On having a sense of smell.

Our sense of smell is being revealed as an undiscovered super-sense; we can detect Parkinson’s disease just by someone’s scent, we can follow a scent-trail when blindfolded and we can detect emotional states by it.

And encountering a remembered scent can be as powerful as piece of music for transporting us back to a specific point in our past; they’re like preserved moments held in jar in a museum of ghosts.

The happiest smell of all for me is the rich cloying aroma of a fecund earth, pure and clean. A smell straight out of the Garden of Eden before the serpent visited. A smell promising the possibility of miracles and evoking a reassuring sense of perfection and order in the world. A smell to rejoice by, to come closer to life by, a smell of faeces in its proper place, a smell which one instinctively understands to be the only philosophy in life which is correct and absolute. A smell that penetrates the very mystery of life itself and reveals in its vapours the unspoken answers to all out enquiries. It is the smell of life itself.

And then there’s the hot sharp, pungent smell of over-activity, of biological mayhem, an acrid stinging smell saturated with discomfort and gripe. A smell of India and teeming bacteria.

As the body declines the more frequent ghost visitor is the dry decrepit smell of old age and infirmity, of fruitless loins and barren wombs, of sterility and shrivelled up bowels; a smell from antiquity, from Ancient Egypt artificially preserved in glass stoppered bottles and once more encountered in dusty Museums. It is the smell of the past, of history, of death.

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