The Thought for the Day – Gore Vidal

How not to be forgotten? How to retain the floor for life? That was the question ambition asked but did not answer. – Gore Vidal, Washington, DC

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) needs no introduction to regular readers of this feature. If you are new to The Thought for the Day or are otherwise hearing the name Gore Vidal for the first time, he was an American writer, primarily a historical novelist, though he wrote other things, too. Washington, DC was from a series of historical novels that chronicles America from the Revolution to World War II and his books Creation and Lincoln are, for our money, two of the very best books our country can offer. No one does what you pay us writers to do – provide insights into our human experience – better than Vidal.

Ambition is an interesting animal. On the one hand, it’s how things get done in this world. People set out to do something and intentionally or, as often as not, inadvertently, discover something that changes the way we live.

On the other hand, ambition can be an awesome master, with awesome meaning what it used to mean before it was used to describe pizza. It can even be an all-consuming master, completely overwhelming us.

Our own experience is that ambition can be limiting, obliging someone to settle for what he wants to become, as opposed to what he can become. We offer ourselves as an example: we only really came into our own as a writer, got to the point where we were saying what feel needed to be said every time we sat down to ply this trade, when we stopped worrying about who might or might not be reading. Sure, we have goals, but they have been sublimated, set aside and no longer fretted over, liberating us to answer to what compels us from deep inside.

How not to be forgotten? How to retain the floor for life?

Ambition has not answered this question because there isn’t one: no one retains the floor for life. We have our time and then we are dismissed. The best we can do is retain our path for life, from beginning to end, the whole way, getting the most out of the talents we were issued at birth.

Of course, we all want the attainments that attend the well-lived life. But the ultimate attainment is living from the inside out and making our time serve us. When we do that we will enjoy one of life’s great prizes: looking back at a well-lived life, at time well-spent and not squandered.

The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Gaylon began stockpiling quotes in 1988.


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