Senses

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It is an interesting thing to discover how many senses we have, whether distinct or not. I was even more interested about multi-sensory integration but that subject proved a bit dry, whereas it is anything but when you experience it – I’ll stick with experience, if I may!

But what I found the most interesting of all is the link not only with other senses (official or not), but how senses link with volition, memory, anticipation, expectation and a few other things to create a life form that colours the gloomiest of years. This is what you may share with friends if what you’re after is a deep philosophical discussion about what is normal

Sight is perhaps the first sense one thinks of. It may also be the sense most linked to memory and pleasure. It can be educated (“look where you want to go, not at the other driver”, thank you, my friend) and indulged (how many photo albums did you say you have? No, it doesn’t matter if they’re virtual!). And the anticipation of seeing mountains used to make my tummy roil in a most genuine manner…. I love mountains, you know, and I used to see them only once a year.

Hearing is the next best thing in my opinion and I am not alone – think Sean Connery and your absolute favourite piece of music. And now imagine your body getting ready to dance and the hollow feeling inside that tells you the music is there to replace whatever imperfect organs you might have been born with.

Smell is an odd one. So necessary when it comes to food, so distinctly specific about its preferences (my limits are durian and coriander leaf/cilantro). But I also remember dancing close to a man I liked and respected with good qualities like strength and laughter…. And thinking “he is not mine, he doesn’t smell mine”. Which, of course, makes me the type who carries a small piece of carton with the fragrance of a loved one… even though it is not the same, never the same!

Taste (and flavour) is quite direct in its own way. Orange juice, tomato-based sauces, hot tea with milk and sugar, chocolate… the small bursts of pleasure that can accumulate in fireworks explosions, Ratatouille style… and the odd impulse to bite chubby infant calves or a lover’s shoulder.

And let’s not forget touch. Velvet and silk, soft flower petals, whipped cream, pet fur, starchy linen, mossy boulders, tree trunks and warm sand, popping bubble wrap, ticklish feather dusters… but also the invisible desire for human touch. Children die or fail to thrive without it, we seem to crave it even when we’re pretty convinced we don’t need it. But Virginia Satir said it best: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

What’s your number?

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Puzzle

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Interesting… we don’t know the origin of this word, it seems to have appeared about 430 years ago and accumulated a few related meanings, including the one of a “mystery”, which this word already is… ah, the snake biting its own tail 🙂

And a mystery it is, sometimes, when the wings of the butterfly are long turned to pixie dust but the hurricane over the Pacific is in full swing and things click in places you had never expected but, looking back, you have searched for and arranged your life so that they may be found.

It is, after all, being open to experiences and willing to go on the pathways that open, as I was discussing with friends just last night. One of those nights when, over good food and good drinks (sage tea, as it happens 😛 ) the discussion is led towards the very subjects your heart didn’t know it needed but recognized it immediately as necessary. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I am not good at chitchat and only tolerate it until the other person is comfortable enough to delve a bit. The price I pay, I guess 🙂

It happens sometimes, when you have been quietly unsatisfied with something (could be a situation, your job, a relationship) AND you are willing to leave yourself open to chance, that you are steered on pathways you hadn’t thought of before. That willingness is key though, and rarely found in lives that we try to control and box in routine. Not that routine is bad… it’s just not enough, not for ever.

I was pondering this earlier yesterday, trying to figure out what it is that keeps us bound. Fear comes to mind, and comfort, plus expectations and upbringing. After all, don’t we sometimes stay in relationships (and jobs and other situations) because it is expected of us? Because we fear hurt (unemployment, rejection, loneliness, pain)? Because it is not perfect but it’s not yet at “tipping point” (note to self, find the book and read it, if it’s as good as the others, it’s worth it!).

Those expectations, the fear, the comfort, are tied to our past and shape our present. We cling, like a child looking at the ground from up high, gathering the courage to jump. Sometimes the child will jump on its own, but most of the time a little encouragement from parents helps (later, goading from its peers helps as well, not always at the right time). Is this, then, what we need? Is the child in us in need of companionship and encouragement to let go of the fear and jump? And who can offer this once you’re an adult and your friends are just as cautious as yourself?

Ah, but not all of them are like that, surely? Can’t we all think of a person in whom life seems to flow hotter, who is less afraid it seems, who sometimes makes us uncomfortable not because they reproach us anything, but because we fear to disappoint? Hmm, that fear again…

But isn’t this person, usually called a “troublemaker” or a synonym in a fond voice and with a bit of a smile on your lips, offering even more fear – of the unknown, of the uncertain? When should we listen? And when should we just ask for the bill and leave?

Quality

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There are many things I admire in people. Some are qualities, others are skills (it’s difficult to differentiate between them though…). Don’t get me started on talking about qualia or we’ll be here until tomorrow! 🙂

Some of the qualities I admire I also strive to encourage in myself. Others, as I know very well, will be forever out of my reach, I can only admire them and try not to envy 🙂

Bravery is probably the first on any of my lists. I don’t mean daring feats and adventurous inclinations, although they are brave and I am grateful for the freedom they bring to those of us left behind. Most brave acts though are nothing special to anyone else. It comes down to choice of action actually, not always taking the easy way for yourself. Some would say that immigration is brave, and yet I never considered mine so because I did it for love, and where’s the bravery in that? But when a relationship doesn’t work and you are gearing yourself to tell him so, and you make scenarios in your head and you know for sure that an easy way would be to just behave badly and get dumped… but instead you gather your courage, walk those steps and tell him straight that it’s not working out and you don’t want to be together anymore… well, I admire that!

Keeping your word comes very close on the tails of bravery. I don’t set much store by honesty in itself as too often it is not feasible, desirable or practical. Ideally it is a great thing, but there are too many people for that ideal to work. It is all I can do to keep lying to a minimum and try very hard not to lie to myself too much. I expect people in general to lie, prevaricate, avoid, evade or distract from the truth and that is a survival mechanism linked to personal interest. I won’t pretend I am not hurt by it and maybe I am too cynical, not too mention vain enough to accept lies at face value. I may not consider looks to be very important but I still won’t like to be told I am fugly 🙂 But keeping one’s word, that I insist on.

Kindness is such an overarching subject, I don’t even know where to start defining it. It has a lot to do with empathy, understanding, acceptance but true kindness feels personal and that is what I am looking for. I have no desire for charity in the pity sense or even in the general sense of “you are people and I love all people”. If you are kind, then be kind to me, not to my species. If you are kind, then be happy when you are with me. If you are kind, then pay attention to me, not to your God or Goddess who prescribed kindness for you. Selfish, ain’t I? 🙂

Wisdom is another difficult one. Intellect in itself is rather off-putting for me, unless some of the above qualities round up the edges a bit. Analysis is all very well when you have a problem but logic only takes you so far when it comes to feelings, and that is what I am about. Experience comes close, in that the sheer quantity of life happening over years carries a attraction. But the learning that comes to some from that experience, ah, that is priceless! It is not guaranteed – how many of us repeat our mistakes? But when it happens, I could gladly stay and listen for ages, then come back again and again, never tiring, always trying to find ways to repay the lessons I am receiving.

Qualities… have I even scratched the surface?

Lists

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Being December, things get busy. Two parties in one day when the rest of the year you can get through a month without one. I like this kind of busy, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I feel the need to make lists. Lists of presents. Lists of things to do. Lists of things that need to be bought. Lists of parties. Lists of people to get together in one room at one of the parties already listed… ok, so that list and the other list can now be combined 🙂

You see what I mean?

Then there are other things. Lists of dreams and projects and decisions and resolutions and budgets etc. I am the type of person who would much rather start a project now than in January. I don’t get worked up, motivated, I tend to lose patience with something that I am waiting for… the operative word being patience, of which, as you know, I have none. 🙂

So I was thinking of experiences. Because while I need to plan some things, others get better the fresher they are. It is a long-standing joke in my family that New Year’s party planning starts at the end of November, but the decision is made on the 31st (or the 30th if travel is required, but not always). Then you know who’s going to be there but not necessarily where and in what way it’s going to be so you either go with the flow or get upset. I’d rather go with the flow, but then I happen to like the people I spend the New Year party with.

Experiences are not limited to parties and travel though (although they are on my mind as 1. I am going to do both and 2. I haven’t had any for a while). I was also thinking of other experiences. Being a bit of a nerd, it is easy to limit myself to books as they give me such pleasure each time. But then I also remember that books are not alone.

Music comes next, but it becomes difficult. Books are easy as I am very clear about what I like and what would suit my mood for the day (ok, hour, as I usually have more than one book on the go at the same time). Music… not so easy. Music without words is the norm if I am anxious, stressed, sad or upset. One step up from that is choral music, especially Gregorian, if I need courage on the way. Then it’s a free for all mostly, drawing the line at hip hop and punk.

Looking at things also comes easy to someone who reads. Paintings, architecture, sculpture, museums, gardens, nature in general.

Movement is another one of my things. Dance mostly, as I prefer to read theatre plays (I know, weird, eh?). I remember being mesmerized by Chinese ballet when I was a child, need to look into it again. And Cirque de Soleil is definitely on any list of things to do in this lifetime. Let’s not forget the natural movement, either. Hiking is preferred, although walking will do in a pinch. I am interested in mushrooms lately, need to find a nice pine plantation and see what I can scrounge, combining movement with eating, which I also enjoy. Speaking of food, what to experiment with? I’ve tried icecream and liqueurs to go with it, now let’s try something else that’s summery and yummy… salads and other light dishes.

See, lists are useful, no denying. But I think what I like most about lists is that they are motivational.

As in, no excuses! 🙂