Why A Bad Night’s Sleep Isn’t Always A Bad Thing
Education secretary Betsy DeVos has had the longest, most nightmarish tenure of any of 45’s cabinet. This morning’s New York Times posits, “her legacy will still be far-reaching and long-lasting. This is not a result of what she made, but of what she broke[.] …
“Through her attention-attracting assault on the public education system, Betsy DeVos has actually given the next secretary of education an opportunity — to recommit to public education as a public good, and a cornerstone of our democracy.”
Here classic scare tactic meets classic reframe. This is the principle tool I have used in over 35 years of counseling and coaching. Someone brings me some variation on scared; I help them rewrite the story through the use of strategic reframing.
We all do this, Beloved. All the time. And we succeed and fail at it to varying degrees. When there’s a lot of fear, or a lot of any other kind of emotion, the reframe is harder to do, but eventually, we find it and things change, usually for the better.
I think this patterning explains the ongoing popularity of A Christmas Carol in all its myriad, magical incarnations. Jesse Green reviews Jefferson May’s tour-de-force solo version of the show in this morning’s New York Times. Now streaming through January 3rd.
True confessions here: I am a serious fangirl of the mercurial Mr. Mays having seen his breath-taking, Tony-winning performance in I Am My Own Wife as well as his 9-role romp as all the D’Ysquiths in line to inherit in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Besides, it was reading about his Carol last year that prompted me to consider and choose it for my tenth Mex Mystery called Christmas Presence. Had it not been performed in Los Angeles, I would have been first in line for tickets.
Mr. Greene writes, “Based on Dickens’s touring version of the tale, itself slightly altered from the printed text, this ‘Christmas Carol’ is the most fearsome I’ve seen — I mean morally fearsome. It is thus the most faithful to a story that is not merely about the miserliness of one man, but, potentially, of all mankind.”
This is what Mr. Dickens’ meant his 1843 novella to be and to do. He wrote it, as so much of his, if you will forgive the modern-day shorthand, social justice fiction, to show us to ourselves. To show us both our fearsome state and the reframe that was possible.
Mr. Green writes, “Filmed live but with no audience on Oct. 28 at United Palace in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, this ‘Christmas Carol’ uses theatricality as a metaphor for engagement in the lives of others; the auditorium, emptied by pandemic precautions, stands in well for Scrooge’s unpeopled heart.” Ours as well.
I’m not sure I agree with Mr. Green’s premise that “[i]t is actually one of the problems with ‘A Christmas Carol,’ when adapted as drama, that Scrooge and his transformation are so thinly motivated: He is a horrible human until he gets freaked by a bad night’s sleep, at which point he turns into a completely lovely one.”
As someone who, over the years, has lost many a night’s sleep to my own emotions, most recently night before last, I think Scrooge’s unexpected life-review tour of his failings culminating in a confrontation with his own miserable corpus is as good a reason as any for a bad night’s sleep. I assuredly have lost sleep over less.
“Perhaps unavoidably in our day, this ‘Christmas Carol’ takes every opportunity to underline Dickens’s disapproval of a world that not only allows but is organized to require extreme inequality. … Mays follows the money, never letting us forget that structural poverty makes misers of everyone.”
He concludes, “But make no mistake, this is a production that understands ‘A Christmas Carol’ as a work of protest no less than ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Bleak House.’ The question it raises isn’t whether Scrooge can be salvaged by an evening’s theatrics, but whether we can.”
And isn’t that the core question of this election season and this Covid-19-rife holiday season?
We must remember, Beloved, that in every version of Dickens’ classic, Scrooge is, with a little help from his friends, able to reframe his own story and be redeemed. Every version. Every single year. Since 1843 — nearly 180 years.
A thoroughly silly article in the Business Section of today’s Times just might hold the explanation. It’s an article about the absurdity of marketing lingo-jingo which is rampant with acronyms and preposterous coinages. They even have an acronym for acronyms! TLA = three-letter acronym. I can’t make this stuff up.
So you’ll have to forgive me when I burst out laughing at “humaning.” The article credits “Mondelez International, the company that makes Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Philadelphia cream cheese, with the help of the Ogilvy advertising agency” for its coinage.
I quote, ‘Humaning is a unique, consumer-centric approach to marketing that creates real, human connections with purpose, moving Mondelez beyond cautious, data-driven tactics, and uncovering what unites us all,’ the company announced in a news release. ‘We are no longer marketing to consumers, but creating connections with humans.’”
Allow me a slash-and-burn edit, to wit, We are no longer consumers, but humans.
Isn’t that what Jacob Marley and his Three Spirits use to reframe Scrooge’s story? Scrooge, sweetheart, you are no longer a consumer — and neither is anyone else! — you are humans. All of you are humans. In Scrooge’s case, according to Jesse Green, he becomes a “completely lovely one.”
And once old Ebenezer’s transformation is effected, what happens, Beloved? He wants to do something. Something markedly different from all that he has done before.
The anonymous turkey to the Cratchits and a cab for the boy who delivers it! A charitable contribution to end all charitable contributions if his eleemosynary benefactors’ reactions are any gauge! Singing — with his fellow humans — in church!
Daring to knock on the door of his much ill-used nephew to share Christmas dinner with them. In fact, I think it is this last that ratifies Scrooge’s genuine reformation.
It might be said that face-to-face with his family Scrooge turns into Ebenezer at long last.
“Mondelez says that ‘humaning’ happens when ‘storytelling becomes storydoing.” Oh, I see. That’s what happens to the lovely Ebenezer. The new story makes him do new things.
In the spirit of the season, that no one is beyond redemption, let it now be known that there’s about to be a new story in The White House. The story they’re telling is about to make a tsunami of very different storydoing.
Catch the wave of reformation whilst you can Secretary DeVos. Let’s start with, what have you done with that lonely little Betsy?
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her website is susancorso.com.