Odors

Childhood memories would govern our conscious lives? Certainly. But why can’t we also understand these memories in terms of ‘odor’? For it is odor that can evoke the past in such a direct manner that no other ‘medium’ can: not words, not sounds, not even images. An odor engrains our entire being; it instills in us something on both the physical and the mental plane. The flip-side of this inclusiveness is that it is less clear what an odor is saying. What does an odor mean, other than that its takes our mind back to ‘another time’ in a rather direct manner? An odor is massive, not as divisible as words, which only get significant when related to other words. Is it not because of this intensity that odors have a strong defining capacity? I seriously wonder whether it is not for sake of certain odors that my life unfolds a specific line. Is it not on account of the odor of freshly mown grass, as I snuffled it every season during my childhood on the farm, that I can never be truly satisfied with a desk job? My desire aches for that odor, is determined by it in the deepest possible sense, and drives me to go where it can meet this odor: outside, in the open air (even here the imagination seems to manipulate the object of desire; for is this interpretation actually reflecting the world as it was – or did I make that world up afterwards?). The same goes for the odor of cow dung, of diesel, which smoked from the exhaust pipe of old tractors. I still love the smell of diesel, as well as the smell of freshly grinded coffee as it hung in my mother’s kitchen after she had grinded a new portion of beans. At present, I still put my nose in a packet of coffee after having emptied it in the coffee can. And sometimes I smell the layer of humus between trees, which immediately takes me back to the ditches that I played in as a child. I am being steamrolled by that odor, it is something of another world, a world that was there at some time, and which is still present because of the odor. I wonder whether it is not because of these odors that I will always be a country boy in the very depths of my soul – even though I have distanced myself from it as far as I could (and dwelled as a philosopher in Paris). However much I wanted to determine myself, actually the odors are defining me.

English