… in which I wonder whether or not it is possible to be ambitious and contented at the same time…
In “The Necklace” by Guy Du Maupassant, the character Mathilde Loisel is discontented. There is nothing that will satisfy her inner longings. When she gets what she wants, she immediately wants something beyond that.
“She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury.”
In the beginning, Mathilde wants a more exciting life. She then is invited to a party and is immediately distraught – as she feels she has nothing to wear. When her husband agrees to buy her a dress, she is, to his frustration, upset again as she has no jewelry to go with a new dress, and so on…
Because she is not content with what she has – she will never be content with what she has.
She has ambition, but no capacity for contentment.
This led me to wonder whether ambition and contentment are mutually exclusive and, if so, to ask, ‘Which is more valuable?’.
Would you rather be focused on a goal, or so content that no goal is sought?
A few days ago I was musing over the possibility that achieving a goal was ‘a bad thing’ as it left one without a goal, and that goals are ‘good’ for us, for giving life a sense of purpose.
Does a contented life lack purpose?
*visualizing someone sitting eating cream-cakes*
Is it more selfish to be content than ambitious?
Just as ambition can be selfish or selfless, so too with contentment. One could be content with one’s own circumstances, but surely it is impossible to be content with all the goings on in the world?
We cannot be content with injustice and torture, war and famine, poverty and ignorance. When we look outside of our own little lives it becomes entirely inappropriate to be content.
I think that it is not selfish to be content. I think it is selfish to be discontented – looking for more things to satisfy the ego. In the same way, it is selfish to be ambitious for oneself and selfless to hold an egalitarian ambition.
I think that to be content and ambitious simultaneously is a desirable state.
I hope to wrap up this “ambition” theme after one more post, where I will take a look at the Apostle Paul and his ambitions. He has a good quote about contentment also:
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”