Bookshelf Battle Cast – Episode 002 – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens – Stave 2 – “The First of the Three Spirits”

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Dang, 3.5 listeners.  Old Scrooge is going through some serious shit.

In Stave 2, the Ghost of Christmas Past visits our favorite crusty old prick.  Scrooge is tortured to see how happy he used to be, how much hope and promise his life once held, and how he lost sight of that happiness in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

#1 – The Ghost of Christmas Past is an odd looking mannish sort of creature, with flames glowing out of his head.  He carries a hat that looks like a candle snuffer, a little piece of metal that in the olden days, people would put over a candle to put the light out.

Is the past like a candle?  Intangible – you can’t really hold it without experiencing the physical pain of the flame.  Similarly, thinking about the past can bring about some good.  There are beautiful moments that shine like a candle flame.  However, there are sad moments, regrets, things we wish we had done differently.  If we reach out and try to make those memories real in our minds, we are burned, just as if we touch the candle.  The past cannot be changed and yet we often wish it could be, because we grow older, we realize how all the mistakes we made add up and how if we had just made different choices, our lives would have turned out better.

Are there any choices you currently face that might have an impact on your future?  Think as yourself as Scrooge in the future, observing your actions right now with the help of the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Would your future self have any advice to give? What would it be?

#2 – Fezziwig was Scrooge’s former boss.  This is a case where Dickens exceeds at “show, don’t tell.”  In Stave 1, we received a rather dour discussion of Scrooge’s counting – house.  Ice cold, grim, Scrooge working on business until the very last second of the day, excoriating his clerk for the slightest error.

Was such heavy handedness necessary?  After all, we learn that Scrooge’s old boss, when Scrooge was a young man, was Fezziwig.  Fezziwig too was rich, yet he managed to get his business done and still find time to play.  In modern parlance, “Fezziwig worked hard and played hard.”

Whereas Old Scrooge cursed his clerk for wanting Christmas off, Fezziwig bars the doors of his office, has everything moved to create a dance floor, and brings in fiddlers and dancers and food and fun, inviting Scrooge and other employees to quit work early and dance the night away.

Is Dickens trying to teach us about having a balanced life?  Is it possible to work hard and play hard and be successful at both, or must one give way to the other?

#3 – Scrooge was once engaged.  Alas, his fiancee grows weary over the fact that Scrooge spends more time chasing money than he does doting upon her.  This seems to be an issue in relationships.  Couples often fight over money, which means one spouse must work more to obtain it, but then they often fight over quality time, which means a spouse must work less to gain it.

How can couples work together to achieve a balanced relationship, one where there’s enough money and enough time to be happy together?  Is such a notion possible?

#4 – Clearly, the past pains Scrooge.  He thinks about his old life in the countryside, his sister, his old boss and work friends and parties, his lost love.  The past cannot be changed and yet regrets have a tendency to eat away at us.

To get older is to be peppered with constant spoilers.  To be young is to have all of life ahead and to be comforted by beliefs that things will get better.  To be old is to be aware of how things turned out yet to have no comfort in thinking that things will get better as there is much less time left.

How can we live our lives so as to be regret free?  Is that possible?  If we have regrets, how can we learn to live with them so that they don’t weigh us down?

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