“I need to know again that I was her life. I would give anything I have to give to talk to her again, just for an hour. If she ever thought that she loved me more than I did her, she is revenged.” Charles Ritchie
Joseph Campbell writes that it is always the man who is the lover and the woman the beloved. One may glean such a thing from the words of Charles Ritchie spoken on the death of Elizabeth Bowen. This was hardly the case. Bowen pined incessantly for Ritchie. Her words were his property and her emotions dependent on him to an unhealthy extreme. She had mistakenly fallen for a consummate womanizer, but I don’t even know if it was entirely his fault, for Charles loved women as he loved people and the joy and sorrow of women was for him the joy and sorrow of people.
Charles loved people. He loved their joy and suffered in their pain. He was quick to affirm that which is beautiful in others and hurt when others were distressed. He was a man who knew the world to be wide inhabited with a myriad of beautiful people. Such men and women make poor lovers, though we can become quickly taken with them as they see everything beautiful until they feel deeply the pain of others. This is an appealing thing. We can think that if they love us, we encapsulate the world for them and since they so dearly love the world with such depth, they must love us as well. Nothing is further from the truth.
I don’t think Charles could ever pick out just a few people and be good to them. The world was indeed too wide for him, the concerns of the many always meant something to him. This trait is admirable in a certain way, but it is not what we are called to. We are called to do just the opposite….to pick out a few and be good to them.
When I read Ritchie’s words today, I did not think I could see a sadder thing. He had learned his lesson, but it was too late. What could his language mean now that Elizabeth was dead? They could mean nothing; he was not there in her living and no one can be truly there for us in our death, as we now belong to that which is so much greater.
When I started writing this I picked out an example of two people who understood what Charles did not, but I saw something sadder than his words, but that story is too recent and touching to share. Rather let it only be said you do not have forever to be there for one another. Every day is a few hours where you decide who you are there for, whether it is to be something for the wide world or the greater thing of being the world to just one or a few others.