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On Ambition and Specialization

Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited to bring clarification to certain points of the dialogue and for easier readability. For this reason, it does not match the corresponding audio mp3 word-for-word. However, the overall content and the expressed ideas remain unchanged.

David: In the movie Ghandi there was a reporter walking with Ghandi when he was in South Africa. He was building ashrams and the reporter from America said, "Mr Ghandi, you are quite an ambitious fellow." And Ghandi smiled with his sweet gentle eyes and looked at him and said "I hope not."

In the whole discussion of ambition before in the world, the response to "You're quite an ambitious fellow" had been "thank you very much." Something resonated when I heard Ghandi say "I hope not." There was something inside me that leapt up with joy and said whoo that's a different response.

Whenever we are ambitious in the worldly sense, we also have a sense of ruthlessness that comes in with that ambition because whenever I am striving to gain something of the world, then I will perceive my brothers at times as an obstruction getting in the way of my ambitions, of what I want.

So all of a sudden Ghandi's little statement "I hope not" took on new meaning because it was like oooh. But ambition… I grew up in America, the land of the free and free enterprise and everything and I really had a very positive connotation and association with ambition. But going into the Course deeper and deeper where Jesus will throw in a line like "You must have noticed an outstanding characteristic of every end that the ego has accepted as its own. When you have achieved it, it has not satisfied you." (T-8.VIII.2)

That is why the ego is forced to constantly shift from one goal to the next, hoping it will find something that will satisfy you. When I read a quote like that from Jesus in A Course in Miracles it was like Oh, my gosh that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. I did it in college with degrees, this degree is not enough, I need this degree. I've done it with relationships, this relationship is good but I can do better. I've done it with possessions, this car is nice, it has all these extras, self steering wheel, rear window defogger, but I'm really not satisfied, I've got my eye on that car over there. It's like after a while it seems to be never-ending. So in one sense we are just trying to expose the ego's thought system. A lot of times when reading the Course, it can seem like a sense of relinquishment. I have learned all these things and I've kind of got accustomed to a certain lifestyle and the Course is coming along and it's saying your perception is all messed up. Occasionally we use words like Jesus will say "Give up the world!" And he puts an exclamation point behind it; you know he must be pretty serious about this idea. But through the ego's lens it's like I don’t want to give up anything.

Friend: Right, and I feel like that.

David: Exactly, it’s like I'm accustomed to this, thank you very much Jesus, but I enjoy this. Jesus is so eager to help us see that by pursuing and seeking outside ourselves so to speak, instead of within where the Kingdom is; it’s really a painful pursuit. At times it's like Jesus I want you to take all the pain and grief and misery out of my life and I want to keep things just the way they are. And so you can see that it's like asking to reconcile truth and illusion in the sense of seeking outside myself. I want to seek outside myself and I want to be peaceful and the more I have studied the Course and gone into these things it's like I really need to embrace the inner, to embrace that light within my mind, to start to let go of the goals and pursuits. Because when I have goals and pursuits in the world then I have expectations of how I think the script needs to go to fulfill my goals. In other words if I have real ambitions as far as being the best tennis player in the world, or the wealthiest man, or the best at something... a really appreciative Course in Miracles teacher. It doesn't really matter what the form of the ambition is, but if I have a form in mind then I will have expectations on how I want it to go. If I am really looking to be a well renowned Course in Miracles teacher then I may start having expectations of how many people are in the audience. Or how many books or tapes I sell. You can see how you are setting yourself up for pain because you can see how you have expectations of how you want the script to go, to have outcomes in mind.

Friend: And the only way you can have good outcomes is to have those goals set in place from the beginning. It's an insidious thing that says if I accomplish this goal then I am better, not only better than other people but I am better than I was and that's a lie. But in and of themselves they really are not bad.

David: Yes and we have to get really clear on what in and of themselves means or if it has any meaning. We were thinking of going to Lesson 184 which kind of gives the sense that everything we come here to learn about is separation and fragmentation. Think of it like when you were a little kid and your Mom or Dad came along and said can you say ball, can you say slide, can you say grass, can you say tree, or this is a pencil. If we look at lesson 184, you get the sense that the first phase of everyone who comes to this world is learning how to label and categorize all of the separate objects. And of course it is taught that this is very important because if you don’t do this you won’t be able to make it in the world. This is mature education. And if you look at 184 you see that yes that is the first phase of learning in the world but to be really released, to really come to peace of mind, we have to enter another phase in which we start to let go of the meaning and purpose we have given to everything, to the attachment to what they mean. We are convinced we know what they mean in and of themselves and actually what Jesus is teaching us is that we have read a lot of false meaning into everything. We really need to have a complete transformation where we open our minds up and say ok maybe I don’t know how this should go. Maybe I am just going to take your hand and walk into this in trust. But we need to start somewhere in this unlearning process.

Friend: Another thing about our learning too, as children we almost always do this; if we’re a teacher of a child we say Good, good, and it's called encouragement. We’re building that feeling that this makes me better, in the little child even. So we get these neurotic kids. They felt they were alright until we came along and told them they were good, better. And if I learn some more I'll be even better. The other kids are not learning as much as I am, I'm getting A's and that makes me better and better and better.

David: Yes and the boxes, even though they are supposed to give the security like these are categories and boxes that mom and dad teach us that are maybe the rights and wrongs, the do's and don’ts, then when we go to school and we meet the other little kids, we say Wait a minute, something’s going on a little funny because their boxes seem a little different than my boxes. Jerry's mom and dad don’t think that's good at all. All of a sudden there is insecurity because now the boxes start breaking down. Then when we go to adolescence, and we go to college, and meet people from all other regions of the country sometimes, the world of boxes becomes a topsy turvy thing. It becomes a thing of Who am I, what do I really believe about anything? It starts to get turned up.

I think that is what is so great about the Course, he’s saying yes; this whole process of making boxes and categorizing is judgment, like it says in the Bible, judge not. Boy you get to A Course in Miracles and it makes it clear that all our pain comes from our own judging and categorizing and splitting and breaking apart. The good news of course is that the Holy Spirit has a different judgment that’s in our minds. We can totally tap into that’s within our mind if we let go of our judging, get out of the way. So that’s good news. Maybe we can go around and everyone read a paragraph.

The Name of God is my inheritance. “You live by symbols. You have made up names for everything you see. Each one becomes a separate entity, identified by its own name. By this you carve it out of unity. By this you designate its special attributes, and set it off from other things by emphasizing space surrounding it. This space you lay between all things to which you give a different name; all happenings in terms of place and time; all bodies which are greeted by a name.” (W-pI.184.1)

David: That's what we were talking about.

Friend: I was thinking, any kind of specialization or expertise, in anything is kind of like taking this to the nth degree, where I know everything there is to know about whatever. I know all the names for… like the mind just wanting to break it apart, break it apart, break it apart and then feel like it has a handle on each one of these little parts, I'm an expert in this field.

David: Like in the old days a general practitioner doctor had to learn about all the parts of the body, the nervous system, the endocrine system, respiratory system, how everything functioned together. And also maybe some psychological things, when their patients seemed to be resistant to certain things, how to get along with people and so on and so forth. And then if you look at the trends in medicine, specialization of everything, gone are the days of the general practitioner. It’s like radiologists, ear, nose, throat doctors, podiatrists. Once again this seems like the ways of the world, that's the way this seems to be going, like to survive the ego would teach you that you have got to specialize. I was sharing last night that that was the conflict I felt in my mind when I was in college. A little voice in my mind kept saying, step back, think further, and see the big picture. And the other voice in my mind, sometimes coming from my parents or professors, would say you are not going to make it unless you settle down and pick an area of specialty, focus your attention and become specialized. So for a long time it was a kind of a push-pull thing in my mind. The deeper I had gone I questioned every field I was in, I questioned the assumptions of it. I couldn't just pull off and quit questioning the meaning of life. I’m just going to be a good psychologist or be a good educator or urban planner and so on and so forth. I kept going deeper and deeper and finally I had a book like this that said that in order to learn this course you have to question every value that you hold. I thought Yes, that's what the little voice has been telling me all along but you know, am I nuts or not? The book keeps saying you have sanity within you if you keep listening to the little voice and not listening to the other voice.

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