I listen to BBC World Service and play scrabble on my tablet while my breakfast oatmeal cools. This morning, I heard the cooing tones of two female backup singers who were being interviewed about their careers. One is American. The other is a Bollywood dubbing voice.
The American sang a few bars at the request of the interviewer. Her voice is magnificent. In response to the praise of the others, she said her voice is a "blessing". Perhaps it was her general tone which rankled. But, the blessing thing is a pet annoyance to me as a scientific and practical observer of life.
To say I am blessed implies that some cosmic power bestowed something upon me intentionally. It implies that I am chosen in some way. It implies that this cosmic superpower has deemed me special. This is utter nonsense. It is also reprehensibly conceited. What is reprehensible about it?
Well, for one thing, it implies that you have the special approval of a cosmic dispenser of treats or talents. This in turn implies that those who are not blessed, like a person with Down Syndrome for example, are somehow disapproved of by the same cosmic dispenser of goodies. Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder. The abysmally unconscious dispensers of Down Syndrome or good singing voices in most cases are birth parents, not a cosmic genius.
Another form of the blessing mishegas occurs in churches and families. Usually these blessings are dispensed by a patriarchal or matriarchal figure upon a supplicant. When bestowed on children, these blessings are synonymous with permission, or relinquishing of parental control to the child's judgment. The adult, acting like the cosmic dispenser of goodies, uses blessings, either behavioral or monetary, to assert his/her dominance. My annoyance here stems from the assertion of religious imagery to effect simple behavioral discipline or education. Scientific explanations and logic would be better for the child's growth as an individual.
When blessings are bestowed in a peer group, like a support group, I am offended. Again, this employs religious imagery, based in a patriarchal view of the Universe, to convey peer support or affection. No adult can bestow any special attribute to another by laying on hands and saying something ludicrously pious. In cases of group hypnosis, the illusion of this transmission of power or benefit may occur, but there is no measurable change over time in either participant. Scientifically controlled studies of faith healers bear this out.