Saturday, 28 August 2010

day 18: senses

one more thing about privilege is that we rarely notice we have it. we take so many of the everyday things in our lives so much for granted that we don't even stop to consider what life might be like without those things. or what the people who actually don't have them are going through every day. it's that lack of consciousness that is so often responsible for the cruelty which we mete out to others - most often thoughtless than malicious cruelty, but painful for those on the receiving end nonetheless.

so it's really our responsibility to raise our own level of awareness, to really spend time thinking about what it would be like to be without this, that or the other thing. it certainly isn't the responsibility of those who live without that particular aspect of privilege, because they are already suffering & don't need the burden of re-educating others as well.

today i wanted to consider the privilege that arises from the use of my 5 senses - sight, smell, sound, taste & touch. each gives my life depth, meaning and a range of experiences that enrich my existence. they work in harmony with each other, to make up the experiences of my life, and i'm thankful for each of them. however, i don't mean to say that anyone who doesn't have one or more of these senses can't have an extremely fulfilling life - more fulfilling than mine. i'm hoping i can write this post in a way that doesn't come across like that and sincerely apologise if i fail.

each of our senses is worth a post in itself, but since i have a lot of other things still to cover, i'm going to briefly run through all five of them here. but i'd encourage more reflection on each, both for myself and my readers, because every one of them is a wonder in itself.

let me start with sight, which allows me to appreciate colour and beauty, let's me see where i'm going and what i'm doing. my sight allows me to see my loved ones, to read books, watch movies and television. sight enables me to get full use from the internet, which also allows me to communicate with others. having full eyesight means i can drive a car, but i'll talk more about mobility another day.

smell has been both a positive and negative for me. the negative has been pretty brief though, and is mostly associated with pregnancy, a time when i could barely stand the smell of anything. not even perfume, which was frustrating because i loved perfumes until then and never left the house without a spray of one of the range of perfumes on my dressing table. after pregnancy, i the association of perfumes with nausea was so strong that i couldn't wear any for a long while. now i don't even have a dressing table, and haven't worn perfume in years.

but still, there are so many beautiful smells that i enjoy. fresh baking, and other yummy food smells. the smell of flowers, my favourite being jasmine closely followed by roses. the smell of newborn babies. even yucky smells have their purpose, warning us of dirt and therefore disease or some other danger.

hearing gives me so much pleasure. i'm much more selective in the music i listen to these days, and pretty much avoid pop music these days. but there are few things that satisfy the soul as a much as a beautiful piece of music, with moving or rousing lyrics. sound is also associated with speech and conversations, debate and discussion. it's one of our most important forms of communication, but made more powerful with the addition of sight. we communicate so much with body language & gestures when we speak, one informs the other.

and yet there is radio, which is sound without sight, and which is a very large part of my every day life. despite the wide range of media now available to us, i would hate to have a world without radio - which is why i enjoy being on the board that runs community radio hamilton.

the sweetest sound for me would definitely be the sound of children's laughter. i love to hear my own children laughing, but especially babies. i'm thinking about little ones around 8 months old who will find some little thing funny, and if you keep repeating that thing, they laugh every single time. it's a sound of pure joy and sweetest innocence. i can't think of any other sound that beats it.

taste is pretty much related to food, and i covered that here. taste involves both flavours and textures, and a whole range of sour, sweet & salty. i don't particularly cultivate taste like, for example, gourmands do but am still glad that i can appreciate a well-cooked meal and enjoy a range of tastes.

touch is one of the most under-rated of our senses i think. there is the ability to feel hot or cold, both of which are extremely important and potentially life-saving. there is the ability to feel pain, and i know someone who doesn't have that ability. for a child it is extremely dangerous, for an adult a little less so but still pretty risky. there is the ability to appreciate the smoothness of silk or marble, the richness of velvet, the crispness of cotton & linen, the freshness of water.

but most importantly, touch is one of the ways we express emotion and closeness to our fellow human beings. this is an integral part of our existence, and i recall a letter to the editor i read many, many years ago which was powerful enough to affect me to this day. i can't remember the exact wording, but it was by an elderly woman who wrote about the loss of touch that many people experience in their old age. usually, there is the death of a partner and much less interaction with other family members, which means that older people miss out on touching others. the way she wrote about how much she missed that physical human touch was really sad, and i don't think i've done justice to it at all here.

the sense of touch is the basis of our sexual experiences. many people live without that intimacy and suffer from the lack of it. those who are able to enjoy a fulfilling and respectful sexual relationship have much to be thankful for.

causes to support in this area are the foundation for the blind and deaf aotearoa. there's a whole range of support groups here. i'd also strongly recommend, if you have any elderly relations or friends, to take time to be with them and maybe give them a hug.

for those who struggle because they don't have the use of one or more of their senses, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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