“God bless you.”
Not a day goes by that somebody we’re around doesn’t sneeze. Invariably, another in hearing distance responds with the rhyming well-wishing. We’ve been on both sides of the fence, so to speak, more often sneezing, but also making response to another’s action.
It is embarrassing sometimes though when what is intended to be a courteous remark is made about an action that is so uncontrollable as a sneeze. Being a victim of hay fever, we frequently sneeze when seed dust and other similarities gather in our nostrils.
Dad used to take us to grade school every morning in the grocery store delivery wagon. Without fail, as we’d cross the Neosho River bridge heading east and the sun was shining bright, Dad would let out the loudest, most extreme sneeze one could imagine. We’ll never forget that, because it was as predictable as anything has ever been.
Likewise, at certain times when the sun is especially bright, we’ll sneeze, just like Dad did. It’s not just an inherited trait though, because other acquaintances do the same thing. Come to find out, it is fairly common.
One doctor said 25 percent of people do sneeze when exposed to bright lights like the sun. Unsure why this happens, he analyzed that it might reflect a “crossing” of pathways in the brain, between the normal reflex of the eye in response to light and the sneezing reflex.
Evidently, a sneeze is a very complicated thing, involving many areas of the brain. It is a reflex triggered by sensory stimulation of the membranes in the nose, resulting in a coordinated and forceful expulsion of air through the mouth and nose.
Sneezing may have benefits as the thing tickling one’s nose might be a virus, bacteria or pollen, and sneezing forces it out, except most adults sneeze mostly through their mouth. This is in contrast to animals that sneeze commonly through their nose, so sneezing is especially important to animals that rely heavily on the sense of smell.
Sun-sneezing must truly either be an accident of brain anatomy, or an evolutionary holdover from animals. So, we’ll likely continue being just like Dad and sneeze every morning when we drive east to work, and the sun glares in our eyes at just the right angle.
It has been said that when one sneezes all of the body functions stop, thus for a split moment one is dead, so we must feel relief when the sneeze ends. We are reminded of Second Kings 4:34: “Elisha then stretched himself out on the child. The dead boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.” Thus, like Job 41:18: “When it sneezes, it flashes light. Its eyes are like the sun in the morning.”