The fallen angel

A fool sniffs not the same scent that a wise man does , said (almost) William Blake. (He talked about seeing — trees.) Leaving fools and wise men aside, people sure seem to have different relations to scent and perfumes. Helen Keller likened smell to the fallen angel of the senses. She also called it “a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”

Not bad for some molecules in the air.

There is a spectrum from bad to good smells, but this picture does not hold if you look (sniff) more closely. There are things in the supposedly “good” corner that at least I find awful. And there are supposedly good but still despicable — at least questionable — olfactory habits.

I have only read about kings and aristocrats of yore who only bathed once a year, but who used overwhelming amounts of perfume. It would be interesting to actually visit a salon with such stinking (?) luminaries. The bad habits I am thinking of is using perfume either to mask other smells, or to add something not really necessary to neutral smells. What´s wrong with neutral? Water and air, neutral and lovely — but not appreciated enough.

I have a hard time falling asleep in bedclothes washed with perfumed washing powder. Whole houses sometimes smell of washing powder! People also walk around in clothes that smell of washing powder. I can understand if you want to smell of perfume, but not of detergent.

Scented paper handkerchiefs… Am I now supposed to perfume the inside of my nose? Who is going to climb in there and explore it? And perfumed toilet paper… give me a break. It would be better to stop eating food that rots in the gut. Why not invent a food that makes shit itself smell good? Ah, let it just stink: it is one string on the olfactory harp.

Then we have the lovely scents, good perfumes and incense, great soaps. The perhaps most beautiful (non-human, I must add; people are an altogether other story) smell comes from burning wood. It is far from french perfume, yet the word itself is close. Latin per– “through” + fumare “to smoke”.

Smoke gets in your eyes, and perfumed toilet paper gets on my nerves.

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