Yes! And the bedpost was his own, the bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!
I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh! Jacob Marley! Heaven and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!”
He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with Tears.
“They are not torn down,” cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, “they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here: I am here: the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!”
His hands were busy with his garments all this time: turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.
“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 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 and Hallo!”
Seventy years or so after the start of the Industrial Revolution, and twenty years after Charles Dickens, then twelve, worked in a blackening warehouse making boot black ten hours a day to support his family who were living in Marshalsea, a debtor’s prison, Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol.” This story is as well-known to us in the West as the story of Christ’s birth in a manager. The story’s warnings about the soullessness of a new kind of greed fueled by an expansion of wealth into the hands of factory owners and industrialists (and coal!!) is as relevant today as it was almost two hundred years ago.
Through the miracle of a ghost and a few spirits and three nights of dreams wherein Scrooge gets to observe his Past, Present, and Future self, Dickens contrives a way for Scrooge to see the truth of the pain his greedy self has caused others and resolve to change his ways. Scrooge arrives at this ah ha!! place of awakening partly out of the fear of what he himself will be condemned to suffer if he goes on about his coldhearted life and partly because of the feelings of empathy which rise in him when he observes, fully, the lives of the people he has spurned and mistreated.
Redemption, Dickens seems to be telling us, is possible, even if we have caused great harm. What is necessary is to take an honest accounting of the harm, to stare it down, so to speak. This honest accounting will lead to our change of character and outlook on the world. It is our path to redemption.
God, I hope he’s right. I suppose that’s what I am doing here every week. Trying to make an honest accounting of the harm my own charmed, privileged, designer-pillow-stuffed life has spawned.
With omicron spreading as fast as fire through dry forest and wiping out so many families’ plans to spend Christmas together, and our democracy facing peril and the planet’s exquisite equilibrium threatened, many people I talk to are, like me, scared. We have seen the future and it looks terrifying. We are looking back on the past and regretting all the ways we didn’t pay attention to the harm our own twenty first century form of greed has wrought, and we are looking at the present and thinking: it’s time, we haven’t destroyed everything yet, there’s still time to wake up, to make amends, to Whoop and Holler!
“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefor, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good, and will do me good, and I say, God bless it.