To Be or Not to Be

My wife has gone all religious on me. I’m not used to that. For years she was leaning towards atheism. I was uncomfortable with atheism even though I lean heavily toward physics.

Atheism makes sense. More sense then most evangelicals, ISIS, Catholics, Jews and so on. At least to me. I think all religions could use a dose of atheistic realism.

However, I’m mortal, like you, and I’m sixty-four, like Paul McCartney’s song. Days flow by into months which flow by into years. I’ll die. Now my fascination with science kicks in. Survival of the fittest: evolution. All species seek to live, not die. The fittest survive longer than the weakest. So I seek to live, not die. I really don’t want to die. That’s what all people feel except those who are mentally ill and want to commit suicide.

So we dream of never ending life. Religion is born and we convince ourselves we won’t die forever.

There’s glitches in that theory, I know. Science points us to galaxies, expanding universes, black holes, the possibility of life on Titan, Saturn’s moon. But is that it? Is there no mystery to life itself?

An atheist would say no. In my heart I feel otherwise. For most of my life I’ve been devoutly religious. There’s subjective as well as objective. I really don’t feel the subjective is due to chemical reactions in my brain or the brains of many people both now and the past that have had religious experiences.

And my wife is suddenly, almost inexplicably, drawn toward religion. I mean, like, it’s her only thought all of a sudden. Weirdly, I’m the best one to teach her in the direction she wants to go.

There’s probably more to this thought on this post, but that’s what I’ve got for now.

What was the smartest thing you read in your life?

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” —M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Why do humans experience grief? I mean, they’re already dead. They won’t even know if we don’t come to their funeral. What’s the point then? Nobody can do anything.

Grief isn’t about doing something for the person that died.

Grief is about a mixing of a feeling of loss and a realization of our own mortality.

The person that passed away may have been very integral to our lives, and now suddenly they are no longer there and, as you said, there is nothing you can do to bring them back so you can say some final, last words.

Grief has 5 different stages which you can read about all over the Internet. The website has this image to understand the process.

About the Author

Wayne Boyd

Wayne Boyd

Published novelist, physics enthusiast, programmer,

Philosopher, blogger, published author

Studied at St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, TX

Lives in Amarillo, TX

379.6k answer views 47.8k this month

What technology do you wish was never invented?

Technology is a product of the industrial revolution and is inevitable with civilization. Once people move from individualism to collective engineering we get into things like the invention of the railway and eventually the cell phone. It’s evolution.

Whether this means we will eventually destroy ourselves and make Earth into a Venus like planet with temperatures of 250 degrees and sulfuric acid rain is yet to be determined.

Is humankind the last intelligent life form on this planet or will there be more?

According to Steven Hawking, if the present Washington Administration continues on it’s path of climate change denial, there is a chance the Earth will go into irreversible climate change and quickly change into a Venus-like planet with a temperature of 250 degrees and raining sulfuric acid.

There is no guarantee there will be more than just a couple of hundred years, sadly.


If a solar flare hit the earth during an eclipse, would the moon protect us?

We all know the sun can, at any time, eject really bad solar flares in our direction, potentially zapping electronic devices and disrupting communications world wide. It has happened before. It will likely happen again.

What would happen if there was a total eclipse of the sun by the moon when it happened? Would we be protected?

Unfortunately, no, we wouldn’t.

The moon’s shadow of totality is only a few miles wide. Everything outside of that would be hit by the bad stuff. So, no, the moon isn’t able to shield everyone because the Earth is much bigger than the moon. It’s kind of like the shadow of a marble protecting a basketball.

Do Animals have Souls?

In my thinking, the soul is the “us” that makes us “us,” the being inside the body, the consciousness of an entity.

Mignight and Yoda

About two years ago my wife and I were watching some dumb T.V. show about cute cats. On that show some cat behavioral “expert” person said that when cats greet themselves they wink at each other.

Whether this is ture or not is unknown to me. I’ve tried Googling the topic several times only to be confronted with all kinds of pet websites. It turns out there’s a gazillion websites that talk about cats and dogs like they know what they’re talking about even though they often contradict themselves.

If there’s been any definitive scientific study about cats that wink at each other I have been unable to find it.

Then one day our cat, Midnight, jumped up on my lap. At the time he was a 10 year old cat who’d lived with us since he was abandoned by some railway tracks in Missouri. My daughter, Leanna, fed him with a baby bottle even before his eyes were open. Fast forward a decade and this cat was mischievous and smart. He knew how to close doors to keep other cats out of a room and open cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen to hide inside.

One day we found him with his head stuck in a gourd on top of the refrigerator. (He had eaten a hole into the gourd and got stuck.)

Midnight’s eyes were large and probing. As he sat on my lap that day, he purred and looked me straight in the eye.

Then I did it. I tested the theory. I sought the answer to the question.

I winked at the cat.

He looked puzzled and looked deeply into my eyes. He did not wink back. Aha, I thought. No truth to that tall tale.

I winked again. No sense in doing something just once. You’ve got to test it repeatedly.

Slowly and deliberately, quite to my surprise, Midnight winked back!

I thought, okay, the cat just winked. It could have been a coincidence. I winked a third time, and he winked back again.

This began a ritual that lasted two years until the day he died. He would jump on my lap, I’d wink, and he’d wink back, night after night. Sometimes he would wink first and wait for me to respond. Kind of weird, huh.

It seemed to me a special bond between us – something shared between man and animal – a human and an animal communicating on some kind of almost spiritual plane.

Then one day a couple of weeks ago, when he was 12, Midnight was hit by a car in the back alley. My neighbor found him and said he was dead. They had placed him in a cardboard box. He was still warm, but he was gone. I had to drive him to the pound to dispose his body.

This brings me to the question at hand: Do animals have souls?

My cat had life. He was playful. He could look you straight in the eye and wink at you. He could close doors and open cabinets. He was a living, breathing creature, albeit with a slightly more muddled brain than most – but not all – of us.

Obviously, animals don’t know about the sun, the moon, the stars or the universe. They don’t know about molecules or layers of the atmosphere or geostationary satellites. They can’t read or write. They lack the ability to comprehend much about life. They don’t seem to have much in the way of self introspection.

Their brains are muddled.

What I mean by muddled is that it appears the animals are conscious but their brains don’t work like ours. This can happen to you as well. You could have a stroke or get Alzheimer’s. You would still be you, but you wouldn’t be able to think clearly because your brain is muddled.

Perhaps this is what it’s like to be an animal – to have a muddled brain.

Animals are, nonetheless, conscious and react with people and their environment in differing ways. Some can look you in the eye and understand something about you or wink back at you. Far from inanimate, some chimpanzees can communicate with humans by talking in sign language with a learned human vocabulary.

That cat was my buddy. He was my friend and he thought of me as his friend. He was a well meaning, mentally challenged individual with a muddled, but perfectly normal cat brain. The mental capacity of his little brain prohibited him from advanced learning or communication, but still there was something there – the ghost in the machine.

The argument that animals have no souls I find dubious, as if the soul were a “thing” separate from the self that some creatures possess and some don’t. Some believe we can sell the soul to the devil, as if it were something we could sell to another. We can give away somehow. Once we do that, these people say, we have no soul anymore. We become soul-less.

In my thinking, the soul is the “us” that makes us “us,” the being inside the body, the consciousness of an entity. It occurs to me that I am conscious, my wife is conscious and our animals are conscious – some more, some less. To claim animals have no souls due to some religious doctrine does not ring true to my ears.

As to what makes us conscious, what is consciousness itself, that is yet another discussion, but as to whether animals have a soul or not seems to me to be no more than ridiculous speculation. The word “soul” is an antiquated, unscientific word. What do we mean by soul, that some living creatures can have one and other living creatures do not?

Animals have consciousness. We have consciousness.

Animals have four legs. A table has four legs. The animal is living, the table is inanimate. Inanimate has no consciousness – it is soul-less. Animate is something altogether different.

Or so I think.