December 22, 2007

"You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us."


"Is that so, Spirit?"


Matt Brown said...

Tiny Tim, are you there? I'm looking for your little crutch.

Paddy O. said...

I've long thought it interesting that the ghost of Christmas future shows Scrooge his death but that we don't hear more about it. Of course Scrooge will still die but the response isn't to worry about that death anymore, as he did from the perspective of his selfish, self-absorbed stage.

The response is to live fully in the present. He stops worrying about the future. He stops hoarding and saving, turning from his miserly ways. He becomes alive in a way he hadn't been alive since his dancing days.

The view of death brought him life, and through him brought life to others.

That's a Christmas story.

Paddy O. said...

"Vivid mindfulness of death embraces many virtues. It begets grief; it promotes the exercise of self-control in all things; it is a reminder of hell; it is the mother of prayer and tears; it induces guarding of the heart and detachment from material things; it is a source of attentiveness and discrimination."
~St. Philotheos of Sinai (c. 900)

PatCA said...

I always meant to read Dickens' original text. Now I will!

My favorite movie version is the 1951 with Alistair Sim. He was magnificent.

(Well said, paddy. That might also be the message of Christmas and eternal life?)

reader_iam said...

And Penelope replied: . . .
Sons of the noblest families on the islands, . . .
. . . are here to court me,
against my wish; and they consume this house . . .
Ruses served my turn
to draw the time out-first a close-grained web
I had the happy thought to set up weaving
on my big loom in hall. I said, that day:
"Young men-my suitors, now my lord is dead,
let me finish my weaving before I marry,
or else my thread will have been spun in vain.
It is a shroud I weave for Lord Laertes
when cold Death comes to lay him on his bier.
The country wives would hold me in dishonor
if he, with all his fortune, lay unshrouded."
I reached their hearts that way, and they agreed.
So every day I wove on the great loom,
but every night by torchlight I unwove it;
and so for three years I deceived the Akhaians.
But when the seasons brought a fourth year on,
as long months waned, and the long days were spent,
through impudent folly in the slinking maids
they caught me-clamored up to me at night;
I had no choice then but to finish it.
And now, as matters stand at last,
I have no strength left to evade a marriage,
cannot find any further way.

--(Homer, 1961/1963, p. 357-358)

reader_iam said...

In the light of the silent stars that shine on the struggling sea,
In the weary cry of the wind and the whisper of flower and tree,
Under the breath of laughter, deep in the tide of tears,
I hear the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

The leaves of the winter wither and sink in the forest mould
To colour the flowers of April with purple and white and gold:
Light and scent and music die and are born again
In the heart of a grey-haired woman who wakes in a world of pain.

The hound, the fawn, and the hawk, and the doves that croon and coo,
We are all one woof of the weaving and the one warp threads us through,
One flying cloud on the shuttle that carries our hopes and fears
As it goes thro’ the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

The green uncrumpling fern and the rustling dewdrenched rose
Pass with our hearts to the Silence where the wings of music close,
Pass and pass to the Timeless that never a moment mars,
Pass and pass to the Darkness that made the suns and stars.

Has the soul gone out in the Darkness? Is the dust sealed from sight?
Ah, hush, for the woof of the ages returns thro’ the warp of the night!
Never that shuttle loses one thread of our hopes and fears,
As it comes thro’ the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

O, woven in one wide Loom thro’ the throbbing weft of the whole,
One in spirit and flesh, one in body and soul,
Tho’ the leaf were alone in its falling, the bird in its hour to die,
The heart in its muffled anguish, the sea in its mournful cry,

One with the flower of a day, one with the withered moon
One with the granite mountains that melt into the noon
One with the dream that triumphs beyond the light of the spheres,
We come from the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

--Alfred Noyes, "A Loom of Years"

SteveR said...

I just love Michael Caine as Scrooge in Muppet Christmas Carol.

Pogo said...

That redemptive quality returns me to Dickens every few years for another reading of the Carol.

It's a strange book in some ways, with direct discussion of the evil in men's hearts. Not merely a lighthearted story, but a difficult and often uncomfortable one, much in the way It's A Wonderful Life accomplishes, with its dark study of suicide and moral decay.

Both are indeed beautiful, and their true power threatens to be lost in overexposure and merchandising. So I limit myself to seeing or reading them every few years.

Death is the debt that all men pay. The question then is "What must one do? It inverts Lenin's query by becoming other-directed. And to embrace individual people even though your impulse is otherwise can be an astonishing and beautiful gift.

reader_iam said...

Ann, this series of posts is beautiful--in ways dark, light and in shades of fog and smoke--and, coincidentally, very pertinent and poignant, in this particular season, personally, due to my mother's recent diagnosis and our impending trip so that she can see all of her grandchildren around a Christmas Tree while she can still get down there with them, or be there at all.

In the oddest way, these posts have been helpful, but I don't know if I can bear coming back to look at them right now (no time for that much emotion right before Christmas!!), though I'm certain I'll revisit them later.

So I'll just sincerely thank you for letting me watch you weave this tapestry of a blog again this past year, and take the opportunity now to wish you a Merry Christmas, and you and everyone here the safest and most meaningful holiday season (or whatever). Here's to the loom of time, whatever tapestry it weaves, in 2008!

reader_iam said...

The 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol" is my mother's lifetime favorite Christmas movie, by the way. Go figure.

Omaha1 said...

Ann, these cemetery photos are very moving at Christmastime. They really make you think about life & death and the reason we celebrate the birth of Jesus, whether or not one believes in the value of His works here on Earth. Thank you.

blogging cockroach said...

yes i shouldn't have put up the slightly snarky comment
about these pix that i did on a thread below
they are in althouse fashion quite lovely
however i'm looking out the window and seeing
similar scenes and getting really depressed

maybe something crisp and bright would cheer me up
a bit of waffle dropped behind the stove wouldn't hurt either

Trooper York said...

Scrooge: My partner, Bob Marley, dead seven years today. Oh, he was a good'n. He robbed from the widows and swindled the poor, smoked ganja and had sex with the tourist girls. In his will, he left me enough money to pay for his tombstone, and I have him buried at sea!
(Mickey's Christmas Carol 1983)

From Inwood said...

Prof A

Great pix; highly evocative.

"Only the dead know Brooklyn."

"Look on my works, ye mighty and despair."

"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"

What cemetery are we viewing?

From Inwood said...


Gotta keep up. You're in a Mad Wisc cemetery.

If one gets on this site, he must start in reverse chronological order from where he left off!

PatCA said...

Andrew Klavan has an interesting essay on the subject.

Richard Fagin said...

Your mom has good taste in movies, reader. The 1951 Alistair Sim version is my favorite, too.

"But it's only once a year, sir."

"That's a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December."

Remind me to beware of those bits of underdone potato.

Chip Ahoy said...

Very well.

The cold earth slept below;
Above the cold sky shone;
And all around,
With a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow
The breath of night like death did flow
Beneath the sinking moon.

The wintry hedge was black;
The green grass was not seen;
The birds did rest
On the bare thorn's breast,
Whose roots, beside the pathway track,
Had bound their folds o'er many a crack
Which the frost had made between.

Thine eyes glow'd in the glare
Of the moon's dying light;
As a fen-fire's beam
On a sluggish stream
Gleams dimly—so the moon shone there,
And it yellow'd the strings of thy tangled hair,
That shook in the wind of night.

The moon made thy lips pale, belov'd;
The wind made thy bosom chill;
The night did shed
On thy dear head
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
Might visit thee at will.

The guy who wrote that was expelled from Oxford for writing The Necessity of Atheism.

George said...

It will not stir for Doctors—
This Pendulum of snow—

Dickinson, 287

MadisonMan said...

My final resting place, although you don't include a picture of the family plot, but if you were driving, you likely went past it -- we're between the big Vilas monument and the round ball marker.

I really like foggy days like today, but I'm glad I'm not flying out of O'Hare.

amba said...

You could do a fine line of memento mori Christmas cards, for a small and special market.

Richard said...

"I've never seen a spirit before. Why should I see one now? You could easily be an undigested bit of beef, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. I warrant there's more of gravy than of grave about you!" --Scrooge

I love those lines.

If you think you know Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," but you haven't actually read the book, then you don't know Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I was 40 years old before I actually read it and I was blown away. The writing, it's pure genius.

From Inwood said...

Egad, how could I forget "Paths of Glory...."?

Wanna read something lyrical & sad about Christmas & a death? Try Sean O’Casey’s “Under a Greewood Tree He Died” (from Hardy’s book title, via Shakespeare) about the death of his 21-yr old son at Christmastime of leukemia.