What would life be like if society wasn’t so driven by status, professional achievements and dominating personalities? Could we broaden our ambition to strive for self-knowledge or healthier relationships? These are just a couple of the topics Jack Fuller will be discussing during his events, The Ethics of Ego and Raising Our Ambition, this weekend.
Fuller is a writer, teacher at The School of Life in London and doctoral candidate at Oxford University. He originally travelled to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship from Melbourne, where he studied neuroscience. Fuller’s doctorate explores the nature of desire, and it was while studying philosophical theology that he became interested in how previous eras approached ambition.
“We have this almost religious approach to ambition – not that we call it that – but we imagine that if we can just get that position at the top of the firm we’ll be saved,” Fuller says. “That dream allows us to pour a huge amount of effort into climbing up and getting achievements on the CV. I was really interested in that force in people’s lives.”
Fuller believes we usually have the right intentions when forming our ambitions, but that they are often disconnected from the things we are actually targeting. He says that sometimes when we seek status what we really want is love, and that these two desires regularly get confused. This creates the sense that life is an endless search for fulfillment.
“The underlying dynamic here is that we hope for so much and we have these fantasies, but what we’re aiming for doesn’t match those fantasies. So when we actually get to that position in the firm, it doesn’t really provide us with security, lifelong trust and meaningful work,” he says.
Closely linked to ambition, is ego, which is something we resent in other people and privately despise in ourselves. Fuller says that we are often afraid of being seen as selfish or arrogant, and similarly, that we fear coming across egoistic people in our lives. It is impossible, however, to avoid such people. “Oxford is like a hotbed for all of these characteristics,” he laughs, saying that learning to change our attitudes towards these people can be rewarding.
Fuller has come up with eight varieties of egoistic people including the bottle-smasher, the dictator and the narcissist, all of whom he will talk about in his interactive seminar, The Ethics of Ego. During his second event, Raising Our Ambition, Fuller will tell his story and workshop the topic with participants.
Together with teaching at The School of Life, Fuller has developed an online tool called Books as Therapy. It lists modern ailments and prescribes books for people experiencing them. The beauty of this is that people searching for some philosophical wisdom can access it at any time.
“I’m quite sympathetic to all of the drive and longing people have today,” Fuller says. “We shouldn’t feel guilty about it because often our desires are very strong and that’s fine, but the great task is to learn to desire the right things so we can direct our energy towards self-development.”
The Ethics of Ego will take place on Friday October 24 from 6.30pm–8.15pm and Raising Our Ambition will run on Saturday October 25 from 10am–12pm. For further details visit theschooloflife.com/melbourne.