Scent: Repulsive and yet Desirable

Source: Scent

People who lose their sense of smell suffer greater emotional deterioration than people lose their vision. That’s because smell is a powerful way to read emotions.- David Brooks on Social Animal (2012: 16)

The sense of vision is overvalued. It has been suggested that vision is the site of knowledge. To see is to believe they say. Some would even go further as to claim that to see is to know. Convention has it that vision is the most superior sense of all, while other senses such as hearing, touching, tasting and yes smelling are all considered inferior to vision and therefore marginalized.

Unlike the superior sense of vision, the other marginalised senses including but not exclusively the sense of smell cannot be a reliable reference, because how could we verify that what we smell and how we smell are exactly the same thing? For example, imagine looking at a lavender, we can all provide an accurate and homogenous description of it. Although we all know the smell of lavender and would all could agree that what we are smelling is indeed a lavender, the emotions and experiences that the smell of lavender triggers are different from one person to another. While we can reproduce what we see, we cannot really reproduce what we smell nor translate them.

Vision is objective and transcendent, because it requires certain distance and detachment to see the object of gaze objectively. Sense of smell on the other hand is said to be subjective and situated because in order to smell, one has to establish proximity to the object being smelled. Like sense of smell, sense of taste also requires proximity. These two are intertwined. The smell  is so palpable. How many of you who have not eaten a soap and yet claimed that something taste like a soap?

Our civilization has organized smells based on the desirable and good smells from the repulsive and bad smells. We are preconditioned to like the good smell such as the smell of a flower which explains why perfumes are mostly flower scented. We are instructed to reject the smell associated with the uncultivated nature as body odours, sweat, animal extractions both by humans and non-humans.

Tradition dictates that when we encounter repulsive smells, we should reject and contain them. However, it is exactly those what we believed to be repulsive smells are the smells to which we are drawn. The flowery scents of the perfume we buy is just a decoy of the smells we find repulsive, because those repulsive smells that we find most exciting. In other words, when a woman wears a lavender scented perfume, it is not really the smell of the lavender that a man (or another woman) finds exciting, but the natural smell of body secretions of a woman (or a man) we are trained to find repulsive.

You do not believe me? Check the article written Laura U. Marks entitled ‘Thinking Multisensory Culture’. In that article she claims that: ‘The base notes of perfumes, similarly, are often sexual or animal odours that we have learned to find noxious in themselves, yet are seductive when masked. A fine meal or elegant perfume both recalls and refines our animal and vegetable nature. Smell, the chemical communication, is uncanny because it reminds us what we have in common with pigs – and with mushrooms’ (2013: 146). Of course, this article cannot stand as evidence on it’s own, but that could be a lead for further investigation.

References

Brooks, David. Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2012.

Marks, Laura U. “Thinking of Multisensory Culture.” Papenburg, Benita and Marta Zarzycka. Carnal Aesthetics: Transgressive Imagery and Feminist Politics. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013. 144-157.

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Sei Shonagon on Writing

If writing did not exist, what terrible depressions we should suffer from.

Sei Shonagon (c.966-c. 1013)
The Pillow Book

 

shei-shonagon

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 2003: The poet Sei Shonagon (Heyan Period, 749-1185), author of Makura no Soshi. Woodcut by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Replacement: New Blog and New Addiction

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Replacement

When I saw the new word prompt today, there are two things that come into my mind that are very relevant in a certain aspect of my daily mundane life. First, this new blog entitled: ‘Much To Tell About Nothing’ that has been launched just yesterday replacing the blog I have launched years ago. I will no longer refer you to the link of that old blog, because I have changed a lot since then and that old blog site of mine does not represent anymore who I have become today. Second, it has been said that addiction can be cured by replacing it by another addiction. Hence, A new blog site replacing the old and a an old addiction replaced by a new form of addiction. Allow me to ponder a bit on that.

If you will read my About Page, you will find that this blog you are visiting at the moment is a replacement of an older blog I have secured in the past. Yes that is right, I am an impulsive blogger. For some reason, I find blogging so fulfilling which I might ponder in some other blog entries in the future, but not today. The main reason why I have decided to abandon the old blog site and replaced it with the new one, is that while reading my old blog entries, it seems that I am reading pieces written by a different person. They have been written by my younger me. Therefore, this new blog represent a new regime. Again, new regime replacing the old and a new blog is a very nice gesture to mark the recognition of how one’s life gradually transforms.

Second, I am starting to suspect that I might have a predisposition to addiction of any kind. As much as I am ashamed to publicly admit it, I can watch television programs and films more than what is good for me. I feel guilty about it, especially when there are a lot of things that need my attention. I procrastinate. I am a great procrasitinator. Watching television is just an easy way to escape tackling the things that need to be tackled. As I have said, I have just started this blog Sunday yesterday. Since yesterday, I did not watch any television programs or movies at all. Hoera! Hoera! One might exclaim, but I have been glued to wordpress.com since yesterday when I need to work on my research project and to prepare for my presentation in a conference next week. In the country where I live, the day is almost nigh and I have not done anything at all except to write blogs, to read blogs of other bloggers, and to check how many likes or visits I might have received so far. In other words, my watching addiction has been replaced by my blogging addiction.

Viola REPLACEMENT!!

Conventional Wisdom: The more things change, the more they stay the same

This week, go against the grain.

Source: Conventional Wisdom

Challenging the conventional wisdom is a tricky business. When we say conventional wisdom, we are pertaining to those long-held beliefs that are not necessarily true in its empirical sense, but believed to be true because they have been passed to one generation after generation. Obviously, the reiteration of the official stories do not make the narratives more true, but at the same time, the lack of truthfulness of the official stories is not mandatory to make such stories be canonized as the truth.

Now we have come to an age where we are allowed to challenge those conventional wisdom without getting into trouble. We are now modern and progressive as they say to think for ourselves independently unlike our ancestors in the middle-ages, who blindly embraced wisdom imposed to them by the contemporary authorities. Quite understandably, because back in those days, when one slightly deviates from official knowledge, wisdom, or practices, one runs the risk to be burned at the stake on the grounds of heresy.

This might explains why Copernicus was coy about his findings at that time that the earth is not the centre of the universe while implicating that the sun is at its centre. His discovery could get him into trouble. Like for instance, Bruno Giordano who was burned in the stakes because he publicly subscribed to the ideas of Copernicus.

Then, there is Charles Darwin who removed the homo sapience sapience from the centre of all living creatures. On the contrary to what the conventions might say, Darwin postulates that human beings are not transcendent to their environment but rather, integral part of the whole scheme of life. Like other living creatures, human beings are also gradually but continuously changing. While we are at evolution, it is also quite interesting to stress that not only nature evolves, but the way we see things and the way we think of them are also evolving.

Sigmund Freud also did something that was very unconventional in his time. He de-centred the conscious mind when he suggested that we are also governed by the things we do not necessarily know, namely by our sub-conscious mind. It questions whether human beings are really rational, coherent, and controlled governed by reason. There are so many things that we do not know and yet have huge influence in our lives and our whole being. The concept of sub-consciousness transpired during high modernity in which rationality, reason, objectivity, and coherence among many other things are prioritized while irrationality, emotion, subjectivity, and chaos are frowned upon. It is therefore not surprising why most of Freud’s contemporary found his thesis utterly ridiculous.

However, it is important to stress that Sigmund Freud is the first white learned heterosexual man who has actually listened to women and entertained the idea that women have something important to say. At the same time, it should be equally acknowledged that he has also objectified women in the process. Why is the blame always on the mother when things go wrong in our lives? Not to mention how women are vilified in his Seduction Theory, a thesis that I will not address here. The point that I am making here is that while Sigmund Freud and many others are challenging the status quo, another conventions are being sustained. In other words, to quote Donald Donham: ‘in resisting one form of domination, another is reinforced’ (2002:419).

Going back to what has been mentioned at the beginning of this response to this week’s writing challenge, challenging conventions is a tricky business. It is tricky because on the one hand, it might seems that we are challenging the predominantly held views, which needless to say, makes us feel that we have evolved and have achieved a higher level of consciousness than our predecessors, while on the other, we are also sustaining the conventions of linear thinking in which the idea that the people in the past are stupid and backward, while we are today intelligent and progressive. If that might be true, we should worry what the future generation might think of us. For sure, we are committing a crime against humanity and beyond we do not know we are committing.

Darwinian’s evolution theory stresses linear growth as if there is just one way to grow. It sustains the idea that we can only progress forward and that we could only be better, which I doubt very much. Development is unpredictable. It can go in many different ways that are not necessarily progressive, but rather involves many backlashes and step backs.

When Copernicus removed the earth at the centre of the universe, he simultaneously put the sun at the centre of it. By implication, the solar system (although has yet to be coined that time) has become the centre of the universe. Again, the earth has been removed from the centre only to put us once again on the centre. Today, astronomers provide unimpeachable evidences that the solar system is located in the far periphery of the immense entirety of the universe.

To conclude, I challenge the notion that we are indeed capable of challenging the conventions. While we might think that we are interrogating any predominant views held by many others we may or may not find utterly ridiculous, it is quite easy to find oneself in sustaining yet another conventions. Conventions have nothing to do with the truth, but with acclimation. Therefore, a resistance to orthodoxy cease to be an alternative until it has been mainstreamed through acclimation and become the convention itself. Ideas are new and revolutionary until they are not anymore.

In terms of authenticity, whether the narratives are true or not, they become true in the minds of others when such narratives are received, accepted and reiterated. When we challenge those narratives, we are challenging them within the paradigm that sustains the status quo we are challenging in the first place. The notion that we have all evolved and that we are more conscious than people in the past must be interrogated, because I am quite convinced that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

References

Donham, Donald L. “Freeing South Africa: The ‘Modernization’ of Male-Male Sexuality in Soweto.” Inda, Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo. Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader. Malden, Oxford, Carlton: Blackwell Publishing, 2002. 410-427.

Haraway, Dona. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2008.

Yellow

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Yellow

Let me mark the first day of this blog entitled ‘Much To Tell About Nothing’ by participating in today’s Daily Prompt. The daily prompt word is ‘Yellow’ at the day this blog has been launched online. For me personally, responding to the  Daily Post‘s daily prompt means writing without any preconceived plan. When the participants become aware of the daily prompt word/instruction in a particular day, they must begin writing immediately. In other words, the bloggers themselves do not know where the writing will eventually bring them. In most cases, we do not write what we have discovered, but we discover new things when we write.

The colour yellow means many different things for various cultures both in the present and in the past. In most cultures, the bright golden yellow is associated with the sun. The sun and by implication the colour it radiates symbolizes strength and power. There were even civilizations in the past, such as the ancient Egypt amongst many others, who have worshiped the sun as monotheistic god. The sun has been a symbol of potent power that Louis XIV refers to him as the le Roi-Soleil or the Sun King. The colour yellow is ubiquitous in all of his emblem. In ancient China, yellow is an imperial colour. If memory serves me well, I have heard that in those time, only the emperor was allowed to wear an imperial yellow.

Today, yellow means many different things. In the West, yellow is ascribed to gender neutrality. When a baby boy is expected, he is being welcomed with colour blue. On the other hand, when baby girls are expected, we welcome them with colour pink. In that sense, yellow is associated with welcomed uncertainty and the thrill to be surprised. In a modern society today in which we are gaining more and more control of our lives and our future, relinquishing the control to know the sex of the baby can be a very challenging prospect. Therefore, yellow can also be associated with the strength to go against the impulse to have control over everything.

Yellow is in between of two absolute things or the not entirely. For example in the traffic lights. The yellow in traffic light is way of announcing the red light. Yellow is an announcement that the command to stop is about to take place, so that the motorist could prepare themselves. It is a threshold between the stop and the go. It is not entirely stop, but it is absolutely not a go. The yellow is a space in between, the not here and the not there.

Then, there is the cakra from Hindu spiritual traditions I find fascinating. They say yellow symbolizes the Manipura Chakra also known as the Solar Plexus Chakra which I do not fully understand, which is not a problem because I have already accepted that I could not possibly understand everything there is to understand. This chakra is located in our navel and responsible for will power and the source of our power drive. The navel is yellow. Once in our lives, we have shared one chord with our mother connected to our navel. Is it far-fetched to also associate yellow with the unbreakable bond that the mother and her child share?

In Christianity, or at least in Christian festivities, yellow is ascribed to the Easter. Easter is colour yellow which symbolizes resurrection and new life. It marks the end of the fasting and the Holy Week.

Yellow is a very imposing and yet so mysterious of a colour.