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Scent from paradise
I read a remark, once, in a commentary on the Biblical creation story that when people were expelled from paradise all of their senses were diminished, with the exception of smell. I wish I remembered the source; it was at least several hundred years old. Nonetheless, what struck me about it was the matter-of-fact way it was mentioned, as if any contemporary reader would have found this obvious. For us in the modern world, smell has almost ceased to exist.

It's interesting to think what it would be like to live in a world where the sense of smell is clearly the one possessed of all its faculties, of a great intricacy and precision. One could try to chalk this up to the fact that in pre-modern times there were no sewers and no widely available prescription glasses; but surely there's more to it than this. Why not hearing, for instance?

What senses do you rely on? Which are strongest for you?
Interesting perspective.  In my view, smell is the most important of the senses.  Because of the placement of the olfactory bulb in the brain, it more easily evokes memories, particularly emotional memories.

I became interested in scent through a friend who blended his own incense.  Together, we started a business in which we blended perfumes keyed to custormers' astrological charts, their preferences for particular ingredients, and their stated desires for what they wanted to manifest in relation to wearing the scent.  We learned the basics of natural perfumery.... how bass notes are combined with middle notes and high notes, and the associations of various scents with sun, moon, and the planets, with earth, air, fire, and water, and with increasing or decreasing aspects of life which concerned the individual.

What was interesting to me was the reactions of individuals to smelling a variety of smells.  Some are repulsed by what others find exquisite.  But what was even more interesting was that people would spontaneous discuss memories of life events associated with some of the smells, and that most often, memories associated with feelings of well-being were evoked by those oils customer's eventually selected for their unique perfume blend.

Incidentally, I lost a lot of money in this business; it would take on average about 20 hours to blend a perfume and the oils cost sometimes as much as $500/fl. oz. I was charging $60 for a dram, which is equal to 1/8 oz.
Hi Solveig and Joanne,
I definitely respond very strongly to smell -- I have a friend who has a lot of essential oils and it's always kind of amazing for me to play with them. But I definitely don't feel like it's a grammar I understand -- certain things make an impression, others less, others are a bit grating, but there's not a coherence or any kind of a larger system that I can use to make sense of it. There are certainly all kinds of resonance (this reminds me of the grass on the lawn outside my grandparents' house the summer when I was ten...) but that's different from having a system. Maybe this is because smell isn't so much part of our vocabulary these days, so unless you know a lot about perfume or wine you can't really place scents on a continuum related to other scents.

Maybe the way to describe my reaction to smells it that it's like the way you might respond to food if you had no idea how to cook. Well, I'm not a bad cook, but I don't have any idea where to begin with smell -- and what exactly would I try making? Joanne, your story about perfume is interesting  -- did you feel like it gave you a lot of insight into smell as it affects day to day behavior? Is your sensory reaction to the world different as a result?
Smell is a peculiar kind of sense, one I don’t particularly find useful, certainly not compared with the other ones. I would like to use perfume more because of the idea behind it (like wearing nice clothes and jewelry), which makes one feel attractive as a woman, rather than for the sheer pleasure of feeling the scent on me. I find that smelling strongly (even a good smell) makes it hard for me to concentrate on things. Many years ago I enjoyed very much reading “The perfume” by Patrick Süskind, but honestly I didn’t quite get the amount of passion described in this book and generated by this sense.    
Books Discussed
Perfume the Story of a Murderer
by Patrick Suskind

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