Sense and Sensibility

One of the funniest things I ever heard was a child saying that his friend had cut his tongue on a cold drink can and all his taste buds had fallen out! Well, hopefully all that happened was that he had a small cut on the tip of his tongue and was still able to taste for the rest of his life! It must be dreadful being unable to taste food, smell fragrances, feel discomfort or pain in parts of one’s body (within reason of course!), hear sound or see the beauty all around. Our five senses are such an important part of being human.

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See no evil, Hear no evil, Taste no evil

A relative who was getting on in years once said that if she had to choose between being unable to hear or unable to see, she would probably choose having poor eyesight but still be able to enjoy listening to music. A difficult choice, and one which I believe none of us would willingly want to have to make. Losing one of our senses, after enjoying them for a good part of our lives, has to be traumatic in any event.  Experts tell us that our other senses step in to compensate for the loss but surely that would only be the case in very young people or if one or more of the senses is absent from birth? I do hope that I never have to put that theory to the test!

What is more delicious than waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee? Oh, hang on-what about the appetizing smell of frying onions? Bacon sizzling away is another winner for those who are allowed to eat pork. The list could go on and on and the olfactory nerves have already awakened the taste buds (those which have not been lost through a sharp edged cold drink can!) which are now fired up and raring to go! Opening the window and taking a deep breath after the rain is decidedly therapeutic – especially if it hasn’t rained for quite a while. No more dust in the air! Divine! Yes, the power of smell is very important to a quality of life. Perfumers have known all about this since time immemorial and we pay a premium when we buy a bottle of their expertise!

What about touch? The warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you cuddle a new puppy or a new baby for that matter (depends on your preference of course), not to mention the smell of the puppy breath as well. We will leave out the new baby smell as it’s not always one of baby powder and soothing lavender lotion.  How about the comfort of a friend’s hug when the days have been tough? We often tend to under estimate the value of being able to feel through our sense of touch. Babies need to be touched from the moment they are born. Premature infants in incubators are known to respond positively to gentle touch whilst fighting to survive. Humans are tactile creatures and many of us tend to ignore the importance of touch by being afraid of seeming to be needy.

Friends and family are so often scattered all over the world these days, and to be able to pick up the phone and hear your loved ones’ voices can make all the difference when it comes to coping with the miles that separate you. Fortunately there are a variety of up-to-date devices which assist with hearing loss which can be beneficial in many cases. One’s voice is unique, and often even age does not result in it changing. How often have you heard something which transports you back in time to another place and another age? It may have been someone’s voice, a song, a piece of music or even the sound of a plane flying over your house.

Sight is something we take for granted until the day we realise that the writing seems to be getting smaller or it is becoming difficult to read road signs. Fortunately, whether young or old, there are many forms of treatment. For children, wearing glasses is now in vogue – unlike those years in the past when a child was often the only one in the school who had to wear them and often got teased and called “four eyes” and asked if they wore them when they were asleep! Apart from deterioration due to age, with cataract removal surgery, lens implants, and an often performed procedure to cure short sightedness we are living in a world where we should be able to enjoy good sight for most, if not all, of our lives. However, even with 20/20 vision there are probably many people out there who remember the embarrassment of seeing someone you are sure you know and calling their name, only to find out that it’s not that person at all! So, sometimes, the sense of sight can be deceiving.

Eyes need to be treated with care as strange and often dangerous things can happen.  An example is the true story of the over-worked, young mother trying to juggle a full-time job with bringing up a toddler, who grabbed a bottle of eye drops one morning to ease her dry eyes. Imagine her horror when she suddenly found herself totally unable to see, and her irises had become enormous. In desperation she rushed to the pharmacy for help. She took the bottle of eye drops with her and was horrified to discover that they were the ones the vet had prescribed for her dog’s eye infection! Never again will she store human and canine medication on the same shelf! Yes, she did recover the full function of her eyes, after a few days of blurry vision!

For many people their favourite sense is the sense of taste and it would be politically incorrect to mention the way in which this is often obvious to outside observers! Being blindfolded and asked to identify various foods can be quite nerve wracking as one is often suspicious if the food is not visible. Chefs know the importance of the presentation of the food to be served.  If it looks appetising then one is more likely to savour the flavour. Even the most delicious food can fail the taste test due to its messy appearance.  Imagine just how dull life would be if we had a yellow pill for breakfast, a green one for lunch and a red one for dinner.  Many wives would welcome an advance such as this with open arms, but there is a lot to be said (and millions of ardent food lovers will vouch for this) for enjoying one’s food.

Many starving people in the world will never be in a position to understand the true enjoyment of experiencing different flavours of food, as for them food is just a necessity and not a gastronomic delight. For those fortunate enough for this not to apply and who have their taste buds intact and are able to thoroughly enjoy their sense of taste – Bon Appetit!

A lot has been written about a sixth sense and that will be covered in a later blog which I trust will prove to be of interest.

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