As dedicated social scientists, Christian and I are always analyzing, scrutinizing and martinizing our own cultural practices, so as to avoid any notions of cultural bias in our reporting.
One practice we--or at least I--am firm on in terms of its universality is that act of blessing people after sneezing. It is good and proper to bless one who sneezes, and those who don’t are just rude, plain and simple.
What do you say, Christian? You agree with me 100%, right?
Christian: I couldn’t disagree with you any more. Or any less if less is more. Pat, we live in modern times. The original purpose of saying “bless you” was probably because people used to think that Satan was stealing their soul through their noses or something, but we know better now.
We live in an age where super-telephones and exciting advancements in cereal are common place. Why should we hold onto these archaic pointless customs?
Pat: Yeah, but now with no Pope*, who’s gonna’ do the blessing? Huh?
And besides--trust me, I’ve thought A LOT on this one--who doesn’t like a blessing? I’m not organized religiously one bit, but even I won’t turn down a free blessing. Mormon blessing? Thank you, sister-wives! Jewish blessing? L’Chaim! Buddhist blessing? Om mani padme hum, friend-o! Sikh blessing? Gracias, and watch that saber, yo!
So much better than a silent, lonely wipe on the sleeve, no?
Christian: Yeah but what about the other side of it? You seem to enjoy receiving blessings but how about giving them out? That’s the part of it that I dislike the most. I don’t like feeling obligated to have to say bless you to every Tom, Dick, and Beatrice anytime they sneeze.
Especially those multiple sneezes people. You know the type. The ones that if they sneeze it’s always followed with two or three more seconds later. Those people are obviously starved for attention. Am I supposed to say bless you for each sneeze? I’ve got TV to watch and couches to nap on. Who has time to give all those blessings? I’m not an ordained minister people.
Pat: Oh, well, I am. Ordained. As a minister...and other things, but that’s a different issue. Ordained and officiant of many weddings, in fact, including my sister-in-law and mother-in-law. They didn’t marry each other. I don’t think you can do that. Can you?
So, no...those multiple sneezers only get one from me. But, unlike you, I kinda’ like blessing people. It’s fun to take a break in the middle of a conversation and--“bless you”--make sure someone stays pure and holy. And I love those opportunities to surprise a fellow shopper in the store by tracking them down and blessing them. I’ve even crossed over a whole three aisles just to offer a blessing. All the way from frozen goods to health and beauty products. I think the soap caused it.
Christian: So is it the idea of actually “blessing” someone you like or do you just like acknowledging that someone sneezed? Because that’s basically all you are doing.
How about instead of saying “bless you”, you say “Hey nice sneeze!”. Or “I heard that”. Because that is all that is being accomplished by saying “bless you”.
Pat: Hmm...I’m not sure. That’s a good one. You’ve kind of got me stumped. Because I’ve been known to bless people not just for sneezes, but for yawns, burps, hiccups...even heavy sighs.
Huh. I think maybe I secretly want to be a priest. Shit. That’s not going to work, what with me being married and all.
Christian: Priests can’t get married?
Pat: I’m not sure, but I think my Catholic friends and family have told me that at the moment, priests can only marry god. So...in that sense, god is kinda’ like the Bill Paxton character on “Big Love”, only without the three houses and all those kids.
Hey! That’s either an AWESOME analogy or I’m going straight to hell. Hopefully the former.
Christian: Don’t worry, I don’t think that will have any affect on you going to hell.
So let me ask you this; If you were a priest and could “officially” perform blessings for traditional blessing reasons, like conducting exorcisms or the launching of new boat, do you think you would still feel the need to bless people when they sneeze?
Pat: Yep, and maybe even more so. Know why? ‘Cause it’s often the little things that go unnoticed and mean the most! (Hey--I’ve been thinking about supplementing our blog-income by submitting cliché sayings to Hallmark™ for use on their greeting cards. What did you think of that last one?)
Christian: Blog income?
*at the time this post was written, no one had a CLUE who Francis was. Not even the Argentinians, ‘cause that wasn’t his name there.