This I Believe

Reicher, Clement


  • Clement Reicher recounts a short allegory he wrote as a child which formed the basis for his belief that love must be personal (not idea-driven) and unpossessive, in order to increase and lead ultimately to happiness.
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And now, This I Believe. A series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Clement Reicher is foreign affairs editor and columnist of the Fortnight Magazine in Los Angeles. He was born in Germany became a journalist and was correspondent for the Berliner Tageblatt in London and in Paris. In nineteen-thirty-five he escaped from Nazi Germany and went to China. There he wrote and taught and the National Tsinghua University and became editor of British and Chinese publications. Until nineteen-forty-nine, when he came to the United States, he was advisor to the Shanghai Commercial and Savings Bank. Here now is Clement Reicher.
I believe there is nothing in the universe that isn’t within me too, though I am not aware of all there is in the universe, nor of all there is in me. Whatever comes to me from outside I believe to be in secret alliance with something within me, and whatever may stir deep down within me, I expect to be confronted with, sooner or later, in form of persons and situations I have to meet. This belief has made life for me rather complicated. I have always had to stop on my way, trying to feel whether there wasn’t something intimately familiar in the utterly strange. It has made me ineffective whenever there was no such echo, but effective beyond hopes whenever there was.
What has given me this belief, I do not know. It seems that I have always had it.
I was 16 when I wrote a story in which I was the president of my own consciousness. Two secretaries, who call themselves Intelligence and Feeling, were driving me out of my wits with their cajoleries and threats, with the ever-conflicting advice they gave me as to what I should decide to do. Finally, my Will was called in, a semi-starved, misshapen child. There was no time for him to assert himself. Feeling made a face, and he ran away, bursting into tears. We laughed hysterically, and this was the end of the cabinet session. Later, Intelligence smuggled me across the boundary into my own unconscious self, which turned out to be as vast and as busy as a whole nation at work. I was so awed by what I saw that I rushed back to the council chamber and made my decision with ease.
The peculiar setup described in that odd story, thirty-seven years ago, has never changed. It seems to be the proper setting for my belief. Through identification, I have not learned to love others better. There are too many things in me which I can neither love nor understand. What it has taught me is this: that love, where it is genuine, will set the stage for greater love; that hatred will engender an even greater hatred. Increasing hatred accumulates blind rage and fear, which merge toward the end into an all-pervasive horror; while increasing love leads to a state for which we all, if we are honest with ourselves, feel the most desperate longing—a state which might, with equal fitness, be called beauty, goodness, happiness, or peace.
The meanings of these words and of many others tend to merge. What they can no longer cover passes beyond all understanding. I believe these two poles to be absolutes, and as real as the world of quantitative relatedness which we call matter.
When I started out, I accepted this merely as a tentative hypothesis. It has grown into conviction. Despite the many different standards of behavior I have been able to observe and to make my own—in Europe, China, and America—I have found there is this absolute basis to all morality. And I have found that for love to increase, it must let go of ideas, be personal, and less possessive.
Those the beliefs of Clement Reicher, foreign affairs editor of Fortnight Magazine.