Color Sense


You know, this would be way more interesting in black and white. Said no one.

You know, this would be way more interesting in black and white. Said no one.

Whenever I smell dog poo I wonder how dogs can stand to sniff each others’ butts.

I’m sure this seems like a strange thing for a grown woman to think about, but whenever I catch a whiff of the doo, I think about how much I don’t like the smell of it and I have to wonder what the experience must be like for a creature with an infinitely superior sense of smell. I presume that a dog gets more information out of a smell- any smell- than I do, simply based on the fact that they experience more smell than I do. So a part of me can understand that More Information translates to More Interesting which would balance out the off-putting qualities of disgust and revulsion. It seems to me that disgust and revulsion are heuristic qualities, a rule-of-thumb used to quickly determine what is “good” (and to a caveman-brain this translates to “edible”) versus what is “bad” and likely to make one sick. Like dog poo.

Anybody who owns a dog knows that this is not a rule of thumb that dogs choose to follow.

So I was walking on campus smelling the smells, both good and bad: diesel fuel, boxwood, roses, undergraduates wearing Axe bodywash, and I found myself wondering what those smells would be like if I experienced them with a dog’s level of smell. Would they be more interesting or less? How much more would I be able to learn from a single sniff? I wondered whether a dog’s sense of smell was like a human’s sense of color. If I could only see black and white and shades of grey I would still be able to see, but I would get a lot less information from a glance than being able to see color. Color has meaning. Color is interesting in and of itself. As colorblindness tests show: the ability to see color can mean the ability to see “hidden” messages. As modern art has taught us: people will spend a lot of time (and money) looking at disgusting things just because they’re colorful and visually interesting.

In the end, I still don’t like the smell of dog poo, but I can at least understand how a dog’s sense of smell would find it interesting and how, being interesting, there might be more to it than just disgust. Meanwhile, I’m going to stick to smelling the roses.

 

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 10, 2015.

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