fan of the Ronald Reagan / Margaret Thatcher era, so your story was almost guaranteed to elicit a negative reaction from me based on that photograph of the shop window alone. I’ve never been strongly motivated by money or power, and I tend to find people who are selfish and obnoxious.

    When I thought about it a little more, though, I thought perhaps I was being a little unfair. I’m guessing your friend was raised since birth in an educational environment where it was simply assumed that wealth, status and power were the things to which everyone should aspire. Perhaps it would take remarkable independence of thought to break away from a background like that. It’s like blaming a Spartan for not being a hippy.

    I’m also a little worried about being a hypocrite. I can be surprisingly ambitious myself, but for different things from your friend. I wonder whether succeeding in these ambitions would bring me any closer to contentedness. I have my doubts.

    • Thankyou very much for your interest and for offering a reflection, Bun. I think we likely share a similar Left-leaning political stance, which I’ve rather demonstrated in some of my comments above on Neoliberalism, to Mike at Self Aware Patterns. I assume that your objection to the Thatcher/Reagan era was due to their promotion of this ideology?

      Your own assumption as regards my erstwhile friend is largely accurate, and he was born into a minor business dynasty, being handed opportunities such as only ever come through familial inheritance. So yes, he really was only ever likely to follow in his father’s footsteps, and which ultimately proved disastrous for him.

      I should stress that my intent in this piece was not to be dismissive of ambition in toto, merely to put forward a notion I hold that it always has its ambit, its bounds of usefulness, beyond which its exercise becomes pernicious. We tend to regard ambition as infinitely extendible, yet it always reaches a point at which it becomes parasitical, I think.

  25. There was a time, Hariod, when I was absolutely gripped by ambition of the worst kind. I was blind to everything around me except the personal goals I was striving for. I remember making a trip to the USA and found myself spending time on a retreat that I was asked to attend. It was there on a bench in a field of cut grass that I suddenly came face to face with the ugliness of the ambition permeating my life. It was a harsh and sobering moment, a kind of an epiphany. I’ll never forget the impact of that moment. It set me on an entirely different course and gave me back my humanity and compassion and a sense of freedom beyond anything I have ever experienced.

    There is a kind of ambition that numbs and kills. I warm to your post.

    • Thankyou very much, Don, for your interest and candid reflection. I had something similar within my own life, although the epiphany, such as it was, dawned slowly. I resolved to working only part-time in my businesses for a number of years, then withdrawing from them completely in my mid-fifties. I had sensed, during the first twenty years of my working life, that I never had found what it was I ought be fully committing to – whether that be career related, hobbies, and even relationships. I approached all these things with a residual sense of subtle reticence. As I was saying to another commenter above, it was actually a book that led me down a path to which I finally felt I could – and should – fully commit. As with many others who have this sort of epiphany, then it felt like ‘coming home’ in a way, in that I was certain I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

      I feel fortunate to have encountered this turning point, as clearly you do too within your own life, and although things have been foregone – material gains, enduring relationships – I have no regrets whatsoever. It wasn’t that I abandoned ambition, as I believe that it’s a perfectly natural and healthy trait, but that I recognised its ambit and then redirected it to another area. Save for well wishes as regards those close to me, and more loosely for the wider world too, then I think I am free of ambition now, at this fairly late stage in life, and that too seems quite natural.

      Many thanks Don, I do very much appreciate your candour and generosity.

      • I so appreciate you sharing this, Hariod, and thank you for your candour and generosity.

        “It wasn’t that I abandoned ambition, as I believe that it’s a perfectly natural and healthy trait, but that I recognised its ambit and then redirected it to another area.”

        That’s precisely it, Hariod. You have such a marvellous way of articulating things. I think it is a change in what we ultimately pursue in life that transforms our ambition into what it should be for us. You describe it as “coming home”, and that’s precisely how I felt and feel to this day. Again, thank you so much for sharing.

        • Thankyou once again for your kind words of encouragement, Don; I really appreciate them. I hope you are managing to get out into the beautiful Kent countryside on this bright, warm day – I am nipping in and out to the garden, mint tea in hand, Radio 4 beside the chair. So lovely to have you back in the fold Don; you’re such a gentle and inspiring presence.

    • How tremendously kind-spirited of you, dear Swarn; I appreciate your generous thoughtfulness so much. I will be along to read your piece very soon, and in the meantime must let you know I feel humbled that you would acknowledge my writing in this way, more still that you might even consider me in the same league as Esme. If that be true at all, then she is at the top of it, and myself at the foot. What I do here is somewhat different, of course, in that I try find a way of blending my best attempt at anecdote with some loosely philosophical point or conceit. I really would prefer to write around 1,500 words in this short-form medium, though I sense that’s a little too much for a blog piece, so stick to around 800 – it’s a compromise, or at least, my best attempt at one. See you at your place shortly, Swarn, and thankyou once again for the acknowledgment, and also for the nod in the title of your piece. Most gracious. 🙂

      • You are very welcome. Sticking to 800 or 1,500 words was not so easy for me, so don’t feel you have to rush over to read it since it is 1,800 words and this takes a bit more time. Lol. I’m not sure if you or Esme is better, but more that my prose feels much less equal to the task of tribute than my poetry. Lol.

        • Well, none of this is a competition, thankfully – *adds a ‘lol’ in tribute to Swarn* – and I shouldn’t have presumed to enter had I thought it so, being quite uncertain of my limited wordsmithing capacities, less still whether anything approaching creativity resides within them. I scanned your piece in an email just now, but have not yet given it the attention it deserves, which I shall do at your place. Did I detect a philosophical message couched within, something to do with karmic inheritance? I need to read the work properly, and as I said, have only just scanned it as of yet.

          I probably read close to 25,000 words a day all told, so your 1,800 can easily be accommodated! I may well be wrong about what is an optimum length for a blog piece, although I do know that most bloggers I speak to feel they subscribe to too many blogs, and that dependent upon the frequency of each blog’s posts, then it can all get a bit much quite easily. After eighteen months or so, I decided the right balance for me was to produce one four-minute read every six or seven weeks. That means subscribers here don’t tire of me too readily – I hope – whilst giving just enough room to stretch my legs before them. In any case, I enjoy interacting below the line on other blogs, and get as much from blogging out of that, than I do from what I do here.

          • Yes, thankfully it isn’t a competition – lol. There would likely be a lot less to read. Although I would suspect that a lot of the more popular blogs do treat it like a bit of a competition, but they tend to win, through sensationalism and divisiveness, rather than producing anything beautiful for the mind and/or soul.

            I’ve also read that 800 words is the optimal length. Unfortunately, I’ve always been a “I’m done writing when I feel done” type of person, which explains the limited number of followers I have – lol. There probably is so much value in improving one’s succinctness skills, but I also don’t want to feel like a subject is unfinished either, so I always err on the side of more words. I try to challenge myself to discuss a topic that is inspiring me with a balanced thoughtfulness, over challenging myself to stay around a word limit. Although if nobody reads what you have to say, that might defeat the purpose. But I also write for me as well, to add clarity to my own thoughts, and if a handful of people faithfully read what I have to say then I am content (not happy?).

            In regards to the theme of my piece, I think my intro gives the extent of it. In your piece on ambition, the main character seems to have paid the price (literally and figuratively) for his ambitions towards making more money, and going too far. So I wanted to look at those words like ambition and success, which at their core don’t only imply anything about money or fame (with money) and imagine what it would be like if we measured success in terms of empathy, kindness, friendship, the number of lives touched, and the good we’ve put out into the world.

            Ambition and success, to me, have been stolen away in a capitalist, consumer driven society. But if someone who was strongly ambitious had an ambition for increasing kindness and love, would there be anything like ambition to the point of self-destruction such as your character is experiencing in your story? That was at least the idea that inspired my story. Whether that’s what comes out of it, is another story. 🙂

            • We all must do as we see fit, of course, and I entirely accept the validity of writing unconstrained by considerations of length and garnering appeal to any potential readership. When I began blogging two years or so ago, I began from the assumption that I wouldn’t have any readers. I’d read somewhere that there were something like 200 million blogs, and so how anyone would even find mine, let alone read it, was beyond my comprehension. Slowly though, a handful of readers appeared – I never did any networking amongst existing personal contacts, nor any social media – and I reciprocated their interest, as one does as a courtesy. As I said though, Swarn, my time is now spent more with them, interacting on their blogs, than it is here on my own.

              I think for myself, writing is far less of a compulsion than it is for you and Esme; it’s really something that I get occasional mild urges to do, nothing greater, and I wouldn’t put the impulsion any more strongly than that. By the way, I should make it clear that nothing I write here is fictional. The character (as you call him) in this piece was a real life friend, and all of the anecdotes I use on this site are from my own life. I don’t ever embellish them or the events surrounding them, nor those involving myself, for any literary interest. Forgive me if you already understand this, though it wasn’t entirely clear from your phrasing. See you at your place!

              • No, I didn’t know that. I mean, I assumed you might be inspired by real events, but I’m glad to know you are writing from a more personal place. 🙂

                Compulsion? Are you suggesting Esme and I need some sort of therapy? Lol. I agree though that the community and conversation is a wonderful aspect of blogging. 🙂

                • Hmm, maybe ‘compulsion’ was a slightly provocative word. Then again, I lived with a professional artist for much of my life, and as a result do consider the creative impulse to be . . . an impulsion. Good with words, aren’t I? *laughs sardonically at himself*

              • I must say, Hariod, when you said “being quite uncertain of my limited wordsmithing capacities, less still whether anything approaching creativity resides within them”, my jaw dropped, then I laughed out loud. Limited wordsmithing papacities? Give me a break. Lol. You may not see yourself as a talented, creative writer, but you damn straight are. Also, I’m enamored by the fact that what you write here isn’t fictional and that all of the anecdotes you use on your blog are from your own life. That’s my kind of reading. Your comment makes me want to take a day or two to go treasure hunting on your real estate.

                Btw, I love RSA videos. I’m subscribed to their channel. Have devoured them all.

                My thanks to Swarn for bringing Ambit of Ambition to my attention. Hariod, I did not get notification of it in my reader, or if I did, I missed it. I will check the box to notify me of new posts via email. I’m sorry about your friend.

                • “my jaw dropped, then I laughed out loud.” – Well, Victoria, that’s a fairly typical response to my blog posts. Hahahahaha. Seriously, your comment has made my day, and is such a wonderful encouragement – thankyou, so very much. And thankyou also for noticing the video, which I thought an apt accompaniment. I wasn’t keen, nor did I have the space, to get into the pernicious ideologies of Neoliberalism, Reaganomics/Thatcherism, and Capitalism more generally, but you can probably guess my stance on such matters, and which I fleshed out a little with Mike from Self Aware Patterns here below the line. Anyway, enough about me; since I subscribed to your blog it’s been incredibly quiet – so are you taking a break, or is my WP Reader playing up too?

                  • My pleasure, Hariod. Yes, I think I’ve got a fairly good idea of what your stance is on such matters, and I did read all the great comments including your and Mike’s dialog. Like you, and Swarn can attest to this, I prefer reading other bloggers posts and the comments that follow, rather than writing my own posts. I have taken a rather unusually long break, though — it’s called writer’s block. 😀

                    • Sometimes I’ve felt like taking a break myself too; that was when I was posting 3 or 4 times a month. I’ve now settled into the right pattern for me, which is one post of around 800 words every 6 or 7 weeks – it sounds like you may have read me mentioning this already. Anyway, it doesn’t seem to result in readers disappearing, although inevitably some fall by the wayside in this sphere, and it also satisfies my occasional mild impulses to pen something myself.

                      Can I be terribly nosey? Yourself and Swarn seem somehow personally linked, or is it no more than that you subscribe to each others blogs, and I am imagining it? I only ask as I wouldn’t want to appear rude in ignoring what may be common knowledge to others, yet not to myself as a newcomer to Swarn’s blog, and in the absence of anything from your own blog. Do of course feel free to ignore the question, and apologies for any sense of intrusiveness caused.

  26. Hariod, I’m going to comment here, as the nesting is getting a wee bit narrow. You wrote:

    “Sometimes I’ve felt like taking a break myself too; that was when I was posting 3 or 4 times a month. I’ve now settled into the right pattern for me,”

    I really have no pattern, per se. I find that when I put expectations on myself to post, it tends to restrict the flow. I can also find myself frustrated that when it does flow, the words don’t adequately express my thoughts/tone. I wholeheartedly relate to this quote by Maurice Maeterlinch:

    “How strangely do we diminish a thing as soon as we try to express it in words! We believe we have dived down to the most unfathomable depths, and when we reappear on the surface, the drop of water that glistens on our trembling finger-tips no longer resembles the sea from which it came.”

    You wrote: “Can I be terribly nosey? Yourself and Swarn seem somehow personally linked, or is it no more than that you subscribe to each others blogs, and I am imagining it?

    You’re not imagining it. Like several other people I’ve met online who have become dear to me, Swarn and I nurture and maintain our friendship outside of the blogosphere.

    • What a very beautiful quote, Victoria, and coincidentally enough, I was only this morning engaged in a discussion with Swarn on this very matter – can writing ever reflect truly the mind’s phenomenal appearances? It seems to me that each iteration of a psychical representation – can we speak of pure perception here? – dims in comparison to the original. As a neophyte writer, inexperienced and untutored at that, then perhaps the best I can hope for is to cast a dim penumbra, a shadow of a shadow, in bids to convey what is felt alongside the ideas of my interiority and which render themselves more willingly as word symbols. The process, I accept, is one of erring in order to learn, and I at times feel reluctant to inflict my best in what appears to be that ubiquitous and perennially hesitant ‘publish’ moment. Will anyone see the shadow clearly enough? Perhaps it’s of no great import that they do, ‘though I am grateful and humbled when some appear to, not that what I offer is of much value to others, I know.

      How lovely to hear once again of two bloggers forging meaningful friendships outside of the WordPress servers and algorithms, and so with room to stretch legs in ways that these cramped rectangles, into which I now type, constrain. I’ve only connected with Swarn in the past couple of weeks, but he already feels like a very open sort of character, as well as displaying his more obvious qualities of intelligence and creativity. He also does a nice line in flattery, which always endears me to another when directed my way!

      Yours, duly and gratefully endeared,


      • If we ever meet in person, and/or connect outside of the blogosphere, I would probably need a pocket dictionary or immediate access to Google. Lol. I don’t consider myself a writer – just a blogger finding her voice after 4 decades of indoctrination to stay under the radar and be quiet. I’m fully cognitive of my limitations within the literary world. Blogging has changed my life for the better because of the connections I’ve made here, and I get to learn new words. It's a win, win. 😀

    • I know how it gets, old bean; eight hundred words is probably overkill at the best of times, and these aren’t they, are they? The good news is I only do it very rarely; a sadistic streak not being too prominent a part of my make up. An infliction of my lucubrations being served up here once every six weeks or so, probably less frequently as time progresses, as is its wont. I have a confession in that I can’t recall which words of yours I liked, nor indeed even their whereabouts, and all I can say in my defence is that I never like a comment or post without reading it and absorbing its apparent meaning. Tell me, Sheldon, are your perspectives worth following, and what pray is the frequency of their casting?

  27. I have just listened to your YouTube video again. I really hope that Phillip Green gets his reward. Being successful is one thing, but greedy is not nice. I think it’s terribly sad that a person like that can enjoy his life whilst others are losing their livelihood. His wife appears to be just as bad. Surely he has to be stripped of his knighthood, and then, I am hoping, that the Serious Fraud Squad will come knocking. Be interested to see if he returns to the UK anytime soon. If he does, I hope the employees of BHS are there to welcome him. You can be successful without being an absolute toad!

    • Thankyou Jackie, for your continued interest in this. From my, admittedly limited, experience of big business, then it does seem to attract a disproportionate number of psychopaths. Back in the eighties – the time when this post was set – I had quite a bit of one-to-one contact with someone who has gone on to become a well-known public figure for his business activities. It soon became obvious to me, back then, that this man was a psychopath, and actually quite a violent one at that. Whenever I see him in the news these days I can see how empty and disingenuous his dissembled charm is. It’s quite frightening actually, to know that such people can hold important positions of power in parts of society. I rather suspect the political world is similarly infected, judging by the megalomaniacal level of deceit and hypocrisy one sees uncovered on a regular basis, and just as it was once again yesterday.

  28. Yes, it doesn’t say much for us as a species that we allow Toadies to rule us – actually Toadies and other vainglorious individuals! Is there no hope for us?

    • Perhaps salvation lies in the Bombay Sapphire? Seriously, I really don’t know Jackie; it just increasingly feels to me as if there’s a big shift underway – a strong sense that the game’s up, and that people are beginning to sense it. It sounds as if another huge financial shock is coming from what I read, and sometime within the next 2-5 years. That may just seal the deal for any doubters who think we can carry on as before, piling up state and private debt with debased currencies, imagining it’ll all work out in the end. We may move onto a far more decentralised and inter-relational kind of society, one based more on reliance upon, and trading support for, our fellow citizens, rather than being fodder for a Corporatist Hegemony/Despotism. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and even if it were to come about, I think the transition will get ugly first. Chin-chin!

      • Yes, there is always that initial fallout, and when the dust settles, things seem better. I agree, it’s about time we had a change. Something is in the air, I just don’t know what. One thing I am pleased about is that we are – at some point- leaving the EU, and if that means that America doesn’t patronise or blackmail us anymore then so much the better. I thought Obama’s speech yesterday was odious and very pompous. But that’s just my Middle England Tory take on it.

        • Do you mean his reiteration of the thing about Britain being at the back of the queue as regards trade deals? I suppose he had to say something along those lines, having interfered (disastrously) during the referendum. That backfired both for him and for Cameron, and I feel they were both arrogant and misguided to have presumed their mutual pronunciations were in any way positively influential. If anything, then I suspect it riled up many who resented a foreign leader intervening like that, especially as an obvious back-scratching measure for Cameron. Anyway, May is clearing out the Bullingdon Boys, with the exception of Boris, who’s going to prove trickier to remove, one suspects.

          • Yes, I did, re: Obama. Yes, Teresa May may well just do it. She had a hard task in China. Re: Boris – I love him and under all that bafoonery, we all know he is beyond clever.

              • Yes, he didn’t see it coming, as you say. I lose patience with the Bullingdon Set. They could have accomplished more had they been less sycophantic with each other. No wonder people lose hope. I remain ever hopeful of the new regime, although I heard today that maybe Brexit won’t mean Brexit in its entirety – wtf?

                • I never believed Brexit – if it happens at all – would ever mean the restriction of movement that it promised to those in favour of it. Of course, there were plenty of coherent intellectual arguments for quitting the EU other than on the basis of border controls and population growth, but whatever one’s motivation to vote for exiting, then I strongly suspect the promise will not be made in full, or anything like it. Money always talks, and I anticipate politicians in Britain and in EU states conjuring some formula that effectively means much of the Brexit promise is neutered.

                  Ironically enough, then maybe the best chance of Brexit going through in least-diluted form may be in the unlikely event of Corbyn leading Labour to victory. More likely, perhaps, is that Labour will split and a Leftist Labour under Corbyn won’t have anything like a sufficient mandate at a General Election. So, perhaps the most likely outcome is May doing some deal which appeases both sides of the Tories in their respective pro and anti EU positions. That will be incredibly hard to achieve without itself causing a split on the Right, of course. It seems like both major parties are heading for troubled waters, and possible splits, within the next couple of years. Perhaps coalitions will be the future for quite some time thereafter – who knows?

                  • Phew – a heavy response, and I am such a lightweight regarding this. I think Corbyn doesn’t have any gravitas. Who could take him seriously? And yes, I do sometimes think it’s how you dress. Fit for purpose and all that.

                    Realistically, there will be a compromise. It just won’t be acknowledged. I do think that South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia do okay without us and therefore, by default, we should do fine without the EU.

                    I feel it’s the beginning of the end; who else will break away after us? On a tangent, as always, I do worry about the ever growing right-wing in Germany. A sort of Kristallnacht in the making, if Angela doesn’t get a grip!

                    I enjoy your thoughts and perspectives – sorry if I can’t be as sensible back.

                    • I take your point about Corbyn, Jackie, on the twofold basis that ideology seems all but absent in modern politics (he is an old-fashioned ideologue, after all), and also because the electorate are attuned to style over substance. Let me flesh that latter point out a bit:

                      For example, and purely in regard to body language, if you’re a male politician, then you have to adopt the Clinton-esque mannerism of the clenched fist with the thumb pressed firmly over the forefinger. This tells everyone you’re an assertive and strong alpha male, that you’re damn well going to do as you say – even though, of course, you won’t. Then you have to do Blair’s thing, and which Cameron copied so slavishly, which is that of expressing your ideas whilst forming a sort of cradling wall with arms and hands held out before you, thumbs raised, palms facing one’s body. This tells everyone that your ideas are so huge, so immense in their visionary extent, that they’re actually bursting outside of your body and you’re struggling to contain their intellectual and logical power.

                      This is what we expect to see, and which signifies the correct body language for a modern male politician. Corbyn does neither of these things; whilst his current challenger, the odious, dissembling, and disingenuous Owen Smith, does them all the time. So, that, it seems to me, is part of the psychology of deception that we fall for – there’s lots more when it comes to language and dress, of course – and which has come to be expected by so many as de rigueur for the male politician.

                      Theresa May seems initially to have turned to Thatcher as her model for an appropriately assertive body language of a woman leader, and which one would find similarly (to the male counterpart) disturbing to encounter in real life because it’s completely unnatural. What she can’t afford to do is to show what are considered stereotypically feminine traits – those of empathy, free emotive expression, receptivity, and sensuality, because they are all forms of faux-pas for a politician these days, regardless of their gender.

                      We’re moving increasingly towards electing our leaders based on what is in fact a fakeness, but which is promoted relentlessly in the media and within the superficiality of contemporary culture.

                      Interestingly, Corbyn has been held up as a kind of bulwark against this insidious fakery, and by what is substantially a younger generation of voters. Even if one disagrees with his ideology, then perhaps he can at least be given credit for this? In any case, he is there to reshape The Labour Party away from it’s Neoliberalist, Centrist, Tory-Lite ground, and back to being a genuine party of The Left, rather than to be a potential PM. The very strong parallel with him is, of course, Bernie Sanders in the States, who ran Hillary a close second. In the end, the electorate chose her, the liar, the war-monger, and the money-grabber, because she looks the part, and Bernie didn’t (to the narrow majority).

                      My apologies for stating what will in any case be obvious to you, and for appearing to rant a bit as I do so – I really should avoid politics here. Take care Jackie, see you before too long.

                    • Firstly, I want to thank you. Really, thank you for such an enlightening response. I enjoyed reading it, and read it again just now so that I could reply without sounding too much of a half-wit. It’s a fascinating insight into politics, and one I didn’t really know much about. In no particular order and because I may forget the content, I shall reply here.

                      Teresa May: Yes, a Mrs Thatcher clone. A good or a bad thing? She reminds me of a stern headmistress and, I guess, so did Mrs T. Although I did notice the faux pas yesterday. She had a skirt on with a slit up the side. The minute she sat down it splayed apart and she spent all of the interview shielding her leg with nervous hands, so the viewer was more fixated on her trying to do that and attention was taken from the interview and onto her faux pas. Silly stuff, but you would think someone (her husband?) would say “you aren’t going out in that, are you?” She is very tall and that gives gravitas, but I totally take on-board your point about dressing for the electorate.

                      I am going to think about Corbyn in a different way now, thank you. Yes, maybe he’s not intentioned to lead the country but solely to lead the Labour Party. I read with interest your comments about Owen Smith. Previously I had thought him a better candidate than Corbyn, but you don’t. Yes, I agree, Corbyn for all of his scruffiness is probably no fake. And yes, I think we do tend to judge a lot by appearances. I didn’t know about the cradling with hands and clenched fists, although I have to say I really love an Alpha Male – or rather, I used to. I never took to Cameron. He was just too smooth for me and I doubted his sincerity. As for Blair, then both he and his wife seemed to be an example of why the Russians got rid of their Royal Family. Hillary has gone very quiet. Trump will love this of course but she needs to keep more visible, as the election is truly hers to lose. Yes, well isn’t she in bed (so to speak) with the whole of New York? So, she has money behind her. If Trump gets in, will she be indicted, I wonder, for the blatant lies regarding Iraq/Afghanistan, etc; or will people see how much she has helped others, as I believe she has. Bill Clinton is very charismatic, and again as you say, it’s what voters like.

                      I look forward to the reshaping of the Labour Party. It’s long overdue.

                      Thanks again for your views; they weren’t at all obvious and I really enjoyed reading them. I guess [political] life is always about money, sex or power! 🙂

                    • Thanks Jackie, and I’m sure we could exchange views at length on the political scene, perhaps not always agreeing, but sharing a certain cynicism as regards career politicians and their lackeys, at the very least. For now, it seems we have perhaps the best available option for a government, given the utter disarray of the opposition. I suspect tensions will surface once again within the Tories as May works for a ‘soft’ Brexit, and others, such as Boris, insist upon delivering it in full measure. If the Labour PLP succeed in their underhand attempts to oust Corbyn – the Mandelson inspired so-called ‘chicken coup’ – then Owen Smith will be installed with an agenda of going back to the country with a second referendum on EU membership. That would be extremely attractive to Tories disaffected by May’s need to follow through on the first referendum, so it could get interesting – in a bad way. Such a situation would split the country even moreso socially, as a result of creating a huge rift at the political level, so I’m really hoping that doesn’t come about.

                    • Politics is always in a state of flux, and I can see it about to get rather interesting. Boris seems bored, and bored people look for trouble. He seems about to oust the leadership if he can, or wobble it at the very least. It’s a shame. No loyalty and no good grace. Mrs May’s hopes of keeping her enemies close doesn’t seem to have paid off and even without the very loyal Amber Rudd holding Boris and his team at bay, I can see it all falling apart – people who are bored are dangerous. And rest assured, Boris is bored!

                      P.S. I saw Trump hold his forefinger and thumb together – is that a sign? I think Hillary may be a goner, in more ways than one!

                    • Do you know Jackie, for the first time, then yesterday I got the feeling that Trump was going to win. I’ve no idea why I felt that, but I did, and even commented on a blog to that effect – contrary to received wisdom that Hillary is now all but there. Later on in the afternoon I heard and saw of the episode when Hillary appeared to faint as she attempted to board her van upon prematurely leaving the 9/11 memorial service, and which occurrence plays right into Trump’s narrative that she “lacks the stamina” to be president. Of course, we get feelings about things all the time, and very often they’re completely wrong, so I’m not rushing to the bookies to lay a tenner on it!

                    • Dear Hariod, I always listen, especially to you because there is always something to learn! Thank you for that; it’s interesting to read. Yes, I do think power-posing still exists in one form or another. It’s a sort of extension of the Alpha Male pose – fascinating, tribal stuff. I always people-watch to see if they are subscribing to any of this kind of thing, and other signs of what’s happening generally. JC seems terribly smug and if we aren’t careful the country will be run by Trotskyites, and Mrs May seems to be overdosing on the testosterone lately. Shame, I had great hopes for her. As I said before H, it’s always about money, sex or power. Please feel free to alert me to other articles; I rely on you for cerebral enlightenment! P.S. Please note, no ellipses.

                    • It’s very interesting, and I wonder if they can ever relax knowing everyone is looking at how they move and operate. I would love your take on Thatcher when she said that we didn’t have any effect in Cambodia/Khmer Rouge knowing that she had sent in SAS to train them, having prepared many of them whilst fighting in the Falklands – could people see she was lying? P.S. Is this too contentious?

                    • Oh, and whilst Corbyn now appears to have won (in the short term), I would say that he seems rather smug and by default has become bolshie; wouldn’t you say?

                    • Thank you for this link. Sadly, I lived it having had a very close connection to this, and indeed they are named (obliquely and otherwise) in the article. I would have to move to secure channels to discuss further. :- [Careless talk costs lives.]

                    • As to Jeremy Corbyn, then I suspect his style of delivery reflects the sheer weight of unremitting inner tedium he must surely feel for how he’s been misrepresented in the mainstream media. This could certainly be (mis)taken for smugness, but that would be totally uncharacteristic of him over many years work in parliament. That said, then in the space of two years he has created the biggest political party in Europe, so perhaps he can feel entitled to the occasional self-congratulatory display? There’s no doubt that he and Bernie Sanders have caused shock waves in the political landscape, but in my view (I think we differ here) there’s far less reason to fear them than others who have similarly done so on the Right of the spectrum. He’s not a Trotskyist, by the way; he doesn’t seek a dictatorship of the proletariat, nor to establish an uncompromising (not alliance-forming) revolutionary class. He’s a Socialist, but not an extremist, and the only really contentious policy he advocates is nuclear disarmament – whilst only doing so on a personal level, and not as a manifesto pledge.

                    • Yes, I do worry about disarmament because it leaves us open, and the link, naturally, is my life with a Secret Squirrel – they do what it takes to keep us safe and I don’t have any argument with that. Be that my own opinion or one by default I am not sure, but I feel more safe with some protection. Yes maybe you are right – I mistook smugness for boredom. I guess I just worry!

  29. Very thought-provoking post, Hariod, and interesting video (loved the artwork!). I’ll come back as I don’t have time to read all the comments – it’s obvious you got a lot of people interested. It cut quite close to the bone, though. Living in Greece, one sees every day how those policies have resulted in total disaster and the effects are biting very deep – upon friends, family and aquaintances. We should all have seen it coming; we did see it coming, but there was not much we could do about it. But maybe we should have protected ourselves more.

    • Thankyou very much, Marina, for your kind interest and generous remarks. I can of course well understand your sentiments about your homeland, and one wonders quite how it may eventually play out. My limited understanding is that another debt crisis looms for Greece, yet what further austerity measures could possibly be imposed, as surely Germany would demand? I don’t write about politics here, and so avoided the matter in the piece I wrote, but you can tell where my sympathies lie from the video, or from my discussion with Mike at Self Aware Patterns, above, if you read it later. We’re wallowing in debt here ourselves, as are almost all states and individuals, our government being in the happy (ironic) situation of having its own currency to create (read ‘debase’) more of out of thin air (QE) and to be used for the purpose of buying its own debt back from the banks!. I’m not even kidding, that’s precisely what’s happening. The whole thing’s a terrific mess, but no one knows what else to do.

      • I think the fault lies with financial institutions, hedge funds, etc., that are not controlled and that perform virtual conjuring tricks with money. They amass billions, but someone has to pay the bills in the end.

        • Agreed – a greed. 😉 A big part of the problem is that these are the people who dangle highly lucrative directorships and faux consultancies in front of the very politicians who frame and sustain the legislation which allows their nefarious activities – manipulating markets for currencies, precious metals, equities, and so forth. As we’ve seen, and as you of all people know, Marina, it’s the citizen who pays the price when it all goes wrong. Apparently, not a single financier was accountable to justice for the 2008 crash and what caused it – the poor things were mere victims of circumstance.

  30. A thought-provoking post, Hariod. The general notion is that ambition is a fine quality to possess. It helps one in soaring higher and higher, to the pinnacle, to become the No. 1. This idea of ambition being a great thing is ingrained within our minds so deeply that we often become blind to the leeward side of the ‘Ambition Mountain’.

    I’m not saying ambition is a bad thing, but just like any other thing in the world, one needs to know and to check the shadow side of it. Ambition always remains unsatiated, it never brings contentedness. It can, of course, bring momentary happiness, but I would prefer to have peace of mind over humungous success any day.

    While chasing an ambitious goal, seldom does one keep in mind the threshold between right and wrong striving. And, as you have so rightly said, “I witnessed so many follow this ambition-laden trajectory over the years, and learned that whatever promise was fulfilled, and mostly it was not, the price was heavy.”

    Thank you so much for the post. 🙂

    N.B. Always a fan of your writing style. Please try to write more often.

    • Thankyou so much for your interest and kind engagement here, Mani; I appreciate your presence greatly, as do I your kind words of encouragement – the footnote. I am posting here about once every six or seven weeks these days, or about eight times a year. I find I enjoy engaging with others, and reading others’ views, on blogs elsewhere, at least as much as I do here. In fact, I probably spend about 90% of my blogging time away from this site and commenting and interacting on others. Besides, my posts are around 800 words in length, and whilst that is only a four-minute read, or thereabouts, I would rather not impose myself and make of myself a burden amongst loyal subscribers here. The balance seems about right all things considered, and whilst I certainly could write more, it seems more natural to have plenty of space between my modest efforts, and to come at it completely afresh on each occasion. I had wondered if readers might drift away as a result of paring things down, though thankfully it seems not.

      With much gratitude and respect to you, dear Mani,


  31. Goodnight, it’s a long way down here. I’m amazed my browser hasn’t put in a protest. I’m certain I’ve exceeded my data allowance. 🙂


    I’m glad I happened by here, Hariod. I’ve missed this one in my earlier absence. This is a tale well said. Quite enjoyed, even under the circumstances of your loss. Your writing is of such depth and understanding it takes me to read it slowly and twice, and sometimes thrice, and that is my pleasure. A style and wit I confess I envy like the devil.

    Your narratives on contentedness are always appreciated, no matter their form, no matter my inability to perform. You are gifted, Hariod. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Now enough with the well-deserved praise.

    My condolences.

    • Thankyou so much for your interest and generous expression of appreciation, Peter – the latter being a great encouragement to me, truly. I’m posting quite infrequently these days, once every six or eight weeks, perhaps, but am grateful for whatever interest is shown, especially when peppered with a kindness such as yours. I must apologise for the delay in responding here, but I have gotten rather behind on the blogging front, and as tends to happen for me at this time of the year. I did espy (an Esme word) what seemed a quite lengthy piece of your own in my WP Reader, but have about 150 (I’m not kidding) articles to catch up on, and consequently am feeling a little overwhelmed currently. I shall meet you over some soup ere too long my friend, and I do hope your recent loss is sinking softly to its resting place in your heart. With love, Hariod.

  32. Picking up on something from last week: I think terrorism isn’t new but linked to money, power, and of course, land. I mentioned to another blogger that once money the dries up, so does the terrorism. I could cite a few examples, such as the Red Brigade or Basques. It’s also a generational thing; our parents battles are not necessarily ours. We have always had terrorism, we just didn’t use that word; and it’s all linked to being noticed and the money to make a noise.

    • Yes Jackie, as I understand it, the contemporary term Terrorism has its etymological origins back in late 18th.c. France and the so-called Reign of TerrorLa Terreur – which was the period of mass executions of all enemies of the revolution. Although of course, organised violent insurgencies against established ruling elites reach back through all historical time. Were Bomber Harris’ campaigns acts of terrorism or legitimate acts of war? It depends how we define the term, doesn’t it? A UN report in 2004 described terrorism as any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.” By that definition, then Harris’ campaigns (sanctioned by a Churchill led government) were indeed acts of terror, albeit predicated on a (highly suspect) morally rationalised basis.

      Similarly, the Nazi campaigns with doodlebugs terrorised Londoners (my parents included), as did their blanket bombing of Coventry civilians there. And what about the c.200,000 innocent Iraqi conscripts the American carpet bombing campaign annihilated more recently? The lines seem blurred even in ostensibly legitimised warfare – who are the legitimisers and what their powers when International Law can be selectively adopted? I suppose the current great worry is that we have within Europe a form of terrorism which requires very little money or resources beyond the psychopathic will to slaughter, and yet with objectives that defy rational analyses. That being so, then the UN definition would not apply to violent Islamicist extremism, as such atrocities do not, it would seem, have even the remotest prospect of “compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.” Then there’s Nelson Mandela and the Rivonia Trial. Blurred lines, indeed.

      • Blurred lines indeed. Mandela, the activist who became a hero to the whole world, but as you suggest, the early days of his rise to power were slightly questionable.

        Strangely enough, with another terrorist arrested in Europe today, I did think that many such as these could be so without backing or sanction from those they chose to follow, but rather to do it for notoriety, or perhaps money.

        I saw Fallon hedge his answer about selling bombs to the Saudis. We don’t stop, it would wobble our economy even more and he carefully dodged the question by giving a non-answer. Ignorance is bliss, and all that.

        With regards to America – a bully in a suit. And whilst that could be a huge generalisation I do think that Obama, whilst some claim ineffectual over the Middle East, did also not charge in disastrously. So, if being ineffectual calms things down for a while, what’s wrong with that?

        I am off to Egypt soon, so if you don’t hear from me again, you will read about it in the papers. 😦

  33. Dear Hariod,

    You wrote that a book led to a change in the goal of your ambition. In another correspondence you wrote me that great works are worth revisiting. These led me to pull down a book from the shelf that I hadn’t opened in decades. It was assigned in a college course long ago, a book on Buddhism by Christmas Humphreys. It fell open to a poem I had memorized, a stanza from which my soon-to-be wife also had sewn into a bookmark for me; it must have hit home.

    The poem speaks to the blind ambition of our given selfhood, its fruit, and the peace which lies beneath. Thomas Hobbes famously characterized the societal implications of this natural state as, “. . . a war, as if of every man, against every man.”: the essence of predatory capitalism.

    Deck Chair, Brighton

    Men call it rest, a slave awhile set free
    At peace upon the verge of warring day,
    Each fretful moment’s importunity
    Resisted and refused and laid away.

    Oh nobler peace, entirely to withdraw
    From sound and thought of action, from the will
    That sightless drives the instruments of war!
    Oh to remove the body and be still,
    Bereft of thought and hope and things thought-made!

    Thus mind, refreshed with light, returning slow,
    Sees but illusion and sees, unafraid,
    Earth, body, thought, as void, as formless flow;
    Illusion all, as Mind, the fighter knows,
    One only Mind, at war in full repose.

    Kind regards, Mike.

  34. Oh god, all that is so damn familiar. And yet contentedness remains as distant as ever. I don’t believe one can think one’s way into it. Nor indeed live in a perpetual state of unattached awareness. Perhaps I should buy a set of saffron robes and get a funny haircut.

    • I’ve added a comma to your possessive determiner; one must adhere to one’s obligations in this regard, as site moderator. But seriously, folks, I doubt a change of dress and reordering of the bonce’s rug will do the job. I believe you may be considering the route of physiological interventions, Anthony, which may be one way, if not one’s way. I reckon it’s largely about the self-construct, myself.

      • Yes, my problems are without doubt physiological. I have spent 30 years examining my navel and it has been a fruitless task. The oak tree probably has a rather pleasant life in some distant forest. Conciousness (whatever that may be) can be excessively burdensome. I note that your interest in seeking answers remains; in my own case I have come to believe that there aren’t any. Or at least if there are, they are to be found in physics and its derivatives. All of which are a closed door to me. So again in my own case, awareness and acceptance as well as an attempt at physiological intervention is about as good as I am going to get.

        • ‘It’s’ to ‘its’ this time — I do it appallingly often myself — apologies, but most commenters appreciate the typo fixes, and I’m a dreadful pedant in that regard, obviously enough. Do please oblige if you spot any of my own, will you? Now, I fear you may have misunderstood me from your initial readings here, as I agree, there are no answers. Perhaps better to say that one’s mind cannot create a representation of what loosely one might deem an answer; and minds are largely about representing (i.e. re-presenting) stuff, of course. This is the problem the seeker faces, for the seeker-subject must die (bit dramatic, but you get my drift) in order to get at . . . it. I too spent 30 years examining my navel, much of it in seated formal practising of between 4 and 8 hours a day — dry insight stuff, Vipassanna, Zen, you? No, the seeker-subject has to die. Only problem is, s/he can’t murder herself/himself/itself. Yes, consciousness can be burdensome, I agree; so on this site, I make a distinction between consciousness and awareness, and for that very reason. Consciousness is mind-stuff, the spew of the brain’s thoughts, memories, imagery, secondary sensations, etc. Awareness (just for purposes here) can be thought of as the objectless illumination of consciousness, the knowingness without the object known, in a way. Words are tricky, and I’m by no means suggesting that the ‘answer’ is to escape consciousness into awareness, just that it can be an extremely powerful tool for accessing and then overcoming the snare of selfhood with its isolative consciousness. Drugs may work in time, I suppose. How long are you prepared to wait? Have you tried DMT?

          • Not tried DMT yet but I intend to. You are quite right about the useless train of thoughts of course. The awareness you refer to sounds very like what the mystics report, both Eastern and Western. And of course very much the same sort of experience as those who lose their egos (albeit temporarily) via psychedelics. Part of my quest is a Huxley quest — doors of perception. Part is to rid myself of endless depression. The two objects may well meet in pyschedlics. As to my spelling and grammar I have long followed the Middle English mode . . . 😁

            • Only the four-dotted ellipsis tweaked to an equally-spaced three. Ellipses are a particular bugbear of mine — not their suitable use on occasion (as is yours), but their gross overuse in the blogosphere. Have you read Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon? Oh, and would you buy precious metals at the mo?

              • To be honest I would not buy any commodity, ever. Well, not these days. I ran a trend following program for some years but these days would only invest in an income producing asset, simply because it is my belief that that is what drives value. Dividends and coupon. Yes, supply and demand govern the price of commodities such as precious metals but historically at least and over many years commodities have not produced great returns, especially taking into account storage and insurance. These days, I have to admit that I am mostly wrong, about everything. But one of MY big bugbears is the futility of making any prediction regarding complex adaptive systems such as the weather or the markets. Sorry to be dull, but I no longer believe in prediction. If we live in a random universe prediction is futile. If we live in a deterministic universe prediction (at least of complex adaptive systems) is equally futile because we do not know all the variables and even if we did we do not have the computing power to process them. Were you also in finance?

                • Hmm, I suspect you’re right, or far moreso than my intuitions on this. Problem is, ZIRP has killed me this past decade, and I don’t like stocks, don’t like markets of any kind, actually, having suspicions they’re all either rigged or manipulated by means well beyond my capacity to ride, or ken to fathom. That said, I did once have a flutter on currencies which worked out okay; but now I just have Sterling, so there’s nowhere to go with it. In June I thought of buying gold or silver, then they took off and I missed the boat somewhat. Dividends, you say — but won’t stock prices fall as Q.E. is reined in? I take it you’re past reading books, having not responded on Solomon’s. Fair enough; I thought it was extremely good. And no, I was never in finance, just a dabbler, a curious bystander, a tyre-kicker or whatever IFAs may call us.

                  • Ah the book . . . Sorry. No I have not read it. I take the attitude of physicist David Deutsch — I am content I have a reasonable overview of the current field of human knowledge and have brought down the shutters on much further acquisition. Re: markets. In my long experience the only people who make money are those who participate in a rigged game. I once did myself in the IPO market. Biggest rigged game is inside information (still much used) and high frequency trading. Most participants in the markets are sharks, charaltans or outright fraudsters. I don’t participate a great deal these days!

                    • Yes, I once had an acquaintance who made a handsome living on insider trading, and not a bad one for those little people who did the dirty work on this person’s behalf: the inconspicuous (they hoped) parcels of trades. Good that you took a multi-disciplinary approach to knowledge; it seems a thoroughly effective way. And yet as I grew moribund (some time ago), I found myself aligining more with Richard Rorty’s idea that literature is amongst the finest sources of human understanding.

                    • How strange: I have come to much the same point of view although I did not view it as knowledge acquisition as such. But understanding, yes. Also poetry . . . I have had much understanding from poetry recently. At least as regards the human condition. Which, frankly, is all I’m bothered about these days.

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