Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

People ask questions for many reasons – only ONE of which is to actually get information. The answers and information people give and receive often depends upon what questions are asked – and how. In many ways, our very quality of life is partially determined by the types of questions we ask ourselves and others. Our (conscious and subconscious) minds will come up with answers to everything asked. The answers we get does not always tell us what we (think we want or) need to know.

2010 is a census year in the United States of America. In addition to just getting an idea of the current population (demographics) – and the corresponding reapportionment of political representation and funding, a lot of other (seemingly unrelated) information and answers will be asked for. 2010 is also a year in which the U.S. military’s decade-old “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (regarding homosexuality) is being reconsidered (as unnecessary?). Who is asked what, when, by whom, and in what way can make a big difference in the response. So can how any answer or information received is interpreted.

While most people appreciate sincere interest and like to talk about themselves or share what they know, few like to be “interrogated” – or even play “12 Questions”. Fewer still like their answers to be further questioned – in a way that implies that they are either not good enough or not believed. There is a difference between clarifying what someone really means and insinuating that they don’t know what they are talking about or are lying (because their reply is not what you wanted, expected, really wanted to know, or were prepared to accept).

Don’t ask, don’t tell” isn’t necessarily the best policy, but most “information” obtained by asking and answering questions tends to be largely irrelevant to anything other than satisfying curiosity since “knowing” seldom changes anything – and so probably doesn’t even matter (one way or the other). People will usually “show and tell” everything you need to know if you give them the time and space to do so.

Since people usually want to know something for reasons other than they actually ask – for reasons they may not even realize themselves, a deflective default reply may actually help everyone clarify the reply desired. “That’s an interesting question. Why do you ask?”

There are quite a few common questions that people usually ask – that are seldom intended or answered literally. While the list below is far from complete, I thought I’d share some of my initial reactions.

“How are you?” When? Where? At what? And with whom? Although some seminars urge people to always enthusiastically respond with “awesome” or something similar that might put everyone into some awe of how much better they feel as a result, I tend to assume that the question is more of a greeting or socially conventional polite formality rather than a desire for any information. A flippant “FINE” is an acronym for “Feelings In Need of Expression”. That’s not “NICE“: since “Nothing Inside Cares Enough” (to tell the truth). Depending on my mood, I tend to respond to questions about my state in one of 3 ways:

1. “Do you really want to know?” It is usually best to not ask for answers you are not ready, willing, or able to receive, accept, and believe.

2. “Alive!” This may be merely a factual reminder, acknowledging existence and survival no matter what else may be true – especially during what may seem like only a “near-life experience”. This could also be a celebratory expression of being fully present, enthusiastically engaged, awake, and conscious.

3. “Outstanding!” This term implies both distinction – which may be either of excellence or alienation. People sometimes talk about what they (will or will not) stand for (even while sitting) – without realizing that humans do not stand up (especially in the southern hemisphere), but actually stand out (from the surface of the earth. Similarly, humans do not grow up – as do plants and trees from roots that grow down and out. Humans are more like potatoes, in that we only grown down (and then get bigger). Babies are born with disproportionally large heads (which they learn to balance on top of the tiny bodies that grow longer beneath them – pushing their eyes higher above the ground in the process). Adults have been said to be humans who have stopped growing at either end and instead start to expand in the middle. If this is so, then in what may be an adulterated (but not exclusively adult-rated) definition, adultery might be the end caused by coming between two growing together. So, How are YOU doin’?

“What do you do?” When? Oh, for money! Why didn’t you say so? The best answers are usually start with something along the lines of “I help people….” and resemble an “elevator speech” that pitches a particular product or service as a desirable benefit to a specific target market – and asking who the listener might know who would be interested.

“Where do you work?” Do I appear so “broken” that you have to ask where I (still) “work”? Were you looking for a job – or to hire me? Do you mean what part of town or who do I work for (that pays me) – or what do I do (for money)? Both the really happy and the really wealthy usually do not work (much). They generally play (or just get things done). People “work” for many reasons (including social contact, status, sense of purpose, self-expression, contribution, to accomplish something, and even out of boredom), but most “work” is done for money (usually to pay expenses) or “benefits” (that usually are not as real or beneficial as people assume). Working sometimes means serving – which can be a good thing. But to have to work also implies labor, effort, and struggle – rather than (elegantly and effortlessly) just providing value or getting something done.

“What do you do (for a living)?” We are lucky we don’t have to consciously control all the things necessary for living. Although some people find it hard to believe, it’s possible to live without money – yet what people are usually asking is where does your money come from and/or how much do you receive (which gives no indication to how much anyone keeps or has) – and most of all how do you “spend”, “invest”, :use”, or “pass” your time.

“How much (money) do you make?” The last time I checked, only government central banks and counterfeiters “made” any money (by printing and minting it) – and it wasn’t worth much (as fiat currency). Money is actually an easily traded commodity with inherent value – this excludes the Federal Reserve Notes people usually call Dollars.

“How much are you worth?” Someone’s actual/real “net worth” really has little to do with income and assets, nor what is owned, controlled, or offered in the marketplace. To use a word former U.S. President George W. Bush liked, putting a pricetag on people “mis-underestimates” the value of people, relationships, and life itself. Otherwise, we might as well part our selves out, selling our limbs and organs to the highest bidders – or leasing (or otherwise prostituting) our family and friends to others for whatever short-term monetary gain we can (extort or) extract.

“Where do you live?” Obviously not in your mind or you wouldn’t be asking. If I wasn’t always living everywhere I would be dead. On the other hand maybe I already am – except for an occasional “near-life” experience. Do you mean where do I sleep? Why? Do you want to sleep with me? Are you tired? Do we share a dream? Sleeping and sex are quite different – and usually mutually exclusive (even for people who do not have a mutually exclusive relationship). Or did you mean where do I get mail – or where do I store my possessions? What are you really asking – and why?

“Where’s home?” Home is where the heart is. So it’s hard NOT to be at home no matter where you are – as long as your heart is intact. But laying a hat (alone) seldom makes a home. Home is an emotional place not a physical one. It often involves people, memories, meanings, and associations that have nothing to do with geography. Home could be where people are from, where they feel most familiar, comfortable, and safe, where they (desire to) return to, or just where they spend most of their time (for now).

“Where are you (coming) from?”> Originally? Most recently? Personally? Geographically? Genetically? Culturally? Intellectually? Emotionally? Metaphysically? I shy away from the word “spiritual” – because it is a meaningless word (since there is nothing that is NOT spiritual, or part of all there is – just as there is nothing outside of the universe, not even another one). Other than from our mothers (and Earth), the best place(s) for humans to come from are probably integrity, peace, joy, happiness, abundance, and/or any other aspect of your “Higher Self”.

“Who are your people?” Do you mean (immediate) family of origin, (ancient) ancestral roots, partner(s) in life and offspring created, organizational affiliations identifed with, employees, coworkers, or customers, imaginary or closest friends? Who do you mean by MY people?

“What’s your background?” I guess it depends upon where I am. What do you see behind and around me? What people are often really trying to do is assess education, experience, expertise, and “credibility”. Most people seem unable to separate a message from the messenger – with the latter having more influence than the former. This is usually a mistake. The truth and value what is said (or done) is NOT dependent upon who a person is, but on its own merit.

“What’s your sign?” Presumably this is an astrological inquiry (to analyze, understand, or explain your personality). In a world where some people get paid to spin signs on street corners, and others hold them hoping to get paid, a good reply night be: “Here’s your sign!” My “sun sign” is supposed to be in Aquarius (and my moon in Cancer) – but as an “Aquarius”, I don’t believe in Astrology (or accept that MY moon can have signs of cancer). Perhaps the best way to answer would be to elaborate on my “SIGN“: Strengths, Interests, Gifts, and Needs – but I will save that for another post.

“When were you born?” Me? 7:10am Pacific Standard Time. Or were you trying to guess my age or astrological sign?

“When’s your birthday?” On what calendar? Do you mean the actual day I was born (my mother’s “labor day”) or the next anniversary of my first breath as an indicator of may age or another orbit around the sun? MY birthday is in one week – NEXT SATURDAY (on the 6th of February). Now that you know, what are you going to do (about it)?

What questions, comments, concerns, answers, or insights do YOU have?

© 2010 – 2011, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

Oren Pardes

Oren Pardes has written 70 post in this blog.

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1 response to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell


  1. Oren Pardes

    President Obama has directed the Pentagon to replace the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with one that will allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, will present details of the plan to U.S. lawmakers next Tuesday. According to sources inside the Pentagon, changes to be implemented include adding choreography to marching regimens, equipping all dorms with double-wide bunks, new fitted uniforms in seasonal color palettes, the installation of hot tubs, and more. In a potentially controversial move, the Pentagon will announce the formation of a new all-gay, all male company tentatively named the “Fighting 69th Sodomites.” Sources credit the creation of the 69th to House member Barney Frank, who has reportedly been working “very, very closely” with gay Pentagon officials. This new unit might be especially welcomed if assigned to EOD where bombs and IEDs are a bigger concern than sexual orientation and expression.

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