|Charles Dickens – Public Domain image|
When Charles Dickens first published A Christmas Carol in 1843, it was instantly beloved. More than a century and a half later, it remains a timeless tale – but most know the story from glitzy, highly marketed movie remakes. Each passing film depicts a more ghoulish, decrepit evil Scrooge, a more perfect Cratchit family, an almost sickening, syrupy Tiny Tim.
Although Dickens had a tendency to write extreme good/evil contrasts, the above traits are not the core of the original story that takes just an evening to read. The name Scrooge will forever remain vilified even though that’s not how the tale culminates.
A Christmas Carol takes us through a miraculous account of redemption and transformation; personal, emotional, moral, and philosophical. Ebenezer Scrooge is actually a hero in the making. We enter the story in a frozen frame of Scrooge’s current disposition. The goodwill and love was in his heart the entire time, but after reading we see why it became shrouded in darkness and what amazing feats it took to thaw it. He must, must face himself!
Shortly, he is transported by three ghosts all over the place. Inward and back through his tormented past, inward and facing his present persona, and through a bleak future if he carries on without a change of consciousness. He views a map of how his actions affected others.
With cold, hardened misers, it would take a shocking awakening where denying and escaping oneself is impossible. In reality, for any type of transformation, it doesn’t have to be so dramatic and harsh.
Here’s how his breakdown and awakening went:
Scary Warning From Ex-partner Jacob Marley
It would take a stern caution from the ghost of a former business partner to shake a jaded Scrooge. He is admonished to alter his course or face a desperate afterlife. He looks out the window to see tons of other spiritual failures, bound in chains like Marley.
– Some constructive words from living friends can jolt many of us into perspective.
Ghost of Christmas Past
Scrooge is bewildered but tries to pass it off as a bad waking dream – maybe it was dyspepsia from all that stale gruel he ate before bed. That was only a kind intro. ‘Without their visits,’ said [Marley], ‘you cannot hope to shun the path I tread.’
The Ghost of Christmas Past stirs his heart and trudges up bittersweet memories, taking him into a wounded place deep inside. The ghost reminds him of his sad, lonely childhood, his sweet innocence and moments of joy, his beloved sister, the fun times from the generosity of others, and the tragedy of disappointed love caused by his avarice. He has to face what-could-have-been-if-only and accept that he brought it on himself.
This spirit was firm but gentle even as it brought forth heartache and regretful tears. It was there for his welfare and reclamation.
In real life, one can glance back or gaze before reaching death’s door, accept, own responsibility, grieve, forgive themselves and others, and determine to move forward on the straight and narrow.
Ghost of Christmas Present
The present ghost has warm, but penetrating eyes. It takes him into random scenes of shoppers and folks getting ready for Christmas feasts. There’s a world of depth and humor going on without him. The gratitude and happiness of the pitiful Cratchit family who try to make it on Scrooge’s ridiculous unfair wages. He watches their inner world and feels empathy for the first time for their ill son, Tim, who can’t get better on the family’s meager income and food.
Scrooge attempts to blame the spirit for the unfairness towards the poor.
‘There are some upon this earth of yours,’ returned the Spirit, ‘who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.’
At this point, Ebenezer realizes that true social change begins with individuals like him. He gets to see that despite people who understandably hate his guts, the people he really hit hard still care about him.
When getting in the rut of the rat race, we can look up to gain awareness and empathy. No matter what we’ve been telling ourselves, goodwill still exists. We are loved. Real change begins with us.
Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come
The darkly cloaked phantom fills Scrooge with gloom and dread. Scrooge won’t get any warm fuzzies from this guy; his transformation is not done. Until now, he still has a shallow understanding of what he has become and how his actions hurt good people.
He has no clue what people will actually say or think when he is gone. That his body will be dumped in some crude, unkempt grave with no one at the funeral. That young Tim’s early death will result from his own cruelty. Life will go on, apathetically, without him. His life made no difference at all; in fact, it only brought pain and disgust, but happiness upon death.
He gets to see his lonely, last breaths and hear about his hired help looting his now dispossessed treasures.
For the first time the hand appeared to shake.
‘Good Spirit!’ he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: ‘Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!…I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!’
It doesn’t take the grim reaper to see where our path leads. At any time, we can look around and honestly assess how actions (or lack thereof) will affect others. No one is beyond hope, every day is a another chance.
And Ebenezer got that chance when he awoke, truly awakened.
‘I don’t know what to do!’ cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings. ‘I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy! I am as giddy as a drunken man! A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!’
He is not just grateful to be alive, he is reborn. He is healed. He has love, generosity and good humor to give freely now. Many welcome his permanent change, but others thought he was crazy and laughed at him.
…but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway…
His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
Article originally published Christmas Day 2011
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