Happy Holidays to one and all, however you choose to celebrate during this festive time of year!
One of my personal holiday traditions involves watching the many films based on A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens classic short story, as often as possible and with an open mind. According to Wikipedia, the original book published in 1843 has always been available in print form and the story itself has been filmed and re-imagined over the years.
Through stage, radio, television and film, animation and live, even in a musical, some variation of this remarkable story and these memorable characters has been available to us for almost 175 years. Click on Ebenezer Scrooge to see a full listing of all those who have brought the crusty curmudgeon to life in one form or another.
Something about this tale sticks with us and has remained in our hearts and minds for over seven generations, through good times and bad, as technology and culture has shifted our worlds, and as we have continued to live our lives.
If we could travel back through time, we could discuss this story at length with around seven generations of our ancestors. I can’t think of too many other topics that would be familiar enough to both me and my great-great-great-great-great grandfather to talk about, besides the big issues like love and health.
One of the themes carried throughout the various versions is that Scrooge ends up with a deeper appreciation for his past, his present, and his future, because of what he has witnessed on that one very long and challenging night. Of course, all the lessons were already there to be learned, but he had to be led to them, dare I say by the three spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, who function much as coaches as they observe, question, and challenge Ebenezer’s perceptions.
Just like Scrooge, we who work with change often discuss the roles of our Past, Present, and Future.
THE PAST IS PROLOGUE
Sometimes we see the past as a negative force, holding us back through misconceptions of our abilities and behavior or being locked into unproductive or even harmful activities due to the weight of our personal histories. As we know intellectually, just because we have acted in a certain way in the past does not mean we do not have the ability to choose to act differently into our futures.
Of course, we often turn right around and claim loudly that “past performance is the best indicator of future performance,” as I am sure many well-paid consultants have stated.
Remembering does not mean repeating … sometimes we look back and rightfully recognize how we might have done better.
THE TIME TO BE HAPPY IS NOW
We also often find ourselves so darned busy getting through each day and meeting all the imagined demands (especially the ones that we place on ourselves) in order to live into our sometimes exaggerated self-perceptions. Yes, I am talking to the workaholics and driven souls among us. We often find ourselves in the role of challenging another’s memories or even encouraging them to disregard their past behavior.
We insist that we are not locked into our past behavior and sometimes make great efforts to act differently, forgetting the value of some of our past behavior. This is why some of us seem to need alcohol or other drugs sometimes to relax enough to have fun playing games at a party.
Stopping to appreciate today is one of those behaviors which cannot easily be overestimated in its ability to renew our souls and our bodies, giving us strength for the challenges that still lie below us. I am thinking now of the physical and emotional rehabilitation of the actors in those versions I enjoy, who display such energy as they step into Christmas Day and begin their new, more thoughtful and sharing roles.
The trick is to actually enjoy the “Now”, without letting doubts and thoughts of other things intrude. This is hard to do for many of us and is also why the practice of mindfulness is experiencing a mini-revival of late.
TO THE FUTURE AND BEYOND
Finally, we are faced with the reality that some things in our future will not change. Scrooge did not live forever and that grave with his name on it became a reality at some point.
What we might learn from this Carol is that when we are honest with ourselves about what roads we are choosing to walk down, we get a glimpse of what might be around that next bend or at the end of the route.
Of course, we cannot control everything and life has a certain definiteness to it. We simply have to try to do the best we can, choosing to live with our eyes toward the best selves we are capable of aspiring toward, and hope for the best.
It is left unsaid in the original story as to how long Scrooge lives after that night, but the changes that come over him and which benefit so many others are clear and compelling. Apparently the lesson for us here is not about redemption so we can live a longer life, but redemption so we can live a better life.