Of Ghosts Past

There’s nothing new under the sun, as the old saying goes but isn’t it also true that we find something new wherever we look?

Talking of something that certainly isn’t new – although it has endured and been revived countless times – at the start of the year, I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for the first time.

Inside this old book, something that felt very new caught my eye.

Well over 100 years before corporate social responsibility or intrinsic career drivers, Jacob Marley’s ghost gave clear warning to anyone getting caught up in the importance or the trappings of their work.

Scrooge, perhaps already feeling some guilt, tried to defend his and Marley’s record, which led to the following exchange,

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ said Scrooge.

‘Business!’ cried the Ghost… ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

A Christmas Carol was published in 1843.

In an age where we can see ourselves as so far removed from both lives and centuries past, here was something that could have been written today. The phrasing may be different but the sentiment could easily come from an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times or Forbes.

Maybe we aren’t all that different from our forebears. Perhaps we have strong links even with the distant past, and there is much to learn by examining this past in parallel with our own experience?

Notions of connection, of discovery, of the very human pitfalls we create for ourselves – along with the pitfalls our highly complex work/life relationship creates for us – all of this affects the way we live and navigate our careers today.

Marley’s ghost, from his wretched state of lament and regret, implores us to ask ourselves what business are we in, while we’re still working, and we can still do something about it.

If you’re a fan of this book, you might like 400 Ghosts,
an amazing YouTube tribute cut together from
different interpretations of Dickens’ original work

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