As I listened to this episode of the podcast I couldn’t resist the comparison to Dickens’s perennial classic, A Christmas Carol. (And I have to say, if you haven’t read Dickens, or watched the Muppets, beware of spoilers ahead.) You’d think that everyone on the couch had just read it, and based their comments on its premise: a man is visited by three ghosts, one of his past, one of his present, and one of his potential, his darkest potential.
The ghosts themselves, however, are not malevolent. They exist for him. They exist to better him. They may, it could be argued, come from him. These ghosts terrify him, and they serve him, and they save him.
Because they are ghosts they represent that which is dead, but they manifest so that the man (Ebenezer Scrooge) might really live.
This is the type of ghost that Krista, Jared, Marc and Lacey talk about on this episode of The Outpost podcast: an apparition with vision.
If you’ve read the book, or have seen the movies – and I hope that you have – you will remember the uncanny differences amongst the strange ghosts that visit in the night leading up to Christmas Day. I noticed this, too, when the group was talking about the “ghosts” haunting their creative work; at first blush you may wonder: What is this ragtag gang of phantasms? What’s the through-line? And perhaps this is what first put me in mind of the ghosts of Dickens’. But it becomes clear that the importance of each is most distinguishable in their unique characteristics: Why should such a figure affect you so? What is its make-up and its message?
The Warm One
In this case, one ghost maybe looks like Mother Lingle: the ghost of Jared’s past.
In the episode Jared describes how, as a kid, as soon as he completed some project or accomplished some goal his mother would encourage him to share it with the world, “Go on and show ‘em” she would say.
This is the indulgent and kindly ghost that the man in this new story might appeal to for help, like Scrooge did with the giant in Dickens’s story, (“Don’t leave me!”) but that initially intimidates and baffles the hapless soul: Why would I want this? Don’t ask this of me!
This is the ghost that could banish the haunting thought of Krista’s, “You are taking up too much.” This ghost shows you that your efforts have meaning, that your actions have impact and that, not only do you have permission to share your dreams, but the world needs them. It needs you.
The Eerie Innocent
Another is the ghost of Marc’s present: a performing monkey, with symbols. The specter that represents the need to deliver, on demand, right now!
This ghost seems peppy and optimistic, but something isn’t quite right. One might rightfully ask, Where are you taking me?
This ghost, like them all, forces us to see ourselves, as Scrooge looked at the pathetic figure of dead Marley, and saw the man so like him that he’d allow people to call himself by the same name, as if the two were interchangeable.
However, like Scrooge, we see suddenly how we could do it differently, and when the clock tolls the last chime on our stamina this menacing monkey transmutes into something like the childlike ghost of Christmas Past and we think, as Marc said,
“We’re doing things that matter… maybe what we’re doing is enough and we can just do what we’re already doing with a better attitude and a bigger purpose.”
The Bogey Man
Then there is the ghost of a faceless human figure, a phone in their hand, finger raised, poised to scroll; indecipherable, always turning away, the ghost of Lacey’s future: the embodiment (such as it is) of the phrase, “No one’s going to care.”
This is the ghost that scares the living daylights out of us. But it also points us to the inevitable fact, which Marc puts into words, “life is bigger than [our] performance in the world.”
This spook is so unlike the ghost before it that one must question their safety in approaching and inviting this spirit. But in time we see that, loving or not, this shade is a key to knowing ourselves. Like the inverse of the moment Scrooge learns what folks thought of him, when no one could see him standing there, this ghost teaches:
Who are you when no one is looking?
Listening to the podcast with Dickens in mind, it was almost spooky when Krista started talking about going through her youthful artwork. It was so reminiscent of the scene of Scrooge returning to his boyhood school and seeing himself as a child again. “Recognition,” Krista said about looking at her work, “it feels like… that is me.” “There it is, there is what I am working through now. There’s the heart of what I am and what I’ve experienced. Those are the things that carry through.”
She talked about circling the same themes in life, and therefore, in her creative work, about, “revisiting them, and coming to them with more perspective, or just different perspective.”
“A lot of the things I think of as great struggles in my life and creativity, and failings of myself, I take all of these – I think of them as negatives – and yet, when I create, all of those forces are coming out in the artwork…”
“Listen, little lad… you’re on your way.” – Marc
This is the point of A Christmas Carol and this is the point, one might argue, of life. Allow yourself to be haunted, allow your conscience to be visited, do not turn a blind eye to aspects of your past or your present that are just out of view. As terrifying as that may be, it is your way to your unique future, one that is worth laying down your former life for.