What is ambition? On the college campus as we speak, millions of college students are striving to the end of the semester. They are cramming for these cumulative torture tests that help them second guess four months of decision making and dedication. They start questioning, “What was it all for?” The answer, of course, is that piece of paper at the end that validates four…five…six years of mental anguish, right? I hope that it’s more than that or things could get ugly, as they do for the protagonist in the new Dan Gilroy film, “Nightcrawler.”
At first glance, “Nightcrawler” may appear to be a sleek commentary on the state of news and journalism in the “Grand Theft Auto” era of entertainment. It is that, but more than that it is a picture of what it looks like to pursue success without a greater sense of purpose. When you are not guided by love, passion, and an awareness of the people and world around you then all you are is a thief. That is who Louis Bloom, played with terrifying precision by Jake Gyllenhaal, is when we first encounter him snipping away spare fencing for pocket change.
Bloom is a line crosser and much of the film crosses the audience’s lines of comfort and convention. In situations where most would be pushed to emotional highs that would dictate behavior, Bloom is calm, collected, and quite eloquent. This is because he isn’t led by emotion. In fact, I’m not even sure what he is led by. Everything, including his goals that he is working towards seems to be leeched from the people around him. He is an actor playing a role and everyone around him is just a piece in the puzzle moving his story forward.
This allows Bloom to violate the barriers of decency and compassion. As he is committing horrific, awful acts we are treated to, what might be, the mood of his mind as triumphant, Chariots-of-Fire-esque music scores the scenes of debauchery. What he is doing is terrible, but he will succeed because of it, it will help him win. Bloom doesn’t seem to mind what he has to do to cross the finish line. He never stops stealing.
He steals the scrap metal, he steals a profession, he steals camera angles, he steals knowledge from the Internet, and he steals the private moments of the people on the worst days of their lives. They can’t even die in private because blood sells. News, aka success, to Bloom and his station is, “A screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” Ambition without purpose is ugly.
Luckily, we are called to be more than that. We are the salt, the flavor, the restorers of this world. We are a beautiful aroma of God’s grace, sovereignty, love, and power to the people around us and the places we impact. What you do matters to God!
It is not an issue of being an actor in a story. God is co-authoring a story with us. Being a blessing to all nations means that you are part of a bigger mission and it affects everyone around you. Success is not a $15,000 piece of news footage, and it sure isn’t just a degree. It is in a faithful pursuit of becoming who God made you to be. So in your work, finals, relationships, rest, fun, let it be a fragrant offering to the Lord and a blessing to the world.