This semester I’ve been writing a weekly article for the Collegian, the Asbury College newspaper. Although it wasn’t my intent, it has become a technology-themed column, and has been recently christened “Geek Speak”. So I’m rather type-cast.
I wrote this article for that column, but it didn’t go where I intended it to go, and so it doesn’t fit the theme of the column. It’s still a work in progress, but I need to work on some other things, and so I offer it for your consideration.
I Wish You A Scroogey Christmas
About this time every year, I start reading “A Christmas Carol”, by Charles Dickens. It’s been a favorite book of mine for many years, and I’ve read it at least once a year for the last 10 years or so.
From the first revelation that Marley was dead, to begin with, to the last “God bless us, every one”, it keeps me captivated by the sense that I know Scrooge as though he were my very self. The angst about how I have spent my life starts to plague me as I look back over Scrooge’s life with him. Did I choose the right career path? Did I choose the right wife? Have I given my daughter the right kind of upbringing?
It is very easy, if you only know the Scrooge of movies and popular culture, to condemn him without understanding that, while he did indeed make the decisions that got him where he is, it’s much more complicated than that. Isn’t it always?
His father hated him, because his mother died giving birth, and young Ebeneezer spends his early years exiled to a boarding school, not even permitted to come home for school holidays until he is nearly a man. He spends those early years watching his friends go home to loving homes, while he spends Christmas in the schoolroom.
He wanted to provide a better life for Belle than he had, and, somewhere, got distracted along the way, “until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses” him. But, if you think about it, how many people you know have thrown their lives into their work, and lost sight of the things that really matter. If you’re honest, haven’t you done that, more than once?
Yes, he made choices, and he is a caricature, but he is also very human.
What amazes me about Scrooge is that he is willing to change. When you get to a certain point in life, it takes enormous courage to change, even when you can see that what you’ve been doing is wrong. There are expectations that people have of you. And there are the people that will say “I told you so” when you change, and you just *can’t* give them that satisfaction. They will surely, like Cratchit, seize up a poker to defend themselves, certain that there’s some trick.
People often ask me why I love the book so much. The reasons are far from simple. Certainly the collection that I’ve built of Christmas Carol books and movies is a little over the top. Most of those are for the beautiful artwork, since they all tell the same story.
I love the book because I am Scrooge. I read it every year because, each year, Scrooge speaks to me in a different way. One year, I agonize over the mistakes of the past, and another year I am made aware of the vast opportunity to do useful things in the present that will make a better future. And I’m reminded of the enormous impact that is made by even the tiny, seemingly trivial things that we do.
Sometimes I merely revel in the beauty of a winter day, and the people going about their business, touched by the joy that comes from Christmas.
It is ever a shame that the word “Scrooge” has entered our vocabulary as a synonym for the Stave One Scrooge. It would be even more a shame it if had come to mean the Stave Five Scrooge. Both of these characters are caricature, and not particularly interesting. The real Scrooge appears in the central three staves, where he discovers who he really is, and why he is that, and recognizes what he can do about it.
I wish you all a profoundly Scroogey Advent season.