Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Nose Knows

"sinuous smells"

Evolution has given us five senses to perceive an internally consistent 'reality' of the world around us. Yet we somehow neglect the sense of smell and give it little importance. I agree it's a base sense, perhaps not half as sophisticated as vision, for the processing of which we devote a lot more brain space. We give so much importance (and rightly so) to seeing, that experiencing the world around us is mostly visual. And since language mirrors ours experiences, we have invented several dramatic verbs for the act of seeing. We can look, behold, observe, witness, perceive, spot or simply eye. Yet to experience a fragrance, we can only smell it, or perhaps at most sniff it (and even that makes us look like a dog).

In spite of how much we take our sense of smell for granted, or not give it the respect that's due to it, the truth remains that our most basic behaviours are driven by it. Sexual arousal is governed directly by the sense of smell, whether one is consciously aware of it or not. Doesn't taking a deep breath near your lover's hair give you a rush through your carotid arteries, and you feel the blood gushing through your neck? And although there's a lot of debate about it, I'm almost certain that humans do detect sex-pheromones and use it to judge sexual attractiveness. You can google the sweaty t-shirt experiment for more on this. Not just sex, also to enjoy a meal, and to fully appreciate it, tastebuds must be aided by the aroma of the food to let us experience the full flavour of the cinnamon or the garlic in it. You know how drab foods taste when you have a cold and your sense of smell is down. Aversive responses are also strongly determined by smell. If a place has dangerous fumes, or if food-stuff has gone bad (and you should avoid eating it) the nose is what you should trust first.

In our evolutionary past, we must have used the nose a lot more than today. Every breath would tell us about our surroundings, whether a predator is approaching, whether the air is polluted or whether food is around. Smell filled in for what was not visible. Today, if we could (and I'm sure we still can), we should be consciously receptive to our sense of smell. As soon as one gets out of home, one should take a deep breath and experience the multitude of smells around. You would be surprised at the insight about your surroundings that it would give you. Try consciously taking a deep long breath to smell the air around and you would immediately know what's cooking. The nose knows way more than you give it credit for. Let's try not losing it in evolution.


Shazia said...

Good point Sujaan. :)
My nose, however, never lets me forget its presence. Aaachhoooo!

Koffee beanzz said...

I often associate various smells with scent of a certain deo always reminds me of one of my crushes from school :D

Angika said...

Nice. I like the idea that there are so many synonyms for 'seeing' and not as many for 'smelling' :) How can you forget the capacity of some noses to detect bromide in ppm quantities? :D

reema said...

:)..took a long deep breath nd smiled afterwards

p.s: loving the chhobi!!

Ranga said...

Ah! Is this the reason behind the cringing of the nose and the rolling of the tongue by you know who?

little boxes said...

lovely thought!
i smell food before eating it :)

deepteshpoetry said...

Nice one really!happy new hv u bn?drop by my blog soon...been a while..miss ur cmnts