There is a term for what I am. I didn’t know what it was until I took Human Sexuality in college. Fantastic class, by the way. On the first day, the instructor, Rebecca Slaton, had the entire forum hall say in unison, “Penis” “Vagina” “Clitoris” “Testicles” then she told us “It’s what they’re called. Get used to it. We are all adults, we don’t have to say hoo-ha or pee-pee anymore.” Or something like that. It was the single most useful class I’ve ever taken. I wish more of that stuff could be taught in high school, or even younger. Along with eating and breathing, sex is arguably one of the most important aspects of our lives. I find it shocking that the vast majority of people are uncomfortable talking about it. Always have. In fact, I’m confused as to why so many topics cause discomfort in people. I’ll talk about anything, at any time, to anyone.
“But, Oz, I thought you were scared to talk to people.” Yes, you are correct. And the reason is that I can’t tell what people will be ok talking about. I can watch two people interacting and guess, with a high degree of accuracy, how each is feeling and thinking based on their body language, tone of voice, and word choice. But that all goes out the window when I’m the one talking. It usually isn’t until later that I find out that I’ve made someone upset. (kinda dealing with that right now, in fact) Which is made far worse when I realize that the other person has been uncomfortable for a long time. Freaks me right the fuck out.
How many people have I upset? How many times have I said something that hurt someone’s feelings? How long has it been going on? Why did no one tell me? My thoughts spiral down a rabbit hole of self-flagellation. The more often it happens, the more anxious I get. Sometimes it is so bad that I can’t even talk to my closest friends. Those I care for the most are exactly the ones I am most worried about hurting.
But I digress, constantly. I think my above digression had a digression. Like an “inception” of digressions. I had to read my first sentence to figure out what the hell I was talking about.
Oh yes, how I figured out what I am.
I never understood “sin.” I don’t understand why people consider certain actions to be morally wrong. Things that don’t hurt anyone, that is. Sure, lying, fighting, stealing, things like that are wrong. I basically have only two rules I try to live by.
- Do no harm, but when harm must be done, do the least possible. The tricky part is defining “harm.” For example, it hurts like hell to pull a splinter or set a bone, but if it must be done, do it in such a way that hurts as little as possible. But what about a terminally ill person that is in extreme pain? Should you help that person end their life? I think so. It seems to me that it would hurt less to be dead than to suffer that much, only to die anyway. But, what if I am wrong and there is a Hell? What if that person will be tormented for all eternity for taking their own life? Would that not be causing far more harm than a few weeks of pain? See, tricky.
- Take no action without informed consent. This one I find far easier. Don’t do things to someone when they don’t want you to. Don’t take your neighbor’s lawnmower without asking. Don’t pick someone’s nose or wear their underwear without them agreeing. Don’t have sex with them without them saying yes. Things like that. I should have put this as rule one, because I think it trumps Do No Harm. If the dying person wants to end their life, and accepts that they might go to hell for doing so, who am I to say otherwise. It is up to each person to decide what and how to use their bodies. No matter what it is.
Which finally leads me back to what I am. I don’t believe there are any actions that are inherently unethical. Everything is based on consent. And since there are no inherently unethical actions, I believe we should all choose to do what makes us happy. Whatever that is. As long as it doesn’t violate my two rules, I have no problem doing it. To some, that sounds like hedonism, but that isn’t quite right. I don’t believe the pursuit of pleasure is the highest goal. Consent and non-harm take precedence. I consider how my action will affect other people, and how they will affect me in the long run. And it just so happens, there is a term for this.
Long Term Hedonism.
And I gotta tell ya, it’s pretty fucking awesome. I mean, it’s right there in the America’s Declaration of Independence, “…And the pursuit of happiness.” Isn’t that what it is all about? Happiness? Don’t we all want to be happy? Why choose to do the things that make you miserable if you can choose what makes you happy? And for me, making other people happy, in turn makes me happy. And making people miserable makes me miserable. I know, I know, their emotions and how they react to things are not my responsibility, but I do concern myself with how other people feel. Maybe too much. Ok, definitely too much. I look at it like this; if my wife gets up in the middle of the night and goes to the bathroom, doesn’t turn on the light, sits down, and falls into the toilet because I left the seat up, ultimately, it is her fault. She should have checked first. Her safety and happiness and everything in her life, is up to her. BUT there was a simple and considerate thing that I could have done that would have made her life better. I could have put the seat down. It only takes a second.
So, to sum up, be kind and considerate to those around you, but don’t sacrifice your own well-being to do so. Do what makes you happy, but don’t (unnecessarily) hurt other people to be so.
And for god’s sake, put the seat down. It’s just easier that way.
Anyway, thanks for reading.