I had a dream last night. I died and went to heaven. As I was standing there at the Pearly Gates, talking to God, He sneezed. I didn’t know what to say.
The joke above is a very old one. It revolves around the age old habit of saying “Bless you” whenever someone in the room sneezes. The origin comes from the ancient belief that when someone sneezes their heart stops for a moment risking death. Other beliefs are that the soul leaves by way of the nose. Saying “Bless you” is supposed to keep the soul from leaving.
In reality, this happened the other night at a family gathering. There were people from various sections of the country and various faiths. We had everything from Southern Baptist to agnostic. I was the one who sneezed with the result of more than half the people at the table saying “Bless you.” It got me wondering why those who are not normally superstitious still cling to this one. After all, the chances of a fatal sneeze are minuscule. I have however seen people with a nose big enough to accommodate a Greyhound bus so a quickly exiting soul could be a danger to them.
In today’s culture of political correctness this unsolicited blessing could become a sign of rudeness. How does a sneezer know that the people blessing him are not doing him any harm? Can you be overly blessed? Does an agnostic blessing even work? Is it ok for a Catholic to bless a sneezing Jew and vice versa? Would they have to convert? Maybe the person just doesn’t want to be blessed.
And what if in the future this leads to more superstitious traditions? What if one starts that’s totally opposite where when someone farts everyone in the room says, “Curse you”. This could become especially prominent in elevators. It might come in handy too as the farter joins in with the curse to leave doubt as to who the guilty party is.
Personally I find it annoying. I’m not gonna die from a sneeze. I do my own blessings, just as I do my own curses. So don’t expect me to thank you for keeping me from a nonexistent, fatal sneeze.