Diana and I went to see A Christmas Carol at the Ohio Theater today. The show is of particular importance to her, because she stage managed it for several years, over a decade ago. Her "Scrooge" is still in the cast, playing a different role, but this just happened to be his 500th performance. While I too can appreciate what it's life to entirely leave a profession, I don't think I can totally understand what it was like for her. Fortunately, she did get to see a number of people still working for the company after the show.
I think it's safe to assume that you know the plot of the original text, or have seen stage and film adaptations of it at some point. While the ghosts of Christmas past, present and those yet to come are intended to show Scrooge that he's a stingy bastard of a man, it's interesting to see these characters as ghosts. It seems like we're haunted by these three ghosts in real life to some extent, if for reasons different than those that caused them to haunt Scrooge.
The past is such a tricky thing, because it will always define us to some degree, for better or worse. Our experiences and our decisions shape who we are. Reflecting on the past, we open feelings of joy, sorrow, happiness, regret... pretty much all feelings. Perhaps most strong are the feelings of relief, that the past is over, or despair, that we can never again experience that past.
The present isn't necessarily scary for what it is, but scary for a lot of other reasons. It's so easy to get stuck on the past, or drive toward a future that we can't entirely predict or control, that we completely miss what's going on around us. We can be completely discontent with our present situation, or like it so much that we disregard our future.
The future haunts us with endless possibility, though some days it's hard not wonder if the thing most possible is imminent doom. I don't think that many people can say, "Yeah, I'm exactly where I thought I would be," and if they can, they're probably horrified at how boring it is. What I find most disturbing about the future is the number of people who are willing to simply allow it to happen to them. I think that constantly praying to have someone (or something) save you instead of trying to save yourself and make things happen is a dangerous game.
I see these ghosts on a regular basis, and they're the source of everything I love about my life, as well as all of the things that I detest. Some academics would suggest that Charles Dickens mainly intended to be critical of the evils of capitalism relative to charity, and maybe that was what he was after. But I think there's a more abstract lesson, bigger than Christmas, and that's a reminder to be self-aware. We are all shaped by our life experience, and it does in part define our lives today. And yet, what we do with that information will ultimately shape our future.