Sometimes a story is so intricately woven from and into our personal and collective consciousness that it can come to predict and reflect vast realms of human existence—both personally and collectively.
I have in years past written about Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol –especially about the perceptions/words of wisdom by the ghost of Jacob Marley who shows up at Scrooge’s door on Christmas eve with his disturbing message ″‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘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!‘”
Essentially, Marley has come from beyond the grave on a good-will mission to Scrooge, to warn his one-time “friend” (or the closest either ever had to one) that if he does not change his ways soon, he is going to suffer eternally for his terrible behavior and willful ignorance of others suffering. Marley is emphatic about the cost of not being aware of and attentive to the suffering of humanity:
“It is required of every man … that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirits goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world … and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”
But the Christmas Carol is not about one man, one ghost and a small cast of characters. It is so large a story that it has become an archetype—a universal story that brings to consciousness patterns that apply to all humanity cross culturally—even inclusive of our human condition over ages.
Imagine with me, for a moment: what if the Covid virus is, in one of its aspects, a collective incarnation of Jacob Marley come to speak to humanity about how ‘humankind is, universally, our collective business. The common welfare is our business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence are all our first order business.
The Covid incarnation of Marley has come to warn us collectively that we have lost our way. Covid is very clearly warning us that if we do not turn away from oppressing the world’s poor, and destroying the Earth’s ecosystems while disemboweling our Earthly home for the extraction of ever more elusive mineral and living resources, life will not be kind to our physical, social and spiritual well being.
We are not, cannot live as, isolated, unconnected bits of existence joined solely by our unquenchable greeds–Scrooge thought he could but, thanks to Marley and the other ghosts, Scrooge lived to see that kindness, not money, is the foundation of happiness and a life well lived.
Perhaps—no—very likely—in Canada the covid virus is taking a much lighter toll than it is just south of us, because we do, imperfectly, value our common good; we do believe we have a responsibility to try to—collectively—keep each other safe.
My gosh, south of us they are doing little to collectively combat the virus—well collective action in the US amounts to marching down to the state legislature with their machine guns to demand their right to expose themselves–and other less willing people–to death by virus.
Compared to the rest of the world they have lots of money, but—like Scrooge—their money doesn’t make them happy nor safe—it just makes them more greedy than ever. Is that Marley’s chains I hear rattling?
Perhaps we, including even the Americans, will emerge from this virus renewed in our collective spirit much as Scrooge emerged from his greed to celebrate the joy of once again being connected to a higher existence than isolating and unbounded greed.
Perhaps we can, together, beat the virus and go on to dismantle the terrifying nuclear weapon arsenals that countries of the Earth have amassed because they cannot understand the simple/profound lesson that a minute virus is trying to teach us—we are all connected.
Isn’t it sad/utterly ironic that the nation that leads the world in economic output and vastly overshadows the military might of all others—also leads the world in COVID –19 deaths(320,000) and in infections (18 million)? You would have thought that this ghost of COVID would have been overwhelming reason to put down the guns and turn to each other for comfort, support and a path to healing.
This virus has come, like the ghost of Marley, to warn us that the path we are treading is a dead end: only suffering and destruction can come from our ravenous greed to consume everything and ignore the needs of all other peoples and species.
In these last few days of our beleaguered 2020 it is my fondest hope that we can learn from this ghostly virus the value of our human community and our inexorable connection to a living and diverse planet.
Happy, healthy 2021 to all!