Keeping Your Cool

When Dave married me, I hit the jackpot.  He’s my best friend, my confidante, and in some ways, he’s been my mentor.  He taught me something very valuable early in our marriage.  Or rather, he has attempted to teach me. It has taken me a long time to internalize it.

Unless you’re on a witness stand under oath, if somebody asks you a question, you do not have to answer.

This sounds simple, but it’s not simple at all.  Furthermore, even if  you’re on a witness stand, you only have to answer the question that is asked.

Here’s an example of Dave at his finest.


One day, my sister-in-law’s children from a first marriage were at our house.  Their father called and wanted to speak to them.  Dave had answered the phone, and he turned and asked each child in turn if she wished to speak with her father. All three said no.

He then told the father that the children did not wish to speak to him and bade him good day.


A few months later, Dave got a subpoena. Our SIL and the ex-husband were in court and the ex-husband was serving as his own attorney.  He thought he was Perry Mason.  Dave was subpoenaed as a “hostile witness.”

So we went to court. And Dave was called to the stand.  The father (whose name is also David, so I am not using it to avoid confusion) asked, “On Saturday, February 8, 19XX, at around 10 a. m., while you were living at XYZ address, did you or did you not answer a phone call from me and refuse to allow me to have access to my children?”

Dave sat there for a couple of minutes, and then quietly answered, “No.”

That was all.  “No.”

The father rephrased the question, complete with all those details, and asked again.


At this point, I was having to hide my face because I was laughing so hard.  The judge was even trying not to smile.

Finally, the father, in total confusion and without knowing what in the hell to do, said, “No further questions.”

Dave got up and left the stand.

What was wrong in the question was the date. It wasn’t the eighth.

Even when you have to answer a question by law, only answer the question that is asked.

But more importantly, you don’t have to answer a question at all under any other circumstances. And you don’t have to explain why you’re not answering.

If you choose not to answer, people will make inferences and draw conclusions based on your silence, and that’s something you have to evaluate, but the whole I-got-nothin’-to-say thing is sometimes a really good strategy.

Furthermore, sometimes when somebody asks an innocuous question, not answering will simply raise more questions and draw attention to the whole thing.  For instance, you’re at a neighbor’s house for a cookout, and the neighbor’s cousin, who you’ve never met, asks you in an effort to make small talk what you do for a living. You don’t have to answer the question.  Of course you don’t.  But if you hedge, he will wonder what you’re hiding.

Sometimes it’s better to casually answer the question.

But you don’t have to. And the don’t-have-to part was what was hard for me to grasp.

Years later, I was working in the recovery room at our local hospital.  I had a supervisor who I simply hated. The feeling was mutual. She didn’t like me in part because the anesthesiologist who had supervision over the whole RR had hired me without consulting her first.  But regardless of reasons, we were like oil and water.

One day, she abruptly called me into the little alcove with a small bare desk that she called her “office,” and said, “Sally, I need to know where you want to transfer.”

I replied, “I’m not transferring anywhere.”

She said, “Oh, yes, you are.  I don’t care where, but you are going.”

I said nothing.

She then launched into a rant.  She yelled. She accused me of everything short of crimes against humanity, including leaving a dirty spoon in the sink (seriously – and I didn’t do it, one of the OR staff must have). She, of course, was attempting to start a big fight with me so she could go to the anesthesiologist and have me fired.

I said nothing.

I had no facial expression. I didn’t roll my eyes (I had to exercise great restraint). I said nothing at all. I just stared at her.

She finally got so upset she started to cry.  I still said nothing at all.

Finally, she stopped talking.

I asked, “Are you finished now?  I have a patient to take care of.”

At the same-day surgery, afterwards

About six months later, I did indeed transfer. I was hired to run the recovery room at the new same-day surgery affiliated with the hospital. I transferred on my own terms, at the time I chose.  For that interim period, she never really bothered me again. She wouldn’t speak to me if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. She wouldn’t help me in any way. She stiffed me when it came to the schedule and favored everyone else. But we had no further confrontations.

Dave taught me how to do that.

It’s a great life lesson. You have to pick and choose carefully to determine when it’s a good strategy, but it often works out well.

Nothing was more fun than watching that nurse cry.


51 thoughts on “Keeping Your Cool”

  1. Excellent post. Sometimes the hardest thing is keeping our cool when another person is confronting us.

    I have worked as a legal assistant for over 25 years. I have heard attorneys time and again preparing clients for depositions or trial, and it matches up with your anecdote about Dave being called to the stand. Answer the question being asked. Do not volunteer any information. Be truthful, but keep your answer short as possible. Many experienced attorneys know that silence can make people uncomfortable and so after a person answers a question, the attorney might sit there saying nothing. Many times, the person being deposed will want to fill that silence and starts talking again. It’s not easy to master the art of sitting quietly while waiting for the person on the other side of the table to ask their next question.

    I also learned an important similar lesson from my father. When my siblings and I were children, we would often ask many questions. That’s normal, all kids do. But we soon learned that my father in particular had boundaries, and if he felt the question we were asking was inappropriate, he would say “That’s none of your business.” We didn’t get into trouble, but we also didn’t get our curiousity satisfied. Questions like “where are you going?” or “how much did that cost you?” Learning how to respond by his example has helped me when people ask some very personal questions, like “how much do you make?” etc. I don’t usually tell them “none of your business” although I’m thinking that; but I am quite comfortable giving them an answer like “enough” or “I make ends meet.”

    Anyone remember the character of Marilyn on Northern Exposure. I loved her. She always had an impassive face and said very little. She only let you know what she wanted you to know.


  2. I use that strategy in my everyday life, and it has always worked out for me lol. I refuse to allow people who really do not matter to get to me. It frustrates the hell out of them, and then I am the one who gets the satisfaction of watching them get angrier. It can be rather entertaining at times.


  3. What an absolutely delightful way of teaching a valuable life lesson. Personally I think every attorney should have their client read this before testifying. This post is a gem.


  4. What a brilliant husband you have. He is quite wise. My husband is very similar in his cool and calm manner. In our 22+ years of marriage he has always remained the calm one. I think it’s always handy to have a calm one in every marriage. It drives me nuts at times but it can teach a lot. Wise, wise lessons being taught here by the ever so eloquent Sally.


  5. Nicole just made a curious post. She was replying to someone who asked how much little O’s rabbit cost:
    Blessed Little Homestead: $12 for this one. They are a different type of animal (Ferrets are like weasels and more related to a skunk than a rabbit). Rabbits are herbivores and don’t smell as much.

    I have a pet rabbit at work and 8 (soon to be 5) meat rabbits here.

    We currently feed pellets but will be planting fodder next week or so and this will make cost of feeding cheaper. But pellets are $12 for a 50lb bag and that will last one bunny quite a long time

    Ok…so for us city folk who have no idea what “fodder” for rabbits is, can someone explain?

    I was under the impression fodder was hay? Which would make very good sense given the cost of what the horse must be eating.

    But isn’t putting in a hay field a fairly major undertaking? I mean, that isn’t something you want to do at a place you’re leaving, because clearing and seeding the land and managing the weeds would be pretty expensive at first, no? We’re talking tractors and mowing/fertilizing…work stuff, right? Someone with an agricultural clue, help me out here, I’m beggin ya. And doing it by hand….um…we’ve seen that weedy little veggie patch. Not likely, am I right?

    That said, if they’re talking about putting this in at the (alleged) new place, how do you afford this kind of undertaking when you can’t afford gas money? Is this the sort of thing you can do when no one’s living there yet? What would a decent field cost to install?

    Has Nicole just showed us her hand that they’re not moving after all? If so…my deepest condolences to the neighbors.

    She’s gotten a little extra nutty on her own page, too. Apparently, she reports that a bearded woman was filming in her shop, today. LOL. Still trying to figure that one out. Was it a gay woman with an adoring male companion? Or like an actual….Santa beard? Or is she just being insensitive to a post menopausal woman with poor tweezing technique?

    She seems pretty miffed that the police weren’t overly concerned.

    Hey Nicole, maybe “people were spreading rumors that the bearded lady was running a grooming shop” and the bearded woman was just filming your place trying to prove she wasn’t? I mean, by your logic, she’d have a right to do that, wouldn’t she?

    If you see video on, make sure to link it for us, will ya Nicky?

    It’s absurd, isn’t it? Other than Nicole, who the hell would do that?

    All joking aside, I have no clue what her new Bearded Lady story is about. Her stories just get weirder and weirder.

    “And a bearded lady said to me
    You better stop your raving, and your misbehaving
    You’ll be sorry.
    Then the chicken-fancier came to play
    With his long red beard (and his sister’s weird:
    She drives a lorry).

    Jethro Tull-Mother Goose 1971


  6. There’s a corollary too. If someone is rushing you for a response or an answer, then it’s likely in your best interest to not respond or decide right away. That is a signal that they want you to react emotionally rather than rationally.

    We do that throughout the day and our lives. It’s a lot harder to think and weigh our options than it is to just say “fine” and go along with whatever has been presented. Yes, there is a flip-side to that where if we have a plethora of choices we get mired in indecision but that’s a topic for a different discussion.


  7. Ok…so for us city folk who have no idea what “fodder” for rabbits is, can someone explain?

    She means grass. You are correct that “fodder” generally means hay (or silage). I’ve never heard anyone refer to our pasture or any other for that matter as “fodder.” But Nicole often tries to sound all homesteady and farmy and is usually unsuccessful.

    What would a decent field cost to install?

    They could not put in a pasture at that property without hiring some bulldozing work done first. She’s not talking about that. She’s talking about supposedly planting a one foot square area with grass. LOL


  8. Totally off subject.
    My Dad just called, his Amish friend was found guilty on Wednesday. Sam Gerrard, He’s supposed to get around 60 years for his herbal salve.
    Of course NN reads here, she jumped on the story like a dog on a bone and posted about his trial. Fuck you NN


  9. How is keeping a fucking rabbit unschooling? Sorry, not sorry, having a BEC moment. Does anyone else tire of the constant hashtags? I don’t have a rabbit, we have friends that do, we have cats, dogs and a guinea pig. We are unschoolers, should I start hashtagging everything we do with some catchy unschooling tags? I know it’s not really my business what people do with their money but when you are constantly begging and constantly whining about being poor both on social media and to your “friends” people really don’t want to see you spending money on trivial shit.


  10. Totally off subject.

    The man’s name is Samuel Girod. The issue is not just “herbal salve.” He’s done a bunch of stuff including totally defying court orders, refusing to allow inspections, and apparently threatening or intimidating witnesses. And the only sources I could find that carry on about the “60 years” are places like which isn’t a reliable source.

    Being Amish is not an excuse for breaking the law, any more than being a “quasi-homesteader” with fifty million children is.


  11. I was paraphrasing. Yes, he ended up getting more charges. The Amish community is “different” you have read enough to know, I should have taken the time to explain more. Thank you for clarifying.


  12. When my son was in grade school, we visited our local Humane Society “just to look” and consider whether to get another cat. Instead, we ended up in a room with rabbits and my son fell in love with one and I, very foolishly, did not put my foot down and refuse to get it. We went home with Lily. Turns out Lily was deaf. Turns out the staff at the Humane Society fed me a line of bull when they said rabbits make great house pets. Yeah, if you don’t mind them chewing up your carpet, your furniture, etc. We had Lily only for a brief time and then re-homed her with my sister, who had a two other rabbits and a good hutch. Lily lived another year quite happily in her new surroundings and I replaced the carpet in our spare bedroom. At the time, my son and I were living in a mobilehome park and he was attending public school. So no #largefamily life, #unschooling, #homesteading hashtags for us. Nicole tags everything with those stupid tags and it’s meaningless.
    I guess in our case having a rabbit represented: #singlechildfamily, #mobilehomeliving, and #publicschooleducation!

    She said fairly recently that their move was still on, but it doesn’t seem like they are getting ready to move anytime soon.


  13. (This comment started off calmly and then it devolved into the Space for Rant; I guess I am not keeping my ? and therefore I am not in the theme of this post! Still, it is all Naug-rant, and strangely satisfying, so I’m submitting it as is. ?)

    I am clueless about the care and feeding of rabbits, so I asked The Great Google for answers. Turns out rabbits should eat hay every day; one site recommended an amount equal to the size of the rabbit. The advice on pellets seemed to be less unanimous, but no one advised making it the sole source of food, as it is high in starch and can make the rabbit obese and lead to digestion problems. Kind of like a junk food diet would be for people.

    I agree that Nicole (‘s kids) wouldn’t be planting so much as a single seed on a property she plans to leave in a matter of days, and probably not weeks, either. So there’s lying evident here; just not sure which statements contain the lie.

    Naturally Nicole’s desire to grow feed isn’t for the benefit of the bunny, just that of her pocketbook. Even that wouldn’t be so terrible if she would spend the money she saves on, oh, I don’t know, dental visits for the kids (sadly, her own teeth are clearly beyond what they can afford), or checkups, or A PROPER RAIN BARREL –

    Oh, wait, I forgot; she gave the kids rain barrels. As toys:(

    Unholy crap in a white bucking fucket!!! What sort of unlogic guides Nicole and Joe’s decisions? It takes a barrel full of audacity to beg for handouts and charity buys when they give their kids not one or two pets, but every furry, fluffy whim borne on the smoke-filled wind. And don’t forget the Star-Wars themed terrarium* Joe wants to put in the store, complete with a pet chameleon. Redundant purchase, Joe; you already have one. Her name is Nicole, and she changes emotions with her surroundings. I saw that tidbit on Jacob’s Facebook page; you can find it if you scroll past a whole lot of shares on topics including alien abduction, anti-vaccination, and government greed and conspiracy.

    Maybe Joe thinks he can write his terrarium off as a business expense on the taxes he doesn’t pay. #unlogic. Or he can grow weed in there. Then his chameleon will see colors, too….

    “We can’t afford water; we have to steal it. Yes, you can have a pony; let’s make it a full-size horse!”



    * Stupid Fun Fact: I had the idea to do a Star Wars fish tank something like fifteen years ago. Hubby helped me implement it. Somewhere there’s an old snapshot that I need to find. Of course we thought we were brilliant, which may not quite be the case, but I can at least brag we had the idea out of our own brains, independent of the Internet.


  14. The Amish community is “different” you have read enough to know,

    🙂 I don’t have to read about them. They live all around me. My husband is quite good friends with many of them.


  15. LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – A federal jury handed down guilty verdicts for an Amish farmer accused of misbranding products. The verdict against Samuel Girod came down Wednesday in US District Court in Lexington.

    The government charged the Bath County man with conspiracy to impede an officer, obstruction of a proceeding before an agency, failing to register with the FDA, eights counts of causing misbranded drugs to be introduced into interstate commerce, tampering with a witness and failure to appear. The jury found Girod guilty on all 13 counts.

    The government said that Girod misbranded his Chickweed Healing Salve, TO-MOR-GONE, R.E.P. products. The jury found that Girod also processed those products in an establishment that was not registered with the FDA and that the labels did not bear adequate directions for use.

    Girod made the products on his family farm along Satterfield Lane in Bath County. The FDA requires anyone who manufactures a defined drug to register their facility with them. The Girod farm is not registered. According to the indictment, the FDA says their officers were prevented from conducting an inspection at the farm.

    A judge will sentence Girod on June 16 at 10 a.m.


    Ok….so mystery solved…Girod WAS found guilty, but has NOT been sentenced yet. So the 60 years thing just isn’t true. We’ll know in June.

    From what I’ve read about the case, Girod first advertised that his salve could Cure Cancer. The FDA has snake oil label laws which prevent unsubstantiated claims to be made on packaging…..which he tried to get around by renaming it TO-MOR-GONE (get it? TO-MOR-GONE = “Tumor Gone” Ugh…)

    The guy is crazy stubborn and obstructionist.

    He also didn’t like the rule that your manufacturing plant has to get inspections if you want to make a health product. Turns out, he was making this stuff in a barn with no insect barriers, which is not acceptable by law.

    He just plain doesn’t want to follow the rules that he doesn’t like….which is probably why Nicole identifies with him.

    I doubt he’ll get 60 years. But unless he gets an inspected clean facility to manufacture in, and truthful labeling….you can bet he’s gonna be put out of the salve business.

    He’ll get a light sentence, unless he continues to defy the law.

    Eventually, (Nicole should make note of this)…the courts get really tired of stubborn obstructionists. One day a judge says “enough is enough”, and that’s pretty much the end of a twenty year tempter tantrum.

    Looks like the judge and jury are on the same page that this day has finally come.


  16. Nicole recently complained someone called her a possum.

    Given that possums usually waddle around with about a dozen babies clinging to them, it’s not a bad analogy. They’re also freeloaders who like to get into your cat food (invited or not) instead of finding their own meals. And they’ll hiss and growl the whole time they’re doing it.

    That said, your average possum has way more teeth and much prettier hair than Nicole.

    Calling Nicole a possum really is kind of insulting….to the possum.


  17. And she posted another video.

    I am aware of that. We are not going to discuss it here. Thanks.


  18. The 60 yrs is what my father told me after visiting his family Wednesday night. This information came from his wife & daughters.


  19. If he hasn’t been sentenced yet, then he is not serving 60 years. Yet.

    The figure was taken by adding up all the charges against him and assuming he got the maximum sentence allowed for each running consecutively. It’s a scare headline.


  20. Damn, that’s good advice. I’ve dealt with folks that have gone off the rails, much like the supervisor you describe, and if you meet them with silence, they tend to burn themselves out. Not everything requires a response. I had a neighbor (this is going to sound familiar ) that really wanted to blame me for her issues arising from her own disturbed reality. When she called me to scream at me, I remained calm, and told her that this moment was the last moment we would ever speak, as I deal only with reasonable people. She didn’t get it and kept phoning me because she wanted to fight. Sending texts with the most ridiculous things ever. I didn’t respond until after I had spoken with a police officer that urged me to file a claim of threatening. I sent the lady at final text, warning her and her irational husband that if they continued, I would have restraining orders placed. Then I told her to own her shit and blocked her number. My life is calm and sweet,and they have no one that will associate with them. Funny how that happens. ?


  21. Nicole has a blog up on My Blessed Little Blog. [Admin: Folks, I have asked you all to please not talk about this here. There is a very good reason for my request. Don’t bother writing stuff because I moderate all the comments and I assure you I will edit it out.]


  22. Ironically Paypal Princess, opossum are the vectors for Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. It’s not a nice way to go. I don’t mind them as long as we all politely keep our distance from one another. I don’t seek to harm them. Unlike whistle pigs. They gotta go.

    Anyone spotted Beauty lately? I do hope that she’s well and has been safely moved and safely contained at their new property. Presuming they are moving, of course.


  23. Your husband sounds a lot like my husband. My husband always tells me that I volunteer way too much information, which is true. He also told me that I don’t have to talk to anyone and shouldn’t be nice if the other person is annoying me. So, having said that, we have finally completed our move into our very small and I mean small house. Soon, though, it will be much larger. Anyway, one of our neighbors drops by our house every single time I am outside. I don’t mind her visits but she always makes these passive aggressive comments meant to force me to do something. Today, she walked out to my garden where I was planting some beets. I love beets but hate to plant those very tiny seeds. She said, well, did the frost kill off your garden; she said that with a smile because she had said before I was planting too early. I said, nope; I didn’t plant anything the frost would hurt. Long story short, she just kept right on bugging me and finally she outright crossed the line. She said, well, I go down the road at the new big church. They are really nice down there. I didn’t say anything. She asked, where do you folks go? I said, we don’t. She said, well, you should come visit my church and I said, why and she said because it’s a nice place to worship. I said worship what? And she said, god and I said, I don’t buy into that particular mythology. She said, what? I said, I’m an atheists. She said, really? I said, yep. She said, you don’t believe at all. I said, I believe in science. She said, I’ll pray for you and I said, why? Finally she left. I hope that was the straw that breaks the camel’s back and that she won’t be back

    I normally don’t broadcast my lack of religious beliefs because it can cause some strange reactions but dammit, she crossed the line. She can complain about the old barn falling down and when are we gonna fix it and she can complain about the rubber maid containers stacked against the house; hell, she can even complain about the bees (the bees were here years before I bought the place and she didn’t complain but now that she sees the bee hives and the bee keeper folks coming over, suddenly she is worried about getting stung), but this need she has to invite us into her house of hypocrites and soothsayers is beyond excusable. Bitch better back up.

    Being retired is certainly taking on an entirely different pace. When I’m not pissing the religious right off, I am trying to do some good. Since I am not able to take anti-inflammatories, I’ve consulted with a licensed plant doctor person and he has given me some good advice for replacing the medicines with some very common plants. Today, I dried dandelion roots and leaves and dried some sassafras roots, a little bark, and its new tiny leaves. The dandelion roots are supposed to help with joint swelling and stiffness. The sassafras is for enjoyment except the leaves do make a nice thickening agent for soups.

    Tomorrow, I am going to tan a coyote pelt. I feel conflicted about tanning the hide of any animal but my grandson shot three coyotes that were running their calves, and he wants the pelts. I told him I would tan them so tomorrow, I will begin. We’ll see if I can do a good job. I’ve decided that just because I don’t eat meat doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy the beauty of the pelt or hide of something someone else killed.

    Oh and get this. I had a tick crawling on me. I haven’t seen a tick in years but, to be frank, I haven’t actually been going out much until we bought the little “homestead”. LOL


  24. When we moved here, a few people in our neighborhood did the same thing re: church. I think in some cases, people think they are somehow obligated to do that. They use it as an icebreaker and are a little taken back when it doesn’t break ice, but creates it.

    And I always go straight for the word “atheist.” Over the years, I’ve learned that nothing shuts them up faster. In many cases, I suspect I’m the first “out” atheist they’ve ever met and they don’t know what to say or think.

    Dave was in the grocery store one day and a woman did that to him at the meat counter. She literally walked up beside him at the meat counter, made some offhand remark and followed it up with “Where do you go to church?” He’d never seen her before. She never wants to see him again. 🙂


  25. Re: rude questions such as church related inquiries or potential manipulation-based requests. I have a family member who will ask seemingly innocent questions, such as what are you doing this weekend, in an effort to manipulate me into doing something I don’t want to do. Doing nothing this weekend? Then you have time to help me with something. Going to a specific event? I want to go, too! I have learned to answer every question of this person with “why do you ask?” It makes them add more information and slows the conversation so that I am in charge and not the manipulative one.


  26. “Do not go to school and blurt out that you are an atheist.” Sad but true, it is what I taught my sons before they went to public school. Yes, public school.

    Son 1: “I didn’t tell her I was an atheist, I told her that I wouldn’t say the word god in the pledge of allegiance. I told her the entire point of the pledge was so that people could swear allegiance without saying the word god. That congress added the word God later.” That’s my lawyer.

    Son 2: “She brought it up first. I told her I don’t need an imaginary friend and I don’t care to know who her imaginary friend is.” Waiting to see what he grows up to be.


  27. I simply tell people that my relationship with God is a very private matter, and I take Matthew 6:5 very seriously.

    I don’t tell them that it’s the only part of the book that makes any damn sense to me, and the relationship I’m keeping private is nonexistent. It gets the point across pretty well without having to argue. I don’t care what other people think as long as they don’t badger me.


  28. I have a question for anyone who is atheist.
    I was raised in church. My dad was a preacher, he died several years ago.
    I have found myself questioning, EVERYTHING!!
    So, my question. What, in your opinion, happens when you die?


  29. . What, in your opinion, happens when you die?

    My son died.

    My son no longer exists. He was his brain. His brain died and so did he.

    We are not “spirits” living in a body. There is no such thing as a “soul.” We are our brains.

    BTW, this concept was very, very difficult for me to deal with (not when Nate died – I’d already been an atheist for years when that happened). I had to think it about it for a while.


  30. I question everything as well.

    I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but I believe in reincarnation.


  31. Well I go to church regularly and I don’t appreciate it when folks wanting me to come to their church instead of the one I’m in knock on my door at 9am on Saturday. Jump out of bed, throw on a bathrobe to find that it was some old girl with religious pamphlets. I’m not terribly gracious when that happens. Yes I like to sleep in on weekends.

    That being said I do go to church and am not atheist at all. But some of the best people I’ve known were atheist. My grandpa was one of them and I am very proud he was my grandpa. I tend to think to each his own and let it go at that. Unless you’ve bred a dozen kids, live in a lean-to, beg for money on the internet and persecute everyone around in real life and cyberspace, then no.


  32. There are so many different traditions in the world answering “what happens when you die?” It’s a broad spectrum, and the idea that one espouses (or maybe, the one with which one identifies,) is more about how one finds meaning, in any number of ways, in mortality. What does it mean to be human? What is consciousness? Why is consciousness? The idea of a world beyond or lack thereof is a part of the narrative of meaning. What is the structure of the universe and who are we within that structure?


  33. I’m a pretty devout Atheist.

    What do I think happens when people die? Truthfully, I don’t know.

    The rational skeptic in me says….your brain turns off like a light switch, homeostasis destabilizes at a cellular level, energy stores are spent, and your fragile organic machine starts to actively break down until all that’s left of you are other people’s memories of you. If this is the case? I’m ok with this. The sum of your life should be good enough. It should matter and be enough…without the need for self declared eternity and immortality.

    The theoretical physicist in me considers ideas about the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Relative State Formulation…and I kinda go down a rabbit hole of dimensional interplay and some really crazy shit….that as a three dimensional being I probably have no way of understanding. But it does leave some creaky little doors open for possibilities. And I’m not troubled by that, either.

    The mystic in me wonders a lot about non-corporeal communication…the really freaky stuff that does seem to happen in excess of what is statistically reasonable. Like that weird spooky moment when you’ve been thinking of a friend you haven’t talked to in months, and you actually reach for your address book when the phone rings, and it’s them. Or when you’re searching for something without saying a word to anyone about it….and your toddler wanders up, drags you to another room, and points to a cup on a shelf….wherein lies the object you were searching for. Or when your seven year old suddenly bursts into tears and cannot tell you what’s wrong, and later you learn your dad was dying of a heart attack at that very moment. Adopted twins who live in different countries, who buy the same rare imported brand of toothpaste.

    And of course the rational skeptic in me says….this is a bunch of magical thinking….but this shit does happen. Ideas seem to occur in waves across society. Discoveries. Leaps of progress that seem to pop in clusters. There’s a part of me that considers….on the off chance some of this communication is occurring outside of physical laws…maybe the idea of a non-corporeal life force isn’t that crazy? And then…I think….Bah! Magical thinking again. But goddamned there are a LOT of statistically improbable things that happen to me this way….so it keeps me wondering. And I’m ok with wondering…as long as I’m not saying I have answers that I don’t.

    The biologist in me looks at the natural world…every process…every system….is an undeniable cycle of life to death to life to death to life. Energy changes, it isn’t destroyed. The whole ecosystem of our planet and all the organisms in it, the whole cosmos…are a swirling cycle of death to life to death to life.

    And before you think I’ve crossed over to the other side and have talked myself into magical thinking again…I haven’t.

    I don’t believe in the religions men have made to control societies and justify themselves and cope with fear.

    I don’t believe in heaven where people meet up with loved ones and are happy for all eternity, and cash in on their good behavior if they deserve to by knowing the secret hand-shake.

    I don’t believe in a judgement/reward system that is archaically authoritarian and stupidly primitive.

    But yeah…the big mysteries? What started this whole ball rolling? Where life came from and what happened before that, and before that, and before that? Where the random elements came from, the origin of the dust of stars, that sort of shit? I’ll always be curious about it. Scientifically curious, of course…but curious, dammit.

    I can’t tie it up and label it with anything other than….unknown. And unknown leaves a lot of exciting possibilities. Possibilities much more interesting and complex than any man made religion.

    Death might be the most interesting adventure of our lives. Or, more likely, we’ll simply wink out and not have the capacity to give a shit about anything anymore.

    I sure as hell don’t know:) But I’m ok with it.


  34. We are not “spirits” living in a body. There is no such thing as a “soul.” We are our brains.

    May I ask how you came to that conclusion? Is there literature you would recommend?


  35. What, in your opinion, happens when you die?
    You cease to exist. I find that ceasing to exist comforting because, to be frank, existing can be tiresome. Maybe, if you are buried in a way to promote tree growth or something of that nature, you might rationalize that your body was continuing on. My husband has had two corneal transplants (blind as a bat before) and each cornea came from a different donor. For some strange reason, my husband was so happy to have his eye sight back, he wanted to send a note of gratitude to the donors’ families. So, we did. One donor came from an 18 year old and the other came from a 35 year old. We sent the heartfelt letters to the hospital and they sent them to the families or somehow they got to the families. We heard back from each of the donors’ families and they both said the same thing: You are so welcome and we are happy that a piece of our son lives on. So, for those two families, death must also be a ceasing to exist because they see transplants as a way for their loved one to continue to exist in some small way.

    I taught the bible as literature and we compared it to other mythological and religious texts that dated all they way back to the very first written text (no, it’s not the bible). It seems that humans have always needed to have explanations for rare occurrences such as storms or earthquakes so they created various gods that are either angry or happy, depending upon what the occurrences happen to be. Life and death are two of the mysteries that ancient folks struggled to explain and in all the ancient civilizations, there has been some reference of creation out of mud and death back to dust. It isn’t just the Judeo/Christian beliefs. But, for many folks, believing in some higher power brings them comfort. For me, believing in science makes me happy.

    I would always tell my students that we were going to treat all religious text with respect and that we were looking at the text as literature and not spiritual. You would be surprised how hard that is to do for the christians. The Jewish folks and the Muslim folks were able to examine their text with a critical eye but the christians always, always, always got defensive and tried to incorporate the origin of the other text as a spin off of their King James version LOL… Bless their hearts.


  36. May I ask how you came to that conclusion? Is there literature you would recommend?

    There is no evidence to suggest anything else. It’s not up to science to prove there is not a “soul.” It’s up to the religious to prove there is. We know that all personality and memory and thinking goes on in the brain. We know that brain surgery and/or brain injuries or tumors can radically alter personality. We also know that stimulating a particular part of the brain can cause “religious” or “spiritual” feelings.

    There is no more reason to suppose that I have a soul than there is to suppose my dog has a soul or that our calves have them.


  37. What does it mean to be human?

    What does it mean to be a cow? My cow is conscious.


  38. For me I don’t even know how I got to this point in my life where I don’t believe in heaven or hell.

    When I was in high school I had this feeling all day that something bad was going to happen. My Pappy was in the hospital. When I got home I got a phone call from my mom saying that when my dad got home we needed to head to the hospital. My Pappy had passed away.

    When my husband was deployed he told me stories on how he shouldn’t be alive, but he felt like there was someone watching over him.

    When my husband was deployed one night I couldn’t sleep. All night I had this feeling that the notification team was going to show up at my door in the morning. I was finally able to get some sleep, to just be woken up by a text telling me that my husbands unit lost a few guys. One of those guys we lost was a good friend of ours.

    That was the last time I had a bad feeling like that.

    So I have no clue how I got to this point. Went to a Catholic school all my life. Noticed that some of my old friends are either now agnostic or Wiccan.


  39. That’s an awesome question! I think the meaning implied in the concept of how we perceive animal consciousness says more about who we are as humans, and how we relate to animals than it does about the cow itself. For instance, if I perceive my cow as a conscious being, it may change the way I relate to the cow, how I relate to other people who might perceive the cow differently. The idea of meaning is that it is encompasses the big ideas which with we create our best lives.


  40. “We are not “spirits” living in a body. There is no such thing as a “soul.” We are our brains.
    May I ask how you came to that conclusion? Is there literature you would recommend?”

    How did I come to that conclusion? Because I employ logic and reason daily. Some people call this “common sense”. If there is no evidence something exists, I don’t believe in it.

    Literature I’d recommend: The Atlas of Organ Transplantation, The Lobotomy Letters (Rochester Studies in Medical History), Ancient Theories of Soul, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. And just for fun…. The Decisive Moment: How the Brain Makes Up its Mind.


  41. Re: the whole “I had a bad feeling and my friend died” sort of thing.

    That is called “confirmation bias.”

    On the day Nathan died, Dave and I went on a wildlife cruise with visiting friends from the Lower 48. We were gone all day. We got home and found umpteen messages on our machine, all of them from people saying, “Call me.” Up to that point, neither of us had any “bad feelings.” We’d had a lovely day. We had fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    When we heard “Call me” over and over, we got a bad feeling (with good reason – why were all these people calling at one time), but I thought it was about my mother, not our son.

    How many times have you gotten bad news that you did not anticipate and you did not have a “bad feeling” about? How many times have you had a “bad feeling” and nothing happened at all? We tend to remember the instances that support our biases and forget the ones that do not.

    This is where the whole business of “answered prayer” comes in. The same sort of confirmation bias occurs. “I prayed and God sent me $50 and that was the exact amount I needed.” But what about the times you prayed and nobody sent you anything? “I prayed and there was an empty parking spot right at the front of the store.” (That’s one of the dumber things to pray about, I think.) But what about the time you prayed and ended up parking way the hell out nearly to the road?


  42. How can you perceive a cow not to be a conscious being? She’s either a conscious being or she’s dead.


  43. I think it’s about defining consciousness itself. Is consciousness an awareness of the self or an awareness of the self in relation to the other? Or in relationship to the world? Also, is it defined by the ability to recognize one’s own mortality?


  44. “I prayed and there was an empty parking spot right at the front of the store.” (That’s one of the dumber things to pray about, I think.)

    Ugh. I used to know someone who would do that. It drove me nuts. I asked her one day, if she was right, and there was such a being as God, wouldn’t she think he had more important shit to attend to than freaking parking spots?? Like you know, maybe healing some cancer ridden children? And if it came to that, why does he even LET children become dreadfully ill, or good ppl have terrible things happen to them? Fuck him and the tablet he flew in on.


  45. “How in the hell did we get off on this subject? LOL”

    We hit a big assed detour sign, and said Fuck it…and went.

    Mostly because you’re fearless, Sally. It’s what happens when you’ve already walked through a personal hell far worse than devils and burning lakes of sulfur and other stupid shit really childlike people equate with the worst pain imaginable.


  46. he had more important shit to attend to than freaking parking spots??

    Not to mention that if you can’t find a parking space close to the store and you have to actually walk across the parking lot, it’s better for your health, so maybe you shouldn’t be looking for one close up in the first place. LOL


  47. I like to think that murderers get some kind of justice beyond death. The horrible people who kill others, especially babies and children, who died of unimaginable pain and terror. So their brain just dies? That’s not fair.

    Thank you to all who shared. Hopefully, I will find my answers.

    Sorry Sally, didn’t mean to hijack your post.


  48. So their brain just dies? That’s not fair.

    Who said anything about fair? DNA is not fair. It just is.


  49. DNA is certainly not fair. One of my kids has tan skin year round, great hair, naturally tall and slender, great bone structure. The other kid? Kind of chubby, kind of short, hates his frizzy hair and the fact that he can burn in a sunny window. Both kids are fully biological siblings but DNA made them two very different people. I will say that the kid with the less desirable physical traits is very smart ( and cute beyond words in my eyes) and both kids are great people. DNA is just funny and sort of random.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.