Smell is our oldest sense. Collectively, humans can detect billions of different odors. This has played a central role in our evolution, leading to such literary declarations as Fe Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. The sense of smell has made headlines recently because a microscopic organism has been infecting human brains, disabling the senses of smell and taste: a virus not to be trifled with. But then, evil is rarely to be trifled with, right God?

No answer. The silence isn’t holy. But some days, I just keep talking.

And about this notion of evil, God. Who’s evil? What is it? As you know, I don’t like dust settling on things again and again or ashes as a final destination. I like fresh sheets, crisp salad, and good news. Call me shallow, but that’s the way it is, God. I would prefer to be comfortable, adored, young, well-fed, and smart. And whatever deprives me of what I want, well, let’s call that evil, shall we?

My one-way chat takes a nasty turn as the sun intensifies through the window and I see myself reflected on my computer screen in all my dismal glory. “No wonder God is busy elsewhere,” I say to my image in a mean voice. “You’re all the things you dread.” I consider the procedures and surgeries available to make me seem younger, more adorable, smarter. This breaks my fall. My distended ego deflates, and I give myself a smile that naturally lifts the wrinkles.

See, God? Here I am, smiling. All done judging. C’mon by.

I sit. I force myself to say prayers of lovingkindness for the twisted senator, the mouth-breathing fools on the airplanes, lazy neighbors, unkind people, even those who torture, deprive, and dehumanize. I give thanks for my senses, even though I can smell the blood of the disgusting humans who are destroying the planet. Oh, I wish I were the giant.

This last thought finally rouses The Presence. Holy Words, like sleek black animals, invade my brain. “You can’t eat your way to heaven,” they say in a low growl. “You can’t smell your way to salvation. You can’t see the face of God, and you can’t force your way in.” The Words collect around The Presence, and The Presence turns to me, taking the shape of a very old friend.

“The thing that shines in the broken moment, the shelter of translucent skin, these are lessons. Very little of who you are or what you do is to your credit or entirely your fault. Regardless, you will never be the giant. For this, be grateful. Go listen to holiday music. Inhale cinnamon and vanilla.”

“But that seems so…” I pause.

“Shallow?” asks my Very Old Friend. “Simple?”

“Yeah,” I nod. “It’s like giving up. Surrendering.”

“Yes,” my Very Old Friend says. “Much harder than it seems. But you can do it.  I’ll help.”

9 thoughts on “Senses

  1. Rita, I relate so much to this essay. The irritation with all that’s wrong in the world, followed by the surrender to it. Obviously we can’t stop trying to improve our world, but when we pay attention to the good and are grateful, goodness and truth reign. Thank you! And Happy New Year to you & John. 🙂

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  2. The primacy of senses is usually overlooked. When we were forming a perceptual frame work of our world, the “memories” were somatic. Reminds me of a book that has helped me a lot, “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk. Btw, I’m kicking around the notion of having a conversation with god myself!!!

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    1. Yes, van der Kolk has contributed so much to our understanding of trauma. And yes, have a chat–have a lot of chats–with god. He/She will come by almost anytime, but sometimes, the quietness is overwhelming. Other times, the form taken is startling. And still other times, there is great beauty, humor, or intrigue…

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      1. Yes, van der Kolk and many ot,hers are putting such valuable “stuff” on the table for us. If you use Netflix, the “Human” series, in the first episode takes one into the intricacy of the human mind/body, offering a neurological view of how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Happy New Year!

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