Notions Of Ambition

Today was another ride, with Charli helping on the plant identification front, where I’m noticing things that I must have seen but never noticed before; where I’m curious about things that I never used to be. And I continue to feel that life’s the better for noticing, for being curious about what’s around me.

Indian Balsam

Indian Balsam, here near Binfield Heath

What’s nagging at me a little is the ‘why’ of it – why do I feel able to take this different attitude now?

Just as a product of simple human limitation, I am sure there’s only so much that anyone can be actively interested in at any given time. Personal capacities will vary, but we all have a limit. That makes me wonder what I’m no longer interested in, what’s made room for noticing more, for this new-found curiosity in what’s all around me.

I think there’s a general social assumption that being engaged with the natural environment is something for only un-ambitious people, for ‘airy’ types, for ‘arty’ types … that sort of prejudice. In this scheme of things, I will have given up some high-powered job and become ‘at one with nature’ – or something similarly trite.

I’m pretty sure I never have – nor will – meet that stereotype; I’m no more or less ambitious than I ever have been; I haven’t ‘dropped out’ or any equivalent.

There are any number of underlying assumptions at work when ‘ambition’ is talked about in the common scheme of things, not least that being ambitious is somehow the norm, in some way ‘better’. And, of course, there are massive assumptions being made about what constitutes ambition in the first place: it presumes ambition equates to ‘getting on’ – earning more, a ‘good’ career, steps up in social status (of the variety that can be bought), accumulating possessions and so on.

An ambition to, say, know the names of all the plants you might reasonably expect to come across in southern England isn’t in that world view. That sort of ambition is rarely lauded.

Strangely, if my experience is at all applicable to others – and why shouldn’t it be? – then society’s approach of promoting an acquisition-based model of ‘ambition’ at the expense of curiosity for the natural world is also at the expense of the happiness of citizens. For society to not be working for the common good is, at best, odd.

A field of Field Scabious

A field of – appropriately – Field Scabious