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Blessed Assurance by Sal Moriarty

22 are dead in US after weekend tornadoes. More storms may be in store. Recent Headline

At some point, “have a nice day” morphed into “have a blessed day”. Not sure who signed off on the change; I was not invited to the meeting. What does it mean to have a blessed day? Is it different from having a nice day? Such evolution in language (or devolution, depending on your point of view) is common. It wasn't long ago I was blissfully unaware of many modern phrases. Baby-daddy and baby-mama, come to mind (not to equate those squalid terms with blessed).

I have always struggled with the concept of blessed. Obviously, it's an idea rooted in religion; a higher power doing nice stuff for people. When I was a kid, we said the blessing. It was pleasant enough, unless a long-winded relative took the mic at Thanksgiving.

“We're so blessed,” my mom said a million times, often after something horrible happened to someone else. I understand the sentiment but, from my perspective, it's just a variant of “better him than me”.

What did it say about those poor victims? Why weren't they blessed? Were we better people? Did God love us more than the family in the car crash? Seemed reasonable questions to a ten-year-old. Seem reasonable questions now.

I often hear we're blessed to have been born in America. Now, I'm quite pleased to have been born in these not-so-United States (I would have preferred to have been born near mountains, but that's just being greedy). Fortunate or lucky to have been born in America? Well, yeah, but saying we are blessed implies favor with a deity. What, exactly, did I do to be so blessed? More to the point, what did the poor folks born in more troubled locales do to warrant blessings being withheld?

I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird, and not enough the bad luck of the early worm. Franklin D. Roosevelt

The world I grew up in (a Southern Baptist one) was comprised of the blessed and the not-so-blessed. As far as I could tell, adherence to a particular religious dogma or the quality of one's character had little bearing on where you landed. The Bible says God sends (not allows but sends) the rain on the just and the unjust. One has but to look around to comprehend that passage (ask poor Job). Blessings do not seem to factor into such a declaration. That, I can wrap my head around.

My grandfather, who died when I was about fourteen, lived to be almost ninety years old. When I knew him, he was a kind old man who gave me money. However, before I came along, he was quite the heck-raiser. He liked his booze. He liked chasing women. He liked his cigarettes (a lot – the one vice he maintained till, pretty much, the end). In short, he behaved terribly for decades but, as far as I know, was never seriously ill in his life. When he got too old to live on his own, his kids took him into their homes.

I recall my mother telling him how blessed he was to have his health and loved ones so close-by in his golden years. I don't remember a response, other than a vague smile and the lighting of another cigarette. I am unaware of any religion in his life, even at the end. So, I wondered, why did God bestow his favor on my grandfather, yet another man – a hard-working young Christian down the street – met his end in a motorcycle accident?

No one, other than my dad, proffered an opinion when I inquired (and I inquired a lot). Dad came to a very practical conclusion, his stock-in-trade.

“Son,” he said. “Riding a motorcycle is dangerous."

So, there you have it. A young man died because riding a motorcycle can be risky. It was not an issue of being blessed or not being blessed. I'm sure many looked upon that tragedy and perceived themselves as blessed by comparison. In reality, they just led safer lives.

I believe in cause and effect. Smoke too much, bad things might happen. Drink too much, bad things might happen. Give the finger to the wrong person on the interstate, bad things might happen. Buy sushi at a convenience store, bad things might happen. Conversely, walk a mile every day, good things will likely happen. Apple a day? Good things will likely happen. Love your enemies, good things will likely happen (in the long run, so I've read).

But, of course, there's the seemingly random. My grandfather's good fortune? I suspect it had a lot to do with genetics. Speaking of which, basketball legend Pistol Pete Maravich dropped dead at forty, playing a pick-up game with friends. He was in California to do a radio show with evangelical author James Dobson. Was Pistol Pete lacking in blessings that day? No, he had a heart defect. He'd carried it from the day he was born. Through all his fame and glory, it was there.

To the dumb question, “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: why not?  Christopher Hitchens

Long ago, from a human perspective, the Great Fire in the sky was deemed a god. It provided warmth and helped the crops grow. The Great Fire moved across the sky throughout the day, the moon throughout the night. Both existed to provide for mankind. It was obvious to our ancestors; their home was the center of the universe.

Of course, our home is not the center of the universe. Far from it, and that troubles many (while comforting others). We are more similar to our ancestors than we like to believe, which also troubles many. We often attribute meaning where there is none. Cause, sure. Meaning, no. We are sometimes noble, usually innocuous, sometimes malevolent. We come and go. Many bad human beings experience good fortune. The meek? Not so much, but they are going to inherit the earth, so I've been told. I hope that is true.

Coda: obviously, it is perfectly fine to tell others to have a blessed day (I'm in favor of any pleasant interactions between members of our species now days). It is worth noting, however, it's not unlike having a Jesus-fish on your car. You're making a claim to a particular team.

And the world is watching.


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