As we approach this wonderful Christmas season, I have begun to watch my favorite Christmas movies. Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol , is my favorite holiday movie and I especially like George C. Scott as Scrooge. Here is a description of Scrooge before his miraculous awakening on the night before Christmas…
“Ebenezer Scrooge is a nasty grump; A greedy, penny-pinching, crotchety character with a heart as cold as ice and hard as steel. He spews bitter venom around anyone who is near. He knows he is a social pariah, but he doesn’t care. In fact, it pleases him to “edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance.”
We can all agree that Scrooge is a bad man, a monster even. So it’s quite astonishing when, through a series of visitations from ghosts including a tormented former business partner, he experiences an epiphany. The combination of viewing his tragic and lonely childhood, his present contemptuous existence, and the chilling glimpse into his death creates in Scrooge a powerful impetus to change. Toward the end of the tale, a remarkable transformation indeed takes place.
Bounding from monster to humanitarian, caustic to joyful, and miserly to charitable, Scrooge embodies the miraculous and perhaps most importantly, the change that we believe is possible within our own lives.
So what really happened to Scrooge? Was he inexplicable given a new personality that Christmas Eve?
No. I believe the true miracle of that wondrous Christmas day was that Ebenezer Scrooge rediscovered who he really was and who he was meant to be. For me, it was the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past that reveals the answer to the riddle of how Scrooge became Scrooge. This Ghost shows how his good will and compassion had been quashed by his neglectful and cruel childhood, his mother’s absence, his lack of friends at boarding school, and ultimately the loss of his only love, his exquisite fiancé, Belle. In what I believe to be the most profound scene in the movie, she gently explains why she must leave him.
“You fear the world too much…All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, gain, engrosses you. Have I not?”
Belle’s departure was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and represents the most critical early turning point in Ebenezer’s life. This moment and those that led up to it would change the way he looked at the world and set him up to be mean, cruel, greedy, and hard.
I believe that many of us have had similar horrific experiences; clearly some more than others. There are times when we all have been let down. There are other times when we have been hurt so bad that we never want to feel again. We have all become bitter and jaded, declaring that “nothing will ever be the same.” These are the times when our unconscious minds have been put on alert and survival at any cost becomes our only objective.
These are the times when we operate on fear and resentment, and in turn, become our very worst Selfs. Clearly before that Christmas Eve, there were two very different men within Scrooge, but the good one has been overwhelmed by fear and pain. In the process, the caring, kind, and generous one has been buried thereby allowing the monster to emerge.
Listen to the answer to Scrooge’s question to the chained Ghost of Christmas Past. “You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
I believe most of us are fettered to some degree. We often feel like there are two people living inside of us fighting for our soul. How do we make sense of a mind in constant struggle? Why do our minds work like this? Will we, can we, ever find peace?
One of my biggest goals for this blog is for us to explore what is means to be human and to better understand the constant battle between our basic animal instincts and our greater conscious minds. I want us to journey together to make sense of the noise in our minds and how to construct a usable framework to better understand our Selfs.
Scrooge showed us that no matter how far we have gone down the wrong path, it is never too late to change. May we like Ebenezer ultimately say that:
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” ―Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Here is a great clip from the 1999 movie starring Patrick Stewart…