Falling up the Stairs
There have been a lot of really good movies made over the last several years. There are a lot of bad ones too. And while I try to simply ignore the bad efforts, I like to take lessons from those which have profound messages to share. Among the more noticeable movies I have seen lately, have been the Matrix movies. And, while I don’t like everything about the series, I have been totally fascinated by the philosophical questions they have posed.
At the beginning of the first Matrix movie, there is a scene where one of the female stars is running away from a computer generated security bad guy. She desperately runs through a building, up the stairs, out onto the roof and then begins jumping from building to building. All the while, the bad guy is right on her heels. Then, with nowhere left to go, she spots a very small window in the building across the street. She suddenly makes a mad dash to the edge of the roof and hurls herself through the air like Superman. Her body flies through the air and through the small window which is barely large enough for her body to go through.
As it turns out, this window is in a stairwell, so when she gets through the window and hits the ground, she rolls down the stairs and ends up at the bottom all sprawled out. At that point she pulls out her gun and gets ready to shoot, in case her pursuer comes behind her. He doesn’t, and she jumps up and runs to safety. We have all seen movies, some comical and some more serious, where a person falls down the stairs. It makes for very good drama.
I remember another movie with a similar scene only this one was a martial arts comedy. In it the good guy and the bad guy were fighting at the top of a set of stairs which ran up the side of a mountain. After a furious fight, the good guy knocked the bad guy down the stairs. Since it was on the side of a mountain, the bad guy rolled and rolled and rolled, seemingly forever. Normally this might cause high drama, but it was a comedy and it was made to look very funny. After a while, the bad guy crawled all the way back to the top of the stairs. Unfortunately for him, the good guy was standing there waiting for him. At this point, the bad guy knew it was hopeless. Without even fighting he simply laid down and rolled down the steps again – on his own. It was hilarious!
Whether it is for high drama or to invoke laughter, falling down the stairs makes for a good scene in a movie. But what does it signify? It typically denotes failure, hurt or humiliation. Do you remember ever seeing a movie scene where someone fell “up” the stairs. Not likely! That doesn’t quite carry the same kind of impact.
Taking this imagery and applying it to life, we can look out in society and see people all around who have, figuratively, fallen down the stairs of life. There are those who are very tragic figures, such as the homeless, drug addicts and winos. Some of these people were once “on the top of their game,” but something happened and they fell. There are others who are not completely hopeless, but still they constantly sabotage themselves every time they get to a place in life where they could move to a higher level. Then there are those who never really take life seriously. They aren’t out on the street, but they have no ambition to move forward – you know, the couch potato crowd.
But, honestly, most of us are trying to go the other direction. Instead of starting at the top of the stairs and rolling down, we start on the lower steps and have been striving our whole lives to move higher and higher. We are trying to run up the stairs, not down. And if we fall, the tendency should be to fall forward up the stairs, rather than backwards. We may have periods in our lives when we get tripped up, but if we are moving up the stairs, it is easy to pick ourselves up and keep going. If we quit trying, that is when we begin the fall that takes us downward.
Life is a Stairwell
In many ways, the whole process of personal growth is like living life in a stairwell. We are constantly trying to make our way to the top. But there are obstacles. The steps, themselves, sometimes prove to be aproblem. Each time we take a step up we are closer to our destination. But sometimes we become too tired to go on. Sometimes we don’t pick our foot up high enough and we trip. And occasionally we may even lose our balance and go tumbling down toward the bottom.
While the parallels of living life and walking up stairs may seem obvious when we think about it, I believe that it is safe to say that most people don’t fully understand the nature of the whole process. The fact is, it plays out in a lot of ways in our lives.
We see it in the emotional arena. It is a goal of most of us to stay motivated and be happy. But how many times have you struggled with discouragement and depression which caused you to fall?
We see this in the physical arena as we try to stay in good physical condition. Everybody knows, through personal experience, that being trim, having a good strong heart and lungs, and fit developing strong muscles makes you feel and work better. But how many times have you let yourself become fatigued and out of condition?
We also see the principle operating in the mental arena as we take classes and certification courses to become smarter and more qualified to advance. But we have all experienced those times when our brains just would not wrap around the material we needed to master, and felt knocked down.
Finally, we see it in the spiritual arena as we work to improve all of the important relationships in our lives. And even though we work hard in this area, we still find ourselves struggling with poor self-esteem, or poor communication skills.
Putting it All Together
Grasping the concept that there are various areas of life that we have to pay attention to, in order to grow, is a tremendous step. But, there is another level of understanding we have to come to if we really want to get the benefit from this insight. In the process of trying to grow, some people work very hard in one part of life. Some put great effot in two or even three areas at one time.
However, to really experience lasting and continuous growth, we have to work on all four areas – all the time. We can separate out the four areas of our lives for the purpose of thinking about growth, but the fact is we are a single individual and what affects one area affects them all. Growth in one area takes our whole life forward and regression in one area drags our whole self down. That is why issues in even one area can cause us to slow our ascension up the stairs or even cause us to fall down. But if we know this, we are in a position to make ourselves more effective.
Life is, basically, lived at levels. At every moment we are on some stair step in our journey through life. We labor at one level, hopefully getting closer and closer to the time when we can make it up to the next step. Then, when we make it, we begin working on the next one.
We all have the capacity to massively advance in every area of life. The sad truth is, though, most people simply don’t exert the energy that is necessary to make it happen. Instead of intentionally working toward a life goal, they just take things as they come – advancing, or not, as life comes to them. These people are doomed to a life of taking steps forward then hitting a difficult spot and rolling to the bottom of the stairs.
But we have the capacity to go forward. Sure there will be struggle. Sure there will be times when we stumble. But at those times we learn from the struggle and grow. At those times, if we make it our lifestyle choice, we can fall up the stairs, not down, then get up and keep on going.