I got on a train this morning and immediately felt…nervous. Vulnerable, queasy, and ready to bolt. It took me a couple stops to figure out why I was suddenly so overrun by emotion, but when I did, embarrassment was added to the mix.
My nose played a trick on me. The key to my distress was an odor; car exhaust and body soil under stale cigarette smoke and ‘beer sweat’. One whiff and I was captivated by fear. My dad smelled like that. But my dad is in his grave, and the man who smelled like him was otherwise completely non-threatening. My nose is a jerk.
Now, with a couple hours between me and the actual event, what happened this morning is pretty interesting. For starters, how cool is it that as far as humanity has managed to distance itself from the rest of nature, our basic instincts can still be triggered by familiar/bad odors? I feel positively primeval. Furthermore, brains are amazing!!
Think about it. During my formative years, I learned to associate that scent with violence. As a result, I will probably always avoid people who drink and smoke too much, and don’t bathe enough. That association is part of my ‘operating system’ and will probably be with me for life. Years of therapy might help me better control my fear response, but I doubt that anything short of massive brain damage could actually disrupt the pattern of neurons responsible for such a deeply-held association. And the brain is such a complex and amazing lump of wrinkles that it can consider itself and become awestruck.
I am tissue in awe of itself.
Today is going to be a great day.