Even in absence, the heart grows fonder. I did not have this situation. It was absent to me. I did not feel this feeling only until now. Why must we learn to appreciate something only in a world devoid of it? Why is it only when I cannot smell do I fully understand the need for it? In nature, it makes perfect sense for an animal to survive with a sharp sense of smell. It can help in finding your territory long before you see it, you can smell a predator or prey, it can help you hide your own smell to avoid those same predators; however, this is all-important for an animal. To live in industrialized to society is to live in defiance of Darwin and his laws. Humans have no practical need to smell anything. Maybe, as the Scottish Gas worker told us today, on the one week we cannot smell, to keep aware of any gas leak. But that is circumstantial. That one example is the best I can find as to why we need to smell. Maybe the difference between man and animal is the reliance we have on our senses, the weakening or absence of which can be the difference between life and death. After all, we are already halfway to losing that sense entirely. Surely before humans settled down and lived nomadic lifestyles, that need for such a sense would have been larger; but as time went on and it became less and less necessary for us to have it, and we evolved to have different traits like intelligence at the cost of smell. And here we are, caught halfway between our next step and the last. Our species becoming better and better, losing more and more connection to our vagrant history. But maybe, it is more important than I thought. I was reading about the lifestyle of the last nomads that died out or were domesticated around the 1800s and there was something that caught my eye. When the men went off to hunt food for the group, they would be gone for days or even weeks; sometimes never coming back at all. This was just part of living on the open steppe. There was no guarantee that someone would make it to affirm a "see you later." So all those who split off from the group would give their shirts. To many cultures the world over, from the American plains to the Mongol steppe to the African savannah, a shirt or other garment was an important memento because it carried that person's smell. In all of those cultures around the world, they tied a person's smell to their soul. It was something that made someone individual since a smell is like a fingerprint. A dog can tell you apart from the thousands of human beings around you through smell before any other sensation. And to a lesser extent, humans still have this. Neurobiologists at Boston University found that people can remember smells and those memories associated with them better than any sight, sound, taste, or feeling. They even used the smell of perfume, a backyard grill, pool chlorine, and laundry detergent as things that seem so vague, yet the slightest difference among those smells can trigger a near-photographic memory of someone, some event, or something. Even the primitive hunters around the world could understand that. Sure smell has no practical use anymore as a survival tool, and yet it keeps us human. It connects us to our past. It connects us to nature. It keeps us thinking about each other and all the beautiful memories we have. It keeps life worth living by reminding us that we are and have been living.
Either that or I kinda just want to be able to smell again and the COVID isolation has officially driven me insane. This may just be a projection of my dream to live again so maybe take this with a grain of salt.