Jack of Many Trades

Dark of December & the First Ghost

Originally posted: 2021-12-04

My new current obsession is making a personal website with html, because the 90s are back in fashion and I really like the whole digital garden/indieweb/yesterweb vibe.

How far am I going to take this? I have no idea.

The other thing I'm poking at right now is A Christmas Carol. I'm not a big Christmas guy, you know this, but I'm deeply devoted to the Muppet Christmas Carol, and I've thought for several years now about doing a sort of Advent working, going through the book and contemplating and sitting with the idea of each of the ghosts. Usually I think about it, oh, around Christmas Eve, with no time to do much about it, but this year I thought about it early, so this week I dug out my copy of the book to read through the first chapter, and think about the ghost of Jacob Marley.

A thing I'd previously missed is Marley talking about how he's been ceaselessly wandering since he died seven years ago, and that coming to Scrooge is part of his own punishment. I feel like adaptations don't usually give us much explanation for why Marley is coming to bug Scrooge or why he set him up on the three weirdest blind dates ever.

We see a lot of regret in this chapter; Marley talks about it at length, explaining the rules of the spirit world, how the chains are forged and so on. Explaining his misery, and how he would spare Scrooge from it.

(You can never take the fandom habits out of the nerd apparently; I've also been contemplating Marley/Scrooge as an awkward, unrequited feelingsmash.)

But the strongest image to me is actually from the end of the chapter, when Marley leaves and we see him rejoin the throng of other suffering ghosts like him. Scrooge sees a number of people he knew during their life:

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Now I don't believe in "for ever" in this context; I firmly believe in reincarnation. But this sort of suffering makes perfect sense to me as a sort of mirror-grief, the regret of not having done something before death made it impossible.

I think we lose the real resonance and depth of the season in making it a #blessed joyathon. The dark of the year is meant to be a time associated with grief and mortality, and trying to pretend it isn't just makes people feel isolated.

I had just gotten home from college for Christmas break when I drove with my mother to visit my grandmother with almost no notice, because the nursing home staff weren't sure she'd make it through the night. My Yaya announced her terminal cancer the day after Christmas, going through the holidays without saying anything because she didn't want to upset her family, she wanted to have one last, good Christmas. There have been other mortality-reminding health scares around this time of year, this year included.

The Wild Hunt is still out. It's dark, and it's cold, and it'll get darker and colder before it gets better. We're doing our best to beat back the dark with twinkly lights and vaccine appointments.

At work, we're raising funds for a local food bank. I don't mind asking so much, because I get to help people donate, and I also get to have conversations with people about the other charities they support or the work they do in the community and it's really heartening to be reminded how many people are reaching out - how many people are "seeking to interfere, for good, in human matters" while we do have the power.

I'm not sure yet where this is going, if anywhere. I guess I'll see how I feel about next week.