YOUR STREET OF DIVINE DESTINY
By Dr. Yomi Garnett
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
Every season requires its own stories. In this season, the global economy is in the alarming flux of a recession, with individuals, families and nations witnessing a downturn in their fortunes.
I relate this poignant story to show that, sometimes, it’s in the depths of despair that great resourcefulness is born. Indeed, our current adversity can be the propelling motivation for the brilliant flash of inspiration that will turn our life around.
It had been an exceptionally humid day in London, but this somewhat oppressive weather soon gave way to a cool breeze as dusk settled over the city. It was the evening of the fifth day of October, 1843, and a young man stepped out of his house and into a serene neighborhood street near Regent’s Park. He tousled his brown hair with his right hand, and making a brave attempt at cheerfulness, he waved his left hand in a perfunctory greeting to a couple of elegant ladies in an equally elegant horse-drawn carriage. Charles Dickens, arguably England’s most eminent author, was on his routine evening walk. He looked profoundly distressed as his accustomed walk took him farther and farther away from the stylishly graceful ladies and fine gentlemen of his affluent neighborhood and into what the novelist himself called the black streets of London. By the time he got to the Thames River, the gas lamps that lit his way through the better neighborhoods had given way to dull light coming from the windows of tenement blocks to cast an equally dull glow on litter-strewn streets bordered by open sewers. The human traffic had also changed to the dregs of the city: street urchins, pickpockets and beggars.
Dickens’s gloom deepened as this change in human tone evoked traumatic memories of himself as a twelve- year old impoverished boy subjected to the grueling task of attaching labels to an endless stream of pots of black boot paste, for twelve hours a day, for six days in the week, to earn the six shillings that would sustain him. Meanwhile, his father languished in debtor’s jail and poor Dickens was receiving only an hour of school lessons during his lunch break. For the boy, life seemed quite bleak and hopeless, until, by an unexpected twist of fate, the elder Dickens, almost unbelievably, came into an inheritance. He paid his debts and was released from prison, and so the young boy’s life marginally improved.
One might, quite understandably, be inclined to inquire as to the source of the writer’s evident despondence and misery. The answer to this was to be found in the very recent circumstances of his life. Three months earlier, his publisher had revealed that sales from his new book, Martin Chuzzlewit, were grossly below expectations, necessitating a drastic cut in Dickens’s monthly advances against future sales. Dickens, a father of four, was staggered by this appalling piece of news, as he had felt he was riding on the crest of uncommon literary success, if, indeed, he wasn’t at the peak of a scintillating career. His titles; The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, were all very popular, after all.
The bare truth was simply this: Dickens was in a rather serious financial quagmire. His much vaunted talent was also obviously being called to question, and as memories of his childhood poverty were rekindled, he mentally recoiled in horror at the mere thought of them. Quite apart from supporting a large extended family, his wife was expecting their fifth child.
All that summer, the hapless writer agonized over his mounting obligations, especially the sizeable mortgage he owed on his house. Desperately and urgently needing an idea that would earn him substantial sums of money, and in a bid to re-create himself, he beat a hasty retreat to a seaside resort, where, sadly, even sleep eluded him at night, while his daytime walks on the scenic cliffs did nothing to inflame his imagination. In his dual state of anxiety and ennui, he found it difficult to commit pen to paper. Unhappily, he aborted his holiday midway, and returned to London to resume his nightly walks in the forlorn hope that they would galvanize his creative juices to start flowing.
Much like his father before him, his inability to pay his own debts cast a heavy pall over his spirit, and being no closer to a brilliant and potentially profitable tale, he turned back on his heels to plod wearily home.
Unknown to him, however, this was to be a night like no other, for as he approached his home, a sudden flash of inspiration hit him like a thunderbolt. He stood rooted to the spot as the creative genius in him took on a life of its own.
A Christmas story! Yes, indeed, a Christmas story!
He would create a Christmas story for the downtrodden people he had just seen on the black streets of London; people who groaned and labored under the same fears he had known as a child; people who would grasp at any straw of hope and cheer that came their way.
Leaning against a lamp post, his mind raced excitedly with thoughts. But Christmas was less than three months away! Did he have sufficient time? Yes, he did, especially if it were a short tale. “I must finish writing by the last day of November, so that printing and distribution can be done in time for Christmas sales,” he told himself.
He opted for scenes and characters his readers were already familiar with, and loved, from his earlier works. A stroke of genius! A small, pale child, an honest but inept father, and the star character: a selfish, old villain!
Dickens’s quill flew over paper after paper, as page after page, the manuscript grew and the story came alive. Readers would later become familiar with Ebenezer Scrooge, a stingy businessman, cowering in fear in his cold, bare apartment on Christmas eve, as the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley, comes visiting. A greedy and callous person in his lifetime, Marley’s spirit could know no rest as a consequence of his past life, and he warns Scrooge of the need to mend his ways or suffer the same fate. Finally, Scrooge, beset with remorse, renounces avarice to become a generous and compassionate person in the true spirit of Christmas.
Amazingly, as the story came alive, the author’s psyche started to undergo a remarkable transformation. While the entire project had initially been little more than a “little scheme,” a calculated and impetuous plan to bail himself out of the mire of debt, as he began to relate the kind of Christmas that he loved-cheerful carol singing, mouth-watering feasts of turkey and pudding, and the hearty exchange of gifts- the innate joy and hilarity of the season threw his spirits into an all-time high, and his depression melted away to pave way for a selfless desire to serve people a literary dish of pure yuletide joy.
The book, A Christmas Carol, totally arrested his body, mind and soul, quickly becoming more of a labor of love than a commercial venture. Dickens now had a grand mission to live for and was reluctant to leave the growing pages even for a moment. He would, while writing, weep and laugh, and then weep again.
Finally, on December 2, he finished writing A Christmas Carol, and on December 17, the Author’s copies were delivered to an ecstatic Dickens, and neither him nor his publisher was ready for the overwhelming reception that greeted the book, with the first edition of six thousand copies selling out by Christmas eve. The book bore a heartwarming message that was a perfect fit for the Christmas season, and as another famous author put it: “…..it was a personal kindness to every man or woman who read it.”
Through that book, Dickens re-invented Christmas for the English, popularizing many aspects of Christmas that are celebrated today, including great family reunions, special food recipes and drinks, and gift giving. Even the English language has been spiced by the story. After all, who does not know the type of person referred to as a ‘scrooge’? Even the phrase Merry Christmas took on a new meaning!
Dickens would later write other great and financially viable books- David Copperfield, A Tale Of Two Cities, Great Expectations- none of which, however, could give him the inestimable and soul-enriching joy he derived from A Christmas Carol. Such was his perceived synonymy with the Christmas spirit that, at his death in 1870, a poor little boy in London asked his father: “Is it true? Is Dickens truly dead? Then, will Father Christmas die too?”
Perhaps, however, the greatest tribute to his memory was that he was eventually referred to by some as: THE APOSTLE OF CHRISTMAS.
Sometimes, it is in the greatest self-doubt and despondency that a man does his best work. Indeed, the storm of tribulation, and the depths of despair can divinely birth a gift. In the case of Dickens, his profound, albeit momentary, low self-esteem gave the world an unforgettable gift- A Christmas Carol, a book that rekindled his faith in himself and his talent, bringing millions of others the redemptive joy of the Christmas season.
Dickens subconsciously reached out and got into intimate touch with the hearts of his readers on the blackened and cobblestoned streets of London, where his spark of imagination was ignited. His experience ought to be a poignant reminder of just how difficult and arduous the process of innovation can be. It also, however, teaches us that a great crucible for harnessing our creative genius, an entity each of us possesses, whether latently or obviously, is right there on some street that is merely waiting to reward our ever observant ears and eyes with the sweet nectar of success. The great mathematician, Archimedes, after solving a particularly intractable problem, ran naked through this same street, shouting in exhilaration: I have found it!
Today, on your street of divine destiny, you too will find it! Amen.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Yomi Garnett is a physician, author, public speaker, and a world-class Ghostwriter. He is HOST of the popular Internet Radio Talk Show, DREAM THE LIFE, LIVE THE DREAM, on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network, in Phoenix, Arizona. Eminently regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished Ghostwriters, Dr. Garnett is President/CEO at The Global Institute For Human Excellence, Chancellor/CEO at Royal Biographical Institute, ROBIN, and Host of The Garnett Interview- America’s First Celebrity Newsletter Interview, an Online, High Profile and Social Media-propelled Interview series. He is Author : “365 DAYS OF WISDOM: A Daily Companion For The Soul In Search of Enlightenment.”
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