Do you remember the board game Snakes and Ladders? We used to play it, my sisters and I, on those long stretches of rainy afternoons that forced everyone to stay indoors.
I remember it being more than a game of chance or a lucky toss of the dice. It proposed the concept of morality on young minds—ladders are equated with virtuous values, so they pulled you nearer to the 100th square, while snakes, associated with all the evils, slid you down like the vile sinner that you are.
A little bit of rummaging around on the Web revealed that Snakes and Ladders was actually a game of Indian origin, a morality game that eased children into religious concepts. It appealed to Victorian England sensibilities so much that it was a hit in the 1890s, with Victorian ideals substituted for the Hindu values.
Snakes and Ladders came to my mind lately, since for some days now I have been pondering the fragility of human nature. Or maybe its propensity towards wickedness. I thought about how, in the corporate world, people would slither and snake their way around others just to get a death grip on that ladder to success. How professionalism is so easily chucked by the wayside for personal gain. It twists my gut how dirty the playing field becomes when one or two or three set the standard to ass kissing, fibbing, bullying, substituting charm for intellect.
It was a mixed metaphor kind of week. I assure you, I’m not normally this deep. Ha-ha.
Winning in the childhood game of Snakes and Ladders needed only luck, mostly. Sure you could cheat at this too, drop the dice deliberately instead of letting it roll randomly. But what I’m getting at is that hopefully, the lesson of the board gets through the tabula rasa. That while the numbers may dictate the game, how you play it can also determine your win, or your loss. That each square holding the ladder stands for good values, and that the cultivation of these values will get you somewhere, will propel you forward. That being a snake is being a loser.
In the adult world though, everything is all screwed up. The snakes win.
I am in a churn here, for what feels like a really long time now. Do I play everyone else’s way?
Thinking about the game and all that mental-spiritual churning have given rise to metaphors in the offhand way that I deal with a conundrum—poetry rears a pretty head. Snakes and ladders, evil and good, and all the elements of high drama have been turned into an entry in Buzzing Poems. Have a read at my expense.