On the 5, 6, or More Senses

On the road...again!!! 
Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams 
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester 
By Dick Pellek 


Messages to the Brain 


People immediately respond to things that jump out at them. It is human nature to jump back when you’re about to step on a snake, or to wince when you touch a hot item.  On seeing a shocking scene, our eyeballs may pop out, ever so slightly.  The reflexes are involuntary but they were built into our physiological suite of defensive weapons as part of the two-way dialogue between our senses and our brains. 

Our five senses are not all rapid-response assets that we can count on to create immediate reactions that may protect us. In fact, common wisdom opines that we have six senses.  Some scientists argue that we have even more than that. Of the universally accepted five senses, sight is the one most immediately triggered and has the greatest range that incorporates messages in our brains.  From near and from far, sight is the hardest working sense and provides the most information that needs to be processed. 

Hearing is the second most responsive of the senses, in that it is involuntarily invoked. People with normal hearing receive messages from all around them, to be sent to the brain for processing. Whereas sight can be turned on and off by merely closing our eyes, the sense of hearing is on all the time. 

Smell is likewise an involuntarily invoked sense.  We do not have to see or hear the source of the smell to know something about the nature of the odor or odors that get processed in our brains.  The sense of (for) smell is a passive feature in humans that is probably only modestly effective when compared to animals such as bears that can detect the odor of food from great distances.  It would seem that raccoons also have a keen sense of smell, given that they are rather pesky in urban areas when they detect the odor of some of their favorite foodstuffs in waste receptacles.   

Taste is a sense that is highly subjective in the minds of people.  Although we all have taste buds, what those taste buds tell our brains are transmitted as different messages in different people.  The old adage “the proof of the pudding is in the taste” does not hold much wisdom because some people will like the pudding and its taste; and other people whose taste buds work the same way, will not like the pudding. 

In the order of importance as regards sensitivity to external stimuli, touch is rated as last.  But although all the other senses have mechanisms that are located in a particular part of the body, touch can be experienced, hence sensed, everywhere on the body.  Like all the other senses, the loci of the stimulus may operate imperfectly.  That is to say, a sense of touch and feeling may be numbed in some cases, causing a loss of sensual acuity. 

Scientists propound that a sixth sense really does exist, although it may not be obvious.  Neuroscientists make a case for an innate sense and capacity for the detection of magnetic fields in humans, birds, and other animals.  That sense manifests itself in the seemingly innate ability of humans and animals to understand their spatial relationship with their surroundings and to take action to travel to nesting sites, breeding grounds, etc.  Needless to say, many physical reactions may make use of the other senses such as sight, hearing, and touch; all in unison.  



A curious conglomerate dislodged from a drumlin at Homer, New York 


Presumably, all of our senses are available on demand; although we do not have a need for all of them in every circumstance. Perhaps the sense of sight is the most rewarding because it is likely that there are more hard-wired memories of things we have seen that reside in our brains than memories of tastes, sounds, or touches.  For that reason, the Footloose Forester finds great value in employing the sense of sight in others to embellish his chronicles with photos that help to tell a story.  The photo above is a rare find that does not require a sense of touch, hearing, smell, or taste to appreciate it and perhaps appreciate the circumstances that led to its inclusion in one of his seminal Chronicles of the Footloose Forester.  

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