Restless Ambition?

Restless Ambition?

Roll the clock back to the years before partition of the Indian subcontinent. Think of a common man in his seventies and the life he lived. Born in a reasonably well-off family, he went to school in the local community. His family lived together, not too far from the extended family. As a child, he played with his cousins and friends out in the grounds; other recreational activities being evenings in the marketplace. Eventually, he joined his father at the shop and settled into an existence of earning his daily bread. Marriage and a few decades later, his children took over the same shop. Decades of daily grind, lived in peace without any desire to expand, change or move.

Seventy, and just as content, he now sits with lifelong friends, out in the veranda, enjoying a cup of tea as his grandchildren play around him. Fascinating! What a life! What roots and what stability. You could have replicated this story in most communities of the world, till the 1950’s and 60’s.

But things have changed since then. There is a mood of restlessness today. In the past people took jobs, progressed up the ladder and somewhere in late career hoped to reach the top, if good enough. Otherwise middle level would suffice. People lived the daily routine, worked, socialized, went home, interacted with the family and stayed content.

Fast forward five decades and you have the likes of myself! I represent the majority. We are the lot who, despite a long career of substantial jobs and success, have still not quite hit the satisfaction button. We have better cars, bigger houses, more means, travel more, eat better and entertain richer than people fifty years ago. Yet, there is that ‘restless ambition’, (for lack of a better phrase). We are in the hunt for more. Always and constantly.

What that ‘more’ is may be different from person to person, but it is always there. ‘More!’. I still have friends from my school days, but most of them are abroad. We do not interact, except on facebook or through email. I don’t even know how many children they have or what their names are. Some friendship! Think of the old gentleman sitting having tea with his friends in the old days.

So what has changed? What has caused this shift in the thinking of societies? Is it the apparent lack of religion and spirituality in our daily space? Is it the hard commercialism of modern day living, which has taken the soul out of our existence? Or is it the brash ‘in the face’ awareness (partially through advertising) which makes us desire for ‘more’. Could it be, that with so many ideologies vying with each other, we are simply muddled. When muddled, does a human simply grab whatever comes his way? And hence the case of men and women running around wanting more? This reminds me of Pepsi’s slogan “Dil Mange More”!

I am not a social scientist and therefore am unable to quite see why this so called entropy exists. I believe studies done in US universities have shown that when you compare years 1900 to 2000, entropy is hundreds of multiples higher – but this is a challenged theory.

Are we now in a field of unintended consequences? When it first started, it was good that our children went for higher studies and then of course, we expected a return on the investment. They had to earn to justify this expenditure. So, knowledge which for centuries was an end and a means to acquire wisdom, was no more so. Now, you look at it and say “must have payback”. And so, our children drive themselves ever harder, breaking and bending the rules in the process.

But along the way, something else happened in stealth. We forgot about what living should taste like, as we went further down this hole. We forgot family and children; family systems became redundant and relationships unimportant in the process. We went on a spiral of unintended consequences. And when we hit the bottom, we were all alone; without any real belonging, roots, cause or larger purpose.

So we concentrate on the one thing we have left. Ourselves. And we occupy ourselves in our minds twenty-four-seven without even realizing it. Our perpetual question:  what is next for me? In reality, all there is now, next and later, is restless ambition.

Back in the eighties, if a young man said he wanted to be CEO, he would be considered brash. Today, if he does not say it, he is considered unambitious. These are hard facts. This is how we have come to be.

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