Many people have heard or read the famous quote: "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with."
We are free to give love to others, but we cannot make them love us back. When mutual love does grace us, we enter a state of giddy joy. We talk for hours on the phone. We hold hands everywhere. We travel to exotic lands of love, like Paris. And then we buy a padlock, shackle it to the Pont des Arts bridge, and toss the key in the river. To symbolize our eternal love.
Love locks on bridges are the new thing. Forget about young lovers carving initials into trees. How passe'. Nowadays, lovers scratch their initials on padlocks, affix them to bridges and throw away the key. The practice has extended beyond the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris. Love locks can be found on many bridges in France, as well as Italy, Spain, America and other countries.
Accounts vary on what spawned this tradition. According to the Wall Street Journal, it was an Italian teen novel titled I Want You, published in 2006. Others say the love lock practice predates the novel. Either way, throngs of starry eyed lovers have embraced the practice. As a result, some bridges are becoming dangerously weighted down. A portion of the Pont des Arts bridge collapsed last year. Starting this week, Parisian city officials will begin dismantling the padlocks. There's even a website dedicated to ending the practice titled NoLoveLocks.com.
Sooner or later the bright glow of new love softens. External forces like careers, children, family, ambitions, passions and health challenges all infringe on loving relationships. For some, the novelty of the relationship lessens and eventually fizzles out. For others, their love remains strong, albeit transformed into glowing embers more than a raging fire.
The beauty of true love is that another person decides, of his/her own free will, to love you. Quaint though it may be, carving hearts in trees or shackling love locks to bridges will not solidify and insure your love. Rather than weighing down and, some argue, vandalizing the bridges of Paris, perhaps young lovers should put their energy into one another. Besides, it looks like many of those love locks are going to be removed.
Better to embark on long, dreamy conversations in Parisian coffee shops. Explore book stores and hold hands down cobbled streets. Take photos of your exploits for posterity sake. Live in the moment and drink it all in. But accept that love cannot be shackled to a bridge or carved into a tree. True love, the kind that is meant to last a lifetime and beyond, is much bigger than love locks and tree carvings. It involves commitment, sacrifice, acceptance, respect and on-going reinvestment.
Love must be given freely to have authenticity and value. It cannot be shackled to a bridge. It comes freely from within, and resides in our day to day lives. It lives freely in our hearts and minds, and its radiance shines on the ones we love. And no love lock can compete with that.