Love and Ambition

Blaise Pascal, famed mathematician and Christian philosopher, has some Valentine’s Day thoughts for you:

The passions which are the best suited to man and include many others, are love and ambition: they have little connec-tion with each other; nevertheless they are often allied; but they mutually weaken, not to say destroy, each other. Whatever compass of mind one may have, he is capable of only one great passion; hence, when love and ambition are found together, they are only half as great as they would be if only one of them existed.

How happy is a life that begins with love and ends with ambition! If I had to choose, this is the one I should take. So long as we have ardor we are amiable; but this ardor dies out, is lost; then what a fine and noble place is left for ambition! A tumultuous life is pleasing to great minds, but those who are mediocre have no pleasure in it; they are machines everywhere. Hence when love and ambition begin and end life, we are in the happiest condition of which human nature is capable.

I shared this with two acquaintances of mine, and they both immediately objected. Purse love before ambition? Madness! Money first, love later! (Much of our society’s advice on love could be boiled down to those four words.)

They are both unmarried, so I guess they have what they wish for. It’s worth pointing out that Pascal himself was a bachelor; he may have been speaking out of regret for a path not chosen.

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