This morning, i read two euphonic allegories that made my blood run cold:

  • “If you are a soldier you will become a general,
    If you are a monk you will become Pope,
    And i became an artist so i became Pablo Picasso.”
    Anonymous blog author.
  • “Intelligence without ambition is like a bird without wings.”
    Salvador Dalí.
  • I have never liked the personas of Picasso or Dalí, and Cult of Personality in general strikes a sour chord with me.
  • I have begun to see “ambition” as en error akin to pride, greed, and gluttony.

Having grown up in a period of active, ideological denazification, and “coming to terms” with German history the quotes set my mind reeling …

… so if i am a German. Who then do i become according to the first allegory?

(Sure there are several prominent Germans or speakers of German to choose from – but be honest – Who comes to mind first as a child of the 20th Century?)


Worship of demagogues be they Pol Pot or Tendzin Gyatsho put the responsibility to think outside of one’s self (at least partially and temporarily). It has the added danger of suggesting that there is such a person as an one who is primarily “good” or one who is primarily “evil”.

Ambition is by definition the drive to be better than others, though i am aware of recent attempts to falsify the word by arguing “not better than other, but better than one’s self.” That is as cosmetic an argument as any of its sort, and to me an attempt retain familiar concepts out of a kind of fear of cultural heresy. One cannot push one thing upward without pushing another thing down. It would seem a more humane strategy to leave off striving to exaggerate the one whilst leaving the rest behind, and instead concentrate on trying to work with what one has to the benefit of the whole, even if that means some may not protrude quite as hyperbolically from the rest as they might when flying alone.

As a consolation for those who might see this a disadvantage to hyperbolic personalities there is the added effect, that we not only do not leave our “under-“achievers to fend for themselves, but also accompany our “over-“achievers along their particular route. How many brilliants who choked on their own vomit, alone in some hotel room could be alive today if the cult of ambition and stardom had not left them utterly isolate and in fear of their own followers?

A bit less tachypneic, a bit more humane.

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