Monday, 16 July 2007

Functionally anosmic

Blind and numb, deaf and dumb, these are amongst the commonest of signifiers. To lose our sense of sight, or hearing, or communication, or to become leprous or stricken, are fears most people have experienced. But challenged in the street I'd bet not one person in ten could put a name to the condition of lack of a sense of smell.

As it happens, I am functionally anosmic. Of course, this does not incommode me as much as losing sight or hearing would; but it is no very pleasant thing for all that, and I'm curious as to why it has so low a profile in the world as a whole as to be, effectively, nameless (why should anosmia be anomic?) I wonder if there isn't a degree, even, of wish-fulfillment in this: smell is how hairy beasts navigate their world; by excising smell from my sensorium I move symbolically away from the bestial and towards an existence of pure mentition. That's is a spurious and even rather stupid rationale, of course; but I wonder if it isn't part of the explanation. We have words for blindness and deafness because we fear becoming blind and deaf; as to losing our sense of smell ... well we don't feel too strongly about the matter, and if anything it is probably a beneficient development rather than anything else.

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