Old Fashion Olfaction.

June 22, 2008

Silence.  No noise other than the whir of my computer, the keys of my board and the birds outside.  Sweet relief.  I am suffering a nullification of my consciousness.  Sleep deprived for four days.  Catching a nap wherever, whenever they roam.  I should be sleeping but having thought about sleeping so intensely, I am kind of weary of it.  So it’s coffee instead.  Caffeine straight to the head.

You ever get the feeling your nervous system is no longer centralized?  You can derail your breathing by thinking about it.  Different nervous system (I think!).  This function falls under a different name at least.

I’ve often wondered, always in jest, if I am handicapped.  If we have five senses and one of them is suddenly turned off, would you not agree the resulting condition is a handicap?  Blindness, deafness – both very challenging conditions.  But what about those people who can’t touch?  Or can’t taste?  Or smell?  Are these three senses any less important?  Yeah, I know they are, but how much less?

If you ask me, I couldn’t tell you which is more important sight or hearing.  I’d think sight is.  To rank the senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste.  My rationale for this ranking is in terms of necessity for survival.  I switched smell & touch around a few times, so I’m not sure which is more essential. 

We rely on smell as a distant early warning system in the approach of an enemy, or in searching out prey.  Hunters try to stay downwind for a reason.  However, the sense of touch informs us when something is hurting, infected or potentially dangerous to our body.  I don’t know, but this certainly isn’t an exhaustive argument one way or the other.

In the wild, loose your sight or hearing and you’re in trouble, more so with the loss of sight.  Loose both and you’re doomed.  After that, losing your sense of smell would put you at a disadvantage when enemies are still a distance away and you could’ve had time to elude.  Loosing your sense of touch would put you at a disadvantage when things are closer, close enough to touch.  However, loosing smell or touch does not guarantee your demise.

Taste is a mere trophy sense (or is it?), so falls last in the ranking.

How many times is a fire detected by sight before smell?  How many times are gas leaks sensed by sight, hearing or touch, before smell or taste?  You see where I’m going with this.  Everything is essential in certain regards.

Did you know that most of your refined sense of taste is determined by your sense of smell?  Taste buds detect only four things – sour, sweet, salty and bitter.  Oh, the tongue detects texture.  So there are five gross categories of classification in the mouth.  That’s taste for you.  All the refinement of the mouth is in the nose.  For instance, the difference between a lemon and a grapefruit is mostly aroma (and a little bit of bitterness – trust me!).

If you loose your sense of smell, you also loose most of your sense of taste.  Double whammy, not only have you lost a full sense, another one is cut in half.  You’re operating with three and a half senses.  If you’re not handicapped, you’re definitely disadvantaged, but not doomed to death in the wild.

There’s the jest of it – here’s the rest of it.

Without a sense of smell one misses the hunger generated from the aroma of cooking.  One misses the arousal from the aroma of their partner.  One cannot smell that wonderful baby odour.  Or a dewy spring morning.  No flowers.  No farts.  Nothing.  All these things add peaks and valleys to our emotions.  You know – the mise-en-scene of life, the full ambience of being.  So where your emotions go this far, mine stop here, a little closer to the base line.

There is an entire dimesion of experience in which those without smell can partake.  The world is has a little less life, a little less beauty, a little less depth.  Oh well.  I didn’t really appreciate when I had it, so what’s the difference?