Wednesday, October 08, 2008

“There are few men who are not ambitions of distinguishing themselves in the nation or country where they live, and of growing considerable with those with whom they converse. There is a kind of grandeur and respect which the meanest and most insignificant part of mankind endeavor to procure in the little circle of their friends and acquaintances. The poorest mechanic, nay, the man who lives upon common alms, gets him his set of admirers, and delights in that superiority which he enjoys over those who are in some respects beneath him. This ambition, which is natural to the soul of man, might, methinks,
receive a very happy turn, and, if it were rightly directed, contribute as much to a person’s advantage as it generally does to his uneasiness and disquiet.”
This is a tough one, I understand and relate to this, and can think of a hundred people, myself included, who fall within this description; but the last sentence challenges me. "might receive a very happy turn, and, if it were rightly directed, contribute as much to a person's advantage...."
This is the part I have difficulty interpreting. So, how does that strike you? Now I'm counting on you for some insights.
Photo by Paduroiu Claudiu - of course that's a picture of me when young......not.


ForHisSake said...

Fred—I love this kind of thought provoking stuff. I'll take a stab at it.

Edison said that his main ambition in life was to make the world a better place to live--and he felt that it was that natural drive "ambition" (a strong desire to achieve something) when focused in the right direction and directed towards the right goal, that was the key to his ability to presevere and ultimately succeed with an idea or invention when others would give up.

He also said, “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves”. And, “If I had not had so much ambition and not tried to do so many things, I probably would have been happier, but less useful.”

Knowing those things about his philosophy, would indicate to me that he might be saying, “Take that natural drive and direct it towards something that really matters and you will be much more content.”

ForHisSake said...

Fred I am laughing out loud. I thought you were quoting "Edison" and later came back and noticed it was "Addison".

Oh well, it was fun anyway and who knows perhaps my error in authors still shed some light???


ForHisSake said...

This might be helpful:

Addison described his own ambition differently. He writes, “It was said of Socrates that he brought Philosophy down from Heaven, to inhabit among men; and I shall be ambitious to have it said of me, that I have brought philosophy out the Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges, to dwell in the Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-Tables and Coffee-Houses.”

Citing Seneca and Montaigne as his models, Addison sought not only to educate his audience, but also to regulate their passions and to promote self-discipline, moderation, and pursuit of the public interest."

It sounds as though, although he was aware of the natural ambitious desire to distinguish oneself among men, his ambition was directed towards the public interest which in turn contributed to him being distinguised among men--as a result; not an aim.


FCB said...

Hi D.L.,
I too, love this kind of thought provoking stuff, although you apparently have a clearer grasp than I. Am I becoming part of "a set of admirers"? :)

Great quotes by Addison, I just recently picked up a book with his thought in it, most of it, way over my head, but a great mind and good to know a little more about him.

ForHisSake said...

Forgive me for the long comments—you stimulated a great deal of thought:

Regarding man’s natural ambition to be distinguished among men: Jesus said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

In contrast to those men, Paul says, “And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” Paul was controlled by a holy ambition and ultimately is (posthumously) very distinguished among men.

Ambition, directed properly………….

ForHisSake said...

Okay - I'm headed for bed. I was up at 0 dark 30 this morning and I'm old. Of course, not as old as you :-)

I just wanted to thank you for making me think. I read the post and then went to pick up a young "Christian sister" from college (who is struggling with her faith and life's perplexities.)

It was such a delight to have this post to ponder as I was driving. "Humm", I thought as I was driving, "what could he mean by that last paragraph." It truly intrigued me. I have a feeling both Edison and Addison would be amused by the whole exercise.

Thanks Fred. Have a restful night and a great day tomorrow.

Matt said...

This is exactly what I had in mind when I told you I saw a man in a luxury car and thought to myself that there was worth in striving for expensive things. In fact expensive things are often superior in many ways not just more money and prestige that many are after and I think the same is true here, while many of us strive for the wrong reasons, the outcome may turn out to be good anyway and if we balance it all the better.

Mel said...

Fred and D.L.,

I totally enjoyed reading the post and this exchange between the two of you. D.L., you had my heart smiling with your enthusiasm. Hi to you, too, Matt! Bless you all!


FCB said...

Hi Matt,
I had to re-read your comment a couple of times, and remember back what you had said about "quality" being worth the price before I got what you were saying. Now I get it.
It's interesting how we each relate to a somewhat vague statement so differently. Kind of like poetry or abstract art.
It made me think of our emotional needs, meaning, we have a need to have a place of respect, love, security etc. and often this need is demonstrated by trying to capture it with pride and superiority, Now the need itself is not bad, only the method of attaining it. If a child goes to school and, we'll say, she has no "circle of friends", no, "set of admirers", it leaves her feeling undistinguished, disrespected or appreciated and robs her of the innocent delight these things bring if sought with humility. Now when she goes home, we hope there she finds feelings of delight, love and appreciation.
Somewhat difficult to explain but that was my take on it after I thought about it for a while.
Anyway, whatever his thoughts were it is fun to poke them around.