Having returned from a week in New York City I am obsessed by all things NYC. So I watched Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence.” The movie is his translation of the Edith Wharton novel. It is beautifully stylized cinema with magnificent costumes and rigidly authentic settings. The story depicts a time in which the presentation of impeccable sexual morality was imperative for those seeking acceptance in the upper echelons of New York society. The main character Newland Archer is a refined gentleman in love with an exceedingly well-bred girl who has a spotless reputation. It is to be a brilliant marriage that becomes sullied when he meets a cousin of his fiancée who is in the midst of a scandalous divorce. He is dazzled by this woman’s wit, beauty and unconventionality. And while they are tremendously attracted to each other, ultimately she departs for Paris and he to his expected role of loving husband and father. At the end of the movie he has the opportunity to meet the object of his obsession after many years and he chooses instead to walk away and allow the memory of his love for her to remain in the past. It is a heartbreaking scene full of layers of intention and meaning.
After viewing the film I was reminded of a quote attributed to Plato in which he wrote, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is in the midst of a great battle.” “The Age of Innocence” becomes the story of a man who lives his life with a great regret that he could never have the woman he loved. And yet even in the midst of his sorrow he raised a family, earned a living, contributed to the betterment of his community and attempted to be a loving, faithful man. I wonder how many people we see every day who carry some great pain or suffering never spoken of? How many people do we pass in the street or interface in a store or a restaurant who are waiting for a diagnosis, or in the midst of declaring bankruptcy or have been rejected by a lover or spouse? How many have no idea where their children are or if they will ever see them again?
When we carry sorrow or disappointment it takes remarkable courage to solider on without self pity. And I cannot help but wonder if everyone is haunted by that one significant individual from the past. What if everyone has someone who was loved and lost – the person we still consider when the morning coffee is cooling or daydream about in a lengthy traffic jam. The individual who was impossibly difficult or ambivalent or deceased. The person who drifts across your consciousness just before slumber or when desperately unhappy or lonely. The One who our imagination assumes would never be boorish or selfish. The One in which our true happiness would have been realized. If everyone has such a person longed for and never revealed doesn’t that give us yet another reason to extend a little extra patience and understanding to all engaging in this ongoing battle?There’s always someone haunting someone And I can’t sleep easy ‘Cause I’m afraid of dreaming And then there’s the memory of the dream There’s always someone haunting someone Haunting someone Haunting someone. Carly Simon ~ Haunting