February 10, 2021
A newsletter designed to:

Reframe old problems
Spur reflection 
Create new knowledge
Better the world for everyone

(And illustrate the differences between REAL
and fake wellness, and thereby demonstrate how
REAL wellness is way way better and more virtuous!)
ISSN 2766-1091

This 818th edition contains two essays--one about dying healthy, the other a REAL wellness upgrade to the Ten Commandments. As always, comments welcomed and appreciated.

The next edition of the REAL Wellness Report, # 819, will feature an essay entitled, A REAL Wellness Approach to Sexuality.

Recently (October 25, 2010), a Vatican Declaration on Sexual Ethics stated:

In the present period, the corruption of morals has
increased, and one of the most serious indications
of this corruption is the unbridled exaltation of sex...
This corruption has reached the point of invading the
field of education and infecting the general mentality.

How can we hope to have REAL wellness in a society wherein sexuality is corrupting our morals, wherein the exaltation of sex is unbridled with such corruption infecting the general mentality? How indeed? This is an outrage up with which we must not put, so the next edition of the RW Report will feature an essay on sexuality.

A draft of RWR 819 featuring my REAL wellness take on sexuality will be sent to the Vatican for review and approval, but if I have not heard back in a week or so, the essay will be sent to you as written. Hopefully the REAL wellness approach described will exalt sex in a way that is properly bridled so as not to further infect the general mentality.
Photo (above) via Photothemes by Ed Kelley

Who better to set the tone for this week's essay than The Great Agnostic, Robert Green Ingersoll? 
He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking
the approach of death for the return of health,
whispered with his latest breath, 'I am better
now.' Let us believe, in spite of doubts and
dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear
words are true of all the countless dead. 

Robert G. Ingersoll, Eulogy for his brother
Ebon. Washington, DC, May 31, 1879.


People are squeamish about death. It ranks with religion, politics and sex as topics to avoid in polite (and other) society. While most overcome the culturally-induced reluctance to think about it long enough to do a bit of estate planning (e.g., set out a will, maybe sign a donor card), little if any attention is given how to die.


To die healthy means to live as well as possible, to the final moment of existence until, with a last breath, you think, murmur or say aloud, I feel better now, as spoke Robert Green Ingersoll (following the example of his brother Ebon) when he closed his eyes forevermore on July 21, 1899. Of course, not everyone gets much choice of how, when, why or where to die. Dying is not really a choice at all, for most. Many of us die without graceful leave-takings largely due to not having planned such a thing.

Those fortunate enough to avoid untimely ends who also devote attention to healthy living might welcome the availability of choices for a good death. No, this business of dying healthy is not as attractive as planning, managing and constantly fine-tuning a healthy life. However,
all things considered, it might still be a worthy undertaking. (Consider those last words a pun if it pleases you.)

We know that spending patterns in America during the last months, weeks and even days of life are somewhere between enormous and substantial. Yet, what's done to sustain life at the end is not always in accord with the wishes of the dying. The quality of life during the last months (or even years) can be quite dreadful. Thus, those who value a wellness lifestyle might want to arrange things for when the end's in sight. When that time hovers, many might are more willing to acknowledge the signs and less willing to entertain hopeless strategies of denial. More consideration might then be given to the merits of taking control at such a time.

The sad fact is that very few people die healthy, though it is possible and an option, with a bit of foresight. While dying healthy clearly is an oxymoron, it's not actually a contradiction in terms, if construed as recommended. It's definitely not fortune-teller babble mixed with hocus pocus.

Speaking of which, I recall a bit of undercover reporting on a group of psychics by Ariel Kaminer for the New York Times. Ms. Kaminer asked assorted soothsayers what to expect in 2010. The prediction was: A year in which everything she sets out to accomplish will be realized, although her ambitions will be thwarted! My, that was helpful. Also, that while her love life will blossom like a flower, her romantic prospects are in serious trouble. Also, that while tremendous events will occur, nothing at all will happen. Ms. Kaminer concluded, I'm not making this up. I got it from the experts. (See Ariel Kaminer, The Future: Cloudy, With Platitudes, New York Times, December 31, 2009, p. 25.)

Please don't lump the phrase die healthy with the double-talk psychics offer their benighted customers who take seers seriously. Assess die healthy from a REAL wellness perspective of functioning with reason while seeking exuberance and liberty.


Die healthy means that, if you must die, and science suggests we carbon-based biped life forms mucking about on a small rock orbiting a giant fireball in the middle of nowhere must do so (thanks, Pat Condell), why not do it as sensibly and even healthfully as possible? That's it--that's what is meant by die healthy. (Warning: Long sentence ahead-take a deep breath!) Just as living well entails wise choices of disciplined habit patterns that promote a good measure of happiness, fulfillment, meaning, purpose, fun, joy, love, and good health, so, too, can death be approached in a fashion that increases desired and decreases unwanted outcomes.

Surely the person who cares enough about quality of life to shape and sustain a wellness lifestyle will also choose to ponder and plan an equivalent wellness dying style. The process of doing so is the meaning of the phrase die healthy.


Dying sucks. Very few people want to do it, no matter how sorry their situations, although there are a few ignoble exceptions. Need an example? How about the Islamic maniacs who somehow believe what seems beyond preposterous to most of us, namely, that threescore and twelve virgin hotties await the martyr who blows himself up for Allah. Holy cow--is there any limit to the nonsense that can be embraced under the toxic cloud of revealed religion? None seems evident, so far.

Back to dying healthy. As suggested, few do so but, this lamentable situation can and ought to change. Here are a few starter tips to promote your chances to go out as well as possible, particularly mentally:

  • Envision a good death. Think of someone you knew or read about who went off in a manner that seemed sensible. No, of course it's not something you want to do, but since you must depart, in time, a plan or at least a few guidelines for the period leading up to the last moment can be considered.
  • Tell your spouse, children and anyone else who will listen about your thoughts on the matter. Take legal steps to promote the chances that doctors and varied strangers who might become influential in your final days know your intentions and desires.
  • Consider lining up a team of transition facilitators. Don't you just love the creativity of some euphemisms? I mean, really, when your organs start shutting down and you can't taste or even see your food, control your bowels--when you are clouded by dementia or experiencing congestive heart failure, kidney problems, unrelenting pain, more delirium than normal and a great deal of agitation and, worst of all, no longer interested in sex, don't you want someone or a team of experts to help you escape a bad situation that is gradually getting worse?
  • Along the lines of the last tip, don't wait too long to learn about palliative sedation and the medications that can relieve unyielding suffering. These include but are not limited to lorazepam, midazolam, phenobarbital, scopolamine, ketaminer, morphine, methadone, fentanyl, propofol and sodium thiopental. Combinations of these drugs work even better.

So, there you go-that's what it means to live so as to die healthy. Not as upbeat as living a REAL wellness lifestyle but since you can't do that forever, it seems wise to mentally rehearse a curtain call consistent with your known fondness for reason-based and personal freedom-based choices.

Provided you believe you have a right to choose your own best way to die or, to use the more common euphemism, to pass comfortably, there is no good alternative to dying healthy.

Best wishes, live well and when you can't do that anymore, well, let it go.

All REAL Wellness Report essays are reviewed before publication by a member of the esteemed Editorial Advisory Board. Occasionally, these reviews are too good to keep to myself. So it is with the review of this essay by Robert Ludlow, shown above on the edge of a mountain,
perhaps pondering dying healthy.


I have no problem signing on to your sage and timely advice. I say timely because even though I still feel like a spring chicken, sadly I'm not. I know it's time to stop procrastinating and confront the sober reality that no matter how good I feel now, and how well I may function at the moment, I don't have that many good years remaining before something pretty awful happens to my aging octogenarian body or, Zeus forbid, my mind. So, thank you for bringing this somewhat unpleasant topic to my attention with your usual wit, wisdom, and rationality. 

After all the years of working on the Robert Ludlow project, I was hoping to stop tweaking and just accept the far-from-perfect, but functional, results. Now your consciousness-raising has reminded me of unfinished business and prodded me to make a belated New Year's resolution, which is: 

This year I will do the necessary research and then take appropriate steps to prepare for my approaching decline and failure. Hopefully, the decline portion will be delayed many years and then be brief, if not instantaneous. There is no point to unnecessary suffering, certainly not in a hopeless situation. So it behooves all of us to take those sensible and important steps you recommend in order to make the transition to everlasting oblivion as calm and uneventful--as healthy--as possible.

The idea of dying in the not-too-distant future doesn't seem to bother me (not yet, anyway), and it probably won't elicit great apprehension when the time comes. Alas, I can't be certain about that. As the irrepressible Daniel Gilbert convincingly documents in his delightful and highly informative book, Stumbling on Happiness, human beings are incredibly inept at predicting how they will feel and act in given circumstances.

Like almost everyone, the idea of prolonged disability and/or pain bothers me a lot. If that should ever be my prognosis, I now feel I will prefer to check out early on my own terms. Of course Gilbert says I can't know that's how I'll feel in those circumstances. But it's a certainty I will want access, on demand, to the most potent pain-relief cocktail available.

Anyway, those are my immediate thoughts on a matter I have neglected for too long. I look forward to deepening my understanding without getting obsessive or morbid about it.


The Ten Commandments have long struck me as negative, bossy and irrelevant; Christian enthusiasts often claim these ancient codes are the foundation of our laws today. I think Robert Ingersoll put that idea to rest with his response to a reporter's question, 'Colonel, what would you substitute for the Bible as a moral guide?' 

Some Christian lawyers--some eminent judges--have said t
hat the Ten Commandments are the foundation of all law.

Nothing could be more absurd. Long before these
commandments were given there were codes of laws
in India and Egypt--laws against murder, perjury, larceny,
adultery and fraud. Such laws are as old as human society;
as old as the love of life; as old as industry; as the idea of
prosperity; as old as human love.

All of the Ten Commandments that are good were old;
all that were new are foolish. If Jehovah had been civilized
he would have left out the commandment about keeping
the Sabbath, and in its place would have said: 'Thou shalt
not enslave thy fellow-men...He would have left out the
one about graven images, and in its stead would have
said: 'Thou shalt not wage wars of extermination, and
thou shalt not unsheathe the sword except in self-defense.'

If Jehovah had been civilized, how much grander the
Ten Commandments would have been. All that we call
progress--the enfranchisement of man, of labor, the
substitution of imprisonment for death, of fine for
imprisonment, the destruction of polygamy, the
establishing of free speech, of the rights of conscience;
in short, all that has tended to the development and 
civilization of man; all the results of investigation,
observation, experience and free thought; all that man
has accomplished for the benefit of man since the close
of the Dark Ages--has been done in spite of the Old 

The Ten Commandments (Decalogue) are grossly archaic, unhelpful and ill-fitted to modern times. Still relentlessly promoted by the Religious Right, a modicum of objective scrutiny suggests it is time for a new and improved edition. If I were Pope, head of a Protestant sect or a televangelist, I'd lead the way seeking a major upgrades for believers. I'd recommend a transition from ten negative, uselessly general and bossy shalt nots to a set of positive, specific REAL wellness-worthy common decency guidelines.

I hope they catch on. 

First however, let's review a few facts about the insistence of some religious enthusiasts to insert displays of their ancient religious shalt nots into public places.


Many religious people get quite irate when objections are raised over the intrusions of religious ceremonies, signs, flags, statues, monuments or other displays where they don't belong, such as public property. In recent years, local officials in Oklahoma and Alabama directed the placement of Ten Commandment monuments on State Capitol grounds. These actions were met by protests and legal challenges, which in both cases culminated with state Supreme Courts directing the removal of such monuments. Despite claims that the monuments were not really religious so much as historical artifacts, the Courts made clear that no public money or property can be used, either directly or indirectly, for the benefit, or support, of any sect, church, denomination or system of religion. Both state high courts scoffed at the claim that Ten Commandments were other than religious in nature, an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.

Why would elected government leaders, sworn to uphold state and national constitutions, do this? Perhaps Saul Alinsky had such actions in mind when he made these remarks during an interview in 1972 for Playboy Magazine:

If you think you've got an inside track to
absolute truth, you become doctrinaire,
humorless and intellectually constipated.
The greatest crimes in history have been
perpetrated by such religious,
political and racial fanatics.

Polls have shown that most people, including Christians, can't recall more than a few of the Ten commandments, suggesting that most of the shalt nots are not taken seriously, even by the faithful. Most know
the ones proscribing stealing, murdering and coveting; the others are evidently too weird to bother remembering. Yet, many Christians continue to assert that these ancient rules were foundation elements
that inspired our Constitution and should be put forward as moral guides.

Despite all these liabilities, Right Wing Christian politicians and religious interest groups continue efforts seeking to inflict their Commandments on the rest of us. FFRF just called attention to a bill in the North Dakota State Senate directing the display of the Commandments in public schools, which the US Supreme Court has previously ruled unconstitutional. The bill fails to specify which version would go on display--there are quite a few still making the rounds. One such, the Exodus 34 version, would warn children not to cook a young goat in its mother’s milk and that all blood sacrifices must be yeast-free.


The current ten, as mentioned, are weighted with religious babble, of dubious origin and accuracy, and completely unsuitable for other than the religiously orthodox. It's unlikely the Decalogue as constituted will ever be eligible for display on government property, unless we descend into a theocracy, as many Republicans clearly desire. The Ten Commandments are forgettable, non-functional and unpleasant. They are medieval proscriptions. They are, quite simply, useless in most cases or self-evident no no's clearly covered by secular laws. They don't work as guides to morality on the issues of our time. To secularists, they are nothing if not bizarre. 

The first four Commandments simply attest to the fact that the alleged author-god had an uneasy vanity: He relied on threats rather than reason. Imagine getting all steamed up over a graven image that might have provided some struggling humans a bit of comfort, as a child might seek with a doll. Why do defenders overlook the pettiness, bluster, bombast and psychotic insecurity underlying these initial Commandments? Are the secularists supposed to remain silent, look the other way?

The rest of the Commandments don't exactly dazzle, either. Number five (honor your father and mother) is OK, other things being the same, but seems a bit general and allows no exceptions. What if one or both parents are abusive, negligent or cruel? 

Number six (don't murder people) is laughably obvious. It's impossible not to know doing so is wrong, but look at crime data, and note how the Commandment is suspended for wars, capital punishment and other circumstances. In any case, as long as people don't want to be killed, there will be laws against murder, as well as stealing, which is the eighth Commandment. It's a lot easier for those with plenty than those who are starving to follow this one. As for number seven, (don't commit adultery), this has proved more inconvenient that the other Commandments. For one thing, it's nearly impossible not to transgress, depending on how one interprets adultery. What about thoughts--can hormone-driven teens avoid breaking this Commandment? Even Jimmy Carter could not manage this Commandment. You might recall his confession to Hugh Hefner in a 1976 Playboy interview: I’ve looked at a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. 

Besides, norms vary from culture to culture, from one century to another. The ninth Commandment is pretty good, too, relative to the rest, at least in the basic idea not to bear false witness against your neighbor and presumably not against anyone else, as well. 

Finally, we get to the tenth Commandment. Here we encounter a shalt not most of us would find manageable, reasonable, and not painfully obvious--not coveting a neighbor's wife-- or house, male servant, female servant, ox, or donkey. I've personally managed to eschew almost every one of these temptations. 


Adults raised without religion and others who rejected their childhood indoctrinations generally view the Ten commandments as antediluvian bromides, useless as moral guides or a code of conduct.

As noted above, a few of the shalt nots are self-evident to anyone with an ounce of good sense. Secularists are not likely to elevate false gods when they hold none to be true. How can believers be confident they've chosen or, more likely, been taught to adore and follow the real god? Few need a religion to know that it's not OK to steal or, for God's sake (just an expression!), murder people? All civilized societies forbid such crimes and punish (in this life) those who violate human rights. And why forbid coveting when it is actions that matter? Why the big deal about your neighbor's wife, which almost implies that other forms of coveting might be just dandy? Where would the advertising profession be if we did not covet stuff? Could there be a free enterprise economy?

Instead of just ignoring the Ten Commandments, perhaps secularists should engage believers in polite conversations about these matters, leading some to take a closer look at what was accepted as gospel, so to speak, at an early age. Instead of gospel, or literal truth, a degree of doubt and skepticism, along with positive ethical replacements, might be a good deal more useful.


I'll preface the set of commitments with an additional portion of 19th century orator-extraordinaire Robert Green Ingersoll's response to the question, What would you substitute for the Bible as a moral guide?

We cannot depend on what are called 'inspired books,'
or the religions of the world. These religions are based
on the supernatural, and according to them we are under
obligation to worship and obey some supernatural being,
or beings. All these religions are inconsistent with
intellectual liberty. They are the enemies of thought, of
investigation, of mental honesty. They destroy the
manliness of man. They promise eternal rewards for
belief, for credulity, for what they call faith.

These religions teach the slave virtues. They make
inanimate things holy, and falsehoods sacred. They
create artificial crimes. To eat meat on Friday, to enjoy
yourself on Sunday, to eat on fast-days, to be happy in
Lent, to dispute a priest, to ask for evidence, to deny a
creed, to express your sincere thought, all these acts
are sins, crimes against some god, To give your honest
opinion about Jehovah, Mohammed or Christ, is far worse
than to maliciously slander your neighbor. To question
or doubt miracles. is far worse than to deny known facts.
Only the obedient, the credulous, the cringers, the
kneelers, the meek, the unquestioning, the true believers,
are regarded as moral, as virtuous. It is not enough to be
honest, generous and useful; not enough to be governed
by evidence, by facts. In addition to this, you must
believe. These things are the foes of morality. They
subvert all natural conceptions of virtue.

All 'inspired books,' teaching that what the supernatural
commands is right, and right because commanded, and
that what the supernatural prohibits is wrong, and
wrong because prohibited, are absurdly unphilosophic.

And all 'inspired books,' teaching that only those who
obey the commands of the supernatural are, or can be,
truly virtuous, and that unquestioning faith will be
rewarded with eternal joy, are grossly immoral.

Again I say: Intelligence is the only moral guide.

I have reviewed the nature of controversies surrounding the placement of religious icons in public places, provided an overview of what The Great Agnostic Robert Ingersoll had to say on the topic, and assessed The Ten Commandments from a REAL wellness perspective. Now, at last, I offer the promised set of updated moral guides better suited to modern times than the ancient Decalogue.

Enough of the overly negative, vague and bossy shalt not Ten Commandments. My recommended common decency-focused Ten Commitments offer standards of behavior more personally honorable and socially beneficial than the proscriptions found in the Ten Commandments. 

These commitments were created by the American Humanist Association (AHA). The original AHA commitments are designed to promote principles based upon reason, freedom and tolerance in a democratic world. In this world, an individual’s worth and dignity is respected, nurtured, and supported, and human freedom and ethical responsibility are natural aspirations for everyone. The AHA Ten Commitments honor altruism, critical thinking, empathy, environmentalism, ethical development, global awareness, humility, peace and social justice, responsibility service and service and participation.

The major differences between the religious shalt not commandments and the AHA-inspired commitments that follow are that the common decency commitments are positive, specific and addressed to concerns vital to good order in 21st century society, no matter what, if any, religion you follow. 

  1. Be aware and respectful of nature, the environment and other life forms, while nourishing a sense of awe about the cosmos and the wonder and brevity of your existence.
  2. Cultivate your mind: Be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world. (Robert Green Ingersoll, Improved Man)
  3. Be a wise steward in caring for and enhancing the quality of your body-- nourish it well while cultivating a high level of physical fitness.
  4. Be independent.
  5. Be helpful and of service to others.
  6. Be truthful, sincere, kind and honest.
  7. Embrace responsibility for past and present outcomes and future possibilities.
  8. Practice critical thinking--respect the demonstrated facts of science and the true history and nature of the world.
  9. Promote peace and justice at every opportunity, in ways large and small.
  10. Embrace the common decencies.

The latter invites slightly more explication than the rest. The list of such virtues could be quite extensive; however, mention of a few should convey the basic ideas. Some of these overlap with the ten noted above--they are important enough to reinforce with a bit of overlap.

Common decencies include personal integrity (telling the truth, not lying or being deceitful), sincerity (e.g., candid, frank and free of hypocrisy), keeping promises (honoring pledges and agreements) and acting honorably (eschewing fraud and skullduggery). Other qualities deserving a place in your commitments to decency are trustworthiness, loyalty, dependability, reliability and acceptance of responsibility. Add benevolence, fairness, gratitude, respect for justice and equality, tolerance and a willingness to negotiate differences and you have a list sufficient for a worthy upgrade from the medieval Ten Commandments.

From Jack Welber, Charlotte, NC

Just read your first essay re asking, how, not what do you want to be when grown up. Great idea! 

The how question can also be very useful with young adults and college students. I have two grandchildren, 19 and 22. I interact with both frequently. The how question will be an important one, as both boys are wrapped up in cerebral pursuits. As to the second essay regarding meaninglessness, you know how I feel about the meaning of life. Your essay warmed my heart, so to speak!

To nail it to my own existence, I’m asking myself as I write this how I want to be today! 

From Bill Hettler, Minneapolis, MN

Hi Don--I absolutely love the letter from Lutz! I wish I had written that assessment myself. We should start a new award--The Don Ardell Clear Thinker Award.
Much like the famous Golden Fleece awards that Wisconsin Democratic Senator William Proxmire issued on 168 occasions to bestow dubious honors for what he deemed wasteful spending.
Every time I get an email from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), I look for what my friend Don Ardell calls REAL Wellness. Rarely do I find anything resembling REAL Wellness.
My best to Lutz. He is surely a Clear Thinker worthy of the new award.
Carol Ardell, St. Petersburg, FL  
Grant Donovan - Perth, Australia 
Lorraine Evans, Orlando, FL
Lutz Hertel - Dusseldorf, Germany 
James Heuerman, Prescott, AZ 
Bill Hettler, Minneapolis, MN
Steve Jonas, Stony Brook, NY
Rod Lees, Noosa, Australia
Raphael Lupo, McLean, VA
Bruce Midgett - Missoula, MT
Dave Randle, St. Petersburg, FL
John Sinibaldi, St.Petersburg, FL
Toshi Tsutsumi, Tokyo, JAPAN   
Christina Watson, Dehradun, India

Guided by Reason
Inspired by Exuberance
Supported by Athleticism 
and Enriched by Liberty