Friday, December 26, 2008

Remembering Ebenezer

In an earlier post, I started to share my feelings about a much-maligned man. Granted, he's a fictional character; still, it really bothers me how we treat his memory.

That man, of course, is Ebenezer Scrooge. His name is synonymous with avarice, selfishness, and a loathing of Christmas. This is, in my mind, a great injustice. While it is entirely true that for much of his life, Scrooge was indeed the person most people associate with his name, it is also true that he became the antithesis of his former self.

In the closing lines of the book, Charles Dickens describes Ebenezer Scrooge as follows:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Why is it then, that instead of remembering Scrooge as this kind, loving, generous human being who enriched so many people's lives, we choose to remember him for his sins and misdeeds? Why do we selfishly expect others to overlook our own faults and shortcomings, yet we cling so desperately to the judgments we make of others?

It seems to me the height of irony that we have entirely missed the point of A Christmas Carol. The message is one of redemption, hope, and new beginnings. Isn't that the whole point of Christmas? We celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ to the world, and through Him, the opportunity to become new creatures.

Who among us, upon coming to grips with the wretched people that we are, does not wish to erase the past and become better than we were? Indeed, everything in this life depends upon an ongoing recognizance that we are flawed, and have a constant need to make changes and amends. Furthermore, we desperately hope that others will forgive us our trespasses and allow us to become the people we ought to be.

Why then, do we find it so difficult to refuse others the opportunity we so desperately long for ourselves? Why do we insist on remembering people as they were for their shortcomings, and not for the people they become?

I think that secretly, all of us possess some degree of self-loathing. We see our own imperfections, compare ourselves with our potential, and judge ourselves lacking. It is far easier to perpetually condemn those who have stumbled and righted themselves, than it is to correct our own faults. How much simpler it is to look down upon the embittered, hateful old man Ebenezer Scrooge used to be and say to ourselves, “I'm so much better than he is. I love Christmas, and would never treat others as cruelly as he does.” If, however, we accept the new and improved Ebenezer Scrooge and compare ourselves to him, the truth is a terrible one to face. The man he became is far more generous and loving than we are. If we allow Scrooge to change, in comparison, we are the greedy, unloving, uncaring ones.

It is our own insecurities, then, that cause us to remember the sinner in his former state and not his current one. Seeing those who have successfully overcome the evil tendencies with which we all struggle, often serves as a reminder to us of our own inadequacies. Instead of inspiring us to change, our pride refuses to allow us to see the malefactor in his state of rebirth and transformation. As long as we see others for the awful people they used to be, we can continue to live under the insidious, false pretext that the abysmal us is somehow better than our new and improved neighbor. As long as we've conned ourselves into thinking that we're somehow better than the awful person another used to be, then we're still a “good person” who has no need to change.

This Christmas, it is my hope that we may show others the same mercy and forgiveness we so desperately wish for ourselves. May we see the repentant sinner and be inspired to follow his example, and allow him the opportunity to change and be forgiven. May we hear the name Ebenezer Scrooge and remember him as the wonderful, charitable soul he became, and not the sad, shell of a man he was before. Most importantly, may we remember it is precisely because of Christmas, that come judgment day, we can likewise be looked upon with mercy and forgiveness, and judged—not for who we used to be—but who we became through the merits, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

And the Winner Is...

This person. Congratulations, Heidi! You were the first to correctly guess the secret identity of the mystery man. By the way, I've given you a prize. It's quite lame, by the way, but it's the best I've got at the moment. I've started following your blog and have left comments on all your posts that are on the front page. Like I said, it's really lame. Your prize, that is. Not your blog.

I realize there are long-established blogging etiquette conventions that dictate you're supposed to respond to comments, visit the blogs of those who visit yours, etc. Unfortunately, I don't have as much time to dedicate to that sort of thing as I would like. Especially if Rebecca is on the computer. I think we both need laptops. Anyway, this means I will not be able to do as much blog-hopping as I would like to do.

There's a principle in Economics (WARNING: If you suffer from sleep apnea, read no further unless you're hooked up to your machine) known as opportunity costs. Opportunity costs are what it costs a person to engage in any given activity. The opportunity costs of that activity are whatever benefit you would have gained had you chosen your best alternative activity.

In this case, the value of Heidi's prize is whatever I gave up to go read and comment on her posts. Since those infomercials tell me I could be making bazillions of dollars working out of my home part time, that would be my best alternative activity. So, Heidi, I gave up bazillions of dollars, being my own boss, and wearing my PJs (Attention Grammar Nazis(TM), notice I left off the apostrophe. You're welcome.) to work to give you your prize. Those are some seriously valuable comments. In other words, you hit the jackpot. No need to thank me.

To the rest of you who were kind enough to read my first post and leave comments, I promise I will eventually get around to reading some of your stuff and commenting on it as well. Unfortunately, I will only be giving up, oh, I don't know, a part-time job at Wal-Mart (EDIT: Wal-Mart should be so lucky to have me working for them). So that means my comments on Heidi's blog will be worth far more than the comments left for everyone else.

Or not. That's still lame, isn't it? But hey, it's Christmas! It's the thought that counts, right? In memory of the new-and-improved, charitable and generous Ebeneezer Scrooge, have mercy on my pathetic offering.

Oh! Wait! I know! I can put in a plug for Heidi's book, Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind. If you read it all your dreams will come true, and if you don't, all the hair you want to grow will fall out and all the hair you don't want to grow will become a forest. Hopefully that makes it a no-brainer for you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Perception and Mystery

Do you ever find that some things really bother you, but for some reason you can't quite put your finger on it? Really? You do? Great! This isn't one of those times.

Quick. Let's play a game of "Who am I?", shall we?

This great man was described as follows:

" good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city ever knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world."
Was he a member of the clergy? Nope. Was he some great politician? Heavens no! You don't believe there's such a thing, do you?

What about a generous philanthropist? That he most certainly was, but that is not how the world remembers him. No. This wonderful man's name is synonymous with selfishness, greed, misery and a total and complete dearth of concern for the welfare of anyone other than himself.

Have you guessed who the mystery man is? If you're my wife there's no mystery. Wait. That doesn't sound good. Sweetie, if you're reading this, there's still plenty of mystery, I swear. What I mean is that you already know the answer, so you don't count. Uh . . . that sounds even worse. Time to shut up.

Anyway, I was going to go ahead and tell you who I am talking about, and then do a little ranting and pontification. I think, however, that it will be more fun to play a little guessing game. At least it seems like fun at the moment. I'm tired, so I could be terribly wrong. If you know the secret identity of the man in question, leave your guess in the comments. If you're right, you'll be rewarded--but only if you didn't use Google. If you do cheat and use Google, please don't spoil it by posting the answer.

Thanks for stopping by!