I was sitting in my favourite chair the other morning, drinking my coffee, and enjoying the calmness of the quiet, early start to my day. The day, while bitterly cold, lay stretched out ahead of me, warm with promise and hope. I was feeling more at peace than I had felt in a long time and it occurred to me that I had overcome some hurdles lately, some of which I have shared with you, my dear readers. Surely more hurdles would come again, things seldom stay as they are, but for now life had leveled out.
I will admit that some days I feel like a piece in a board game where at the throw of a die, a moment’s notice, life changes as I move across my own game board. There are ups and downs, causing me to move forward and backwards, sometimes to the point where I feel like a yo-yo. So, I got to thinking: life is very much like a game of Snakes and Ladders, isn’t it?
(image courtesy of Google images)
Snakes and Ladders – (noun) a board game in which players move counters along a series of squares according to throws of a dice. A ladder provides a short cut to a square nearer the finish and a snake obliges a player to return to a square nearer the start. (www.thefreedictionary.com)
The game, Snakes and Ladders, originated in India as part of a family of dice board games. It was originally known as moksha patam (the ladder to salvation). Moksha Patam was popular in ancient India, with an emphasis of the role of fate or karma placed on it. The game emphasized destiny and focused on life as a mixture of skill, free will, and luck. The game was also interpreted and used as a tool for teaching the effects of good deeds vs. bad. The ladders represented virtues such as generousity, faith, and humility; the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. The moral or lesson of the game was that a person can attain salvation (moksha) through doing good; one will inherit rebirth to lower forms of life by doing evil. The game’s basic concept was later introduced in the United States as Chutes and Ladders by Milton Bradley, game pioneer, in 1943. (information from Wikipedia.org)
Today, the morality of the game has been left in ancient India and the game itself is played for fun, but I think the game of Snakes and Ladders can still be considered quite symbolic of our lives today.
Life can be full of snakes, those trials and tribulations which are set backs on our game boards. The snakes may cause us to fail in some way, or to put us down a different path towards our goals. Snakes can be situations which cause us stress and sadness and move us backwards in areas where we may have previously made advances and experienced success. Snakes can also be people – those who set out to purposely hurt or prevent us from succeeding through deliberate actions or sabotage. Snakes can also be those who hurt us inadvertently through carelessness or negligence. This ties in nicely with the metaphor of an individual being a snake- deceptive, treacherous, and looking to harm, doesn’t it? I think we all may know or have known a few snakes in our lives.
Life can also be laden with ladders, the successes and accomplishments which move us forward in the game. Ladders build us up and allow us to climb to our potential, to accomplish the things which we hope or dream to, and to continue in our chosen direction. Like snakes, ladders can be people too, the ones who support us and lift us up when we need to be encouraged, motivated, or even shown a different perspective. The ladders in our lives may also be opportunities which we have taken, maybe without even realizing that they would aid us in moving upward. The phrase ‘climbing the ladder of success’ may have even derived from this game, perhaps?
Moving across the game board of life can be tricky, especially with its obstacles, metaphorical bridges to cross, and roads to choose. And, at times, the game itself can change. The rules can seem to alter on us, sometimes to benefit us and sometimes to deter us. The rules can change suddenly, perhaps even without our awareness that they have even changed. It could also be possible that our values shift. What was once important may become less, and what was previously pushed aside or considered less important may become more.
Life can be like a board game where we find ourselves players, willing or unwilling, trying to follow the rules to meet the objectives of the game. It may seem, at times, that the playing field isn’t fair and that the rules seem to favour everyone but us. We may lose focus on our game playing strategies and our personal goals in order to simply make it to the “end” of the game. We may forget that it is our journey, our course throughout the game that is what is most important to our learning.
Regardless of the number of snakes or ladders on our game board, the character we demonstrate while we are playing says the most about us. How we handle the snakes and downfalls and how we manage the ladders and accomplishments truly speaks volumes about who we are. If can handle ourselves with dignity and grace, showing strength in the face in adversity and modesty in our successes and advancements we will find ourselves playing with good sportsmanship and honour, both of which should be considered the most important outcomes of the game anyway.