Level 8 - Devotion
At its rarefied heights human love discards and transcends social conventions, ethical standards—all that we consider most natural and characteristic of human nature. It approaches and attains extraordinary emotional intensities and sentiments of courage, nobility, purity, goodness and spiritual perfection. Though love is universally inspiring, we are apt to dismiss its most lofty expressions as tales of imaginative fiction.
Rose & Jack (Titanic)
It is almost unfortunate that the story of Rose Bukater and Jack Dawson depicted in Titanic was set amongst such magnificent surroundings and such a dramatic historical event. The sheer intensity of the circumstances and splendor of the cinematography tends to distract our attention from the beauty and grandeur of the momentary relationship between a beautiful, 17 year old socialite and a vagabond artist. It is true that the circumstances of their meeting on the maiden voyage of Titanic, just a few days before it sank, add color and intensity to their short-lived romance, but the essential character of their relationship was defined by who they were and how they related to one another, rather to the circumstances in which they met.
In April 1912, Rose is returning from Europe with her fiancée Cal Hockley and her mother in company with many of the rich and famous of their day. Her father died leaving them a prestigious name, but no money to support the luxurious lifestyle to which they were accustomed. Therefore, her mother presses her to sacrifice herself for the good of the family, by agreeing to marry Cal, whom she does not love or even like very much. As a token of his commitment, Cal presents her with a fabulous blue diamond pendant. To him, she is another beautiful object to add to his collection. Rose feels suffocated by her mother’s pretentions, her fiancé’s arrogance, the dead conventional formality of high society and the meaningless life being pressed upon her. In rebellion she rushed to the stern of the ship and contemplates suicide. Jack sees her passing by, suspects her intentions, and intervenes just in time to save her life when she slips off the edge of the ship.
Their fortuitous meeting leads quickly to intimate friendship and romance. Jack seems to understand her better than she herself does. Perceiving a remarkable strength in her character that refuses to accept the fate imposed by society, he counsels her not to sell her soul for respect or security, abandoning the freedom she is entitled to inherit. Her whole being expands in joy at his words and responds to his affection with gratitude and passion. What draws them to one another is neither childhood infatuation or sexual attraction. It is love of a very high order. Although they have known each other but a few days, they are drawn together by such powerful bonds of devotion that each proves willing to sacrifice their own life for the sake of the other. There is no higher test of self-giving imaginable.
At the peak of their passion, the Titanic hits an iceberg and begins the journey that will soon take it to the bottom of the sea. Meanwhile out of jealousy, Cal has Jack placed under arrest on a false charge of stealing the blue diamond and locked in a cabin on the lower level of the ship. As the ship takes on water and everyone rushes for lifeboats, Rose risks her life to hunt for Jack and frees him from confinement just moments before the lower deck floods. Jack leads her up to the main deck and convinces her to get into one of the few remaining lifeboats, promising to follow, but knowing full well there are no more boats to take him. Reluctantly she gets into the lifeboat and then jumps out again, refusing to leave without him. When the Titanic goes under, Jack manages to place Rose on a floating doorframe, saving her life while he freezes to death in the water. Rose survives, takes on Jack’s last name and starts a new life for herself. Narrating the story when she is past 100 years old, she relates how their few moments together changes the course of her entire life and how she has spent the last eight decades living up to the promise she made to Jack during his last moments.
Jane Austen’s novel has survived for two centuries as a preeminent love story because it depicts a level of romantic fulfillment rarely realized in life or literature. Fitzwilliam Darcy belongs to the highest level of aristocracy in England and shares the arrogant pride and common prejudices of his class about those of lower rank in the social hierarchy. But when he meets Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman and his attractive but uncultured, middle class wife, Darcy’s value system is turned upside down. In spite of his social attitudes, he finds himself powerfully attracted by her energy, refined beauty, intelligence, wit, strength and individuality. Struggling against this growing attraction, he forces himself to keep a distance from her. But when life brings them together unexpectedly at his aunt’s estate in another part of the country, he is no longer able to resist the passionate love he feels for her. Explaining the reservations he had regarding her family and social status that he had to overcome in proposing to her, he asked her to marry him, under the impression that his handsome appearance, great wealth and high social standing would be more than enough to win her acceptance.
Darcy’s proposal surely would have been enough to persuade most women, but Elizabeth had a mind of her own. Far in advance of the women of her day, her ideas of marriage were romantic rather than social or materialistic, like those of Jane Austen herself. Elizabeth was not one to marry for security or status. She sought a partner who she could deeply respect for his high values, admire for his generous character and love for his capacity to give himself in love. Unknown to Darcy, she had acquired a strong prejudice against him, partly the result of his actions to prevent the marriage of her sister Jane with his best friend Bingley and partly due to false accusations made by Wickham against him. Thus, when he asked for her hand, she strongly rebuffed him. When pressed by him for an explanation, she pointed out the defects in his character and behavior that made him unacceptable and declared that he is the last man on earth she would ever marry. Indeed, after such a violent confrontation, it appeared impossible that they should ever again even speak to each other.
Surprised, angry and offended, Darcy withdrew to brood over what he had heard. The following day he wrote a letter to her addressing the objections she had raised, acknowledging what he believed to be true and defending himself against those he knew to be false. After that they went their separate ways thinking they would never meet again. But in the months that followed, Darcy’s love for Elizabeth grew even stronger. He admitted the truth in her accusations and decided to correct himself. He completely shed his proud behavior and arrogant attitudes. When he and Elizabeth met by chance nine months later, she was stunned by his remarkable transformation. He greeted her and her middle class relatives with the utmost respect and consideration. When her youngest sister, Lydia, eloped with his arch-enemy, Wickham, he went to extraordinary effort and expense to save her reputation and that of her whole family from ruin. He reversed his objections to the marriage of Bingley and Jane. All this he did without expecting or asking for anything, out of love for Elizabeth. He shed his vain egoism and underwent mortifying experiences, then tried to conceal his good deeds from Elizabeth. His devotion for her was so powerful that he actually transformed himself into the ideal lover Elizabeth aspired for. When with much trepidation he renewed his proposal, she accepted him with joyous gratitude.
Mental love is higher than affection and admiration because it is founded on an idealistic conception of relationship and on the ennobling qualities the partners discover in each other. Darcy’s devotion rises still higher. His is idealized emotional love based on sentiments that transcend conceptual limits. It needs no reason or justification. Like the love portrayed in Shakespeare’s sonnets, he cherishes her for her intrinsic value and delights in her very existence. His love takes pure joy in self-giving without asking or expecting anything in return. Such a love flowers where there is no expectation, just the urge to please the other or see the other happy. It is undemanding and does not even ask to be recognized. Devotional love is symbolized by the majestic beauty of the Taj Mahal which was constructed to immortalize the Emperor Shah Jahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The most pronounced characteristic of this stage is an intense emotional sweetness issuing from knowledge of love.
Love in the Forest (As You Like It)
In this story Shakespeare depicts the intensities of devotional love between Rosalind, the daughter of the former ruler Duke Senior, and Orlando, the son of her father’s trusted retainer. When they briefly met at court for the first time, they were instantly attracted to one another. The following day Rosalind was forced to seek exile in the forest to avoid imprisonment by her uncle who has assumed power after her father’s temporary abdication. Orlando too sought refuge in the forest to escape his brother’s plot to kill him. There he meets Rosalind, who is disguised as a young man to conceal her identity. Ignorant that he is indeed in the presence of his beloved, Orlando is lost in ecstatic celebration of his love for Rosalind. While intensely emotional, their love is characterized by high poetic idealism of selfless devotion. Rosalind possesses the insight and maturity to understand and laugh at the folly of young love, even her own. Yet at the same time her mind and heart are completely devoted to Orlando. In spite of the tragic circumstances that have led them both into exile, they become so absorbed in their mutual adulation that the loss of family, wealth and status is forgotten in the ecstatic joy of love. Intense delight is the hallmark of devotional love. The joyous atmosphere created by their love is so powerful that life itself is forced to submit and abolish their misfortune. As soon as they marry, the old duke’s kingdom is restored to him, and Orlando becomes heir apparent to the throne.
The Princess and the Count
Alexander Dumas portrays a rare and inspiring example of devotional love in his epic tale The Count of Monte Cristo. A young, talented, honest and good-natured sailor named Edmund Dantes falls passionately in love with the beautiful, orphaned Mercedes. Mercedes’ evil cousin, Fernand, who is in love with her and wants her for himself, joins in a conspiracy to have Edmund arrested and wrongly imprisoned as a traitor. After fourteen years in confinement, Edmund escapes from the prison, discovers a fabulous treasure and assumes a new identity as the eccentric Count of Monte Cristo, so he can seek vengeance against those who have wronged him. As the Count, Edmund later saves the life of a beautiful, noble Turkish princess, Haydee, who had been sold into slavery by the treachery of the very same Fernand, who has since married Mercedes. Edmund takes Haydee under his fatherly protection and extends to her all the royal treatment she ever enjoyed in her youth. Later he publicly exposes Fernand’s treachery and is challenged by Mercedes’ son Albert to a duel. An expert marksman, Edmund is sure of winning until Mercedes comes and pleads with him for the life of her son. Honor prevents Edmund from backing out of the duel so he decides to allow Albert to kill him. He draws up a will assigning his entire fortune to Haydee, who approaches him as he is writing it. When he tells her that she will be heir to his entire fortune, Haydee grabs the will and tears it into shreds without the slightest hesitation, saying that if he dies she will surely die with him. Then she faints. Such is the intensity of the pure devotion she has silently nurtured for Edmund.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Rarely do we encounter instances of pure devotion in human relationships. Love is an ideal and that ideal is founded on a self-less delight in the happiness of one’s beloved. Self-giving is the highest form of human action, because it is to recognize something more important than one’s own egoistic personal satisfaction. Devotional love is beautifully depicted in an extraordinary movie about a woman who is prevented from marrying the man she loves, only to discover that the man she does marry is a living embodiment of selfless love. Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) is the daughter of Pandit Darbar, renowned proponent of Indian classical music.Nandini has been brought up with more freedom and education than her siblings, as she is the most beloved of Pandit Darbar. In this carefree life enters Sameer (Salman Khan), a boy of Indo-Italian parentage who wants to learn Indian classical music from Pandit Darbar. Nandini takes a dislike to Sameer, and the two keep playing pranks on each other, but soon realise they are in love. Sameer is kicked out of the house and asked never to contact Nandini again as fee for his education(Guru Dakshina). Nandini's parents have arranged to get her married to Vanraj (Ajay Devgan) - who had fallen in love with Nandini during her cousin's wedding. On the wedding night, Vanraj realises that Nandini is not herself, and tries to ask her why she is not responding to his love ? Nandini stays quiet, but is caught reading Sameer's letters when she is alone.He is very angry at first, but later accepts the reality that his wife is in love with another man. He shows the ultimate understanding by taking Nandini to Italy and help her search for Sameer, much to the dislike of his own parents. During their search, they face many problems and dilemmas and slowly Nandini gets to see what Vanraj really is like. she sees Vanraj selflessly devoting himself to care for her during her stay in hospital after an incident. Eventually they get news about Sameer (through his mother - played by Helen), and Vanraj arranges for Nandini to meet Sameer, on the night of his debut concert. His job done, Vanraj says goodbye to Nandini and walks away. Nandini and Sameer meet, but Nandini's feelings for him have changed. She reflects on the unwavering love and devotion that Vanraj showed throughout her stay with him, and realises that she loves him. She tells sameer in what esteem she holds her husband and parts with him to go after Vanraj.
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