Tuesday, August 30, 2011
No blessing for you!!! *
There are a lot of weird phrases and behaviors that have been ingrained in us since childhood. Some such traditions help pave the way for courteous interaction; it has even been said that "good manners are the glue of our society," or something similar to that. Yet there exist a few archaic, misguided cultural morés that simply don't make sense.
The act of pronouncing "God bless you" after someone near you sneezes, for example. Doing just a few minutes' worth of research turns up limitless possible reasons why English-speaking cultures do this, but not a one of them still holds water. When someone sneezes, do any of us honestly believe that the sneeze is a vulnerable millisecond upon which the soul is more exposed to evil spirits? Is there a one among us who truly thinks the heart stops while the sneeze happens? No one is sneezing as a pre-cursor to the plague any longer; why do we all still bless each other as if the sneezer were at death's door?
The thing that makes me pause most of all is the fact that nearly everyone uses this phrase, or its secular third cousin, the shorter version of "Bless you." People who don't utter the word blessing in any other context are sure to trip over the next person in order to bless a complete stranger after his face has contorted and blown droplets nearby. Why?
We have decided in our home to oust this phony proprietary phrase. We're not saying it anymore. Instead, it's the burden of the sneezer to pardon him or herself after sneezing. After all, sneezing is actually rather disgusting, often resulting in flying spittle, snotty nose, and a loud shout whilst all that nastiness is expelled. In my family, it's more often a volley of sneezes. Yeeeeeuch.
I invite you to join us in the "No Blessing for You" campaign. It's easy. Simply say nothing when someone near you sneezes. It's okay. The sneezer likely does not have the plague, nor did his heart stop. And I hate to break it to you all, but evil spirits are all around, all the time—not just when you sneeze.
Blessings are good, when intentional and heartfelt. Praying for blessing for people is even better. But not when they spit on me.
*If you're a fan of the 90s sit-com Seinfeld, then you know the Soup Nazi—the crazy foreign fellow who makes stupendous soup but serves or withholds it as he sees fit. This title is a nod to that episode. The "glue of society" comment is another Seinfeld moment--Kramer said it.)