Remembrance and Forgiveness. Ignorance and Want. Those four concepts continually circle my thoughts as I prepare for this production of A Christmas Carol and reconsider the impact of Charles Dickens’s classic novel. His Victorian world—so similar to our own—contained the hollows of despair for a remarkable number of his countrymen. Poverty, homelessness and hunger disenfranchised children and adults as they scrambled for a few crumbs of human warmth and decency. Not content to simply contrast this cultural underbelly to Victorian middle-class comfort, Dickens ingeniously chose to tell of the transformation of one man whose own heart mirrors that disenfranchisement from generosity and mercy.
But, wait, as Scrooge says: “ We’re not finished.”
I don’t think this story is simple, melodramatic, feel-good pablum for the masses. By concentrating on a unique moment in time—the nightmarish dreamscape that presents the chained Marley and his promise of three Spirits embodying past, present and future–Dickens uncompromisingly depicts the emotional struggle of Scrooge’s heart and soul. Perhaps we in the 21st century understand that even more profoundly than Dickens’s own audience. We know that hitting rock bottom whether in loneliness, despair, or the dark night of the soul is when we truly can begin to transform who we are. Personal change does not result from a superficial checklist of steps, or an entertaining podcast of inspiration, or a trendy recitation of mantras. It happens when we acknowledge our realities, forgive our transgressions, and accept the buoyancy of human connection. Needing others—not using others—is key.
Even as we strive in this production to provide Spectacle and Joy—even Abundance—we also carry into and out of it a tiny penetrating reminder that our truths lie deep inside. The swaddling of a baby, the warmth of family dinner, the genuine wave of friendship in the street add up to human mercy and joy.
I wish us all a tiny opening each day into the depths of our own hearts.
God Bless Us Everyone!
Kathleen F. Conlin