Friday, 21 March 2014

The Ladder to Success

Everybody wants to get on in life. Some are weak and give in all too easily, while others are determined and when they get knocked down they pick themselves up, dust themselves down and… well, you know the rest. Not for them the old saw “If at first you don’t succeed, try and get signed off on the sick”. And Mark was nothing if not a tryer. In his short life he’d had a go at many things. Take selling; he’d sold cars, washing machines, insurance and time shares. Well, he’d tried, but the selling game is not for everyone.

Undeterred, he’d moved on and done a few weeks at a call centre, cornered people on the dole in town to complete market research questionnaires, distributed flyers for the local takeaway shops and even spent an unhappy day incongruously dressed as a banana in the pouring rain, trying to drum up trade for fly-by-night ‘designer’ outlet. You name it, he’d done it; washed cars, stacked shelves, picked vegetables, packed boxes, delivered boxes, emptied boxes. Then one day he found himself staring into an empty box, uncertain whether he’d just emptied it or had yet to fill it, or whether he was supposed to take it someplace else and in that moment he had an epiphany.

Mark realised he was made for better things and without a further word he slipped off the apron he’d forgotten why he’d had to wear and marched out of the warehouse into the glaring light, the foreman shouting insults at his back. The sun beat down and warmed him through and Mark began to walk. He didn’t know where he was going but deep in his heart he knew he had a purpose. There was a reason he hadn’t settled into a job; the universe had bigger plans for him. All that afternoon he trudged around town until finally, exhausted he dragged himself to his bedsit and lay down to sleep.

He was out like a light but not one of those proper lights, like Edison and Swann made; more like a crappy low energy compact fluorescent lamp, flickering on occasion through the night as disjointed thoughts surged through his mind. In his fitful dreams he saw many futures. He saw himself as a great success, piloting his yacht through the Caribbean; he saw himself as an abject failure, low on heroin and fuelling his habit by giving blow jobs in grimy alleyways. And then, just before he woke, up he had a vision; a shining, golden ladder climbing all the way up into the clouds. It was a sign.

Some people are made to be the cogs in the machine, grinding away until their teeth are all worn down and their bearings shot by the drudge of merely staying alive, but Mark was no longer one of them. He had purpose, resolve and he set out that day to follow his dream. He travelled the world, seeking out gurus and breathing in possibilities and searching to realise his destiny. One morning, while strolling the outskirts of Lhasa he saw a sign in a window, which read, simply “Success”. An arrow directed him to the left and Mark took its advice. Soon, another one read “You want success? Keep going”.

Eventually he arrived at the foot of a golden ladder and his brain fizzed as he recalled in detail the vision that had set him on his quest. Here he was and as if there was any chance he could have missed the significance, a small sign was attached to one of the lower rungs which read “Climb the ladder to success!” He began to climb and soon found himself disappearing into the shroud of low cloud that clung to the early morning; it was so much like his dream he could barely carry on in his excitement. In the gloom of the mist the ladder seemed to go on forever.

Why Buddha is always laughing...

But eventually, he emerged from the low cloud into the light and arrived at a rooftop terrace. Ahead of him a fat, semi-naked man sat in the lotus position, his skin glistening with a sheen of sweat, looking golden in the morning sun. He smiled and beckoned Mark come to him. Mark, exhausted, crawled forward until he knelt at the foot of the low dais on which the guru sat. “You want success, my son?” said the Bhudda-like figure, to which Mark responded eagerly with a nod and said “Yes! Show me!” The fat man drew aside his loin cloth to reveal a prominent erection. He grinned and declared, “My name is Cecil, but all my friends call me Cess…”

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