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Saturday, October 1, 2011

God knows, it ain't easy being sneezy

As we transition from allergy season to flu season, one
constant remains -- sneezing.

According to the American Heritage Medical Dictionary, sneezing is an explosive habit.  Not only that, it is also “a spasmodic involuntary action resulting chiefly from irritation of the nasal mucous membrane.”  Although few would argue about the “spasmodic” aspect of sneezing, many might debate its underlying causes.

Throughout the ages, numerous sneezes have been
thought to be messages from God.  When the Athenian general Xenophon incited his troops to fight the Persians, a sneeze rang out from the crowd.  This was interpreted as a favorable sign for the Greeks.  In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus’ son sneezes upon hearing that his father might be alive.  His mother, Penelope, felt that this sneeze was God’s reassurance of Odysseus’ return.

Wikipedia also mentions that during the Middle Ages, sneezing was thought to be potentially fatal because of
the “significant amount of breath expelled from the body.”  Perhaps that is why people began responding to sneezes with the expression “God bless you.”   In the era of the bubonic plague, blessings certainly seemed in order for anyone whose health seemed even somewhat compromised.  Add to that a belief that “evil spirits could enter the body through the open mouth of a sneezing individual,” and the need for blessings increases exponentially.

Blessings actually did increase exponentially during a recent bout of California classroom histrionics.  High
school teacher Steve Cuckovich resorted to “knocking 25 points off the grades of students saying ‘Bless you’ after a sneeze.”  Cuckovich claimed that the wave of verbal blessings that ensued after a student sneezed wreaked havoc with his classroom discipline.  Some agreed that this punishment was in order.  Others begged to differ.  The Christian Post was quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle as saying that the teacher’s response was “just the latest example” of a perceived “growing anti-Christian, anti-religion bigotry in the state’s public schools.”


Copyright October 1, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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