Unforging Marley's Chain: Rewriting the Script
"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost.
"I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"
Scrooge trembled more and more.
"Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"
Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing.
— A Christmas Carol
Dickens' tale of four ghosts visiting a greedy miser on Christmas Eve is one of those stories that traverses culture on some level and pervades our Western Cultural sensibilities in an almost all encompassing way. Everyone from Bill Murray to Chuck Jones has done some sort of spin on it.
While the concept of being shown, in no uncertain terms, that one will die and, if he is an unrepentant asshole in life, die alone and despised, is a motivator to not be such an asshole, it often pops into my head that if Scrooge simply didn't care about his legacy or was not afraid of death, the ghostly experiment wouldn't work.
I wonder if Donald Trump or the Koch Brothers watch A Christmas Carol and, if they do, they see themselves in Ebenezer Scrooge. I wonder if they spend 30 seconds pondering their own demise or simply disengage and somehow see themselves as the heroes of another spin, one where Scrooge's miserly ways were always correct and that Tiny Tim should just pull himself up by his meager bootstraps and stop hoping the State will bail him out? Does the possibility they may be the evil in the world even cross their minds?
I don't see myself in Scrooge much — not wealthy or particularly skin-flinty with dough — and I'm not Republican in any way. For me, it's those fucking chains of Marley that give me pause.
Link by link, and yard by yard. The chain we forge in life. I'm not a religious thinker but I do have a lingering suspicion that when we shuffle off, this is just one version of reality and that there is something... beyond. Even if there isn't and when we kick, we just become food for worms and particles of energy in the ever expanding cosmos, I think the idea that we forge a chain that we carry around with us in this life is helpful.
Unlike the current climate of Rage Profiteers, I also believe that once the chain is forged, those links can be unforged. Broken. Redeemed. Not through punishment (because punishment is never about rehabilitation or redemption—punishment is simply about vengeance) but through changing the course (like Scrooge) and rewriting the script one follows.
Not in a moral Here's a Laundry List of the Shitty Things You Did way, but in a Here's a List of the People You Affected, Destroyed or Helped way. That chain is comprised of the humanity you encounter, and each link is someone you turned your back upon or casually dismissed as unimportant. If there is something that resonates with me about the story of Jesus, it is the idea that anyone — anyone — could be Him. The homeless guy near the a Wilson stop. That obnoxious woman who thinks that your job is contingent on her satisfaction. The old timer who sits on his porch and complains about fluoride in the water being a Communist plot.
I have my chain. Sometimes I wonder how long and how heavy it is. If Dickens is to be heeded, however, each person you go out of your way to assist, to support, to help in large and small ways, unforges one of those links. And, at very the least, that's a goal to strive for.