Taylor: Swearing off upward mobility

Moving ever upward is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Last year, I made only one New Year’s resolution—not to make any more New Year’s resolutions. They always get broken, don’t they?

I managed to keep that resolution for over 11 months. Until Saturday December 6. On that day, I made my first resolution for the year 2015.

I resolved not to climb any more ladders.

A light bulb in our home had burned out, high above the floor. I propped a ladder against the wall and climbed up. Just as I reached for the defective bulb, the ladder slipped.

I have taken yoga classes. Beginner yoga does not include levitation. When the ladder came down, so did I. On the way down, I ripped one of Joan’s embroidery pictures off the wall, squashed a potted poinsettia, and knocked a row of books flying.

I also turned one shin into a miniature replica of a World War I battlefield, and split the other shin badly enough that it didn’t stop bleeding for six hours.

I consider myself lucky. This is my third fall from grace, so to speak. I fell off a scaffold 15 years ago. I fell off a garden wall two years ago. One of those falls resulted in a smashed elbow, the other in a fractured lumbar vertebra. But neither injury left me with any permanent disability, although they easily could have.

I think I might be pushing my luck to risk a third fall. So I have sworn off ladders.

It’s probably time, anyway. The ladder is a symbol of upward mobility. One climbs the ladder to success, or at least to the corner office.

I don’t find it a comfortable metaphor, anymore. Not for me, at least. Climbing ladders too often involves climbing over other people. Sometimes stepping on hands. Or even kicking competitors off the ladder.

Genesis 28:12 speaks of a ladder that has “angels ascending and descending…” It sounds more like paired escalators in a shopping mall. And it presumes that good things are up. Always up.

Up to heaven. Up to the penthouse suite. Up the salary scale. Up the list of officers, until you achieve president, chair, or five-star general.

I don’t believe that any more. I may have, once. But I’m older now, and I don’t have any ladders to climb.

At a youth event—back when I could still participate in those things—the leadership team refused to sing “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder” with its upwards mindset: “every run goes higher, higher…” We changed the words: “We are dancing Sarah’s circle…”

The symbol of the cross, I remind myself, has one arm pointing up, but the other end is firmly grounded in this planet Earth. And it has two horizontal arms pointing out, reaching out to enfold and embrace.

In the time I have left, I don’t want to waste any of it climbing ladders. I’m not interested in going up. I want to do more reaching out, more enfolding and embracing.

And after that time runs out? I don’t want to speculate. The only thing I’m sure of is that it doesn’t involve going up. On a spherical Earth, which way is up, anyway?

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