"The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can."

–-- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Three Spirits


I used to muse with my friend Tom Fur­ness, founder of the Human Inter­face Tech­nol­o­gy Lab, about an imag­i­nary Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty app. The idea would be to put on a VR hel­met to par­tic­i­pate a jour­ney of spir­i­tu­al awakening.

My thoughts nev­er went very far with this idea, except to hold some vague imagery: immer­sion in beau­ti­ful land­scapes with sur­round sound music effects, poet­ic visions of the uni­verse and then also pic­tures of beg­ging chil­dren in war zones and the greedy destruc­tion of the earth — and so forth, all with the back­ground goal of sen­si­tiz­ing human beings, encour­ag­ing them to become more open, kinder, more respon­si­ble and aware. Maybe some­time I’ll find a chance to work on that app.

How­ev­er, it struck me this past hol­i­day sea­son that Charles Dick­ens accom­plished the very same goal with­out a VR hel­met at all. Fic­tion served his pur­pose just fine. All he had to do was tell the sto­ry of a soul­less miser vis­it­ed by a warn­ing ghost and three spir­its, spir­its who in the course of a night awak­ened the mis­er’s heart.

What was it that served to open Scrooge up? First, a view of his own past and his loss of con­ju­gal love in favor of the pur­suit of mon­ey; sec­ond, a vision of love with­in a fam­i­ly (and the com­ing death of a child) placed along­side one of des­ti­tute chil­dren sym­bol­iz­ing the twin soci­etal dan­gers of Want and Igno­rance; third, the dead child remem­bered while his own pro­ject­ed death proves how quick­ly he will be for­got­ten. All this played against Scrooge’s ques­tion — are the spir­its show­ing him things that must be or that yet can be changed?

Not much has changed for us, it seems, in the 175 years since Dick­ens wrote A Christ­mas Car­ol. We still know these char­ac­ters, maybe bet­ter than ever. And the quest goes on to open our own and one anoth­er’s hearts. This is, indeed, the cen­tral work of human beings, it seems, to find the points of awak­en­ing that change us, that give us the ener­gy to act on what we see right in front of us; to be hon­est with our­selves and oth­ers, and to enable the human con­di­tion by learn­ing to live its finest pos­si­bil­i­ties before it is too late.

We pass quick­ly into anoth­er year. Let’s make it one not so dom­i­nat­ed and numbed out by the dark fes­ti­vals of the inter­net, the con­stant reports of cor­rup­tion, and a gross fas­ci­na­tion with wealth and celebri­ty. Let’s imbue the future with ideals we hold more dear and with gen­uine­ly help­ing and believ­ing in one another.

Maybe we, too, have our ghosts and spir­its that come in the night, help­ing us see our own mis­takes and missed oppor­tu­ni­ties from the past, lis­ten to the cur­rents of the world and see the dan­ger in a dif­fer­ent way, and also show us how lit­tle time is left (all the time in the world) to express our native char­i­ty and gen­eros­i­ty, com­pas­sion and love.  I am wish­ing you the best for 2019.


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  • Cathy Raymond wrote:

    I have always loved the mes­sage of this Christ­mas sto­ry. And you have giv­en it new life for me. I recent­ly had a life threat­en­ing expe­ri­ence and it real­ly caused me to think of my own place on this earth and the spir­i­tu­al cen­ter of my being. I pray that I will always be a wor­thy con­duit of Spirit’s love and grace to every­one I encounter and to all of cre­ation. Thank you, my friend, for your message.

  • Thank you, Cathy! I want to hear more of your life threat­en­ing expe­ri­ence! All the best and Hap­py New Year…


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