Jealousy is the fear or apprehension of superiority; envy our uneasiness under it.
- William Shenstone, English Poet and Landscape Gardener (1714-1763)
Road tripping it on a rainy Christmas day from The OC up to the Raiders game in Oakland, it seemed the perfect time to give a listen to Tim Curry’s reading of the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”. After having watched a fair share of the many TV and movie adaptations over the years, I figured it would be nice to finally appreciate Dickens’ work, word for word, for the very first time.
Curry gave a brilliant read, and as the early morning fog transitioned seamlessly to an afternoon sky of grey brooding skies and then later, a slow, heavy rain, it made for the perfect driving weather to accompany this story of spirits from the grave and ghosts dragging chains.
In one of the first scenes before his other worldly visitations begin, the old miser Scrooge sends two away volunteers soliciting Christmas charity for the poor by asking them if there aren’t prisons and workhouses to accommodate all the indigents.
By the second of two visits from the three ghosts of Christmas, old Ebenezer has quite a change of heart towards the unfortunates of the world.
It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that while Scrooge remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never spoke of it, until they left a children’s Twelfth Night party, when, looking at the Spirit as they stood together in an open place, he noticed that its hair was grey.
“Are spirits’ lives so short?” asked Scrooge.
“My life upon this globe, is very brief,” replied the Ghost. “It ends to-night.”
“To-night!” cried Scrooge.
“To-night at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing near.”
The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment.
“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”
“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
“Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, 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.”
“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.
“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”
The boy is “Ignorance” and the girl is “Want”. The ignorance is not a slight against the child, but an indictment against all mankind for the number of children in our world who do not grow up with any chance of a meaningful education. The child of want is self-explanatory. They are both the children of all mankind. They are not just someone else’s children, they are all our children.
As we enjoy, what I imagine for most of the readers of this blog, to be a Christmas of privilege, I wish, in the words of Tiny Tim, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!”