Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Habituation, olfactory and otherwise

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It’s well known that a persistent odor can fade into the background to the point that it is no longer noticed by the person who is habituated to it. Thus those who always wear the same fragrance run the risk of becoming habituated to it, and then applying it to the point where their (habituated) noses can detect it—at which point those not habituated to the fragrance can smell it from 20 paces away. The same also with the familiar smells of one’s home: they fade into the background and become just the way things are, though visitors can detect them readily.

The same sort of thing—becoming so habituated to something you simply are no longer conscious of it—is, I think, is why people are frequently quite unconscious of the privilege they enjoy, whether it is racial or economic, or the privilege that attends upon power long held: the privilege is no longer visible to them, since it is just how things are, day to day.

The same applies to good health: when you have it, you don’t notice it, but just as in the case of privilege, if you lack it, it’s extremely obvious, especially when you are around people who do have it.

And recently another instance of that sort of habituation occurred to me: youth is not that big a deal to the young (who, indeed, sometimes see it as a burden, being (of course) quite conscious of the benefits of age that they lack and no so conscious of the benefits of youth, which (to them) is just the way things are). Perhaps I am more aware now (in my seventh decade) of the benefits of youth, which I never noticed when I was young.

I think we must be constitutionally more aware of what we lack than of what we have. The things we have very rapidly achieve “of course” status: like the paintings we hung but now don’t really see anymore unless we make an effort.

One of the missions of movements like Black Lives Matter is to make us aware again of what we have that others lack in the specific area of racial privilege, but racial privilege (and one’s unawareness of it) is just one of many instances in which we are not aware of things constant in our daily life.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 July 2016 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Daily life

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