One of my favorite books is Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” In an early scene, the protagonist, Mr. Scrooge, encounters his first spirit — the ghost of his long-deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. When Scrooge denies seeing this apparition, the ghost asks him why he doubts his own senses.
Scrooge responds, “because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.”
He’s right, of course. There are things that can affect our senses to the point of making us question a bit of reality. Food plays a big part in that, at least as far as dreaming is concerned. I know if I eat Thai food or anything with chicken in it, that night I will dream of relatives riding a bus to macramé camp or former teachers giving me a haircut.
Often, smells trigger a distortion in reality, or at least a sense of deja vu. Olfactory responses have been studied over the years and they are powerful to both memory and emotions. Years after my own father passed away, I purchased some wood putty to repair a window pane. This is a skill dad taught me in my youth, but not one I had used in many years. The instant I removed the cap and smelled the putty, I felt like he was right behind me. Certainly, foods and aromas can befuddle the senses.
We’ve all experienced that one friend or relative at a party who has a bit too much alcohol and believes (usually incorrectly) that they have suddenly gained extreme wit and superior dance moves. Alcohol can affect the senses and not always in a positive way.
Sometimes past experiences can make us anticipate events. If you’ve ever had heat exhaustion, then you know that extreme temperatures can affect your body. We had a close family member who fainted when she got too hot. In fact, she could actually faint if she thought about getting too hot (very scary!).
Nowadays we have a new thing that affects our senses. We don’t taste it, smell it, or “feel” it. But we do hold it — it’s our telephone.
Last Saturday, we went with friends to the food truck rally and competition. We met several hours before the predicted 5 p.m. rain. As we stood under the darkening sky, water began to sprinkle from the sky. Each of us pulled out our phone and checked our respective weather app. There we stood, in the increasingly pounding rainstorm, shaking our heads and saying, “Nope, it’s not supposed to rain in Troy until 5. What does yours say? Yes, it shouldn’t be raining! Uh-oh, now it’s saying it will rain earlier.”
We gawped stupidly at our phones while water poured from the heavens and drenched us. Finally, we realized we were wet and took shelter. I wonder what Dickens would have said about that?
Email me at email@example.com.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.