Saarah Smith and the Tragedian
Jack and his mentor come upon a Heavenly woman, whom at first Jack seems to mistakes for Mary, mother of Jesus. The mentor corrects him and says she was a woman known as Sarah Smith, and is now one of the great ones in Heaven.
As they watch, she is confronted by a dwarf, who pulls a tragedian — an old-school, melodramatic actor who projects the dwarf’s need to be pitied and apologized to — by a chain. The dwarf was her husband, on Earth. She died before he did, and now he has come from Hell to see her, and hopefully extract some misery from her.
I like to imagine the tragedian as played by Jonathan Harris, the actor who played Doctor Smith on “Lost in Space,” when he says, “And now! Now, you need me no more?”
Sway Over Joy
Which is, of course, the whole point of Heaven. It could not be so if pity held sway over joy, or payments were still due for past transgressions. Everything, then, would be held in check to some distant, irrelevant misery.
This reminds me of the stories of artists or other creative types who’ve only blossomed or become 100% themselves after their parents have died — either out of a fear of embarrassing them, or from a lack of self-confidence because they could not overcome their criticisms over the years.
The tragedian/dwarf needs his Earthly wife to feel bad so that his melodrama can have a stage. Otherwise, he’ll just look silly… which, he does, in the solidity and brightness of Heaven. So, he comes to the choice many Ghosts make in this story — to hold on to the misery that has defined them, or to let it go and start again.
Giving Up One’s Identity
It is easy to say, Of course! Give your old ways up and be renewed! But in real life, it is difficult to give up one’s identity — even if it’s a bad one. If, for example, I take on the identity of a person with some weakness, I may approach it with intelligence, prop up those areas where I’ve shown a weakness (for example, disorganization), and say, “Well, I just need to use this or that tool to stay on top of things,” and be done with it. Or, I could say, “I have such-and-such trait, therefore I should be pitied and forgiven for all my mistakes, and never expected to go through the difficulties of change. Also, I should be valued as much as a person without these weaknesses, because to do otherwise would be unfair — after all, they’re not perfect, either!”
Same can be said for every weakness from a bad temper to drug abuse.
This is the approach the dwarf/tragedian takes, and of course it will not work in Heaven on his former wife, Sarah, because she’s truly left all those things behind — including her own weaknesses.
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. — Luke 15:7, English Standard Version
Sarah Smith is a former sinner who repented; the dwarf/tragedian is acting like a righteous person who needs no repentance. Determined to be joyless, he shrivels up until he can no longer be seen at the end of the chain, and is consumed by the tragedian, who vanishes in Sarah’s bright presence.