“Love as thou wilt.” While reading Kushiel’s Chosen, it occurred to me that love cannot be evil. Sure, love can lead us to do immoral things, but the raw emotion can’t be wrong. How could it?
Perhaps it sounds cliché, but my religion is love. I badly want to believe in the God I grew up with, but I struggle. I do not think our mortal minds are capable of conceiving such grandiose things, if they are true. Therefore, how could a benevolent God punish mere humans for getting it wrong? I do not think he would. That would be like an adult punishing a 3 year old for failing to grasp theoretical physics! So, I believe if there is a God or some, any, force that is immortal and controls our access to the afterlife, he/she/they/it could not reasonably damn us for not grasping the truth of planes beyond our existence. If he is smarter than us, he is most likely wiser and more compassionate because if he is more intelligent, he would have to understand our lack of knowledge and intelligence. As a result, unless he is so far beyond us that we are tiny ants, unworthy of his concern, he would not damn us.
I believe we cannot know the truth of what lies beyond our awareness. We can cast our lot with one religion or another, but we cannot be certain until after death. So, our morals cannot come from religious precepts. Then were do they come from? I am not entirely sure, that would take another post. I do know having a positive impact on others is a good thing.
Yet, things are not so simple. One kind act could have awful implications that we could not possibly be aware of. For example, say a woman is starving and out of kindness I give her dinner. As a result, she is able to survive to get her next meal and eventually she finds her feet and prospers. Ten years later she gives birth to a daughter and twenty years after that the daughter gives birth to Adolf Hitler. Hitler, as your know, goes on to orchestrate the murder of millions of people. My one act of kindness saved a woman’s life, but in the end, brought untold suffering. We cannot know the full ripples of our actions. Therefore, how can we be judged solely on what measurable good we do in life? I do not think we can be judged that way. We could judge based on the immediate consequence of any one action, but even that could turn out poorly.
So, if not our deeds, what is left to judge our worth? I think the only thing left is our intent. If our intent is good, born of kindness, compassion, and love, I think we are good people. We may make wrong choices or we may make seemingly correct choices, which lead to catastrophe, but I think our intent is how we can judge a person’s character.
Assuming that supposition is right, how can love, gay, bi, straight, paraphilias, masochistic, or sadistic be wrong? I do not think it can be wrong! There are exceptions, when your “love” harms another person, it is not love; it is lust. For example, I believe pedophilia is wrong because a child cannot consent to sex and sexual abuse does immense harm to children. If pedophiles really loved children, they would not touch them.
However, as long as actions are between consenting adults and do not impinge on a third party’s rights, I conclude love cannot be immoral. Furthermore, if I am wrong, I cannot see how a just deity would damn me for my lack of perfect comprehension when I did not have all the facts. Faith maybe the best course of action, but we are weak; we are not omniscient. How can we be judged by standards that are beyond us?
In sum, thanks to Jacqueline Carey and Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève, I am another step closer to accepting this part of myself. Thanks to Deej, I accept my bisexuality. In years past, I hated my learning disability and mental illnesses. Truthfully, sometimes I still despise the mental illnesses because they make school, relationships, and life in general, much more difficult. However, I now accept my learning disability is not stupidity or a character flaw. It is a result of extreme prematurity (23 weeks gestation) and an intraventricular hemorrhage I suffered in the first 6 months of life. It is not my fault. Yes, it makes academia tougher and presents unique challenges, but I am stubborn and intelligent; I am capable of persevering. Hell, I already defied doctors’ expectations many times over. One doctor (my mom said she used to wish I’d go to medical school and become his boss in the NICU) told her: You don’t need to worry about her getting into college, or even graduating high school. She’ll be deaf, blind, and retarded. You need to worry about whether she can hold down a job, which is unlikely.
You know what? My parents are f**king right when they call me a miracle. At the time of my birth, no baby born as early as I ever survived the NICU at the hospital I was transferred to after birth. Child magazine ranked the hospital in the “top 10 best hospitals in the nation” 4 times in a row. It is considered 3rd in the nation for neonatal care according to U.S. News and World Report. Furthermore, the hospital received the nation’s highest honor for nursing excellence, the Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). To date, only 170 of almost 5,000 hospitals nationwide – 3 percent – have Magnet status. In January 2010, it was redesignated as a Magnet hospital by the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program. Only 2 percent of hospitals nationally have achieved Magnet re-designation. In other words, it is a fricking good hospital and it was good in 1990 to. So, their inability to save a baby born at 23 weeks gestation says something about the state the neonatology at the time. I’m not perfect; there are immutable challenges I must live with, but I am freaking awesome when you consider everything.
As for the mental illnesses, I believe they are due, in part, to my first 6 months of life. Numerous longitudinal studies show NICU graduates have higher rates of mental illness, including mood disorders like anxiety and depression. I do not know if recovery is possible for me. I know Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can literally rewire the brain, maybe I can recover. However, whether or not I can gain remission from my mental disorders, I must believe I can manage them better. I can surround myself with people who accept me for who I am, I can utilize my support systems, and I can use coping skills to the best of my ability. Managing emotions does not come readily to me. I did not learn to healthily self-sooth and perhaps my emotions will always be more intense than most people’s, but I can learn to use the coping skills therapy taught me.
I used to think I did not have a “right” to be sick. I used to believe my life was perfect, I had a good school, nice friends, a loving family, and I wanted for naught; so, I thought I had no reason to struggle. Now I realize those things, while I am blessed to have them, do not negate my internal world. For whatever reason, I have these problems; they are my burden to bear. I wish it was not so, but I am what I am. I can be no more and no less. I have a right to my feelings, even my irrational ones, but I can learn to harness them. Moreover, I have a right to love who I want and how I want, so long as I am not taking away someone else’s rights.
*edit* While I acknowledge my prematurity had am impact on my development (if nothing else, I endured surgeries until I was 16 to correct certain problems), I do not agree with psychodynamic theory. They believe the unconscious governs most, if not all, mental illness, expressing some unknown need from our forgotten childhood. In contrast, I admit neonatal trauma can physically alter brain development, for example, my stroke.
It is possible that my former therapist is correct and I am substituting masochism for self-injury or my eating disorder, maybe it is unhealthy. At the same time, it gives me peace, security, and happiness. Again, as long as I am not harming others (For example, if shooting random people made me happy, I still could not morally do it.), and it is not detrimental to me wellbeing, I ought to be able to conduct myself as I want. I do not think peace, security, and happiness can be wrong. Granted, my eating disorder gives me those things, after a fashion, but it also harms my long-term health, which when all is said and done, takes away happiness. Masochism, done safely and sanely, does none of those things.
In conclusion, there are still ways I can better myself. Everyone is capable of self-improvement. Bisexuality and masochism do not make me a lesser human being or weak. They are part of who I am. In truth, so are my mental illnesses because they’ve given me more compassion and understanding of others. They’ve shaped me. The harm of mental illnesses can go, but they are not a character flaw or weakness on my part and in a way, I am grateful for them. Bisexuality and masochism are not diseases; they are not immoral. I…I am okay; I am not bad because of them.