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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Robert Silverberg on Ruthless Ambition

Gray Dalek says:
Come on, David.
Show me your ruthless streak.

In Robert Silverberg's novel Dying Inside, David Selig feels isolated and alone. Purposeless, he drifts along, in the hopes of eventually finding a real career. Even more, he dreams of finding someone who truly loves him. 

It wasn't always this way. There were times that he felt like he had firmly grasped hold of friendship and love. While working as a researcher for a professional writer, he met Toni, a junior editor at the author's publishing house. David looked into Toni's mind, learned that she was attracted to him, and employed all his charm. The mad passion of their seven week love affair only makes their breakup all the more devastating. He gave her his heart and soul...and she left him. 

And then there was Tom, a man David regards as the "the least neurotic person he ever knew." Tom is a pure predator. He doesn't simply latch onto people's minds for the simple pleasure of riding along, but raids their minds, and uses what he learns for his advantage. He uses the information he gleans from businessmen to make inspired investments in the stock market. He lives comfortably on the proceeds of his investments, enjoying a string of one-night stands with beautiful women, without a thought of contributing to the world or bringing joy to others. For a time, Tom functions as David's friend, and when David insists upon working, Tom scans the minds of those in Wall Street and finds David a job. But David's mind isn't built around numbers and investments; he cares about Franz Kafka, Aldous Huxley, Fyodor Doskeyevski, and all the other great writers whose stories have become a part of his life. Really, he should have decided to become an educator during his university years. He would have been a wonderful college professor.

If David had been a ruthless predator, willing to use and then discard others, he could have made his life into anything he wished. But because he is completely selfless, he ends up being a servant and tool of others. His example suggests that, while it is fine to love and serve others, a small measure of ambition and ruthlessness is sadly necessary to make your way in the world.

Dragon Dave

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