I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Monday, 1 July 2013

A way of improving the score?

Death resembles accountancy: someone does the books, adds up the figures and announces that this defunct enterprise is (1) in credit, (2) in balance, or (3) bankrupt, and is now wound up.

Many may be surprised by the arithmetic of their own moral success or failure, may want to argue: I was nice to my neighbours, gave to charity, listened to music by Boulez, brought up sons who didn't go into the City. Failing to acknowledge that this is the one occasion when the accountants - a fallible breed - probably get it right.

I suspect I won't be surprised, that I could do a quick profit-and-loss now that wouldn't be a million miles away from that of the professionals. It's late in the day but is it too late?  Is there a pointer in Matthew 25: 24 - 30?

Two servants, lent large sums of money, double their investments and get pats on the back. The third buries his sum and merely digs it up - unimproved - when asked. He gets it in the neck, is called wicked and slothful and there is talk of casting him "into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

All very well but I can't pretend I set out with anything worth doubling. My teachers agreed and I left school at fifteen. But what about ambition? I'm ambitious to write better and this has recently intensified. The point is ambition doesn't imply success. My writing needn't necessarily improve. It may be enough that I want it to do so. Oh yes, I realise it's intangible but death's accountants can handle that.

Less metaphorically is ambition (not, of course, at the expense of others) a good thing? More particularly, might it be a specific against old age?


  1. I do not wish to criticise negatively, but rather to suggest some points taken from your interesting post.
    1. Death does not resemble accountancy, but is an event through which one passes. To what? Unknown.
    2. Credit, balance and bankrupt are ego states which become meaningless at the death event horizon.
    3. The parable of the talents (Matt 25:24-30) that you quote is therefore similarly meaningless in the death context. Taken literally to describe ego talents falls perilously close to fundamentalism.
    4. The argument that the accountant view of life may therefore be like building a house on sand rather than on rock (Matt 7:24-27). I have of course interpreted that parable to suit my argument, rather than take it literally.
    5. Ah poor Robbie! :) "I set out with (no)thing worth doubling." You married a lady who loved and loves you still. Are you seriously saying her love was wasted and ill-placed? I think not. Similarly with your children. You have friends who enjoy your company, in cyberspace and in the material world. Do we count for nothing? Is there no place for love and friendship on that wretched, soulless balance sheet?
    6. As for the teachers who foolishly chose to agree with the immature views of a 15 year old, they should have known better.
    7. The real and worthwhile is not attained by dint of ambition.

    I have suggested enough, I think. Maybe too much. The outcome, however, is beyond my control. Nice having you around Robbie.

  2. Tom: Well you brought your 500 hp steam hammer and my butterfly is definitely dead. But Tom, dear Tom, we're running on different rails. My post starts with a scatter of persiflage, hoping to draw in readers' interest through the medium of entertainment, and ends up with two comparatively serious paras (which alas you ignore). I might say that your Talmudic approach raises as many dubious points as my facetiousness but, hey, let's apply the brakes. It is very clear from your blog that our aims in blogging are poles apart. In fact I'm quite prepared to say that there's more to be gained from Gwynt than Tone Deaf and there's proof of this in the number of comments you attract and the seriousness of your interests as listed in your profile. Because of this I chose to stay away from Gwynt, I didn't want to lower its tone. God knows, I am not inclined to suggest readers should stay away from Tone Deaf - I need every available soul - but are you sure you should persist? Think of me in cap and bells and ponder this point.

  3. Much has been said about ambition RR. If love is added it can become wings of great actions, says Goethe.
    Yes, nice having met you.

  4. Something in our upbringing suppresses ambition. We are or were discouraged from pushing ourselves forward, from winning at all cost. To give and not to count the cost; to labour and not to ask for any reward. Those talents always worried me. "Greed is good" takes over for some. But we, as we get older, can keep it in perspective. To write a good sentence, or a good paragraph or ... take your choice... Have others read your blog, amuse them give them pleasure, encourage dialogue, laughter, tears. Ambition has many guises and in its modest manifestations can be truly enrichening like to offer for their own sake little acts of kindness to old ladies or old men, little children or animals.

    That was a good question Robbie.

  5. Ellena: You can come back as often as you wish, providing you quote Goethe. Or even if you don't. I would query the verb tense in "Nice having met you." in that it suggests this could be a one off. I would hate that to be the case.

    Joe: The word has become pejorative in common usage. I recognised this, yet I still wanted to use it rather than some management-speak euphemism. I was also attracted by the seeming oddity of "an ambitious old man", as if ambition could only exist when the horizons are distant. Surely, I felt, one might be ambitious about an event that starts and ends tomorrow.

    The only misgiving I had - and we have discussed this in the past, you more than me with reference to Samuel Smiles and Maimonides - is that my ambition was rather fussily personal and might have appeared slightly differently in one of those dreadful self-help books, often written by retired businessmen. An ambition that I might, were I more circumspect, have kept to myself.

    I appreciate your final sentence. A reminder that there are plenty of questions which remain unasked. Because first they need articulating. I take that as a compliment.

  6. It was intended as a compliment. You have always been good at asking valuable questions and initiating conversation.

  7. I know RR. It is my wrong way of saying "nice having you around".

  8. Whatever we think we know or believe, it's hard to shake the idea that there is some kind of reckoning. I sometimes get a notion though, that it might be the perceived failures that end up counting for most, though I suppose that's scarcely an original thought.

    The talents always worried me too; I had hitherto been raised with the idea that if someone entrusted you with something you looked after it and kept it safe and didn't go around using it and taking risks with it. And then the application of the word 'talent' to an aptitude, considered to have been bestowed by God or nature, came after the parable rather than the parable being clearly about those things anyway.

    Old men shall dream dreams, young men shall see visions, who's to say where the line comes between (to say nothing of what middle-aged women are supposed to do...)? But it seems to me there's every reason why ambition should intensify with age, even if perhaps the nature of it changes with time.

    Whatever your aims and intentions here, you have prompted me to put pen to paper and make a start on something it's been in my mind to write for a couple of months now, though whether it amounts to anything or sees the light of day remains to be seen.

  9. Ellena: Let this be the last time you ever (implicitly) apologise for anything to me.

    Lucy: The parable is even more specific and thus more entertaining than I imagined.

    Wikipedia: the master asks... for an accounting. The first two servants explain that they have each put their money to work and doubled the value of the property they were entrusted with. His lord said to (one of them), "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord."

    That was of course an aside. The reckoning I mentioned could quite well have been internal, something imagined. Come to think of it, it was just that. I did imagine it.

    But I am warmed by "every reason ambition should intensify with age." There is a presumption, as one ages, that one's mind should be on higher things, nearly all of them negative: remorse, pleas for forgiveness, hatred of the younger self. So this was a serious question. I am in the grip of that need and it is a function of my age. And - whisper it not in Gath - this newly clarified ambition is exhilarating.

    As to your project I could - conventionally - say go for it. But let me appeal to your self-interest, to your otherwise deeply buried selfishness. If there's a chance of feeling what I feel at the moment, drop the casserole of the moment and get on with it.