16 Aug 2022

Dickens did it first.



It is all the self-help books in the world distilled into the greatest Christmas story of them all. Between the covers of ‘A Christmas Carol’ lives the tale of an age long past but which still holds on to a dream very much alive.

For a moment imagine yourself in Victorian London where the impoverished eke out a meagre living. This surging tide of human existence, in all its shades and tones, was captured by one man who fixed for ever our images of that time. When Charles Dickens was inspired to write ‘A Christmas Carol’ did he realise what he was achieving? Within the pages of a small book he managed to distil the essence of who we are into one tiny sliver of life – into a few short hours of the life of one man – the man we know as Scrooge.

The very name conjures up images of meanness, misery and miserliness. The word applied to one of our fellow human beings describes someone best avoided and left to his own devices. And yet this one story grabs us by the throat and holds our attention.

Therein lies the genius of Dickens. For in his depiction of that one miserable creature, Charles Dickens presents a puzzle and poses a question. Why should we feel the need to be attracted to the story of someone we would normally avoid? Is it because in Scrooge we see a part of ourselves which we have avoided to confront? Louise Hay, in her global best-seller “You Can Heal Your Life”, shows us how we need to address our past in order to move forward.

How does Dickens handle this? He shows us Scrooge as a child at school separate from his companions, not knowing the intimacy of friends. We glimpse him as a young man, afraid to commit himself to the one he loves. All the people he meets on that one Christmas Eve are filled with love, compassion and care. Scrooge sees in them an image of all he lacks. And yet Dickens shows us that all we desire to be lies buried deep within us. We must allow it to be released. Even Scrooge changes from the man he was. So, ultimately this is a story of redemption.

‘A Christmas Carol’ is filled with all human emotions, sorrow and joy, elation, rejection, humour and wit. It is the child’s book filled with the magic of Christmas. It assails our senses. Through the magic of Dickens’ words we are no longer just reading his story – we become part of it. We feel the crisp tang of a frosty morning, the crunch of snow beneath our feet. Our eyes dance at the sight of flickering lanterns lighting the wonders of a toy shop window. We hear the crackle of log fires, and savour the smell of a roasting goose. Our spirits are raised at the sound of laughter. But we also experience the memories of lost opportunities.

To a child the three spirits of Christmas past, present and future are all magic and mystery. To Scrooge they paint a portrait of his life. To you and me those same spirits represent the very basis of our existence. They tell us how our past has shaped us to be who we are and how our choices map out the road which lies before us. M. Scott Peck, in his multi-million best seller “The Road Less Travelled”, reveals to us how taking a different route, moving out of a well worn rut of our own creation will have life changing benefits. But Dickens got there before him. “A Christmas Carol” points us in a new direction and compels us to grab onto new opportunities.

When we look deep into the story it is like standing in a Hall of Mirrors seeing different reflections of ourselves. In each character we see a little piece of who we are. Bob Cratchit raises the human spirits by looking for the good in all things. In Tiny Tim we recognise the innocence and wonder of lost youth. The revellers in the streets invite us to be part of a bigger family.

And in Scrooge we see . . . but surely we cannot recognise ourselves in such a creature? Who among us has not let opportunities slip through our fingers? Which of us has not regretted things done – and tasks left undone? Wayne Dyer’s classic self-help book, “Your Erroneous Zones”, urges us to take charge of our lives. Dyer is often referred to as “the father of motivation”. That makes Charles Dickens the granddaddy of them all.

He motivates us and urges us onwards through the spooky, shivery tale which makes a child run for the warmth of a cuddle, knowing that all will be well in the end. Dickens’ timeless tale is also the beginning of the greatest quest of all – the search for who we may become. You may find the answers you seek if you allow yourself to become the child you once were. Then and only then will you glimpse the magic and wonders which lie ahead.

If you have not already read ‘A Christmas Carol’ I envy you the thrill of discovery. But, if like me you have already savoured the delights, allow yourself the joy of a fresh reading.

So, for an hour or two, sit in the company of Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, the Three Spirits, the merry revellers on the streets and of course, old Scrooge. Together raise a glass or two and relive once more the magic of ‘A Christmas Carol’.

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