Most everyone knows of the Christmas story by Charles Dickens.
In Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Present introduces Ebenezer Scrooge to “two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable.” The ghost explains, “this boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom…”
A Christmas Carol is loaded with metaphysical, social and cultural treasures. I’ve always found the above line to be particularly chilling. The truth in it is undeniable. Dickens’ use of language and imagery was powerful. The juxtaposing of the boy as Ignorance and the girl as Want assigns those conditions to the masculine and the feminine.
The Ghost of Christmas Present was actually showing Scrooge’s own inner condition. The boy is ignorant and neglectful of his sacred feminine, his sacred feminine in want.
The image was also a reflection of Western capitalist society in general: the celebration of blind, aggressive, materialistic acquisition and the relegation of the maternal, nurturing, universally receptive feminine quality to be neglected, abandoned, overlooked, and cast aside. It was a cultural, psychological, and spiritual image of the disease of imbalance, as much as it was a statement about the rampant poverty of that time (and today).
The fact that Dickens used the Ghost of Christmas Present to voice that truth is telling. The ignorant boy is more fearful than the impoverished girl. Ignorant, grasping aggression is a fearsome force. The impoverished can be controlled, but poverty married to ignorant aggression is what rulers fear.
Dickens wrote The Christmas Carol about 50 years after the brutal French Revolution. That event was still fresh in the minds of the European monarchs. One of Dickens’ greatest works was A Tale of Two Cities, and was set during the French Revolution. The opening line of the novel, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” described the vast, economic gap between the haves (few) and the have-nots (many), as well as a middle class in panic, trying to hold their shrinking position.
Dickens refers to Scrooge as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.” A man who was extremely wealthy, but living a lifestyle as if he was impoverished. He was a hoarder of wealth, not wealthy of mind and spirit, not the least bit happy. Scrooge was a sick man, a man who projected his emptiness onto the world. He only found value in increasing the numbers on an accounting sheet. People had no value to his life.
The story sheds light on the reasons Scrooge became emotionally crippled: his father abandoning him at a boarding school, the death of his sister whom was his only meaningful, loving relationship (which also symbolizes the death of the feminine balance in his life), his fiance Belle leaving him because of his ruthless obsession with acquiring wealth. All of these events in Scrooge’s life occurred around Christmas.
Christmas becomes the recurring subconscious theme which requires Scrooge to heal from emotional wounds. Instead, Scrooge develops a deep hatred for the season, a deep, abiding resistance to facing the pain of his past. He sublimates the pain by burrowing into work and further enriching himself with riches that he has no clue how to enjoy. Wealth is not a salve for his soul, it’s a suffocating obsession that he neurotically pursues. Wealth is all that matters to Scrooge. He thrives on possessing and hoarding with no idea of how to relax or enjoy.
Scrooge’s soul sickness brings him to a ‘dark night of the soul’ one Christmas Eve. His subconsciously buried and neglected wounds became too painful to ignore anymore, which brings us right back to the original theme of this piece:
“They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit of Christmas Present, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.
Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
And abide the end.”
This is America and most of the Western world today, bringing forth angry ignorance and depressive want as offspring of it’s ‘free market’ commerce.
Deny it, America, at your peril. Slander those who try to address it, admit it only to further divide and entrench your malfeasance. Make it worse at your own peril. America, your dark night of the soul is at hand. Will you see the damage you’re doing and bring purposeful transformation of your injustices and the pain?
It’s Christmas, I’m an optimistic man.
Ed: Sara Crolick
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