Selfishness vs. Love

Today, my son wanted to watch “A Muppet Christmas Christmas Carol”.
True – it is almost April – but it is also two days since the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when we celebrate the Word becoming flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  That means it is only 9 months ’til Christmas!
Also – it is a Friday in Lent.  A penitential day.  A day to reflect on our own sins.  It is actually a great day to watch “A Muppet Christmas Carol”!  Ebeneezer Scrooge undergoes a process of conversion which prompts us to think about ourselves.

Currently, readers of the blog are engaged in a pretty intense debate in the comment section of the page devoted to alerting readers to the dangers of indulging in fantasy.  (See here.)  I’d like to move this discussion over to a new post, and I want to direct the attention of the participants to a specific topic – that being, selfishness vs. love.

Anyone who knows A Christmas Carol (and the Muppet version is my favorite) knows that Ebeneezer Scrooge is a very unattractive character at the beginning of the story.  He is, truly, the epitome of a selfish man.  You may say that he views those around him as parasites – and therefore treats them accordingly.  Ebeneezer is not a happy man, though, in spite of a life dedicated to taking care of #1.  Part of living in community is recognizing that we all need one another.  Individualism is not a virtue.  Ebeneezer cannot see that at the beginning of the story.

During the night, he is visited by the souls of a couple of his damned friends, but also by three different spirits – the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.  It is interesting to notice that the ghosts do not sit down and argue with Ebeneezer.  They show him reality.  Is this emotional manipulation?  Of course not.  Emotion is a necessary part of human existence.  It can enable us to experience sorrow, but it also enables us to experience joy.  Putting a brick wall up around our heart (our emotional center) may protect us from certain sorrows, but it also makes us incapable of joy.  It is like eliminating the nerves that enable us to distinguish between hot and cold.  You can’t just feel hot things and not cold things.  If you lose your ability to distinguish, you can’t feel either.

So – Ebeneezer is shown the ramifications of his decisions.  Selfish decisions.  They have cut him off from the rest of the community.  He is particularly moved by his encounter with the Cratchett family.  Tiny Tim – a little crippled boy (or frog, if you are watching the Muppet version) could be considered a parasitic individual.  He takes and takes… can’t even walk home on his own.  What is it that makes Tiny Tim a person?  Does he have human dignity because his parents (Kermit and Miss Piggy) want him?  What is it about seeing Tiny Tim interact with his family that has such a profound effect on Ebeneezer?  Could it be precisely the fact that the Cratchett family love Tiny Tim?  That they see a dignity in him that is utterly beyond their ability to ascribe to him based on their wants?  That Tiny Tim is intrinsically worthy of love?

Perhaps Ebeneezer has never encountered something like that up close before.  If he had, perhaps he had written it off as emotional manipulation or sentamentalism.  Maybe it took an examination of his own life, and the context of his own failures and hurts, to put things sufficiently on the line for Ebeneezer to have his eyes opened.  The world did not change on the night Ebeneezer had this experience.  Ebeneezer changed.  He had been blind, but he – through the aid of others – discovered his sight. 

So – this brings us to love vs. selfishness.  

Love will sacrifice for the sake of the beloved.  In some cases, the only loving thing to do is to walk away from a relationship if it will harm the beloved.  This is why I have argued all along that Edward does not love Bella.  He fundamental decision is to use her for personal satisfaction in spite of where he can see it leading (ultimately Bella becoming a vampire, the hideous pregnancy, etc.).  Theirs is a relationship of obsession.

I think a lot of people reading the series do not see this because they may be experiencing similar challenges themselves – having emotional needs that they are trying to meet through fantasy (which is where the other post comes in).  The Twilight Saga is harmful to a person in that situation.

So – let’s have a discussion of love vs. selfishness.

What is love?  How do we define it?  How do we live it?

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