By Celia Coates
Dr. Seuss’s Grinch is mean and all alone near his snowy cave just north of Whoville, isolated by his self-centered grouchiness. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! has been a bestseller since it was published in 1957 when Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote it to counter what he saw as the commercialization of Christmas. It seems to be getting an extra promotional push this year and there’s Grinch merchandise everywhere. Today, it might be wise to read the story as a lesson about materialism, the commercialization of everything. We live in a society where the valued good and happy life is all about buying and owning stuff, especially in the winter holiday season.
It would be easy to cast a single celebrity as this year’s Grinch, but I prefer to see the storybook character as larger than that. He’s a metaphor for our times. The small group of extremely rich people – the 1% – are alone at the top of the mountain looking down on all the little people of our national Whoville.
Dr. Seuss wondered about the cause for the Grinch’s hatred of the little people’s celebrations:
“It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
There’s wisdom in questioning how his head was screwed on. The Grinch’s belief that happiness lies in all the “trimmings and trappings,” and that he was entitled to take everybody else’s stuff just to make himself happy, is screwed up. In our society both the 1% and the 99% have bought into the belief that possessions, money, the latest car or pair of sports shoes are necessary to feel that we are OK and that life is full.
He took it all – everyone’s presents and the decorations and even their food – and piled it high on his sleigh. He stole from them, he lied, he tricked a who-child, and he thought he had triumphed. But his trickery and lies didn’t work.
The next morning he was shocked to hear the Whos singing and to see them holding hands and standing close together in a joyful gathering. If you own a copy of the book, turn to the page near the end that Seuss illustrated with a semi-circle horizon of Whos on a field bursting with heart-red color. It might make you want to join in!
The happy ending to this story is that after experiencing shock that his plan had failed, the Grinch stood in the snow puzzling and puzzling,
“And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore,
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
Then, that day, his heart grew three sizes and was no longer too small. He gave back all that he’d taken and he joined in the celebration along with the Whos.
Why is this story in WINN, and why is the division between the 1% and the 99% worth mentioning here?
Our posts are about the nature of reality and the truth that it involves many dimensions. Beyond our very present material world there is a subtle level in which we can know that we are all connected. Seuss’s image of the Whos all singing together is one way to represent this truth. Modern religions and ancient wisdom traditions both teach that it’s best to be guided in life by The Golden Rule that says that we must consider each other as well as ourselves. That’s what the Grinch learned, and it’s what his story can teach.