I love Scrooge, the movie or play of Charles Dickens's book, A Christmas Carol. Every time I've seen it (and I've seen it in many different versions) I cry when Scrooge has his transformation on Christmas morning.
In 1843, Dickens wrote this "book for the ages" to immense popular acceptance. It hasn't gone out of print since. And of course it's spawned innumerable stage presentations, about two dozen movies, and even more radio productions.
Only books that touch soothing deeply inside of us have that kind of longevity.
Yesterday, as we were searching for something to watch on TV, we came upon a version of Scrooge I hadn't yet seen - a musical version with Albert Finney as Scrooge. Perhaps my favorite yet.
Scrooge, once again, is transformed from the miserly, mean, angry, bitter and just plain nasty person he is into a joyous exuberant, generous, loving being.
But how did this transformation take place?
Nobody in Srcooge's life seemed to have any impact on him at all. His humble clerk, Bob Crachit, failed to cheer him up, even on Christmas Eve. The two gentlemen from the benevolent society couldn't squeeze as much as a farthing from his purse. And his cheerful nephew, Fred, only received scorn from Scrooge when he extended him Christmas greetings. "Bah, humbug," was his most common reply to any expression of happiness or kindness.
Happiness, kindness and love just bounced off of Scrooge. Then what could possibly change him? It certainly wasn't anything or anyone from this life. A different intervention was required.
Then Came the Ghosts
Each of the four ghosts was able to reach him in ways that ordinary life couldn't. They didn't preach positive thinking or the law of attraction or empower him with support. Instead, they all had him face the unvarnished truth about his life. Scrooge wasn't exactly open to this, but he had no choice.
First his partner, seven years deceased, Jacob Marley, bound in chains, makes an unexpected appearance in his bedroom. His message was clear: "My life was a total waste, one of greed, selfishness and disdain for my fellow man." It was too late for Marley, but if Scrooge changed his ways he had a chance. He departed with the announcement that Scrooge would be visited by three ghosts that night, one of Christmas Past, another of Christmas Present and a final one of Christmas Yet-to-Come.
Marley was the wake-up call. He told it like it was. He didn't make his message user friendly! And Scrooge had very little interest in that message. But once Marley departed, Scrooge surrendered to his fate of the three other ghostly visits.
Next was the Ghost of Christmas Past. His message was clear and direct. "Once you were young and happy and in love. But you succumbed to scarcity thinking. You wanted to get married, but wouldn't because you felt you needed more money before you wed. You spent all your time at work, and your neglected fiance´ left you. This triggered a downward spiral of sadness and loss which you covered over. Instead, you worked harder to make more money and shut people out of your life. And now, many years later, you are an empty shell of a man."
This Ghost illustrated the way people get so identified with survival that they forget the most important things in life - love, generosity, making a difference and finding pleasure in relationships and simple things.
Next, the Ghost of Christmas Present showed Scrooge the fruits of a life lived badly. Mostly, he pointed out how living from scarcity and greed impacted everyone around him, from Bob Cratchit to his nephew and the society at large. It became very clear that Scrooge lived a very limited, fearful and angry life that not only didn't make a difference, but caused even more pain and suffering in the world.
This was a very harsh lesson for Scrooge. The Ghost showed what the costs were of living such a life. And he also showed that the payoffs of living that life (being rich and safe, and avoiding the possible pain of intimacy), didn't really give him anything real and valuable at all. It had only turned him into a living ghoul, wracked by misery and resentment.
The final Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come was the most fearsome of all. Scrooge was shown how his life had impacted others. Nobody appreciated or loved him after he was gone. They actually celebrated his death, alleviating the world, if only a little, from his misery and wretchedness.
This was the end for Scrooge. He didn't just see it as a vision, but experienced it deeply and profoundly. And it was terrifying beyond his imaginings.
The lessons from the ghosts were profound:
1. It's time for a wake up call. If you don't change, all is lost.
2. You substituted your love with scarcity, sadness and anger.
3. The cost of these attitudes are huge and the payoff is empty.
4. By holding onto these attitudes, there is no hope for you.
This is pretty heavy stuff, but the ghosts got the job done. When Scrooge woke up on Christmas morning he realized that he was still alive; there was still a chance to live a life that made a difference, that was full of love and generosity.
And that's the part that makes me cry. Every time.
For the last part of the story we see Scrooge living his transformation. He raised Bob Cratchit's salary and buys him a huge turkey for Christmas dinner. He pays for Tiny Tim's medical care. He buys gifts for his nephew and family. And he commits to donating money to the benevolent fund for the rest of his life. In the Finney version there is a particularly exuberant parade down main street with Scrooge dressed as Santa Claus. The bah, humbug is gone forever.
Why did I write this abbreviated tale of Scrooge and his transformation?
Well, if it's not obvious… We are all Scrooge. We are probably not as miserly, mean, angry, bitter and just plain nasty as Scrooge. But most of us think limited, fearful beliefs. We don't play at the level we could and rarely make the difference that's possible for us. We hold back. We blame others for our situation. And being right is often more important than being happy.
The most profound realization we can gain from this story is that we can transform as well.
And we aren't transformed by trying to be a better person or adopting a positive attitude. We are transformed by facing the reality of who we are being. We are transformed by telling the truth about our limiting, fearful beliefs, and their costs and payoffs.
But how does transformation actually happen? Where does all that joy, generosity, happiness, love and peace come from?
Notice that the ghosts didn't teach Scrooge how to be joyful, generous, happy, loving and peaceful. Instead, they pointed to hard truths. But when he clearly saw the terrible consequences of his miserable life, his old life just dropped away effortlessly.
The only place those expansive attitudes could possibly come from was from his being. That is, there were already there, just hidden. They were natural expressions of who he really was.
And this is true for all of us.
Transformation isn't a self-improvement process. It's a process of telling the hard truths about our lives and realizing that none of that is who we really are. It's just conditioning, imagination and self-deception.
I wish you transformation for the Holiday Season.
Cheers, Robert M.
And you just might want to download a copy of Scrooge and see if it makes you cry as well.