Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bless us all

Let’s run some numbers, quickly.

The world’s population stands at roughly 6.45 billion. Let’s estimate that the average person sneezes, on average, twice a day (though the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that this number may be as high as 4x/day, even without a cold.) Now let’s also conservatively assume that someone “blesses” you for your sneeze one out of four times. Sure, there are times you’re alone and no one blesses you—but remember those times you sneeze in a meeting, and get blessed by five people at once.

Crunching the data above, I estimate that the Lord’s blessing for sneeze-sufferers is being requested, on average, 37,302 times EVERY SECOND, 24/7/365. This must be very distracting for the Almighty, who surely has more important issues to worry about. Of course, it’s possible that God is focused enough that he/she can work even with this din going on in the background. But why take the chance? Why risk calling the Lord’s attention away from, say, peace in the Middle East, just to demand his blessing on the man behind you in line who is having a touch of hay fever? Assuming God actually responds to human’s requests for intervention in the first place, wouldn’t we do much better to redirect our efforts towards something that matters? Perhaps, in fact, this explains why the world is such a mess: for generations, we have been foolishly guiding the Lord’s attention towards the common cold, rather than, say, famine, war, and poverty. Just as a case in point, I’m sure I get more verbal blessings out of a five-day sniffle than the average HIV sufferer gets in a year. Is that sensible?

Atheistic readers will probably protest that the sneeze-blessing is not intended literally to invoke the Lord’s assistance, but rather to provide moral support to the runny-nosed afflicted. But this argument doesn’t really hold up, either. In scientific polling, I’ve discovered that almost no one cares whether they receive a blessing or not. It’s more that people feel uncomfortable if they fail to bless someone else. They fear the other person will see them as uncaring and stingy. People deliver up the blessings to allay their own anxieties.

Personally, I wish everyone would just stop it. I find sneezing distracting enough— waiting for the follow-up blessings to wrap up just furthers the interruption from whatever I was doing. Think I’m cuckoo? Do some more math. Let’s say, conservatively, that the natural sneeze process (anticipation, attempted suppression, sneeze, and recovery) takes 15 seconds, and that a “blessing” adds another 3 seconds. Assuming the numbers quoted at the top of the page, and a life-expectancy of 78 years, this means you’ll waste a minimum of 13 entire 24-hour days of your life just sneezing. Now, let’s say that eliminating the blessing could shave just three seconds off of the sneeze process. Presto! You just got three full days of your life back. Not too shabby.


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