“The harder you work at this empty life,
the less you are.
Nothing comes of ambition like this
but ashes.” Jeremiah 51:58b (MSG)
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” – Jesus
When approaching a role for the stage I do a lot of what’s call “character work.” As I dig into the character I’m portraying, I will usually try to identify the one thing that drives the character. I challenge myself by asking “Can I, in one word or phrase, describe what is it this person really wants?”
Last fall when I was digging into the character of Oliver Warbucks, I found a line in the script that became the foundation on which I built my character (I paraphrase, it’s been a while since I delivered the line):
“I made a promise to myself that I was going to be rich, very rich. By the time I was 23 I’d made my first million. In ten years, I’d turned that into a hundred million. Boy, in those days that was a lot of money.
“I have to admit to you Annie, I was ruthless to those I had to climb over to get to the top….but then I realized something. It doesn’t matter how many Rembrandts or Dusenbergs you’ve got. If you’re alone. If you’ve got no one to share your life with. Then you might as well be broke and back in Hell’s Kitchen.”
Oliver Warbucks was in the middle of a crisis of ambition. In a few short scenes he learns the lesson Jeremiah was teaching in today’s chapter. He realizes that nothing comes of his blind ambition but ashes. He faces the truth, for the first time, that it profits him nothing to literally gain the whole world, but lose his soul. The change in Oliver’s heart and ambition is the true story of Annie.
Jesus asked another question that Oliver Warbucks, and I, should continually ask ourselves. What is your treasure? For where you choose to place your treasure, your heart will ambitiously go after it. Be careful what you ambitiously seek, because it may determine what you ultimately find.
Today, I’m pondering this question: “If an actor was hired to play me in a biographical movie about my life, what would he discover is my greatest ambition? The treasure after which I seek? The one thing that motivates me?”