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?