on ambition and humility
(Garry Wills, Penguin Classics), and a willingness to lose a bit of myself in the process of reading.
This week I found myself returning to a particularly biting chapter simply titled "Ambition". It begins with Augustine saying "I panted after honors, wealth, marriage - and you [God] just laughed." I returned because this week I was struck with serious doubts about my own ambition for honour. I had a sort of "state of the union" or summit meeting with my two main theology professors, the meeting that apparently most people have at some point in their academic career, the meeting where they say that I am doing ok but that it is time to step up my game and take things to the next level. The meeting where they say that it is time to start taking things seriously and working hard to maintain focus. They were extremely nice about it, but at the same time, I couldn't help but wonder if I'm on the right path, if I'm really cut out for this work, if I should be doing something else...
It can be hard to tell, sometimes, why I want to be a part of theological academia, it is certainly not about the money, professors generally aren't millionaires. It is perhaps about the recognition, the "fame" I might get even inside my own little denomination. It is perhaps about the potential job security of having teaching credentials and being the right age to step-in as the so-called "Baby Boomers" retire from academia.
But it is also about the love of wisdom - erosophy if you will - that pulls me along this path. And my love of wisdom is so tightly tied-up with my love of God, that for me, this is a faith journey. Once in awhile I think it is good to get a sort of "wake-up call" that forces one to re-examine one's life choices. Especially if the final calculation is a hopeful one. So thank you to my professors for the scholarly coaching, and thank you Augustine, for examining your life in a way that helps me examine mine.