Which sense can you go without?

See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil

Our senses are our primary guides to the physical world. Without them, well, we’d be dead.

I’m not saying we’ll die if we lack one of them. There are many who are blind and/or deaf, but managed to survive and thrive in this world. Lacking one or two senses isn’t going to kill you.

But the five senses aren’t the only senses we have. We have four other major senses: a sense of balance, a sense of temperature, a kinesthetic sense and a sense of pain. So, now that we have nine senses to consider, which sense do you think you can lose? Or here’s another question. Which do you value the most?

But before we decide to make an uninformed decision (actually, right off the bat your answer should be pretty well informed since you experience the sense daily, but never mind that), I’ll just go through the five senses again, and discuss the other four.

1. Sight

The ability to detect the visible light spectrum. It’s pretty useful for many things: reading, watching movies, enjoying art, and really, enjoying anything that has lots of vibrant colours. It’s also helpful in judging distance without actually having to travel the distance, and to perceive objects that are too far away for our other five senses to perceive. Like stars. The only sense we can use to perceive stars it sight.

2. Smell

The ability to detect odours. While the human sense of smell is pretty lousy compared to that of animals, it still has its uses. For teenagers, it helps us detect food when our eyes are glued to electronic devices. Smell also helps us detect smoke, and by extension, fire, which is probably helpful when fleeing a burning building in the dark. (Yes, I know. Fire emits light. But I’m quite sure most people are more interested in escaping alive than trying to see the fire for themselves.)

3. Hearing

The ability to detect noise. Like our sense of smell, our hearing is weaker than that of animals, but it’s still handy for communication. Before the advent of instant messaging, most people used their hearing to communicate. It’s by far one of the most efficient ways that humans share information, especially since the invention of the radio and telephone, because with those, people don’t need to be literate or rich in order to communicate long distance. (If you were literate, you could write letters, and if you were rich, you sent a messenger.)

4. Taste

The ability to detect taste. There are five major types: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. It’s great when you’re eating something delicious and nasty when you’re eating something out of the garbage that moves on its own. It also, to some extent, helps people detect poison, but, then again, the stupidest thing you can do to see whether something is a poison is to put it in your mouth. As far as taste goes, I guess the best thing about it is that it allows us to enjoy food more.

5. Touch

The ability to detect objects, in the simplest words. I can’t imagine what life would be without it, but I guess it would be rather numb. You wouldn’t really be able to tell if you were in contact with anything if you couldn’t see it. Touch is quite useful if you’ve lost the other four major senses, but then again, it’s very useful either way.

6. Balance

The ability to detect one’s movement. It’s the sense that tells you you’re in a moving car even when your eyes are closed and you can’t hear the engine. It also helps you know when you’re going to fall over and how to prevent that. Basically, it’s the sense klutzes don’t take into account.

7. Temperature

The ability to detect heat. (Not cold, however. Cold is a lack of heat.) It’s a pretty good thing if you live in a desert or temperate climate. It’s the sense that tells you to stay in a house when it’s forty below (It doesn’t matter if it’s Fahrenheit or Celsius at that point—negative forty is the same for both) and it also tells you to find a fan or some ice when it’s fifty above. (For you Americans, that means 122 degrees.) This ability also tells to not to stick your hand in liquid nitrogen or boiling water, for that matter.

8. Proprioception

The kinesthetic sense. Basically, this one gives you an awareness of your own body even when your other senses are not beings used or not working. This is the sense that helps find your nose when your eyes are closed, or (not to be rude) the sense that helps you find your butt without either hand.

9. Pain

The ability to detect danger. Contrary to popular belief, pain is not touch on steroids. It’s a distinct phenomenon. It basically tells you that whatever you’re doing right now, you should stop soon. Like poking your eye with a blunt spoon. Or banging your head on a table. Yes, exercising also causes pain, but that’s a topic for another day. (But if you want to, you can read this and this.) Basically, pain is a warning system that tells you what to avoid.

That’s a wrap of the senses. Yes, I could have included common sense, but that’s not a sense that naturally occurs among us. Anyway, it’s so rare that it’s the kind of thing you put in the talents section of your résumé.

Now that you’ve seen the senses up close, which one do you think you can go without?

One response to “Which sense can you go without?”

  1. Wow! I just wrote something similar.It’s amazing how minds work. Great insight.


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