This is what love looks like.
The image above is the original cover art of one the most beloved short stories of all times “The Gift of The Magi” (1905) written by O. Henry. I’ve loved it since the day I first read it because it is story about the power of love, shown in its most humble yet meaningful way. This is a story about love and sacrifice. This is a story about the gift of love.
Jim and Della are a young couple living in a tiny apartment. Their finances are very tight, though they have two treasures: Della’s beautiful, long hair and Jim’s gold watch which belonged to his father and grandfather. As Christmas eve approaches, Della is in tears because she doesn’t have money to buy Jim a gift. “One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all.” She plans in much detail the gift that she would like to give to “… Jim. Her Jim.” She knows how much the watch means to him and how he can’t really wear it anymore, and so she decides to buy him a watch chain; however, it is too expensive. And so she looks at her most treasured possession, her hair, and decided to sell it. Simultaneously, Jim has decided to sell his own beloved treasure, his watch, to buy Della a set of shell combs for her beautiful hair. Both of their gifts are very high value – it is not easy for either of them to sacrifice them so selflessly. In the evening, when Jim comes comes and see her for the first time with her short hair, Della, feeling a little self-conscious, says, “‘Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,’ she went on with sudden serious sweetness, ‘but nobody could ever count my love for you.’” Her hair is unimportant because she feels joy for the sacrifice she made for the one she truly loves. Jim returns the essence of her feelings and his love in a most gentle way, “ ‘Don’t make any mistake, Dell,’ he said, ‘about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less.’” He then holds her in his arms understanding how true their love is; they are united in their willingness to make sacrifices for one another, with purity of heart and intention. While their gifts may not be “used”, what will remain of this day, possibly until the rest of their lives, is the meaning of their gesture; they share true love of selflessness.
O. Henry ends the story with the following: “The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”
Selflessness is the interdependent nature of all things. Without interdependence nothing could exist. In deep love, all division dissolve between the two people and they become one; the suffering of one is the suffering of the other, the happiness of one is the happiness of the other, etcetera.
Sacred love is selfless. And this selflessness is what makes love divine. With their sacrifice, their love transcended beyond the physical love – to maybe become one that would never change and would never vary.
Divine Love is like the Eternal Virgin energy.
The Eternal Virgin isn’t “someone” who’s never had sexual relations; she/he is someone who interracts with external energies but she never allows herself/himself to ever be fundamentally changed, shifted, or transmuted by any forces that come from without. In other words, the eternal virgin energy remains true to herself and her essence within and does not allow anything or anyone other than her self to shift her. She always seeks the higher connection to God, or to higher consciousness, and she does this by way of service, surrender, humbleness, selflessness and compassion. And each time there is a transformational experience, instead of allowing herself to be changed from without, she renews herself from within completely, like a phoenix.
In other words:
Love stays true to its inner state, incapable of being swayed from without.
It’s a sense of being that we all strive to reach within ourselves, just think of all the times our inner peace and joy are desturbed by what happens outside of us, whether someone’s opinion or a life’s situation. This inner state is what people call “awakening”. For example, Buddhist teachings on love have nothing to do with ordinary relationships or receiving love from others; they are about cultivating the capacity to be able to love.
The notion of divine love as changeless and invariable, carrying the eternal virginal energy, is portrayed in many mystical teachings. Bulgarian philosopher and spiritual teacher Peter Deunov described three kinds of love. The first he called “Human Love” that is a love that changes and varies. It is along the lines of: “I love you when you please but I don’t when you disappoint me.” The second kind of love he called “Spiritual Love” that is a love that varies but never changes: “It doesn’t matter how much you disappoint me, my love for you is eternal and changeless.” “My love for you, eternal though it may be, can be hot and cold, again oftentimes dependent upon how you are behaving today, or how I am feeling.” And the last one he called “Divine Love” that is what he committed to cultivating within himself and towards all his teachings. Divine love is a love that never changes and never varies. This is what most spiritual teachers not just talk about, but they live as, and what we all as (currently) mortals intent and strive for. We all fall in and out of these different kinds – and some blessed few may even sustain the latter one forever.
Imagine an orange. No matter who squeezes it, pressures it, or what circumstances the orange will be in, the only thing that will come from this orange is still only orange juice. Now imagine you are the orange. What is your true essence? What comes out of you when someone pressures you, stresses you, betrays you, robs you, judges you, blames you, shames you, etcetera, etcetera?
We are all human of course, and we should’t be martyrs – and of course, external things will influence us, and we might react especially when we have the right to do so, for protection of ourself and those we love. However, as much as we think we’ve been influenced, I want you to consider – have you really changed your true essence or are you still true to your self no matter what has happened to your life? And if you are – if you still keep the spark of that purity and innocence of heart, and the truth of who you are, no matter how many dark nights of the soul you’ve faced – then congratulate yourself, because this is something very few are capable of. This is the eternal virgin energy in its human form. And of course we’ll always have space for learning and for seeking to become better people – but in these little human moments, of selflessness, generosity, sensitivity and tenderness, like in the story above, we’ll touch this divine love, and we’ll remember who we truly are.
The word sacrifice has often been regarded as a negative thing but it isn’t. Sacrifice means you are willing to be for that person, to put their needs before yours, and to do what is right for them. It is like trust. Love without trust isn’t love at all. Trust is the feeling that you can rely on someone who will act in your best interest.
Of course, we do have to emphasize that it is only to be done for something or someone who truly matters to our heart. In my article on “Tenderness” I talked about how we must protect our tenderness; how it is not meant to be shared with anyone. In the same way, we must protect our love, our sensitivity, our vulnerability, our humbleness, our devotion, our empathy – these are holy qualities and are not meant to be shared with anyone. We must be discerning because unfortunately, many people do not know how to receive, appreciate and respect such gifts. This is why they destroy them and attack them – because what is not understood becomes a threat to those of the ignorant eyes and empty hearts.
Our love, tenderness, trust, empathy, humbleness, sensitivity, vulnerability are meant to be shared with a select few who know how to respect it, appreciate it, and understand it. These are godly qualities that must be blessed, and to bless something is to protect it. In this protected space, we will open ourselves in all of our divine nature with the one we love. In true love, there will be mutual generosity and selflessness.
When people speak of sacrifice they usually refer to something painful but I want to pose a question: Is love really a feeling of painful sacrifice?
Because if we come to the realization that we are one with another, then anything we’ve sacrificed will only take on another form or shape, in their life, in their hands, as a brush or watch’s chain perhaps. It isn’t lost. It is a gift of love. It fulfills our entire being. It gives us immense pleasure. And we love in this giving. And we love in this losing. Love doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, like pain, like losing – it feel good to give of ourself to another. It is actually something we long for once we are truly in love. In our wholeheartedness is the selflessness. In other words, in true love, what may seem as sacrifice is no sacrifice at all, it is pure enjoyment because there is no resistance. To sacrifice is to give up one’s own interests for another – yet it is the greatest pleasure to see their happiness, and theirs is yours, and there is mutual gratitude, and there is mutual generosity, and there is mutual appreciation.
We often talk about how fate brings two souls together to meet in this life – and yet it is our everyday actions that may or may not sustain our love ever after. And it is in our ordinary gestures, throughout the years, circling the wooden stairways of life, time and age, where we will find that true miracles begin with human moments.
With love & peace,