The Perception of an Extra Sense

I grew up being taught that humans have five senses:

  • Sight
  • hearing
  • touch
  • taste
  • smell

Since then I’ve read that there a few more such as:

  • balance
  • temperature
  • proprioception 1

(I’ve also seen lists that include pain, thirst, direction and sexual stimulation but I’m most interested in those senses that collect information about our environment)

There’s yet another sense that I have been unsuccessfully trying to identify and name for most of my life, a sense that can be difficult to describe. It involves physical location (including climate, weather and day/night cycle), sounds, and smells that combine with an internal sensation that tickles my brain much like what happens when  I eat foods like Vidalia onions manifest taste in the back of my mouth rather than with my tongue.

For example: It’s a late afternoon in the fall with the sun slanting to one side and there is a storm on the horizon. I start to  get Stukas2 in my stomach, my five traditional senses get oh-so-sharp, and my thinking quickens beyond belief. Add a smell like a trace of wood smoke the air and the effect intensifies; give me a headset with Gordon Lightfoot or the Moody Blues playing and the needle on my intense-o-meter pegs over to the redline.

Bear in mind that there are no chemical influences involved – no alcohol or drugs but nonetheless the feeling almost becomes second sight and I can see the world as is should be. It’s not a particularly happy feeling as in found-a-ten-spot-in-the-couch-cushion happy but rather a sublime feeling of “rightness” much like the feeling I get when I’m listening to beautiful music.

A prime example happened in the fall of 1980 when I was out running the FT Richardson exercise parcours2  with my nephew Erik. It was a gloriously golden day you only get with an autumn in Alaska and as the path ran next to a stream I fell into the physical/mental state I described above.

It all came together:

  • The slight chill of a morning breeze
  • The warm sunshine peeking over the Chugach Mountains
  • The slightly acrid smell of cranberries late in the season
  • The musical sound of the creek
  • Warm memories of FT Richardson when I was the same age as my nephew

For a few moments I was so incredibly >bleeping< happy I thought my head would explode and that everything  – and I mean capital E- Everything in the world was OK3.

I’ve also experienced similar episodes that I later realized were  simple environmental cues triggering old memories but this is different – and very hard to verbalize. It’s also something that doesn’t happen very often or on a regular basis and  I can go years between occurrences.

…and I can’t help but wonder if other people have similar experiences….


Notes

  1. AKA kinesthetic sense or the ability to know where our limbs are in relation to our body. It’s the sense that enables you to touch your nose with your eyes closed
  2. You may get butterflies in your stomach, but the sensation can get pretty intense with me and seems more in line with effect of German dive-bombers designed in 1933.
  3. French term referring to a jogging path with exercise/obstacle stations situated at regular intervals along the trail. In the late 1970’s the concept was Imported from Europe to just about every post in the Army.
  4. A minor miracle as I was still coming to grips with a medical grounding from flight status the previous spring.

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