Caribbean Festival, Cambridge MA, August 2007
You are young (and unusually mature), I am older, so I—and you possibly—might ask, how does this difference work? What are its advantages and what are its disadvantages. I’ll only write about one possible advantage.
You are in the stage of exploration, discovery, risk taking, adventure, experimentation, a most vital and thrilling stage of life. I am at a different stage, when many of my peers retire (65 is the usual retirement age in the States), settle in for a long, comfortable, happy, secure, predicable existence. I am slightly different. I doubt I’ll ever retire but instead I find myself embarking on adventures that I might have missed when young, when I married, raised children, pursued a career.
How is this age difference an advantage? In this way: I can encourage you to live your stage of life fully (not that you need much encouragement, knowing how courageous you are). I can support you fully. Here’s a case in point:
You mentioned reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Grapes of Wrath, that these were pivotal in your development, so you know something about the conditions in this country and the struggles to change them. Maybe you know about the Freedom Riders of 1961. I’m reading about them now and make one germane observation. Most of the riders were about your age, between 17 and 30. They defied the authorities and public opinion—they were beaten, imprisoned in the harshest of conditions, and threatened with death. They prevailed. And interstate transportation facilities were finally desegregated, the laws enforced. Those riders were young, they had guts, balls, ovaries (as an American saying goes). If not for them, as a nation we might not have made the civil rights gains. I commend their example to you.
Likewise, your youth is an inspiration to me, my heart is strengthened hearing what you did and continue to do—Nablus, Gaza, Bil’in, the interviews, what I expect your report might show. As long as we are in touch, I will continue to remind you (at some risk, you might tire of me nagging you) that you have the opportunity of youth. That opportunity, in many cases (you’ve written about your family), may not survive aging.
One risk I’m realizing in living an adventurous life is that it can threaten stable relationships. This is what is happening to me now, threatening the connections I have with L, my daughters, possibly with my grandchildren, and my friends and communities—if I continue my “marriage” to the work I’m attempting in Israel-Palestine. When young we might have fewer of those relationships (I know you are very connected to your family, maybe others as well) and so young people can risk more.
“Hubb” is love, “ishq” is love that entwines two people together, “shaghaf” is love that nests in the chambers of the heart, “hayam” is love that wanders the earth, “teeh” is love in which you lose yourself, “walah” is love that carries sorrow within it, “sabbah” is love that exudes from your pores, “hawa” is love that shares its name with “air” and with “falling”, “gharam” is love that is willing to pay the price.
—From the The Map of Love, a novel by Andaf Soueif