Incense

[NOTE: I wrote this before I left to keep the amusement going when I’m long hauling like today. Hope you enjoy]

The olfaction sense experience is an often overlooked thing, which is a bit ironic, because it’s not under your nose… it actually IS your nose!

It’s also quite important because as everyone knows, olfaction, taste and our trigeminal receptors are the things that combine to contribute to our ability to distinguish flavor. Alright, maybe not everyone knows it to that level of detail, but they at least have a sense of it. (Sorry, that pun was too juicy to resist… heh… juicy… okay, I’ll stop.) Our tongues can only distinguish among a measly five distinct qualities of taste. Our noses on the other hand, can distinguish among hundreds of substances, even in very minute quantities. So without olfaction, we might as well just boil everything that we eat because it’s would end up pretty bland anyway.

Beyond just besting out our taste-buds, the nose is a far more complex experiential tool to us in other areas as well.

Relaxation, invigoration and reflection are just a few of the subconscious things that can be evoked solely through an amazingly small number of tiny molecules wafting through the air. For example, the scent of baking might bring back memories of your childhood when your mother used to bake holiday treats for the family to enjoy. Or if that one is a little too cliché for you, how about this… with all of the cases of unfaithful partners and love triangles that are out there and all of the heated emotions they stir up, when have you ever heard about a case where a fist fight broke out in a flower shop?

Scents that evoke the subconscious in this way can be, among other things, as simple or complex, as specific or vague, and as common or esoteric as that which they draw from our higher selves and softly describe.

By softly, I mean that they, by their nature are more akin to a whisper in your ear. Like a suggestive thought implied through the context of a conversation rather than its content or something that is not too dissimilar from déjà vu, where you are sort of remembering something, but there’s a kind of haziness that keeps you from being able to quite put your finger on it. Of course, sometimes a scent will walk up and punch you square in the nose (sorry, sorry) and draw a very clear picture for you. But when that happens it’s because the scent reminded you of something that you then drew forth from direct memory. Whereas what I’m referring to in this case are those experiences where something is evoked rather than directly concluded.

You probably think it’s odd that I’ve actually put any thought into this subject, let alone that I’m silly enough to actually write about it. (Then again, if you know me at all, you probably just think I’m both odd and silly regardless.) However I’ve been quite the oenophile and my love for coffee has had me really getting my nose into all kinds of roasts lately. And now, most recently, I’ve rediscovered my appreciation for incense. Not the cheap, dipped in perfume, core-based ones common to China and India mind you, but the finely crafted ones that are made in places like Japan.

Before you admonish me for being frivolous. I do have enough fiscal sense to draw the line at how much I’m willing to buy incense for. For example, if it’s cheaper to roll up and burn a $20 bill than it is to burn what’s in the box I give it a pass… well, unless it was a pretty big box. That being said, we have a friend in Japan that I’m thinking about asking a favor of because there are a few types of incense that just don’t make it out of Japan due to local demand and its limited quantities and I’d really love to experience them for myself and I would be willing, within a limited scope, to pay a little extra for that opportunity.

One last interesting thing that deserves pointing out which relates to common sayings… and leave to me to notice such a trifle… but have you ever noticed that while your eyes can deceive you and that you may not always be able to believe what you hear, but you can always trust your nose?

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~ by ghendar on December 14, 2009.

One Response to “Incense”

  1. You may not know I cook by smell. I can smell salt in very small quantities and sugar among other things. Don’t let me cook when I have a cold, it is not good.

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