What makes you love someone?
He asked her out. She thought, I’ll try anything once. He brought her flowers. She was delighted. He listened to her and treated her like a lady. She decided she liked him. They discovered they had common interests and goals and enjoyed each others company, and he was really good with kids. After a long time of consistently good experiences, she gave him her heart and said, I do.
The owner demanded top notch work from each of his employees, but treated them fairly and paid them well. He trained them in all the aspects of the job and promoted them as openings became available. Almost like sons and daughters in a family, the employees grew in skill and loyalty which made the company hum along and produce high quality results.
What makes you realize that you like, love, or respect someone?
They happened to sit down at separate tables, but faced one another with no one in between. Their eyes met. It was love at first sight. Sixty years later they were still happily married. True story.
How does love (or our perception of it) change over time?
Flowers, fancy restaurants, expensive gifts, then a trip to Las Vegas. The girl was sure the man loved her, but she never returned. She was sold as a sex slave and hated the man for the rest of her life. True story.
The selfish boy was vaguely appreciative of the food, clothing, and house dad provided. Years later, the young man found out that his father had worked two back breaking jobs to provide for the family while fighting cancer. He now loved his dad like never before.
What do contradictions do to patterns? What does selfishness do to love?
We can be addicted and deceived by things and people that are bad for us, but we never truly like or love them. If we don’t feel that we have profited, then we don’t love. I use "profit" as a memory device (predictable, progressive, profitable) signifying a lot more than just financial gain. Everything physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual is included. A baby profits from the care of his mother. A wife profits from the affection of her husband who in turn profits from her affection. A country profits from the sacrifice of its soldiers. Love grows in the heart of the receiver every time someone gives out of kindness.
On the other hand, hatred or fear grow in response to an unprofitable pattern. Just ask the child who was raised in an abusive home or ask the battered wife or survey the population under a tyrant.
This idea that love grows in response to the pattern feeding it seems quite normal and rational, but popular media with its penchant to offer us instant gratification would have us believe that love ramps rapidly, almost instantaneously. The script and camera angles pretend that deep love has been achieved on the basis of superficial acquaintance. Of course, if the movie were extended from two hours to two years, then most of them would end very differently. Real love is rarely seen on the silver screen.
Can we love someone who gives us negative patterns?
In other words, can we love our enemies? Can we profit them even though they do not profit us? Are there wise and foolish ways of loving our enemies?
Love grows in profitable patterns
There once was a horse that walked along everyday following the carrot dangled in front of its face. It was a very predictable pattern that the horse could count on. It was also a progressive pattern because everyday a slightly larger carrot was dangled. However, the horse never got to eat the prize. It got thinner and weaker all the while believing in, and hoping for, the carrot. The pattern lacked profitability.
Sometimes our lives are no different from the poor horse's. We work every day. We play on the weekends. Yet, nothing satisfies. More precisely, no one satisfies. We seek, but never find, the experience of truly loving and being loved. Whether we own a little or a lot, we feel our lives are unprofitable.
If there were only one person on the planet, it would be possible for her to have full faith and hope. Predictability and progressiveness can be solo experiences. However, if love is to be experienced to its fullest (beyond, "I love strawberries, swimming, and the color green") then at least one other person is required. Love is the giving and the sharing of one's time, attention, energy, affection, thought, loyalty, and resources. Love does not exist as an abstract concept. It lives in the giving and receiving of self with another person.
Let's say two kids each have a quarter. They agree to trade their quarters to each other. Obviously, neither of them profits financially, but each of them profits emotionally and spiritually. They interacted with each other in a spirit of fair trade and, probably, play. They both profited from each other by spending time with each other and doing something together. Both kids are happy and fulfilled.
That was a little illustration, but it is not much different on the adult level (at least it does not need to be). Two people get together and agree to trade one set of resources for another. This can be done in a spirit of competition (negative love) or in a spirit of mutual respect and care. Whether the deal is money for goods, time for resources, or any other combination, the deal is profitable for both when both think they have received fair value. Also, though trading equal values, each gains personally from the other.
Eternity cannot survive with winners and losers. Everyone must give. Everyone must receive. Everyone must experience an unending pattern of profitability, of value, of fulfillment and reward. This experience must pervade all dimensions of human existence. The universe must be an entirely friendly, safe, and fun place.
And the fun cannot have any adverse side effects. No hangovers allowed. No instant gratification followed by illness or injury is permitted. The universe and its inhabitants progress from good to greater good, happiness to greater happiness, predictably and without exception.
Why? One negative begets another negative. One evil spawns another evil. Either the universe is perfectly good with perfect patterns or it isn't. If it isn't, then why isn't it perfect and how much imperfection will be allowed and who will suffer and who won't suffer, and on and on and on. It would not be long until we find ourselves back in this meaningless mess we face today.
Love thrives on profitable patterns. Hate, fear, jealousy, prejudice, greed, immorality, violence, cruelty, and every other form of selfishness springs from patterns that are less than profitable for everybody.
By beholding we become changed. If I see cheating, I am moved to cheat. If I see stealing, I am influenced to steal. If I see any vice that matches any disposition within me, then I tend to take up that vice. However, if I receive love, then I am inspired to give love. By being on the receiving end of a profitable pattern, I tend to contribute back to that pattern and reinforce it and expand it. A perfect profitable pattern is not merely a circle of sharing. It is a spiral growing ever upward and outward in an endless virtuous cycle of growing, deepening love.
In your words:
Can true love be turned on and off for reward and punishment? If I gain from someone’s love, isn’t that selfish?