More musings from 2000: Ah, the sweet odour of dried cow dung.*


I think of the sense of smell as being more emotional, more personal than the senses of sight and hearing. I want to say it’s a smaller sense like taste and unlike the senses of sight and hearing, yet it can be a window on so many aspects of the physical world unavailable to sight and hearing.

For instance, I love the smell of pepper and oregano on my pasta and the smell of wood fire on my hands. These are intimate, close smells, but I also love the smell of the ocean as it fills my nostrils to busting with a panoply of pleasant and sometimes less pleasant odours. I love the smell of the forest on a hot summer day, yet I love the close odour of my body, washed and unwashed and the smell of my earwax. Sometimes odours are overwhelming like the smell of urine on a crowded street in Paris or how Kye Bay used to stink of raw sewage before they cleaned it up a few years ago. Sometimes I find odours repugnant like that of vomit yet I find the odour of dried cow dung strangely compelling.

Metaphorically, I love to smell or sniff out clues like a detective when I do research. There is very little more exciting in my work than being on the trail of a bit of an idea or concept that I need to bring together with previously gained bits of knowledge into a whole higher level of understanding.

By the way, I used the concept of exciting in the last paragraph. What is it about excitement that seems to be so compelling to us, or at least to marketers? Why do cars, clothes, scents, detergents, appliances, flooring, and just about everything else have to be so damned exciting? Is there a certain odour that’s produced with excitement that attracts us? Is it an evolved trait or a cultural mechanism used by salespeople to get us to buy things? Should I pursue this line of thinking? It’s really just a smelly little speculation, so probably not. I have bigger fish to fry and smell up my metaphorical kitchen.

*Slightly edited in the name of good taste.

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