Why is the Christmas Carol, the movie based on the Charles Dickens’ book, such a powerful palette cleanser at this time of year? I would like to argue that is the triumph of humanism over materialism. Why do I use the word humanism, instead of human spirit?
It is precisely because the tasks that Scrooge sets out to undertake and complete for himself – his actionable steps, if you will, that bring the ideas he learned in his reckoning with time past, present and future, to the ground. Where the rubber meets the road, as they say.
If we look at the tale from Jungian point of view, all the characters representing an aspect of one psyche, we see that a life lived in materialism is not necessarily wasted. It could have been that the very materialism that Scrooge worshiped allowed him to finally transcend it. And along the way, he makes a good point about paying taxes. It is not against the law to be miserly, and it is also very helpful to support society through taxes for the impoverished, uneducated, and violent. These simple acts of maintaining a business and commerce is one of those unsung heroic deeds of working men and women everywhere. Yet, Scrooge wants more. He is haunted, eventually, by his only friend and business partner, who was unable to move on to the next level of evolution because he head not finished certain tasks. He had not been able to reconcile how he had behaved in his life, and was weighted down by guilt and remorse. This is a self-correcting aspect of the human psyche. It is perhaps why we don’t like to speak about death openly and candidly. It forces us to look in the mirror and reckon with our life’s choices, attitudes and beliefs. Yet the fact that we cannot bring anything with us – the cold hard fact – shown towards the end of the movie when the Angel of Death brings Ebenezer to his grave is not enough to make us mend our ways, either. No, what finally allows us to move forward is the little child within, the Tiny Tim who longs for love and care and guidance through the challenges of growing up – how to walk without crutches – how to move forward and maintain heart, courage and wit. This love that goes unexpressed in Scrooge’s life bursts forth after he realizes that is the truest wealth he has to offer the world. Of course he has great discernment and doesn’t just throw his money away, but begins to “squander it” little by little, generously according to what the other characters can possibly absorb. He does so without flash or asking for recognition. Some might ask – is it too much a price to pay – to live so selfishly and only at the end shower his love on the world? Who are we to say? The precise movements of the Soul are the domain of each individual’s perception. That Scrooge allowed himself, was allowed, however you want to word it, to explore the excess of materialism is what eventually lead to – not just the generosity – but the discernment with which to share it. And because he had behaved so badly, he felt, he could now behave like a saint, and nobody would resent him for it! And well does he behave. Through uncorking all the love that he has repressed through his life, he is able to wield the power of transformation through extraordinary grace available to us all. And he did it his way,, and he did it fast.
So, who are we to judge in 2022 those of us Scrooge like with our time, money, and any other resource? What great transformation awaits us? When is selfishness, in fact, a virtue, – or, more precisely, when is it not?
Merry New Year to the Scrooge in us all,