Monday, June 19, 2017

Lingua Anosmia Meets Lingua Franca

Kate Apted. Australian Perfume Junkies, May 2017.

How mind-shattered was I when this luminescent article was presented to me – on autism and smelling. How could I have never come across this before, or never thought about it before? Autism is so much about sensory processing and emotions and language, particularly unspoken languages. If the perspective of smell that Hidden Scents tries to convey is centered on information processing, and that such processing is specific to each individual, how then could I never have thought to investigate the olfactory world of a person with autism?

Thanks, then, to Kate Apted and to the Australian Perfume Junkies for posting this thought-provoking article. The author talks about being blind to her own emotions, a typical feature of people with autism. She says that smells (perfumes in this case) allow her to “see” those emotions. She talks about being faceblind, and that the smell of a person helps her identify them. Yes! I hope everyone with this problem can try her solution because it is ingenious.

For someone who is not in touch with their own emotions, smell is the ideal way to connect. Smell is conversant in our most primitive self; it is the limbic language, perhaps the only language of our emotions. Everyone who is familiar with autism knows the emotional difficulties it presents. Imagine if there was a shortcut to that emotional-brain! There is; and she is vividly describing it in this post:

“It is my most fluid form of communication and a tool for me feel grounded in reality. It speaks for me in the way verbal, and often written communication, does not. I wish perfumes would become the Lingua Franca of the world.”

For me, having written a book that was originally titled Lingua Anosmia, (i.e. ‘the tongue that cannot speak’), one can imagine how this post has changed the way I think about the potential for smell to aid communication, as opposed to being a thing that does not communicate. It goes to show that we really need every person in this world to give their story and their point of view.

For her, smell is the Lingua Franca, go figure: For her, smell is the only way to get specific information about her emotions; it is distinct, discrete. This is in opposition to the way I describe smell in my book. For me, smell is ambiguous, yet for her it is precise. At the same time however, her view shares the same spirit as mine. For me, smell is a way for our logical brain, and by extension our technological interface, to connect with our emotions. If I were a computer, an artificially intelligent entity (intelligentity), how would I sense my own emotions (if I were to have any)? Well, I would do this using a part of my programmed mind that was based on a model olfactory system. I would use the model of olfaction, in interaction with the limbic system. And this is exactly the situation our author finds herself. She is no artificial entity, of course, but a regular human like me. But she cannot access her emotions the same way I can. She has them, as we all do, but she cannot know them. Smell is the translator of this knowledge. Let that be a lesson.

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