I took this photo in Warszawa
One of the most powerful driving forces in contemporary western societes is the common strive for achievements.
This has also a dark side. A lot of ambitious people will not be successful to an extent they dream of. One who has decided to pursue scientific career, probably will not succeed at becoming an eminent scholar, broadly recognized on the international level, at most he or she is likely to reach a level of „decency”, and so happens also with persons trying to accomplish something considerable in the field of literature, visual arts, sport, etc.
Majority of people will end up only as a background for someone else to shine.
It happens otherwise in rare cases. Statistics is merciless but also blind. The meaning of the sentence „I probably would not succeed” in the context of individual strivings is really hard to comprehend, so trying is not pointless, for it`s not a lottery.
Those who have gone astray, quickly have become almost indiscernible in the society. Most people are simply willing to read and hear rather success stories, because their fuel their own ambitions.
„Many others have failed, but I will not”, one could proudly think of himself or herself. „My ideas and achievements (discoveries, books etc.) are splendid, because they are mine”. Such argumentation, more or less conscious, is extremely common, although quite seldom stated openly. I have to admit that it`s awesome, but – unfortunately – solely for a person who boasts about it. One would not impress enybody else only by his or her ego.
Such thinking, combined with the common strive for success could be really damaging for many people. It often poisons them with false promises and phantasies which would never come true, but this struggle for achievements is necessary for a modern society to thrive.
Now still live almost 90% of all scientists that have ever existed (*). Without all that gigantic „scientific crowd”, which has appeared recently, there wouldn`t be rapid civilisational progress, especially during the last 50 years. At present a lot of people are engaged in projects of little or negligible theoretical and practical value, but the crowd is absolutely necessary – as the background, the environment from which a small group of eminent people could emerge and significantly contribute to progress of humanity. Many members of this „mass” dreamt of becoming great scientists themselves, but now they provide only a background, and that`s the main reason for their real importance for science. That is inevitable as well as disheartening.
Is there also something motivating in such bitter words?
Certainly. One is able to become really happy when is not enslaved by anything, even by his or her “righteous” desires. It is easy to get allured by them, because the dangers might not be clearly visible at first, but misplaced, inflated ambitions could also ruin a life, and one later would remain only with painful emptiness.
See for example: Andrzej Kajetan Wróblewski, Historia fizyki (A History of Physics), Warszawa 2006, p. 576-577.