It’s a question we’ve probably all thought about at one point or another, most likely at a pretty early age.
I haven’t pondered the question in a while, but this past weekend it popped into my head again.
I think what caused it was going to a swim meet this past weekend to watch my nephew. As soon as I walked into the natatorium and took a whiff, the memories came rushing back.
The smell of chlorine brought back lots of memories, most of them good ones. As a competitive swimmer for 12 years, I was surrounded by the smell of chlorine for a few hours a day, hundreds of days per year.
The smell brought back memories of 6:00 am practices, individual triumphs and defeats, shaving down for the big meets, and what it meant to be part of a team. It brought back memories of the many friendships that were formed while spending time in those chlorinated confines as well as in the cramped school vans used for traveling to away meets.
I realized that I not only did I love the smell of chlorine, I also loved being around pools, and I loved the sport of swimming. I like how warm and humid it usually is at an indoor swim meet; I like reading the record board and finding what the oldest record on the board is; I like timing each event, and checking what the swimmers’ splits are.
And all of these thoughts were triggered by a simple sniff, which got me thinking how powerful the sense of smell can be.
I remember for a while in college that simply smelling tequila would bring me close to puking (I’m sure I must have had a bad experience or two with tequila to get to that point); smelling certain flowers reminds me of church and funerals; while other flowers remind me of lazy summer days.
So back to my initial question, which sense would you give up.
I think there are a couple that most people would be least willing to give up – vision and hearing. It’s hard to comprehend what it would be like to not have a sense of touch; how would that even work?
So it boils down to taste or smell. I’m guessing as a little kid I would have picked giving up the sense of smell, since back then it didn’t seem like such a big deal.
But as I’ve gotten older, it seems like the sense of smell is a powerful memory trigger, and I don’t think I’d want to give that up.
So that leaves taste. While I’ll admit there are certain foods I enjoy, for the most part I view eating as mainly a way to get calories; the taste is secondary. I think that may be one of he reasons becoming a vegan was relatively easy for me, since food never really meant that much to me.
By the way, there is an ongoing online survey that asks this question, and enables you to share your response, and then view the overall results.
So while smell is the number one sense people would be willing to give up, I’d be curious to see if those responses change with age. As we build memories, the ability to recall those memories is a precious one. And as this site (along with may others) points out:
The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses.
So perhaps you may need to reconsider which sense you would be most willing to give up…