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Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

Ghost_of_Christmas_PastThis is a follow-up to my post of Youtuber Brett Fawcett’s reflections on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” last week.

Brett’s video is excellent, in this blogger’s humble opinion — but he did neglect to offer any reflections on the Ghost of Christmas Past, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to fill in the gap.

It’s interesting how many faces this particular specter has had in the story’s various adaptations, ranging from a little girl in “The Muppet Christmas Carol” to an elderly man in the Alastair Sim version.  To be sure, this is arguably the hardest of Dickens’ ghosts to get a handle on, yet at the same time the one that presents the most options for creativity.

When I finally read Dickens’ unabridged classic at age 13, I was taken by the Ghost of Christmas Past’s very ethereal and otherworldly character.  Dickens’ description offers a vision of one who is neither male nor female, and yet has the qualities of both; neither old nor young, yet both indescribably ancient and yet young with a youth that could rejuvenate the dawn.

Here is my take: Whereas the Ghost of Christmas Present represents, as Fawcett said, “Father Christmas” — or the “Christmas spirit” — and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come represents the “angel of death,” the Ghost of Christmas Past represents the mystery of time.

I would suggest that it is the past, more than either of the other modes of time, that makes us aware of this mystery.  What is peculiar about the past is that it has actuality, but not the immediate accessibility of the present. So it’s going to take on a more mysterious quality for us.

But there is something else as well.  We live always in the present, to be sure.  But the more aware we become of ourselves (growing from infancy to maturity), the more aware we become of our present and our past.  We become aware of events and realities that, in various ways, contribute to and influence the present situation.  It seems that we first learn this in reference to ourselves, and then eventually to cultures, etc.  And from that, we infer that present realities contribute to an as-yet unrealized mode of time — namely, the future.  In short, I would suggest (and I’m no philosopher or developmental psychologist, so take my words with a grain of salt) that perhaps our sense of time develops out of our sense of the past.

Finally, our fascination with the mystery of time is largely teleological in nature.  In layman’s terms, this means it pertains to our deepest questions about:

  • Where we came from;
  • Where we’re going; and
  • What the meaning of everything is in the meantime

ApocalypseI will conclude by attempting a very basic summary of how Christians understand time: Time pertains to creation’s movement, under God’s providential guidance, toward the “summing up” of all things in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:10).  What this will look like in the end, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived” (1 Cor. 2:9).

This is a destiny that involves the whole cosmos, but also each human being individually.  Our story is His story, our time a longing for His eternity.

I’ll look closer at Dickens’ “time-honored” ghost in part two.

Images from Wikipedia

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