Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

The Spiral Dynamics of “A Christmas Carol”

[T]he wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.

marley's ghostIn Stave One of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens makes this observation in reference to him not knowing why the phrase “dead as a door-nail” aptly describes the extent to which Jacob Marley is actually dead. From a Spiral Dynamics viewpoint, this observation expresses a very Stage Blue sentiment. That is, it not only expresses reverence for the wisdom of ancestors but it also connects reverence for this wisdom to the Country’s well being. Of course, the term country could easily be replaced with tribe, race, religion or culture. In Stage Blue, these identities are of primary importance as is the belief that one’s identity is supreme and the beliefs and values of the identity are true. This naturally implies that other identities are inferior and the beliefs of other identities are false.

Of course, Charles Dickens lived in 19th century England during the industrial revolution. This was a time when the country in which he lived was transitioning from Spiral Dynamics Stage Blue to Stage Orange. You might say that it had one foot firmly in each stage. Religion at the time still had great influence over the culture, the white race was supreme in England and increasingly so around the world. At the same time Stage Orange capitalism, scientism and liberalism were taking on a larger role. The Stage Green doubt of white supremacy had not yet formed in the European consciousness or in the consciousness of Europe’s daughters (North America, South Africa, Australia etc.). But Stage Green does play a role in the story.

Indeed, the Stage Green sentiments of compassion for one’s fellow man are certainly strong themes in the story. In Stave One, the ghost of Jacob Marley rejects capitalism’s negative effects on the poor and disenfranchised by exclaiming:

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

In Stave Three, the most outwardly judgmental of the three spirits who visit Scrooge after Marley’s ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Present, chastises Scrooge for thinking that the religious authorities correctly represented divine Truth in all aspects:

“There are some upon this earth of yours … who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived.”

The “us” to which the spirit refers are spirits and the divine in general. Later, the same spirit chastises Scrooge’s political beliefs as to the government social policies of his day:

“Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

GCPHere we see a rejection of Stage Blue religion and Stage Orange capitalism. However, it is probably safe to assume that the “common welfare” to which the Marley’s ghost refers applied more strictly to his own country and not so much to mankind as a whole. In the same respect, the Ghost of Christmas Present’s criticism (in Dickens’ mind) probably assumed the supremacy of white Europeans and the truth of Christianity. Whereas, to our more modern sentiments (generally speaking) which have been more heavily influenced by Stage Green would interpret the ghosts’ references to have a more universal application. In this respect we can see the still strong influence of Stage Blue in the telling of the story.

When we speak of applying the principles of Spiral Dynamics to cultures we are necessarily speaking in general terms. The culture from which Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” was one transitioning from Blue to Orange with some influence of Green. By contrast, our culture at present can be described largely as transitioning from from Orange to Green with a waning influence of Blue. Within this larger dynamic, each individual can be described as embodying different stages in different amounts. Moreover, there are pockets of people who are influenced by various stages to greater and lesser degrees. For example, modern day San Francisco is more heavily Stage Green than is say Houston, Texas generally speaking.

A recent blog post on the (very Stage Blue) Orthosphere entitled “The Modern Cosmopolitan Cult Tends to the Cult of Moloch” is a very clear example of a Stage Blue mindset describing the Stage Orange and Green culture in which we live. The post argues that modern Stage Green notions of toleration effectively cannot tolerate Stage Blue notions of intolerance. From the Stage Blue perspective there is no higher stage than Stage Blue. Stage Orange and Green are errors. In fact, the entire Spiral Dynamics model is an error and salvation lies in a return to Stage Blue. Obviously, a Stage Blue person would not employ this terminology to describe this idea.

According to the Spiral Dynamics model, however, it is impossible to revert back to a prior stage except in extremely traumatic circumstances and this reversion tends to be temporary in nature. No, each stage is a necessary precursor to the stage that follows. Each stage solves the problems of the previous stage and creates problems that must, in turn, be solved by the next stage. From this perspective, we can see that the story of “A Christmas Carol” describes Ebeneezer Scrooge’s transition from Stage Orange to Stage Green. From a larger perspective, “A Christmas Carol” is an interesting time capsule within the larger Spiral Dynamic.

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How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog

TreesI have been writing this blog for the better part of four years and am steadily approaching 10,000 views. My viewership has gradually crept upward since I started this endeavor. Although I do not think my number of views is particularly impressive I do think I have learned a few things about increasing traffic to my blog.

Write from the heart

The written content I create on this blog comes from what I think is interesting at the moment. It can span different topics but it is always in my voice. Other people will tell you that your blog should be about one topic or theme to increase viewership. This may be true but if I did that I would not be writing from the heart and I think when content is created more for the purpose of attracting viewership than to convey the content of the post this motive becomes apparent to the readers and is inherently less interesting to them.

Bait a White Supremacist

By far the most traffic I ever received on this blog was when I caught the attention of a stalking troll named Thordaddy. Much of this increased traffic derived from him commenting on my posts and me counter commenting. I do believe there was a bit of ancillary traffic that resulted from other readers observing this interchange as well. At any rate it was a great source of content because I then created posts which analyzed the comment section of the previous post. There was, however, a downside in that dealing with his evil negativity on a daily basis began to drain my energy. This is the reason why I stopped engaging him but there is no denying the uptick in views that resulted from our interplay.

Write Consistently

I try to write at least one 500 to 1,000 word post every week. I do believe that writing with this amount of consistency attracts more viewers than if I wrote blog posts in a less predictable fashion. The other benefit to writing consistently is that it strengthens the writing muscle which makes it easier to create quality content on a consistent basis which in turn (I suspect) attracts more readers.

Write about Passive-Aggressive Behavior

By far the most read post that I have written is Passive Aggressive Behavior the Truth Will Set You Free. I am not sure if it was the title that got people interested. I have since tried to write other articles about passive aggressive behavior to see if they too would attract readers. Of course that tactic violated my first directive to write from the heart which may be the reason why they have not been as popular as the first post on that topic.

Write about Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” In December

I wrote a few posts on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” a couple of years ago that have consistently gotten more views every time December rolls around. I guess the take home message is that people like to read about things which are on their minds. In this instance the Christmas season seems to make people want to read about “A Christmas Carol.”

In conclusion, I am sure there are SEO types out there who would definitely know more about attracting readers based upon keywords, word count and links influencing the relevance in a Google search listing. I am not so interested in that for the purposes of this blog post. Mainly I just wanted to share the things that seemed to work for me in their limited capacity.

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Loving Thy Neighbor and Ebenezer Scrooge

NeighborIt should not surprise me that my neighbor reads Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and takes the position that Scrooge was better off before his conversion. He feels the problem in the story truly lies with Scrooge’s liberal neighbors who judge him negatively for his conservative values. My neighbor feels that they are hypocritically disobeying the Second Commandment to love thy neighbor when they judge Scrooge in this manner. I cannot entirely dismiss my neighbor’s point of view. Often times “judgment” does not come from a place of love and compassion. Frequently judgment of others results from the ego trying to mitigate the pain of its own shame. In this sense judgment is the ego telling itself, “Look! I am better than him.” Accordingly, to the extent Scrooge’s liberal neighbors did judge him in this way they certainly were not acting in accordance with the Second Commandment.

However, not all of Scrooge’s neighbors judged him in this manner. Certainly, Scrooge’s nephew did not judge him this way. Fred made a special point of inviting Scrooge to dinner despite his uncle’s abusive behavior. Fred did judge Scrooge in the sense that he made clear that he disagreed with Scrooge’s perspective on Christmas. But in my reading of the story this judgment came from a place of compassion. Fred truly wanted to connect with his uncle and not to put himself above uncle for the purpose of gratifying his ego.

It could be argued that Dickens himself is judging Scrooge in the egocentric sense. Certainly the following paragraph exudes this type of energy:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone. Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster…

Now, if I know my neighbor (and I think I have had enough experience with him to know him well enough although he does possess the ability to surprise me often enough) I can anticipate how he would react to that description. I suspect he would say that this is Dickens’ description and Dickens is the same type of judgmental, hypocritical liberal as are Scrooge’s neighbors. Assuming this actually reflects my neighbor’s potential reaction, it is interesting how he can project such a consistently schizophrenic view of the world into every situation. To him, even the author of a story (the creator of a universe in a sense) is unaware of his own warped, destructive and self-annihilating view of the world. It is as if there is a real story about Scrooge that exists elsewhere and Dickens’ version is a contrived piece of propaganda serving some nefarious purpose. If I am correct, my neighbor sees the story “A Christmas Carol” itself as a humbug in the fullest sense of the word.

I would argue, however, that the story is not written from an egocentric, judgmental perspective but from a compassionate one. True, in the opening scenes we see him acting abusively towards his clerk, his nephew, the two solicitors and the young caroler. When the ghost of Christmas Present displays scenes from his past we see that he seemingly valued money more than the love of his fiancé. All these exhibits display the negative aspects of Scrooge’s value system. But then we also see the reasons why this behavior came about. We hear of Scrooge’s neglectful upbringing by an abusive father who blamed him for Scrooge’s mother’s death. We also see glimpses of Scrooge’s good nature; his gratitude for Fessiwig’s kindness and his compassion for Tiny Tim. We see his remorse for pushing away his fiancé and his fear of dying an unredeemed man. All these examples are to show that Dickens wrote this story from a place of compassion for Scrooge. As readers we pick up on this energy and root for Scrooge despite his negative behavior.

Therefore, I cannot agree with my neighbor’s assessment that Scrooge was better off as a bitter, lonely, old man. Nor can I agree with my neighbor that all of Scrooge’s neighbors were hypocritical, judgmental liberals who hated Scrooge for his conservative values. Nor can I agree with my neighbor’s shame-based, egocentric judgment of the “liberals” he seems to despise. His judgment does not come from a place of compassion and in my assessment is in violation of the Second Commandment. I now must examine my conscience to determine where my judgment of my neighbor comes from.

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Everything I need is already within me

A Facebook friend posted this article entitled 18 Spiritual Teachings That Will Alter Your Mind and Improve Your Life. The first item on the list reads:

Everything I need is already within me.

Authentic power comes from finding balance within; it is not imposed from external authorities.

I have heard this notion many times in Yoga and Buddhist circles. The idea is that I am searching for external validation or seeking to find that place, thing or person that will make me feel complete, meanwhile, all the time I am already whole and complete. I feel like this is true but I don’t really have first hand experience that definitively proves it.

There is an analogy to James Altucher’s idea of “Choosing Yourself.” In the third grade my class performed the play “Hansel and Gretel.” Before the auditions I had this fantasy of being on stage, entertaining the crowd and receiving applause. After the auditions they assigned me the non-speaking role of “Background Tree.” I was devastated and humiliated. I cried all night in my bed because I felt unappreciated and unvalued. Twenty years later I felt the same way sitting behind a desk as an attorney performing document review for nine hours a day.

In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve to facilitate his reclamation. Where these ghosts external authorities or were they some manifestation of Scrooge’s subconscious mind or soul? In other words, did Scrooge reclaim himself by finding the balance within by creating these ghosts? Did he choose himself?

There have been many times in my life where I picked up and moved from one place to another. There was always the feeling of liberation initially but eventually all the old feelings of inadequacy and being trapped caught up with me. In this example the external authority failed to make me whole permanently.

So again, it seems like a valid and true concept. On the other hand I find it difficult to muster these inner resources I supposedly have access to. Have I just not found my inner balance yet? Do I already have all I need and not know that I have all I need? If so, that does not seem satisfying to me because I still feel the way I did before I knew that I already had what I needed.

It would be nice to feel like I found my inner balance when it came to enduring criticism from other people.

When I was in law school I helped to represent a prisoner appealing a murder conviction. He had hand written his appeal on a yellow legal pad. Even though a jury of his peers had convicted him and everyone else (including me) knew he was guilty he still advocated for himself.

I can hold onto the idea that I am already complete and all I need to do is to find my inner balance. I can use this idea as an anchor for meditation even though I don’t necessarily entirely feel that way. I can always hope.

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Thoughts on Advent and Christmas

Stores started putting up Christmas decorations after Halloween this year. I do not know one person who thinks this a good thing. Even the clerk in the Verizon store agreed with me. Everyone hates it and yet they do it anyway. And there is the sense that there is no way to put that genie back in the bottle. In my house I established a rule that no one can talk about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Christmas looses its power after a while when it is stretched out to long. By the time the day actually rolls around I become resentful of Christmas under these circumstances. The four weeks of Advent seem to be a psychologically appropriate amount of time to prepare.

There is a sense of anticipation about Advent. There are four candles on the advent wreath. Every week a new one is lit. There are Advent calendars where every day a new ornament is placed or window opened. Advent is a count down. When I was young this sense of anticipation was exhilarating. I felt like something great was about to happen. Now that I am older the sense of anticipation is stressful. I want Christmas to be as magical for my children as it was for me when I was a child. I feel like the good thing might not actually turn out to be as good as I want it to. But when the good thing finally happens there is a sense of relief. It is disappointing that I cannot feel it the way I did when I was young.

Why are there so many TV shows and movies where the central theme is someone “saving” Christmas? It is the anticipation that leads to this sense that if the payoff does not happen then there will be disappointment, like when the kicker misses the game winning field goal in a football game. There is so much at stake. What exactly are they saving Christmas from?

I like the idea that Christmas is a light entering the world during the darkest time of year.

I love “It’s A Wonderful Life” but if I think about it too closely I think the message that George Bailey should be happy that he made other people happy by himself being miserable is a little suspect. I love the scene in “Miracle on 34th Street” where Santa speaks to the young girl in Dutch. He makes a connection. He is merciful.

I love “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. (See below for links to my blog posts on this story). Scrooge waited his whole life before he redeemed himself. I wonder if he felt cheated. Sometimes I feel like I have waited too long to redeem myself. I realize that sort of thinking comes from my shame ego but sometimes it scares me into believing it. This fear of never being redeemed is the darkness. It is the darkest day of the year of my life. Perhaps there is a way to find redemption through the light of Christmas. I am not sure how that would happen on a technical level. Maybe I do not need to know. Maybe I just need to be open to it and let it happen. It is a nice thought anyway.

 

 A Christmas Carol Part I

A Christmas Carol Part II

A Christmas Carol Part III

A Christmas Carol Part IV

A Christmas Carol Part V

A Christmas Carol Part VI

A Christmas Carol Part VII

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God Bless Us Everyone – Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” Part VII

In the final stave Scrooge is relieved to find himself alive in his bedroom on Christmas morning.  He has time to make amends for his prior acts.  As he frantically dresses he looks around the room and remembers the events of the previous night.  He laughs for the first time in many years and realizes he does not know what day or time it is.  As the church bells toll he opens the window and yells down to a boy on the street.

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John L...

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John Leech in 1843 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When asked the boy tells him it is Christmas Day.  He realizes the spirits had transacted their business all in one night despite what Marley had told him about when to expect the ghosts’ arrival.  This is a strange discrepancy, the significance of which has never been explained to my satisfaction.

He sends the boy off to get the prize turkey in order to send it anonymously to Bob Cratchit.  Scrooge is delighted by the boy.  This seems to be the culmination of a theme starting with the caroler Scrooge mistreated on Christmas Eve, Scrooge’s child self, Tiny Tim, and the children duo Ignorance and Want.   As Scrooge waits at the door he sees the knocker says he will love it forever.  The poulterer arrives, Scrooge pays for the turkey and sends him in a cab to Bob’s house.  Scrooge also pays the boy.

Scrooge then returns to his room, shaves happily and dresses himself in his best clothes.  He walks through the streets addressing everyone happily.  He meets the two men he had rebuffed on Christmas Eve seeking money for the poor.  He apologizes and tells them he will give them money.  He then goes to church and walks the streets.

In the afternoon Scrooge arrives at his nephew’s house. Fred welcomes him happily.  This scene has always been very powerful for me.  I always react emotionally when Fred welcomes Scrooge to his party.  It is the Biblical scene where the father welcomes home the prodigal son.  It is the scene where God welcomes us home after our struggles on Earth.

The next day Bob Cratchit arrives late to work.  “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?” Scrooge asks him pretending to be angry.  Bob confesses that he was “making rather merry” the day before.  I suppose this means he drank too much and overslept or was hung over.  But Scrooge tells him he will raise his salary and help his family and that they will discuss his affairs over a “smoking bowl of Christmas Bishop” (whatever that is).

Dickens tells us that Scrooge was as good as his word and Tiny Tim did not die.  He also mentions that some people laughed at Scrooge for changing.  In other words they tried to shame him for changing.  This certainly fits the pattern of shame-based people.  They fear change themselves and become jealous when they see other people change so they try to stop other people from changing by shaming them.  Scrooge, of course, was unaffected because through the intercession of Marley and the three ghosts he had surpassed this shame-based circle.  He was indeed a new man.

Were the three ghosts real?  That is, were they separate entities intervening in his life for his benefit or were they parts of his subconscious mind fed up with the status quo and affecting their own healing?  The fact that Marley had no one intervene on his own behalf suggests the latter.  This is certainly a topic that can be explored in greater depth.

Anyway, I think I am done with “A Christmas Carol” for now.

God bless us.  Everyone.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present – Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” Part V

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scrooge wakes again at 1:00 am and pulls back all the bed curtains to avoid being surprised as he was with the Ghost of Christmas Past.  He lies in bed for fifteen minutes waiting and feeling anxious.  At this point he becomes aware of light shining from under the door to an adjacent room.  He gets up to investigate and as he approaches the door a booming voice bids him enter.

The voice belongs to the Ghost of Christmas Present.  When Scrooge enters the room he is surprised to see it brightly lit, richly decorated and full of food.  The ghost is clothed in a robe with a crown of holly atop his head and sits on a throne made of various meat products.

You have never seen the like of me before,” says the ghost.  Scrooge has not.  The ghost tells Scrooge that he has more than 1800 brothers who have walked the earth before him.  This story, of course, takes place in the 1800’s.  It is a fairly obvious assumption that the ghost has had one brother a year walk the earth since the birth of Christ.  This is yet another indirect reference to Christianity.

Scrooge admits that he has changed since the Ghost of Christmas Past’s visit and has a certain level of faith in this transformational program the ghosts have set up for him.  He tells the Ghost of Christmas Present that he is in his hands essentially and goes forth with him.  Suddenly they are walking forth in the busy city streets of London.  It is a bright Christmas Morning.  There is an air of cheerfulness among the people.  Dickens goes at great length to describe an abundance of food.  People are carrying their dinners to the bakers and going to church.  As they mingle the Ghost sprinkles water on people making their mood alter for the better because different rules of civility apply on Christmas Day.

Scrooge asks the ghost why he sprinkles water on the people’s food.  The ghost tells him it is his own blessing that applies to any kindly given dinner and to a poor one most of all, because it needs it most.  Scrooge then asks the ghost why he would close all the bakers shops on Sunday denying people a dinner on perhaps the only day of the week when they can dine at all.  The ghost takes issue with this question and denies that it is his doing.  He then states:

There are some upon this earth of yours … who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.

This statement (one of a few lectures to Scrooge made by this ghost) may solve the riddle as to why Dickens only indirectly references Christianity within the spiritual universe existing in this story.  I would guess he sees Christianity as good and true in its essence but perhaps corrupted in its practice for the most part.

Next the Ghost blesses Bob Cratchit’s house.  We see Mrs. Cratchit preparing the Christmas dinner.  Peter, the eldest son wears a shirt with a giant collar handed down to him from his father.  There are two young children as well.  Martha, the eldest sister arrives home from her factory job.  The family conspires to hide her from Bob when he arrives home from church with Tiny Tim.  Dickens does not explain why only Bob and Tiny Tim go to church by themselves.  Bob is upset when he hears that Martha is not coming but she soon reveals herself and sets things straight.  Bob tells his wife that Tiny Tim was as good as gold in church and that he gets philosophical telling him that it was good that he was a cripple because it would remind people of the man who made lame beggars walk and blind men see (another indirect reference to Christianity).  The dinner is prepared, table set and grace said.  The goose arrives and then the pudding.  They then settle around the hearth drinking some Christmas mixture.  Bob says, “A Merry Christmas to us all” and Tiny Tim replies, “God bless us every one.

Scrooge is interested in the smallest, weakest member of the family.  He asks the ghost if Tiny Tim will live.  The ghost tells him he sees a vacant seat and a crutch without an owner.  Much like his compassion for his own child self, Scrooge feels compassion for Tiny Tim.  The ghost uses Scrooge’s own words against him and remarks judgmentally that if Tiny Tim is going to die he should do it and decrease the surplus population and then continues with another lecture:

… if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! To hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.                                                                                                                                                                                         

The scene shifts from the ghost to Bob Cratchit toasting Scrooge as “the founder of the feast.”  His family does not agree and lets him know it, but Bob persists remarking that it is Christmas Day and different rules of civility apply.  The family reluctantly toasts Scrooge and in a few minutes the good mood returns to this poor but happy family.

Outside the Cratchit house people are out visiting.  Then the ghost takes Scrooge on a journey visiting various peoples celebrating Christmas.  They see miners, men isolated in a remote lighthouse battered by storm, and men on a ship at sea.  Each celebrated Christmas with a warm heart despite their rough environment.  Once again Dickens makes an indirect reference to Christianity mentioning its “mighty Founder [who] was a child himself.

And then they were in Fred’s house at the dinner party Scrooge was invited to.  They laugh at Scrooge and how he disdains Christmas.  Fred mocks him too but then reveals that he pities his uncle and intends to keep inviting him to dinner.  Later they play games and Scrooge becomes involved and does not want to leave.  Eventually, the ghost removes Scrooge and they continue their travels.

At some point Scrooge notices that the ghost has grown old.  He tells Scrooge that his life on the earth will end at midnight.  Scrooge sees a hand protruding from the ghost’s robe.  Upon Scrooge’s inquiry the ghost reveals two retched children hiding under his robe.  The boy is “Ignorance” and the girl is “Want,” the ghost tells him.  They are the result of greedy men designing social structures that leave people behind.  If ignored, these children will eventually bring about the doom of mankind.

Have they no refuge or resource?” asks Scrooge.

Are there no prisons?” mocks the ghost using Scrooge’s words against him.  “Are there no workhouses?”

The Ghost of Christmas Present then disappears as the clock strikes midnight.

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