From a scientific perspective, each of our five primary senses offers us a different way to perceive the world (via our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin). From an aesthetic perspective, each of those same five senses offers us a different way to enjoy the world – often in simple, overlooked, and underappreciated ways.
As we begin the last weekend of summer, it seemed like an apt time to “take five” by taking a step back and thinking about the things I most appreciate and most enjoy with each of m five senses – the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations of touch (for which I’m sure there’s a more elegant term), simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary, that I too often take for granted.
I narrowed down my list (which proved to be a more difficult process than I expected) as much as possible, although I still included more than one example for every one of my senses.
For sight, I thought about text (written or printed) – the twenty-six odd black-and-white linear shapes that make up the English language – and the infinite amount of meaning that it communicates. Then I thought about the rich, rough blues of the mountains in the distance when I drive down the hill into town every morning – and the way they look different every morning, depending on the light and the air, even though they never really change.
For sound, I thought about music and the human voice (singing or spoken) – and the ways in which they both elevate language to another, more immediate and more emotional level.
For smell, I thought about coffee and my after-shave gel.
For taste, I thought about curry (which I decided wasn’t ordinary enough, since I only make it a few times a year), peach, and vanilla, before I finally settled on the more everyday chocolate, lemon, and tea.
For touch, I thought about the feeling of water (cool in the summer, warm in the winter) running over my hands. Then I thought about human touch – the power and simplicity of making contact with another human being and feeling the closeness, trust, and warmth of a hug (or even just the acknowledgement of a simple handshake).
And by the time I finished, I realized that the things we think of as the little things aren’t really little after all. They’re simple – and simply beautiful.