An Academic Christmas Carol: Part 3

Posted December 25, 2014 by Emily Dolson in Humor, Work/Life Balance / 2 Comments

Missed the beginning? Read Part 1 and 2.

 Part 3

As the two children ran excitedly towards a waiting car, the Spirit of Christmas Past placed her hand on Scrooge’s shoulder and led him onward. They arrived in a bright lab space adorned with colorful garlands and all sorts of multicultural holiday decorations. Students, including a slightly older Scrooge, were chatting as they pipetted. Shortly, Professor Fezziwig skipped in. “Yo ho, there! No more work tonight! It’s Christmas Eve! Clear all this nonsense away, all of you, we must make room. Life is too short for all work and no play.”

The students were quick to oblige, cleaning up their workspaces and bringing in trays of science-themed cookies, jugs of egg nog, cider, and butterbeer. Professor Fezziwig opened the cabinet where the quadcopters were kept and passed around the remote controls. As the students flew them out of the cabinets, it became apparent that they were all decked out with colored lights.

While the students laughed and chatted amiably, the Spirit of Christmas Past turned to the much older Scrooge standing next to her. “It’s such a small thing, to make these silly people feel so much gratitude and joy,” she paused, seeing Scrooge’s shocked expression, “Is it not? After all, what did he do, this Fezziwig? Spent a few dollars on a party. Does he deserve such praise as this?”

“It isn’t that, Spirit,” Scrooge explained, “Why, Mr. Fezziwig has the power to make us happy or unhappy. He can make our work pleasant or miserable, just in the way he looks at us, and the way he addresses us! A thousand such little things add up, you know, until the happiness he gives is as great as if it cost a fortune, and…” Scrooge trailed off, thinking of his own lab.

Scrooge turned his attention back to the scene in front of him in time to see dazzling lights flickering all around the room. Professor Fezziwig was shining a laser at a diamond and all of the students were ooo-ing and ah-ing at the pretty patterns it cast around the room. The diamond was embedded in a ring. Fezziwig handed it back to young Scrooge. With a nervous glance, young Scrooge turned to Belle, the girl he had been talking to all night, and got down on one knee….

Old Scrooge felt the spirit’s hand on his shoulder yet again. “Please, Spirit, can’t we just stay a little longer?” Scrooge implored.

The spirit shook her head. “We have one more stop to make tonight.” And gradually the scene around them faded out, being replaced with a much more somber one. A newly-tenured version of Scrooge was sitting at a desk, staring in confusion at a slightly older Belle.

“I know it matters very little to you. Another idol has displaced me, and if it can make you as happy as I would have tried to do, I have no reason to cry,” sniffed Belle.

“What idol has displaced you?”

“Prestige. Research funds. Your H-Index.  You fear the world too much, Ebenezer. All your other hopes have merged into the one hope of eluding the disdain of others. I have seen your nobler virtues fall away, one by one, until nothing is left but one master-passion—the pursuit of acclaim. It consumes you.”

“What then?” implored Scrooge, “Even if I have grown wiser and more astute, I haven’t changed my feelings toward you.”

“Oh, Ebenezer, our promise to one another is an old one. We made it when we were
young and grant-less, and happy to remain so until we could improve our fortune together by patience and hard work. But you’ve changed. You are not the same man. You may feel sad now, Ebenezer, but I’ve no doubt that you will dismiss the thought of me very soon, as if you were glad to have awakened from a bad dream. Merry Christmas, and may you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

To be continued…

Emily Dolson

I’m a doctoral student in the Ofria Lab at Michigan State University, the BEACON Center for Evolution in Action, and the departments of Computer Science and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, & Behavior. My interests include studying eco-evolutionary dynamics via digital evolution and using evolutionary computation techniques to interpret time series data. I also have a cross-cutting interest in diversity in both biological and computational systems. In my spare time, I enjoy playing board games and the tin whistle.

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