Sunday, March 28, 2010

Young Love

My nephew is just 16 years old yet he is madly in love and in the midst of a serious relationship with a girl. At least, that is what I have been told some time ago.

His parents are worried because his school work has been spotty and poor the past few years. This romantic entanglement is exactly the kind of distraction that would erode what little focus he has managed to put on his studies. Unless he shapes up and get his priorities straight, they fear that his future may be in jeopardy.

"In love?" A close relative of mine snorted out the words in disgust. "What do the young people today know about love?," he asked me. "It's just television, the movies and the Internet that is putting this foolish ideas in their heads. Why can't they just finish school first, get a good job and when that happens then that is the time they can think about about really falling in love."

It is a point, of course, I can fully sympathize with. Love and relationships based on it require emotional maturity and the capacity for serious commitment - two things the young are notoriously deficient in. Without them, how long can such a romance last?

Then I got the chance to see my young nephew and meet his girl several times. I became entranced. Their love is truly the love of the innocent, one that is infinitely sweet and tender, one that tugs at the heartstrings and makes the spirit soar.

That they believe that their love for each is sincere is clear. I see it in their eyes when they look at each other. I see it when they are close to each other, physically separate yet entwined, their hands clasped together and one head on the other's shoulder.

I feel overjoyed yet also sick to my stomach with trepidation. Who indeed has the effrontery to judge and say whether this is love or not. Often it is the arrogance of age that misleads the old in believing that only they can know real love when they see it. Is not love, even in its most nascent form, too universal an emotion to be restricted only to the old and mature or to any particular age bracket?

I fear for them because the odds stacked against their relationship are great. They face opposition not only from people who are around them but from life itself. The maelstrom of change that is life's most constant companion will not just stand idly by. It will test and challenge them both constantly now and in the months and years ahead. Only time will tell if they can survive it together.

How will I know if this is true love?", the young man asked me recently. I told him the precious little that I know.

I said to him that I believe that love is always a positive thing. It enriches your life and sanctifies it. It brings you great joy but also asks great things in return. It expressed itself most often in personal sacrifice such as the repudiation of what is petty, selfish and immediate for the ultimate good in life. It brings out the best in us and even inspires us to become better than ourselves.

"That sounds hard," he said thoughtfully after a while.

Love, I answered him, is hard in the same way that life itself is hard. One either takes it whole or leaves it alone. One cannot have all the good parts and leave the bad behind. That is the nature of the beast that he has dared to grasp by the horns.

One thing though I am sure of. Whatever happens to this young love will mark my nephew for the rest of his life. My hope is that if it will not work out in the end, as many here who care for him fear, he will be able to put all the emotional hurt and bruising behind him and emerge much wiser and stronger despite it all. Otherwise, I wish him and his inamorata the best that life and love can offer.

In the meantime, I told him to hold on to the love he now feels and use it well. It may ultimately be short-lived and temporary. But while it lasts, it will be the most beautiful thing in this world that he will ever hold in the palm of his hands, a magnificent treasure beyond any price which will bring forth memories which he will always treasure the rest of his life.

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