Sunday, November 30, 2008

A thought from Charles Dickens.

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"
So we went to see A Christmas Carol at the Milwaukee Rep.  We've been going for years every Saturday after Thanksgiving as a treat to ourselves and to mark the official start of the Christmas season for our family.  This passage was quoted almost verbatim in the production, and one little phrase got me thinking.

So aside from the run-on sentence (excusable since it's so good)...what about this idea of treating each other as "fellow passengers to the grave" rather than "another race of creatures bound on other journeys?" It's a pretty interesting idea, the great unifier of humanity is that we are all, eventually, without exception, going to die.

The thing I like about this thought is that it is totally independent of your belief system. Whether you believe that after death we go to heaven or hell, paradise, the Elysium Fields, reincarnated, or simply disappear into the Great Void, that's for after we exhale our last breath. While we are still breathing, we are still all fellow travelers, brothers and sisters, and as such, we might be a little more kind to each other as a result.

We need to do better, all of us. If the holiday season is a catalyst for making this happen, then it is welcome, irrespective of your views on Christianity. If you claim to be a Christian, then act like one. If you're not, well, emulate the desired person or being of your choice...Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa...whomever inspires you to be something better than you are.

In other words:
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.*
Respectfully submitted,


*In necessities, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity."  Splendid quote from an obscure Christian Irenic named Rupert Melden (or Rupertus Meldenius) from 1627.  St. Augustine is often given the credit for this.  To quote Dwight Schrute, "False."


Silbs said...

From your mouth to His ear.

canoelover said...

I haven't heard that said for ages (I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in West LA). I love it. :-)