Stern Ambition

Legio X Equestris
Legio X Equestris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, many of us remember Marc Antony‘s famous speech concerning Brutus and the murder of Caesar and the line ” … ambition should be made of sterner stuff… ” What drives some of us to be ambitious and others not to be? Are our ambitions always plausible or possible? Should we strive to be ambitious? I do not know about you but I am one of those ambitious people who Marc Antony wanted Brutus to be  (not to commit crimes) but to achieve certain goals in my life; hence, another word for ambition might be goal oriented. But is my “ambition made of sterner stuff…?” Is yours? What are you willing to do for your ambitions? Those altogether are entirely different questions.

When I was in my last year of high school I took a course called Art 31: Portfolio Course. Under this course I did a big project in which I painted a big mural around the drama room door. I drew up a design with colored pencils and took it to Mr. Allen who looked at it and told me ” Wow, that’s ambitious.” I was so excited that he loved it and that he  called me ambitious. I had never considered my self ‘ambitious’ before but once I painted that mural I found out that I was. Sometimes ambition is just working hard, but sometimes it is more. I had designed a mural to frame the door with big green leafy vines climbing the door frame. In between those vines were drama and artistic things such as masks, a light used in drama productions, and various other things. It was detailed and the paint had a lot of texture to it. The finishing touch was  gold paint which highlighted and brought a sheen to everything on the mural. Later, I added to the mural over the music room door as well. But it truly, did take a lot of ambition to paint that mural every day until it was finished, to paint a big detailed design. Sometimes it is good to push yourself and get out of your comfort zone and take on a big project because you will learn a lot about your skills and how to do the project as you go. That was stern ambition. But ambition is not always a good thing.

Ambition at the cost of other people or other costs (blind ambition) is not a good thing. It hurts and causes pain without the ambitious person even being aware of it or despite being aware of it. It is a practical thing to have goals you want to meet  but impractical when you will do anything to get ahead. And “stern” ambition well, that takes discipline. Marc Antony wanted Brutus to have been disciplined and not kill Caesar; but Brutus was not disciplined enough. However, ambition can be a good thing too. Ambition can help us get things done, achieve healthy goals in life, love, and careers, and learn to work hard for what we have. The problem of course is balancing your ambition. Balancing your life is a very hard thing to do.

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the devils thrown down from Heaven and later, Adam and Eve after they eat the fruit from the forbidden tree are not balanced because they were now imperfect. It becomes impossible for Adam and Eve to create balance in their lives because they are constantly moving between pride and despair; despair that they cannot achieve what their ambitions are or too much pride in their ambitions so that they think they alone have  achieved their goals.  The same problem occurs with people today, balancing your life – your ambition – is impossible because people are imperfect. Yet ambition is needed to get things done and naturally lazy people are usually not goal oriented. So be ambitious but be ambitious so that you are not like Brutus doing something you should not be doing, forgetting what you know to be true and right, and trying at least to live a balanced life where you are not undone by your ambitions but not prideful of them at the same time.


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