“All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
If we’re lucky we have 5 things we can use to navigate ourselves in the world. Sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Some of us don’t.
We’ve been using them as a means of survival and enjoyment. As we have evolved we’ve also used them to create the world around us. But, are we really using them to their full potential? Let’s find out!
Imagine driving up to a house and getting out of the car. The first thing that hits you is the exterior. What style of architecture is the house? What does the environment look like? Is it warm and sandy? Is the air crisp with a lot of woodlands around? What do the materials inside the house feel like? Are they sleek? Are they rough? Is there a certain scent or fragrance? Any particular sound you hear? Are there any fruits or berries in the garden you can pick? What do they taste like?
Don’t worry if it’s harder for you to imagine certain aspects of the house and environment. It tells you something. First of all it tells you which senses are more acute to you than others. This information could be used to enhance your learning. It also tells you what you could work on.
Here are a few ideas on how to improve your senses.
1. Sight. If you had a hard time getting a visual representation or if the image seemed fuzzy you could try enhancing your vision by doing the following. Close your eyes, breathe deep and cup your hands over them for 2-5 minutes. Make sure not to put any pressure on the eyes themselves, also avoid putting pressure on the sides of your nose. When you open your eyes you should start noticing that colors seem more vibrant and you can get a more detailed image of the world around you. You could also take a closer look at one thing every day and really take in what it looks like, the colors, the textures, the highlights, the shadows and so on.
2. Hearing. Focus on the sounds you hear around you. Pick out one specific sound. Notice the pitch, timbre, volume, velocity, attack, decay, release and sustain. If you can reproduce the sound yourself, try it in different environments, rooms and at different velocities. How does that change how the sound feels to you?
3. Taste. First of all you need to cleanse your palate. Some common things people use for this are: water, unsalted crackers, milk, lemon sorbet and pickled ginger. If you want to build a vocabulary you could start tasting wine, chocolate, whiskey or beer. There are probably other taste societies that you can explore as well. But the most important thing is that you start discerning what flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), textures (crunchy, dry, moist etc) and other characteristics.
4. Smell. To cleanse your nose (blow it!) you could smell the bend of your arm. Your own natural scent cleanses your sense of smell. Take a walk in nature and notice the smells around you. Pick out plants or trees and smell them. Go to a flower shop. Go to a park or garden. Visit restaurants and try to notice specific smells. If you have the weekend off, go visit a farm for some of the most wonderful and hideous smells known to man.
5. Touch. Go to a fabric store and really feel the fabrics. Touch them with different parts of your hands. Stroke them against your face. If the security guards escort you to the exit notice the gentle yet forceful grip they have on your arms.
Well, you guys get the jist of it. Expose yourselves (not like that!) to new experiences. Make sure to take notice of the stuff around you. Particularly stuff you’ve taken for granted. Like right now i’m really noticing the feeling of typing on my keyboard. I’m also remembering what the keys felt like on my brother-in-law’s typewriter. What the keys on my sisters old Commodore 64 keyboard felt like.
That leads me to remember one particular day when I was playing Boulder Dash on that C64 and how I could smell the pea soup my grandmother was making in the kitchen. Oh, god… The taste of that pea soup with some Turun Linnan Sinappi (finnish mustard). I remember how I could hear her humming the way old people hum non-existent melodies (why do they do that?). That in turn makes me think of her shiny blue dress with flowers, how the fabric felt when i’d tug on it to get her attention.
So, why have we been spending our time on this today?
We use these senses every day, we take them for granted. We only ever conciously appreciate them when we’re exposed to people who don’t have them.
Let’s say you do these things, then what?
Use them! Use them as much as you can. As conciously as you can!
When you’re writing a song and get stuck in the story or feel like it’s flat. Start thinking about what senses you can use to describe what they’re thinking and feeling. Can you incorporate a sight, sound, smell, taste or touch in the lyrics? Can you get inspiration from something you’ve come in contact with by focusing on one of these senses?
If you’re designing a product, could it benefit by not just being practical and beautiful? Could you use the other senses to enhance the experience for your customer?
Like I said, these are the 5 senses we can use to enhance our every day life and experinces. Go out there and put them to good use!
Here are some sensible quotes!
“Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.” – Lao Tzu
“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason.” – Immanuel Kant
“Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part.” – Charles Debussy
“Sensual is everything that refers to the delight of the senses. And that’s what artists do, is stimulate the senses in any possible way.” – Shakira
“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” – Oscar Wilde