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Mark Tully considers the worth of aspiring to greater things, taking as a starting point Robert Browning's words 'a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?'.

Mark Tully considers the worth of aspiring to greater things, taking as a starting point Robert Browning's words: "....a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

The programme was inspired by an overheard conversation about whether advertising encourages aspiration or incites greed, and Mark explores how the messages used to sell us things can often disguise greed, and other deadly sins, as virtues worth aspiring to. Conversely, he puts in a good word for the way advertising can lead to a more aspirational world in general.

He also considers the progress we have made which would never have come about were it not for aspiration - from the Suffragette movement to the space race. But the case is also made for not overreaching our grasp, for appreciating what we already have, and for being freed from the anxiety of ambition.

With music ranging from Tom Waits' Step Right Up to JS Bach's, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, and readings from the work of Jack Kerouac and Soren Kierkegaard, Mark celebrates many people's tendency to challenge the status into which they were born and to aspire to a better life.

Producer: Adam Fowler
A 7Digital production for BBC Radio 4.

30 minutes

Last on

Sun 6 May 2018 23:30

Music Played

  • Malcolm McLaren

    Aria On Air

    Performer: MALCOLM MCLAREN - Main Artist.
    • Operaa House.
    • NFI: NFI.
  • Tom Waits

    Step Right Up

    Performer: Tom Waits - Main Artist.
    • Small Change.
    • Asylum: 7559-60612-2.
  • YOUMANS, VINCENT/CEASAR, IRVING

    I WANT TO BE HAPPY

    Performer: Cleo Laine - Singer.
    • THE BEST OF CLEO LAINE.
    • REDIAL: 546 134-2.
  • Gustav Mahler

    Symphony No. 8 in E Flat "Symphony Of A Thousand" / Part One: Hymnus "Veni creator spiritus" - "Accende lumen sensibus"

    Performer: Pierre Boulez.
    • Boulez - Mahler.
    • Deutsche Grammophon: NFI.

Reading List

Title: The Promise of Advertising Author: Martin MayerAs quoted in Rochard W. Pollay's 'The Distorted Mirror: Reflections on the Unintended Consequences of Advertising' published in the Journal of Marketing by the American Marketing Association

Title: Lovemarks: the future beyond brands Author: Kevin RobertsPublished by Powerhouse Books


Title: letters between Albert Einstein and Myfanwy Williams Published by Popular Science Magazine


Title: Drum Dream Girl Author: Margarita Engle Published by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt

Title: AspirationAuthor: Adah Isaacs Menken As found on poemhunter.com


Title: Papers and Journals Author: Soren KierkegaardPublished by Penguin Trans. Alastair Hannay


Title: Letter to Edie Kerouac Parker, Monday 28 January 1957Author: Jack KerouacFound in The Portable Kerouac, published by Viking


Title: Rice Stadium Moon Speech, 12 September 1962 Author: John F. KennedyPublic domain, as found: https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm

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