Our doors and grounds are closed, but our ears and hearts are open.

Smells

From Rev. Erik Buss, Assistant to the Pastor
April 28, 2020

I’ve been taking advantage of the nicer weather and getting out into my garden a lot. I have tried to plant as many fragrant plants as possible because I love having beautiful smells around me. I spent some time smelling my viburnum, apple blossoms, and lilacs. But I also happened on a plant that was past its prime, and the bloom had that rotting smell that was distasteful.
There are so many amazing smells in the world – apple blossoms, fresh baked bread, babies, the smell of a loved one. And so many that are really awful too. Something striking to me is how strongly smell affects us. Sight inspires, as does hearing, but smell has a visceral impact. It penetrates to the heart far quicker. Smelling grandpa’s tobacco can bring a host of emotions, more quickly and powerfully than seeing a picture of hearing the sound of his voice can.
Our sense of smell depicts our ability to perceive what is good and true, or what is evil and false. Perception is that hard to define–sense of rightness or wrongness. We talk about something not passing the sniff test when we say we can’t explain why but we believe it’s wrong. It is a deep awareness of right and wrong.
We’re told we find things delightful depending on our deeper affections (Arcana Coelestia 4628). Evil people in the next life delight in foul smells, while good people delight in beautiful ones. You can think of how messed up a devil’s sense of right and wrong is. Just as smell gives us a strong emotional reaction, either positive or negative, our perception of truth or falsity, good or evil, can give us a heart response too. When we’re in a good state it is really powerful, but when in a bad place it can lead us astray.
One of the surprising symptoms showing up for Covid-19 is the loss of our sense of smell. Those who lose it find that life is a lot less enjoyable. Food tastes very bland, for instance. You could think, for comparison’s sake, about how challenging it would be for someone who is totally unable to read others’ expressions, or who lacks the ability to discern if what they hear is true of false. It makes for a very confusing world. Similarly, our perception of right and wrong guides us at a deep level and informs our actions in ways we may not even notice.
Since reading about smell recently, I have been noticing where my delights take me. As I nose around for a movie to watch, what delights am I looking for in selecting this movie over that? When someone disagrees with me do I find more delight in trying to show that I am right or in trying to see what truth there may be in that person’s ideas?
A goal of our being here on earth is to learn to find delight in what the Lord says and in leading the life He lays out for us. I invite you to go out and smell the beautiful flowers. And to turn to what the Lord says seeking to find similar delight in it.


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