A Half Life

You never know how to begin. I think that is why they send you; you never begin yourself.

It is a peculiar irony that life’s larger purpose is both deeply explored and unanswered: unanswered in its entirety, in its essence, and though one may find a minor method to it, and call it their purpose, the quest of our living remains to be fetched.

It appears naming people at their births is one blow from which they never recover. By the time you know yourself, the world has known you already. And thence forth, the new soul sees two half-ladders before the mind’s eye – one that the world shows him, the other that he sees alone. The ladders are half-ladders because it is unclear on the way up. The mist is confusing but you make a choice.

Your first steps are expectant and measured, as if a stadium full of eyeballs were staring at you. You climb the ladder with a sincerity that stems from earnestness. You know you have begun well. Your dreams are clearer, shinier. But nothing happens. You expect a nod. Nobody nods. Your dreams collide with other dreams that are only half-dreams and reality is suddenly less clear. You meet people who are soaked or lost in their own selves – some are ego blankets- those small men with big, crafted egos. You ignore the vexations of their spirit. Others are simply inconsequential, wondering if they climbed the wrong ladder. Then there are more who got lost in a bankruptcy of talent. Most are pitiable but that is never a consolation.

As you go up, suddenly you know there are more ladders than two. Then you know those ladders where always there, only made invisible by our circumstance and capacities. You see people climbing ladders all around you and life becomes a frenzied half-dream. You hold on to your ladder, still willing to climb it. But you now know there wasn’t just a yes-ladder and a no-ladder: there was the good ladder, the quick ladder, the short ladder, the shortcut ladder ……. and endless such ladders that could exhilarate you or scare you, excite you or depress you.

You could jump ladders but you detest the irony of half-climbing two half-ladders. You hold on to your ladder, knowing it is the ladder you still are willing to climb. You think of it as your ladder and continue to climb it. The higher you go, the clearer the view is, and fewer the people. As the climb gets tougher, ego blankets have withered already. You are beginning to understand all ladders are endless ladders, if only we know the climb.

You still wonder whether choosing the right ladder or climbing it was the larger essence of the exercise. You don’t know what to tell your son when he sees two half-ladders before himself. You do nothing. You continue to climb the ladder that you now know is your own, looking up and earnest as you crawl, and with each hard breath becoming the man that you are.


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