Thursday, April 29, 2010
Shadows of Time: Scrooge and the Misappropriation of Time
With all the modern conveniences of today’s world, one would think that we would have more time. However, this is not the case. For Jensen, the root of the problem resides in the commercialization of time. He writes, “The introduction of clock time in Europe with the consequent increase in efficiency eventually reduced the amount of leisure time people enjoyed, which previously had been plentiful.” With the clock, we have clear delineations of time. Time can now be measured, and our awareness of time more poignant. However, the use of time became linked to production. As Jenses explains, “Surprisingly, time saved is used for yet more work under the pressures of modernity.” Furthermore, he states, “Time came to be defined economically, as Ben Franklin ostensibly said, ‘Time is money.’” Time, then, became utilized for profit. The more hours one pits in for work, the less time there is for leisure time. Actually, leisure time is looked upon as wasting time. Thus, we turn once again to Ebenezer Scrooge. It is a mistake to see Scrooge simply as a caricature of some wealthy people or our bosses. Rather, Scrooge represents the capitalization of time.
When Scrooge is approached by some men taking a collection for the poor, he tells them, “‘I can’t afford to make idle people merry’.” Thus, Scrooge appeals to the old stereotype that those who are without money are so because they are lazy. When Bob Cratchit asks for Christmas Eve off, Scrooge retorts, “‘And yet…you don’t think me ill used, when I pay a days wages for no work’.” Time is simply for profit. Any other use of time is a waste of time or idleness. However, is time really the enemy? Is it this particular view of time the problem? What needs to happen is that we need to learn to manage our time in a healthy and Biblical fashion.
In one sense, we cannot pretend that we do not live in the modern world. Therefore, we must learn to be responsible with the time we are given. The Scriptures are constantly telling us of our limited existence. As Paul declares to us that “the night is far gone, the day is near” (Romans 11:11). Paul states this in reference to loving our neighbor. Therefore, time is meant to spent helping and loving others and not accumulating wealth. Thus, when Fred visits Scrooge, he tells his uncle, “‘There are many things from which I might derive good, by which I have not profited, I dare say’.” Thus, for Fred, ding good is not a matter of profit. Rather, doing good brings its own reward. Also, when Marley visits Scrooge, he laments, “‘Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness’.” This is very close to Paul’s dictum, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 4:15-16). Thus, Marley sends Scrooge the three Spirits. What one notices, however, are the times that they come. Marley explains, “‘You will be haunted by Three Spirits…Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls one…Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate’.” However, when one comes to the end of the story, Scrooge notices, “‘The Spirits have done it all in one night’.” The Spirits, then, represent a bending of time. In fact, they represent the life span of a human being (past, present and future). Moreover, time, which is so important to Scrooge, becomes the means for his redemption. By the end of the story, Scrooge will not even be aware of time. He exclaims, “‘I don’t know what day of the month it is…I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby’.” Only when Scrooge realizes it is Christmas day that he worries about time. It is not that he is slipping back into his former ways. Rather, it is because he wants to begin his new life. With that in mind, let us look at the repentance of Scrooge.