msvin

A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be. A. Einstein.


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Reflection 3 – Intimate Immensity

                The paramountcy of the human mind in the Western thought tradition has been celebrated for centuries. The mind is commonly seen as an entity that is inherently distinct from the body, which deeply resonates with the Cartesian heritage of dualism. The dichotomous architecture of the abstract and the material has profoundly permeated educational, social, scientific, and psychological pillars of the human realm. Eastern societies, on the other hand, undertake a more holistic approach towards understanding the inter-correlating processes of body and mind. During the last couple of decades, the Western world has been experiencing a shift from an existing dualistic paradigm to a more integrated stance towards abstract and material spheres of life. Eastern representation of embodiment and its relation to the mind has played a significant role in pollinating Western dominant paradigms. Persson’s account on the Australian Satyananda Yoga community demonstrates an existing internal harmony between the dyadic notions of place and space. Persson’s main focus revolves around the idea that the abstract concept of space and the physical notion of place are not only reconcilable, but can also encompass and promote one another. As such, this mutually supportive and reciprocal relationship facilitates access to the mind through the mechanisms of one’s body, and vice versa. A common view in the Satyananda Yoga community is that the majority of people are “too much in their heads”, which results in a loss of being grounded, as well as touch with oneself (Persson, 2007, p. 48). Unmitigated cerebral activity has to be regularly counterbalanced by physical grounding, otherwise, people risk becoming disconnected from their feelings and life experiences. This phenomenon underlines the importance of seeing the mind and the body as two interrelated aspects of being that is highly valued by the Satyananda yogis. Acute awareness of physical impressions facilitates the process of getting back into the body. This is yet another form of bodily and sensory control, which has to be practiced and channelled. Paying attention to bodily sensations is an important aspect in developing one’s potential for embodiment that proves to be extremely efficient. Persson provides an example of (dis)embodiment experienced by a female sannyasin who works in a child-care centre, “when I didn’t do regular yoga practice, I’d often bump into things, and I’d be uncoordinated. If I am not aware of my body, I can space out, or numb out. I won’t be focused” (Persson, 2007, p. 48). The inability to focus, along with poor physical coordination are very familiar concepts to me. The university career of any student consists of constant information processing that heightens neural activity. Restless brain dynamics, if not equilibrated by physical output, creates an asymmetrical distribution of cognitive over reliance and blocks a fuller engagement with one’s concrete constitution. Recently, I started noticing the effects of such misbalance, which is why I decided to start doing yoga. I have noticed an evident peculiarity about my practice. Difficulties in the physical aspects of asanas were not of great concern, as my previous experiences with aerobics kept my body in tune. Concentrating my attention on breathing and bodily sensations was a much more complex task, because an active mind is often tempted to wander off the desired course of cognitive action. Needless to say, the ability to stay mindful of one’s body is a major facet in a yoga routine, and the effectiveness of the practice is highly influenced by the extent to which one is able to adhere to conscious awareness of the body. My first trial in practicing yoga was characterized by giddiness and a general loss of physical balance. A body that is not anchored in space is highly prone to such reactions, which tends to disappear as people advance in yoga practice. My untamed mind was resisting the change, as I was shifting the focus from the cognitive to the physical aspect of my being. After the second trial I was enticed to stop yoga altogether, thinking that, perhaps, I picked the wrong physical outlet. However, the beauty and smoothness of my instructor’s movements kept my interest alive. After a few weeks I was able to keep my body still in certain asanas that were presented in Hatha yoga, which suggested I was becoming successful at subduing my mind. I earned the feeling of space, and I started feeling more in tune with my surroundings. The use of the word ‘earned’ is not accidental. Following the established course of action is imperative for achieving success in physical, spiritual, and mental disciplines. Every effortful step brings yogis closer to the desired state of mindfulness and transcendence. The sense of space involves a non-cognitive awareness of the corporal position relative to the constituting elements in the physical environment. An anchored body serves as an initial reference point that keeps you grounded and provides stability, direction, and identity that are embodied in the sense of space. Persson underlines this point by quoting a well-knowing teacher in the Satyananda community; “We must have a strong foundation of we are going to get anywhere” (Persson, 2007, p. 50). Investment into the acquisition of a body that is both cognitively and physically intelligent is rewarding as it provides people with a sense of control in multiple aspects of their lives. Emotional mastery is necessary for our freedom of movement. However, human capacity to affect his/her body in addition to their surroundings is not universal. According to Rachel Girardi, the impact of effort and pain threshold is unique to every person. Goal setting appears to be very individualistic and is influenced by the amount of effort a person is capable of exerting. During her speech, Girardi mentions the role of mental blocks, or powerful cognitive convictions, that have the effect of making one’s body incapable of accomplishing certain results. Once again, we see the convergence of body and mind, which illustrates the imminent complementarity of the physical and the abstract. Girardi and Chen agree on the mental aspect of fitness, which asserts that physical composition is a result of the cognitive constitution, which means that the outer (visible layer) is a mere embodiment of the inner (invisible layer). This point is consistent with yogic beliefs about akasha, which refers to an infinite and internal space that is enclosed in the physical body and penetrates, “every atom of your physical being” (Persson, 2007, p. 52). In order to expand the limits of one’s body, it is important to go beyond one’s mental comfort zone, which is constantly sustained by habitual routines. The yogis contend that growth is achieved through unblocking, releasing, and letting go (Persson, 2007, p. 53), which includes the shedding of our routine practices, which serve to constitute and reinforce our comfort zone. The loss of unnecessary physical as well as emotional weight requires adjustment, and according to Girardi, “it takes time to wrap your head around the new capabilities of your body.” Persson asserts that this change entails the alteration of sensitivity to oneself, along with an increased awareness of space (Persson, 2007, p. 54). The newly acquired prospects gives people a sense of control, and ultimately leads to further discoveries. As it turns out, the feeling of personal efficacy and integrity is a vital motivational fuel that grows, expands, and becomes more influential with time. As soon as I reach my limits with Hatha yoga, I will turn my attention to the domain of Acro-yoga which encompasses performance in pairs, in order to experience myself within the embodied dynamism of communication. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMMlzQsQPk4

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Response 2

Haptic Theatre 

The feeling of disengagement and detachment from the object that is only visually available to the audience is not rare and appears to be one of the major characteristics of optical visuality. Full sensorial engagement requires body identification expressed through instantaneous physical response. I agree with the author of the reflection, who states that, “the spectator’s bodies have been reconfigures and de-emphasized at some point in the past” (2013, par. 3). Undeniably, attention has shifted from the observer to the observed and from the body to the narrative. This singularity appears to be detrimental to the reciprocal interaction of the subject and the object. Therefore, feeling, “alienated, [and] sensorily detached from the story” (2013, par. 2) is a natural reaction towards the inflicted distance between the audience and the stage. I would like to point out, that deeply instilled identities of the viewers also stand on the way of blurring the line between the participants and the play. The authors of Sleep No More play have taken this predicament into consideration. The audience members are left without their cell phones, given masks and broken down into groups with unfamiliar people, which brings the audience closer to the participate experience of the play itself. The construction of meaning about the self is mediated by a variety of incorporeal as well as material attributes that are assigned to our personal character. Our idiosyncratic traits then become symbolically associated with various physical and relational facets and we tend to surround ourselves with the attributes that define our personality (i.e. friends, school affiliations, clothing brands, cell phone companies, etc.). The less physical attributes we are surrounded with, the less we are reminded about our idiosyncrasies, which aids the process of sensory immersion by precipitating our true selves to the surface and allowing a more profound level of interaction. “We give up believing that meaning is formed after the fact, in our mind, and attribute power to creating meaning to the interaction itself” (Marks, 2004, p. 80). A partial loss of the center is necessary for synergistic and thorough process of intercommunication. This is consistent with Marks view on a loss of depth, and the author of the reflection reinforces her stance by affirming the importance of, “a way of seeing that approximates tactility, proprioception, and kinesthesia” (2013, par. 5). Sleep No More destroys the common theatrical security and sways the viewer to risk that involves a certain degree of abandoning our personal power for the transformation process to occur.

“[Participants] need to make decisions, as they select their own route through the stories, the realities”, states the author of Haptic Theatre (2013, par. 4). Surely, such a broad degree of control provides the audience with an opportunity to become participants. The journey through the play will depend on the choices that participants make and these choices are based on personal preferences and desires. At this point, I would like to draw our attention towards Malaby’s description of play that involves the process of generating causal and incidental outcomes, which makes play entertaining and immersive. In this context, Sleep No More appears to be a literal and figural epitome of play. The intricate process of one’s decisions becoming realities involves a variety of divergent paths, but the product of one’s decisions not always highly predictable, which contributes to the basic defining blocks of entertaining play. The author of Haptic Play redirects this understanding towards the never-ending novelty of Sleep No More play, “a returning participant could experience something different every time” (2013, par. 4). In addition, I would like to stress the importance of equivocating to concepts of story and reality. According to Bruno Latour, with the help of palpable linguistic tools, words become worlds and stories become realities (Latour, 2004, p. 209). In the context of Sleep No More, haptic visuality becomes an unspoken world of full sensory involvement, in which a variety of sensorial reactions create a diverging image of one’s surroundings. Marks warns, that excessive overreliance on haptic visuality will create a narrow and one-sided view of the world, and that occasional distance is necessary for obtaining various forms of insightful experience (Marks, 2004, p. 80-82). The author of the reflection pins down Marks’ advocacy of fluid transition between the two diverging categories of visuality by emphasizing the benefits of non-dichotomous thinking: “[Bringing an enhancement to our capacity] is to build better relations for better worlds, rather than substituting iconoclastically one for another” (2013, par. 7). 


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Response 1

Want to Play?

According to Flanagan play is an extremely difficult concept to characterize, as it is a concept that heavily depends on cultural and social aspects of existence. An essential part of play deeply resonates with learning and cognitive development, a sense in which play is understood as a tool of understanding the self. The author of the Want to Play? reflection has touched upon this notion by stating that, “play can work to legitimize or facilitate alternative ways of knowing” and that, “the play space that they work within have a lasting impact” (2013, par. 3). This formation demonstrates that the author has taken a socialization approach in regards to play. Indeed, play produces an opportunity of comprehending various personal inclinations by providing an individual with the necessary social tools that either enable or discourage the gaming prototypes of one’s behaviour. Moreover, games often reinforce the different socially dictated avenues, such as gender roles. The most basic example of this phenomenon is the existence of gendered toys (i.e. cars vs. dolls, blue color schemes vs. pink color schemes, or guns vs. kitchen sets). In this sense, play fails to provide an opportunity to undo material-semiotic knots, and the author of the reflection highlights this point in the last paragraph. Malaby underlines the importance of social and cultural consequences of the game, because play is connected to reality. Very often, games become a reflection of our social, political, and historical realities, which was mentioned in the reflection; “ring around the [Rosy]… revolved around the bubonic plague” (2013, par. 4). The creation of these social rituals involves a production of meaning, but at the same time, our individual experience cannot be reduced to the construction of meaning alone. Our personal and social involvement consists of our everyday procedures that purport the importance of simple experience that will lose its richness if we concentrate on mere representations.

The author of the reflection points out Malaby’s assertion that concerns the entertaining aspect of play; “there are frustrations and challenges and not everyone is a winner.” (2013, par. 5). I would like to elaborate on this supposition a little bit further. Play involves a state of flow, and the majority of authors who are interested in play seem to have converging views regarding this claim. The state of flow is characterized by full immersion in the performance of any given activity as well as complete involvement and enjoyment, giving the definition of fun an entirely new dimension. I think that the presence of this precise state distinguishes play from any other activity. It might be counterintuitive to surmise that dealing with occasional frustrations and challenges can bring people joy, but the feeling of personal efficacy is, more often than not, very gratifying. The more we participate in play the more we expand our boundaries and the more apt we become at reaching the state of flow. The beginning may not always be easy, but as soon as we surmount the roughness of the start, we begin experiencing play in an entirely different manner. How many times have we declined an invitation to play, because we refused to persist and never gave ourselves a chance to get better at it? I think that enjoyment has to be earned, and that this process can also be pleasurably intrinsic because we should be able to use our abstract thinking and imagine the outcome that awaits for us if we remain in this activity. In addition, I think it’s important to understand that having a single winner title creates a favourable playground for greater involvement in the game. According to Flanagan, games are essentially indirect, changing, and highly dependent on decision-making. This imminent uncertainty is what makes play immersive and mesmerizing. If the decisions that were made produced a positive outcome, then the feeling of personal efficacy further fuels a player’s enthusiasm. In this sense, play is a vicariously reactive medium that reflects one’s personal life strategies, which supports the translucency of social reality and play.


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Reflection 2.2

Synesthetic perception is a relatively novel phenomenon, as the traditional understanding of sensory modalities was viewed through the prism of segregation. Simply put, little attention was paid to the interaction of the senses. With the emergence of sensory anthropology, it became clear that the dividing line between our perceptive mechanisms is not as opaque as it once seemed. In a multitude of ways, our senses interconnect with each other and create a detailed sensory photograph of our surroundings. For instance, the term haptic visuality, that has been described by Laura U. Marks (Haptic Visuality: Touching with the eyes), involves a process of seeing that uses sight as an organ of touch, as opposed to an optical visuality, which observes objects at a distance and renders them as a part of three-dimensional space. The concept of haptic visuality closely intertwines with the notion of play. Flanagan defines play as an alternative activity that is performed for the purpose of entertainment and recreation – a contradistinctive event to the process of “work”. The standard apprehension of play involves the creation of an entirely separate realm that is inherently opposed to concrete existence. Malaby, on the other hand, argues that play is an extension of reality, which takes into consideration cultural and social aspects of our everyday life. The article Beyond Play: A New Approach to Games by Malaby characterizes games as domains that are quite efficient at developing customs and meanings, which are closely connected to existing reality. Grouped with the notion of haptic visuality, the concept of play as an extension of our everyday practice generates the process of vicarious learning, or skill acquisition without performance. In the context of play, vicarious learning does not only involve the idea of skill attainment, but also includes the notion of indirect satisfaction of personal wishes and desires. Flanagan provides the example of the Sims videogames, which symbolize a consumerist society, and allows emotional convergence, which provides players with an opportunity to vicariously achieve happiness through play. Monopoly is another example of a game that accurately depicts the world of economics and is a product of capitalist society. Through effective game strategy, negotiation and wealth accumulation, players achieve an indirect form of “board” success. These games provide a specific set of rules, which have to be followed, and if players choose not to follow them the game loses its value. Such settings provide little or no space for creating novel paths, because there is a set number of algorithms that account for the evolution of possible directions. On the other hand, players are free to express their creativity within the given limits, which creates a gratifying illusion of control. There are multiple play domains, which give people a valuable experience of expressing their imagination. Aside from videogames, tabletop games and sports, play covers an extensive array of recreational and intrinsically motivating activities that people find exciting, inspiring, and even liberating. For instance, I have always enjoyed applying myself in the domain of handmade projects. One of my recent creative developments concerns knitting, which is my favourite game because it allows me to feel fully immersed in the activity. When I’m knitting, I find myself in a state of full concentration and involvement, which gives me a sense of quiet enjoyment. Csikszentmihalyi describes this condition as a state of flow, an intrinsically focused event of inducement – an important aspect that supports the definition of play. My knitting practice is accompanied by a variety of gratifying sensory features, such as the tactile feeling of wooden needles and soft cashmere thread, as well as being able to see an almost instantaneous result of my actions. Although the process of creating a knitted garment gives me an opportunity to implement my own imagination into reality, the established stitch pattern has to be meticulously followed, and failure to do so results in the final product that looks nothing like the image in my imagination. So, even though in my play the rules that I have to abide to take on a different form, they still exist and have to be understood and obeyed. 

Another important aspect that is partially governed by the concept of haptic visuality is the formation of mimesis (an immersion of the observer and the observed based on close contact representation). This phenomenon evokes the theory of mimetic communication, a form of intentional as well as unintentional corporeal imitation that involves empathic inclination and affection. A biological adaptation that allows for sympathy contagion are mirror neurons that fire when an individual observes an action executed by others, which is the primary mechanism underlying the notion of mimicry, or mimesis. Nevertheless, the process of mimesis is not purely a neurobiological phenomenon, since we not only perceive the incoming sensory information, but also give it meaning. Humans have become highly proficient at mimicking nature and incorporating its instruments and systems into contemporary technological developments (i.e. camouflaged army gear that actively responds to environmental changes). Moreover, we project our own human qualities onto entities that we create (a process that could also be understood as the anthropomorphism stripped of meaning attribution). The human body can be viewed as an amalgamation of interrelated systems, which perform their own unique functions that can be observed, assessed, and imitated. The underlying mechanism that moves our body and controls our emotions can be analyzed on a very basic level, which gives us an opportunity to mimic the structure and therefore performance of a human body. A perfect example that illustrates this point is the robot Kismeth, whose appearance essentially resembles human features. The primary goal of the researchers who contributed to the process of Kismeth’s creation was to give the robot the necessary tools for analyzing human emotional states, which would allow Kismeth to react appropriately. A variety of components that are unique to human experience were incorporated, such as hominid facial features and parent child communication patterns, which demonstrates that human mimicry is selective. Computer communication is conditional, because algorithms have to predict possible outcomes in advance to the actual involvement, and to respond appropriately in various emotional events. A smooth interaction that cannot be stalled by an unpredicted response is still a far-fetched idea, because this kind of communication requires perspective and an inherent ability to emotionally relate to other beings. 


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Reflection 2.1

In the article How to Talk About the Body?, Bruno Latour provides a compelling definition of the body, which highlights its capacity to become affected by a variety of elements that our surroundings consist of. Latour accentuates the importance of becoming an interactive articulator, who learns how to be affected by others. This bridge between the subject and the world fuels the process of active participation, which engages our full sensorial intelligence in the process of perceiving and understanding the universe. Growing more attentive to the world around us provides us with the capacity of noticing the differences that are present in our environment. Through the articulation of relational dissimilarities, we expand the limits of our worldly comprehension. In turn, the observed controversies create a feasible ground for better articulation. During my olfactory fieldwork for my final essay that was assigned by professor Hirji, I came across a complication that regarded the lack of descriptive words that I found to be absolutely necessary for completing an ethnography. Undoubtedly, the world of the olfactory realm has always been registered in my brain, and the purely experiential aspect of my fieldwork that required mere observation and attentiveness was never problematic. A dilemma arose when I attempted to verbalize my experiences. The dissection of controversies played an important role in my linguistic advancement, however it was not the only aspect that assisted me in my articulation. In my constant quest for olfactory adjectives, I have acquired a substantial set of descriptive verbal accessories that were crucial for the process of articulation. For the words to become worlds, we need to know how to express our experiences through speech, whether it be written, oral, or nonverbal.

To revisit the notion of active participation in the transformative process of learning, I would like to comment on the significance of effective cooperation with the environment. Active engagement with our surroundings fuels attentiveness, which precipitates the process of learning. The transformative mechanism of attaining knowledge revolves around the notion of self-investment. In order to be altered by our world, we need to donate our sensory and receptive aspects of cognition to our involvement with the universe. The most valuable experiences are gained through complete immersion, or living in the moment. We can see a great utilization of this phenomenon in the interactive theatre play called Sleep No More. Theatrical action takes place in an abandoned hotel in Manhattan, where the audience is led by the actors through various rooms and corridors in silent aggregations of several people who are unfamiliar with each other. As the audience marches through the captivating parade of theatrical scenery, the spectators are getting involved in the play. The audience is actively exploring and participating in this theatrical happening, which allows the viewers freedom and flexibility. Passivity is restraining, while movement is liberating, but motion craves initiative, which requires self-investment. Personal contribution involves risk, which makes the process of knowledge acquisition compelling and rewarding. Latour successfully elaborates on the idea of risk-taking within the context of scientifically rich and productive exploration. To retain attraction to the matter of interest, research has to be put at risk by the requalification of theories that were put to test. This also involves the notion of intrinsic motivation, which encompasses involvement with the subject without putting too much emphasis on the final product. Moreover, it is necessary to attune ourselves to new relationships with the elements of the world because it allows us freedom to stay perceptive and conscious about the processes that we encounter. We have to go beyond the primitive realm of seeking pleasure, and avoiding pain, in order to venture through the transformative process of learning with determination and dignity.


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Response 2: Loss of Tactile Sensation

As I was playing with a strand of my hair during class, our professor outlined the topic for our final response and I immediately knew, which sense I wanted to focus on. I’ve acquired the habit of playing with my hair after the first year of university. If I had to go into a deeper discussion about how this little practice of mine came about, I would probably describe the way it helps my concentration, but I want to focus on the tactile aspect of my habit. I just simply like the feel of my hair, which is why I asked myself a question: “What would it feel like if I couldn’t feel the touch of my hair?” I thought about this for a little while and I caught myself asking another question: “Is not feeling anything a form of feeling or is the word nothingness would be a more apt description?” Indeed, what would it mean to lose one of my senses? I don’t think I can find a satisfying answer for this question, but nevertheless I will still attempt to imagine and describe what would it feel like to feel… nothing.

In the book An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales, Oliver Sacks describes a cunning case of Virgil, a man who lost his eyesight during an early childhood and regained it at the age of 50. Virgil was never able to navigate through life with his eyes as it was an alien world to him. The idea of not knowing how to use your vision sounds absurd to people who spent their entire lives looking and seeing. Virgil was much more adept at living in the world of the other senses because that was the only way he knew how to experience the world. The concept of “learning how to experience life” has recently come to my attention. A few weeks ago I came across the case about Ashlyn Blocker, a girl who suffers from an extraordinary genetic disorder that prevents her from feeling pain. When she was asked to describe what it is like to not feel any pain, Ashlyn stated that it was all she’s ever known and that she wouldn’t know how to explain her constant state. Many of us dream about not feeling any pain, but not many of us realize that it comes with a great price. Such severe mind and body dissociation puts one’s life in danger. The smallest changes in our body are signalled to and recorded in our brain so further actions can be initiated in an attempt to alter our surroundings in order to avoid pain or seek pleasure. At first glance, it seems as though our tactile sensations are reduced to a dichotomy of pain and pleasure, but there is much more to touch than just that. People give touch meaning, which gives volume and dimensionality to our experiences.

I think that total body numbness would make me feel like I’m suffocating. Every time I become aware of my bodily sensations it feels as though I can feel my skin breathing. Millions of neural receptors in my skin make me aware of any changes in my environment. Not being able to track these changes would take away a great deal of my experiences, and since I’ve always been able to feel the world with my skin I wouldn’t know how to deal with this new feeling of tactile emptiness. When I was thinking about what I would miss the most about my tactile sensation, I thought about a number of instances, which would lose their meaning for me if I was unable to feel them. I know I would terribly miss the touch of my mother’s hand, as well as my father’s nonverbal accolade of accomplishment in the form of a pat on the head. I wouldn’t be able to experience a firm hand shake of a chancellor during my graduation on its fullness, and I wouldn’t be able to remember what it felt like. I wouldn’t know how good it feels when physical pain is starting to go away. I realized that when my body is aching, I feel incredibly grateful when the pain is starting to go away and I experience this sensation of lightness and luminosity. I would miss the very first stretch in the morning, when you feel that sweet sensation of your muscles waking up and becoming alive again after a good night of sleep. I would not be as excited about cats and dogs, whose fur I wouldn’t be able to feel with the tips of my fingers.

I can see now, that so much of this world is experienced through touch. We don’t think about it often, so we’re not able to fully appreciate all the colors that touch brings into our lives. Learning the world through touch has become our habit in a way. We can see how familiar the tactile cosmos is to us, when we look at infants, who engage with the world around them by utilizing their hands and attempting to grab everything that they see around themselves. I spent a lot of time with a demonstrative example of this phenomenon – my friend’s daughter, who enjoyed greatly munching on my fingers with her toothless gums – this was the way she was exploring her surroundings. Since we all did this when were little, I can safely assume that tactility has been the first sensorial outlet, through which we learned how to journey through our lives. I can only imagine what kind of shock I would experience if I was deprived of this opportunity after involving myself with the world through touch. Just as hard it was for Virgil to learn the new tools of looking and seeing it would be as hard for me to lose such a tool. I remember how uneasy I felt when I had my cavity filled and my cheek was frozen. I desperately wanted to regain my sensitivity, simply because I wanted to feel the touch of my own fingers on my cheek and not being able to experience that felt wrong for some reason. I realize that without my touch my life would not be as full and complete. Perhaps, we will truly acknowledge the diversity that our senses bring us when we’re deprived of the perks of being sensory creatures.

The Girl Who Can’t Feel Pain video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSjwy6Y7Y8M)


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Reflection 4

Historically, taste has always been considered to be one of the lowest sensory systems that humans possess. It’s almost ironic that such an important aspect of our existence as eating has been devalued in its sensory domain. On the other hand, the ability to acquire quality food has always been a distinguishing feature of a privileged social cast – the wealthy. Mouth-watering cuisine has always been appreciated, although it’s important to mention that what people find delicious differs from culture to culture. Simply put, the interplay of flavours that is appreciated by the people is culturally constructed. Sutton describes a unilateral perception of flavor that has dominated a major fraction of research on gustatory sensory classification. We have to take into consideration the interplay of various factors that assist in preparation of an impeccably cooked meal, such as temperature, texture, color and certain visual elements. These qualities are the extensions of the rest of our sensory perceptions, which we utilize when we evaluate the quality of food. For instance, the texture that edibles have plays an important role in its appraisal that’s imposed by the people. A couple of times I came across the rejection of mushrooms by the people, who claimed that what really bothered them is the texture that mushrooms have, while these individuals had nothing to say against the taste of this ingredient. It’s an interesting phenomenon, because texture can be considered a purely tactile concept, since it has its roots in the area of touching, rather than tasting. At the same time, when we attempt to describe a way in which a certain ingredient tastes, we adopt this description from the department of tactile perception and it seems perfectly natural. Sutton provides an explanation for this notion; he utilizes the term synesthesia or the union of the senses. In fact, I believe that for an untrained individual it would be hard to dissociate certain aspects of our sensory perceptions, as we normally discover the world as a whole. In the article On Rocks, Walks, and Talks in West Africa by Geurts, we see a cultural adoption of synesthetic sensation, which she identifies as the model of seselelame, which means hearing or feeling in the body.

For the purpose of this reflection, I have chosen a Russian cooking TV-show called Cooking at Home with Julia Vysotskaya. I would expect to find a certain degree of universality in the appreciation of meals throughout the two cultures. In fact, the way people describe meal preparation and the way they evaluate the final product appears to be quite similar. For instance, Sutton describes cooking as a complex technology, which requires a patience and timing. Julia Vysotskaya, the host of a cooking TV-show characterizes the Carbonara sauce as a symphony of bacon, cream, eggs, parmesan and ground pepper. For Julia, as well as for other authorities on food, cooking is seen as a multifaceted array of ingredients, which interconnect in a conglomerated medley of taste and texture. In other words, the interplay that ingredients engage in is examined through the careful analysis of their qualities as well as their contribution to the overall taste of the meal. When this approach towards food preparation is adopted, as connoisseurs of quality food, we can appreciate the fullness and the completeness of the final product. In contrast, fast food is a product that emerged as a consequence of a fast paced environment and has played a great role in shaping our eating habits; unfortunately, we are starting to lose our ability to appreciate quality food. Food is simply perceived as a necessary fuel for our everyday lives and the lowering of gustative standards is seen throughout the Western world. At the same time, people still did not lose the ability to appreciate good food, as we still attend restaurants and I know plenty of people who choose to cook at home rather than eating out. In my culture, the elders see the preparation of food as an act of magic, and entire families often come together to create delicious meals.

Throughout the world aspects of healing and remedy are associated with food. Julia Vysotskaya highlighted the importance of pasta made from durum wheat, which is considered to be healthier than other kinds of pasta. In 1826 a French lawyer and politician Brillat-Savarin discovered an extremely important law of food and body exchange: “We are what we eat.” Aside from political and social mediums that governed his work, we can clearly draw a connection to the physical sensation that we experience when we eat different types of food. When people pay attention to the feeling that dominates their body after having a meal, we can distinctly see that certain products make us feel elevated, and certain foods make us feel bloated and congested. Sutton provides an overview of meaning and intention, which reveals itself within as well as beyond our bodies. The author of Food and the Senses talks about the sensory experiences, which are not only encapsulated within our bodies, but are also scattered on the exterior of things with autonomous characteristics that penetrate our bodies as perceptual contact. We see and experience the world through our senses, and the pathways that we create sooner or later become our habits. Perhaps, we should pay more attention to the world that surrounds us. We should be more analytical about the gustative opportunities that present themselves to us. In the article Sense of Motion, Senses of Self by Potter, the reader can clearly see the accentuation that the author puts on the awareness of space. Potter spends a lot of time describing the importance of being aware of your surroundings in order to be a good dancer. Sutton, on the other hand, states that the hegemonic state of gustatory sensation has been evident in the examination of cultural differences, which is a direct impact of the way we perceive the world around us. The world is full of sensory flavour, which we have to learn to see and understand. The acquisition of this skill requires sensory training. I adopted a way of describing the act of cooking from a TV-show that  I watched; Julia Vysotskaya, after she was done preparing the meal, she maintained her initial view by affirming that it’s very important to keep all ingredients intact, just like a musician writes an instrumental piece, every note has its own place. 

(Cooking at Home with Julia Visotskaya – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWcsNV4YMOQ)