Back to Basics 3 – Sense and Sensuality
For the final part of the triad I would like to talk about sensory awareness and maybe try to discern its relevance in day to day living. It comes over in many forms, well five to be precise, one for each of the senses and gives our lives embellishment for variety is the spice of life. Imagine for a moment that everything looked the same, and tasted the same, what a dull life that would be.
Sensory awareness is one of nature’s gifts originally put in place to safeguard Gitane DeMone our health. It evolved over time as we got more discerning. Smell and taste would be a good example so I will start with these. Firstly smell, originally it was put in place as an aid to hunting prey and a defence against the predator and a means to knowing whether something was edible. Now hand in hand with smell on the second point went taste. If it smelt wrong and did not taste right you did not eat it. These two senses are pretty much interlinked for if you lose your sense of smell it impairs your sense of taste. That was basic survival and no more. With time though we evolved past basic survival and these senses evolved with us. We no longer used our sense of smell as a hunting aid and so it got less acute over distance though more refined by way of compensation as did our taste for we started to eat a more varied diet with a penchant for seasoning. Basically we got self conscious about our food, invented gluttony and lived off the fat of the land. I had better elaborate on gluttony awhile so you might get a little understanding. Food as anyone will tell you tastes better when you are hungry and by hungry I don’t mean just peckish I mean hungry. Once this hunger is sated you feel full and stop eating for food seems to lose its taste. With gluttony however you do not eat when you are truly hungry you eat because you like the taste. It gives you pleasure to do this so it satisfies your desire and not your need. The original four types of taste were sweet, sour, bitter and salt. These had their uses for bitter usually meant inedible as there was a good chance it was poisonous. Sour generally meant it had gone off and so was also to be avoided. Sweet told you it was safe and salt being essential to life also had a place. From these four types our sense of taste evolved. We started to blend them together and get different tastes and a more discerning palate. We hungered for the taste and not the sustenance and thus gluttony came into being. The blending of these different tastes went hand in hand with the blending of the different aromas and so our sense of smell also evolved to help us to define them. The ability to taste comes to us through taste buds situated on the tongue and side of the mouth through the medium of saliva. The saliva starts to dissolve the substance and from this you get the taste. The ability to smell is achieved by special receptors called chemoreceptors found in the lining of the nasal cavity. These can detect chemicals that are either carried in the air or dissolved in water and they transmit to the brain to be decoded and detected as a particular smell.
Next on the list would be touch, well more precisely pain. Another sensory aid put in place so you might not get burned. Our whole body is sensitive to touch, through it we discern temperature and pressure and detect pain. It is a safeguard to our physical health and our well being externally for it lets you know, through the medium of pain, when things are amiss. Touch can also give pleasure and be very therapeutic. Certain parts of the body react to touch. The base of the feet would be a good example to pursue. Any reflexologist will tell you that at the base of your feet is a map of the body. By manipulating certain parts of the base (the top and toes also have a place) you can administer healing all across the body. When we used to walk bare footed we used to heal ourselves en route for the uneven floor would be our masseur and do a fairly good job in the process. The ability to touch is made possible by specialised sets of receptors located in the skin but also in muscles and other internal areas of the body. These transmit, via different nerve pathways, to the brain to be decoded and detected.
The next sense on the list is the ability to hear, a very useful tool to have when out hunting or being hunted. It is also there to warn of danger, the rattle snake and the buzzing bee would be good examples as with snow-slides, landslides and other dangerous natural phenomenon. Along with the ability to hear you have the ability to make noise. At its most basic a growl or a warning shout but it has evolved to communication. The ability to hear comes to us through receptors, often hairlike, that vibrate in response to sound waves. These are air vibrations with a frequency between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. They trigger off an electrical impulse in a sensory nerve which is transmitted to the brain which decodes it and interprets it as sound.The ability to make sound comes from the mouths manipulation of the vocal cords through the medium of breath.
Finally, the ability to see, the most useful sensory gift we have. The ability to discern light into colour is done through light receptors in the retina of the eye. These receptors are called Photoceptors and are pigment containing cells. The pigments undergo chemical changes in light of different wave lengths, which generate electrical impulses that travel to the brain via a sensory optic nerve. There are two types of cells containing these pigments, cones which allow for the colour to be detected and rods which allow for night vision for they are sensitive to dim light though they do not detect colour.