In the last few days, the old game, “Chutes and Ladders,” has come to mind. It was simple; a game designed for 3-4 year olds, I think. You roll a die and move along a path. Along the path are, you guessed it, chutes descending and ladders ascending. If you land on a square so marked, you are exported down or up. Simple game.
Two of my favorite songs use the imagery of a ladder. In Nickelcreek’s “Reasons Why,” a ladder is compared to our presuppositions and consequential decisions which are many times propped against a wrong wall: a wall that leads nowhere. In Brooke Fraser’s, “Hosea’s Wife,” people are compared to mere ladders, something used to support our climb beyond them. So ladders resonate with me…they are familiar metaphor.
But ladders are showing up for me again right now, in conversation, in dream. And this time they are not paths to nowhere save our own ruin, they are the great machines they were first imagined to be: the quickened, shorten path to higher ground. A ladder compresses work in time. On a ladder, it still takes the same work to gain ground, but the work is completed in less time.
Climbing a ladder requires a few things: work: each step requires the lifting of one’s own weight, trust: man wasn’t crafted for flight…air doesn’t well support us, and balance: without some of this stuff a quick assent can easily become a quick descent. And ladder climbing requires a purposefulness. You don’t just accidently climb a ladder.
But ladders have come to be, at least in my understanding of late, an important area to give pause, even thought. What if in life, as in that simple, simple game, ladders are postioned all along the path before us? What if they are avenues to ascend, more quickly, to redeem time.
The question must then be begged, do I even recognize ladders when I come upon them? Some ladder designs of late, as you have no doubt like me, seen on t.v., are queer, un-ladder-like. What if the ladder looks unconventional, maybe even like a machine of death? Will we yet recognize and employ it for its designed purpose – to raise us?