One taxi, two taxi, three taxi then four. Taxi (Life) Lessons in Portugal

Taxis: the good, the bad, and the ugly

When Ron and I travel in a foreign country, we rarely use taxis, so the whole experience of using them is a bit “foreign” to me. We’re usually driving, riding the train, or just walking. But when I recently went to Portugal by myself, I had planned to use taxis a bit more because I didn’t want to waste too much time finding buses and walking miles in hours to get to my destination hike. Furthermore, I had heard that taxis in Portugal were rather inexpensive, efficient, and friendly, so I looked forward to the convenience while getting from A to Z in Portugal.

Taxi #1: the vile ride

The first ride, what I have come to call “the vile ride,” was such a misrepresentation of the good of humanity that I can only do what we learned while living in St. John’s Newfoundland and affectionately call “the Newfie Nod” a specific side cock of the head which can denote a number of things from a simple greeting to an emotional “oh well, what are you doing to do about it?”

I had just arrived in Lisbon, still at the airport and went outside to find a taxi ride to my night’s lodging. I just assumed you go to curb side and wave your hand, but I quickly learned that it was required of me to go through the “cow corral” like the other hundreds of people and wait your turn. I took a few steps, stopped, took a few steps, stopped, turned one corner, took a few steps and waited, and on and on all the while wondering just how many taxis there could possibly be because the wait wasn’t a wait for a taxi to arrive, but for the seemingly equally long line of taxis to simply take their turn to pick up those of us waiting our turn. My turn came and before I could even take a breath the taxi driver was out of the car and had opened the boot. I waved him on by motioning to my back pack still strapped on, saying I will keep my pack on and began to get into the back seat. The driver remained outside and then with quite a huff, he slammed the boot and got in the car.  Then, having been instructed to do so by the hostess of the guess house to which I was going, I asked the driver that It would be “around 15 euros, right?” Then like a bolt from the sky he turned to me and with a face as fierce as his word he sharply spoke “You have no respect for me!”

Being taken back, I didn’t immediately say anything, which would have been impossible anyway for he went right on, repeating that I have no respect for him and that whenever he travels, he is respectful. His chastisement in tone and gesture indicated I was possibly the most of low life he had yet encountered.  Within a few moments of his barrage I attempted to down scale the tone by indicating that I was easier for me to keep the pack on given it was strapped to my body and I was already seated and that I didn’t want an extra expense by putting it the boot. Then regarding the amount, in my honest attempt at redemption told him that I had been informed of the approximate cost and simply wanted to confirm the expected amount. This explanation along with my subsequent apology was to no avail for he informed me again in no uncertain terms that I have “no respect,” that he did not know the amount, that the meter would tell him, and he would charge me for the luggage anyway.

Silly me, I then tried to assure him that this being my first day in Portugal I was just going by the recommendations rendered only to be met again with his spewing. Now, given he had already started driving, his suggestion that perhaps I would like another taxi, was a bit late. Finally determining that this man simply wanted an argument I declared that I would no longer discuss this in anger. He sped on and I held on for dear life as he acted out his temperament though his driving jerking across lanes, around vehicles of all sizes and barely keeping all four tires grounded through the round-a-bouts in what surely exceeded even the tourism warning of fast taxi drivers.

In a continued heated silence, we neared my destination. He slowed down, checked the address, stopped the taxi. In preparation for my departure, I had set my mind to be as kind as I could and display a genuine regard for him despite himself. After I paid the due 18 Euro and began to exit the car I said “I wish you well”. However, as soon as the door was closed and he began to sped off I could hear him say with his head out his window “fuck you”.

Taxi # 2: an honest mistake.

Having enjoyed my evening in Lisbon (on foot), I awoke to a beautiful morning enjoying what seemingly only European cities can provide, the most delightful sidewalk cafes filled with leisured patrons and nearby pastry shops to die for.  I did my best to also “take it easy” for a short time although I was anxious to get on my way to the Metro which would take me to the major bus stop where I intended to get a ticket to Porto Covo to begin my hiking excursion down the Fisherman’s Trail along Portugal’s beautiful coast. Once I arrived at the bus station, I was disappointed to learn that I had missed the first bus and there was not another bus available until 4 PM. Shoot. It was only about 9:30 which meant another 6.5 hours till the bus left and then another four hours on the bus. Ten hours. Darn. I had already lost one day due to a lengthy delay out of Chicago which in turn caused a missed connection out of Madrid to Lisbon. I didn’t want to delay my hiking intention and end up just being a “tourist” for a full day so I sought out a taxi. I found an attendant outside the bus station and asked about taxis going as far as Porto Covo. He waved his hand in an easy manner as he said that of course taxis would take me anywhere I wanted to go. He directed me to the taxi stand where again, standing in a line (short one, thank goodness) I asked the locals about taxis. They widened their eyes when I said Porto Covo and kept them wide in facial warning that it would be expensive! Humph. I waited my turn and began my internal debate of choosing between the utiles of time or money.

When “my taxi” pulled up I leaned in the window and asked if he could drive me to Porto Covo. “Porto Covo?”, he asked, as if he had just hit a gold mine.  “Yes, Porto Covo, can you do a longer ride this morning?” I asked how long it would take and how much it would cost, off the meter (I thought that I might need a bargaining chip). He had to check. I leaned back out of the window while he did his research. He came back to me with a hesitant smile and reported that it would be 100 klicks and about as many euros. I asked for a firm price. He then stated firmly that he would drive me to Porto Covo for 100 euros plus whatever the highway tolls might be, maybe as much as 30 euros. I confirmed that it would be off the meter and a flat fee for the mileage plus tolls. He re-confirmed. I bit my lip as I studied his face. He looked good, “clean” as I like to describe relatively healthy people. “Okay, let’s do it but I need you to give me a few minutes to go to the bathroom and get the cash (he wouldn’t take a credit card, his bargaining chip, I suppose).” He said sure, and showed me where he would be waiting. I jogged back to the bus station, did my duty and grabbed a quick espresso, having an absolutely lovely encounter with the young man serving me, and then giddily jogged back down to the waiting taxi. I was excited as I got in his cab because I was going I was going H-I-K-I-N-G!  He was excited too as he gestured to the meter to prove it was a cash agreement. He was going to get P-A-I-D! And so the two of us, each happy in our own way took off. I had no interest in conversation, looking forward to viewing the country side but I did venture to declare to him that I was an honest person and he returned the favor of noting that he too was a good and honest person. What could possibly go wrong with an easy morning 100-euro excursion? Within a few klicks I loosened up and offered that I had just turned 64 the week before and had come to his beautiful land to hike the Fisherman’s Trail. He had recently turned 62 and had not been to Porto Covo for many, many years and thought it would be nice to see the little seaside village again. That was the extent of our conversation. Traffic was easy, we were out of the city within a short time and on the main expressway passing various sites common to such drives. The silent ride was pleasant and going smoothly. After a bit we hit the wine country to which I gleefully exclaimed “Portugal Vino!” He turned to look out the window and chuckled, “yes, vineyards…good wine, Portugal. Good wine.” We rode on. Two good honest introverts doing their own thing made for a pleasant ride as I followed along my scant map noting the sign posts for a few of the cities and regions along the way.

The road stretched on and then I heard him sigh. I paid no mind knowing it was a “long ride”.  A short time passed then I heard him sign again.  And then, again but louder. I realized, that yes, this really was feeling like a long ride and that we should be there soon. And then yet again I heard him sigh as he began to dishevel his hair with his hand. I wondered what was going on. I noted that awhile back I had heard an alarm ping on his phone but I had paid it no mind and didn’t make the connection until he said that there was a mistake. A mistake?  He confirmed as he pulled off the highway (we had already gotten off the toll way and were on a lesser trafficked dual highway) onto a bit of gravel patch on which an abandoned car was sitting…just what was this mistake???

He held up his phone and said it was wrong, it was not 100 km, but 175! OUCH. No wonder it was feeling “long”.  My first thought was this is going to take longer than the expected hour while I simultaneously knew he was concerned that this was an unmetered ride. He reiterated that this was a mistake and did the hand in the hair thing again. I tried to keep the calm by saying “let’s think this though” but I knew it wasn’t going to work when he said “this is an omen!”. “No, no omen”, I said, “just a mistake.” “Are we on the right road?” I asked, wanting to get control of the situation “Yes, I know the road” he said in frustration, “but the kilometers are wrong!” He had me look at the speedometer he had set on trip. Yes, I could see it was already well over 100 km, and Google was now telling him there were 35 more to go.

I knew right then that there were a few decisions that were going to have to be made and that I wasn’t going to foot the full bill on this but thought it best that I keep my musings to myself. Sitting there on the side of the road I simply noted that he agreed to get me to Porto Covo. Bless his honest soul, he sighed again, this time with his hand to his forehead, and turned back onto the road. I silently began to calculate how much cash I had immediately available and how I could assist without taking advantage of him or allowing him take advantage of me. I had no doubt this was simply one of those “honest mistakes” that had to be swallowed, I just wasn’t yet sure by which of us. Besides we both stated we were honest people and I believed it to be true.

A bit more down the road we hit a roundabout and I saw a sign for Porto Covo that my driver had missed. Granted we were now on “country roads” and the signs were not posted as they would have been on the expressway. “Now what is happening?”, I began to think: did he miss the sign, was there a shorter route that he knew about, or was he just so distressed he wasn’t paying attention. We got past the roundabout and I looked back and again I saw the sign for Porto Covo pointing the other way. I spoke up and he looked back. Again he pulled off the road, turned around and looked at the sign and cursed Google and smacked the phone with the back of his knuckles.  He turned the car around and followed the signs to Porto Covo.  Thank the Portuguese gods, we only had a few more klicks to go. Once we were in the small town I told him to just stop anywhere.  He stopped. I took ahold of my back pack, opened the door and then handed him the 100 euros reminding him that this is what we had agreed on. Then I handed him 30 more euros letting him know that I watched the toll fees as they registered and that they weren’t even close to 30 but wanted to ease some of his distress for the honest mistake. Then, in the last moment I gave him ten more euros and he just shook his head and said “Oh, lady!” which sadly wasn’t in appreciation but in disappointment that I did not pay a euro each for the full 175 kilometers plus tolls.  I said I was sorry and got out of his car. I shut the door and felt very sad. I knew in many ways he lost more than I did. I began walking into town, and within a few minutes I saw him circle around. I didn’t heed him and he didn’t stop. Bless his heart.

Taxi # 4: Do you know where you’re going? (Yes, I am skipping to number 4 intentionally.)

I had the most wonderful five days hiking along the coast. It was everything I had been told, or had read that it was and now, back in Lisbon having savored a real touristy day and evening was back on the metro to return to my hotel which was about 3 klicks from the airport, as the crow flies, anyway. I made sure I noted where I had gotten on the metro and even took a picture of it on my phone for easy reference so I could get off at the same place. Once I got in the train, given the time of day, it was exceedingly busy and we were really crammed in. I mean crammed in. I thought about making a joke that I was glad I wasn’t going to be having sardines for dinner, but declined knowing that a lot of people don’t “get my jokes”. We jostled about and waited for the train to move. It didn’t. We shuffled and waited some more. Then the doors opened again and closed again. I knew this wasn’t the way the metro doors usually behaved. I asked some young men who had already interpreted for me and they said that there was some trouble. Obviously. Anyway, tight to the ribs we were. So tight in fact, that very jovial lady’s breast was solidly braced against my hand which held the floor pole. It struck me as interesting really. She didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t seem to care, or perhaps, who knows, maybe she was liking it. I am in Europe, after all. I couldn’t tell. She seemed happy enough, chatting and laughing with her friends. I figured she just wasn’t aware of it. But being a comparatively prudish American in a tram full of Europeans, I figured it was just me that was uncomfortable with this situation: a woman’s breast solidly pressed against my hand. Then of course, I began to wonder, as my eyes widened, what part of my anatomy was pressed up against someone? I tried not to laugh for fear it if were true I might jiggle that body part. I mused as to whether my fellow sardine travelers might wonder if I were aware of my body parts pressed up against them in some way. I laughed at myself again thinking, “Deb, this is Europe, not Wisconsin” and just did in Lisbon what Lisboetas evidently do in the sardined subway: I just smiled and hung on as if full body contact with a stranger was the most natural thing in the world.

As you can guess the tram did eventually move but the announcement was made that it would only go to a given juncture and not continue on its scheduled route. Okay, that meant that I would not be getting off where I got on which in turn meant I would not know where I was and how to retrace my passage back to the hotel (No, I didn’t think to use google any more than my previous taxi driver did). So, when the sardined tram finally came to a stop and the breasted lady got off in front me of, I left too privately noting if I could feel any release of human flesh from any given portion of my anatomy (I didn’t). I found a taxi just outside the metro station and leaned in to ask how far to my destination. He wasn’t immediately sure of the location until I told him it was about 3 Km from the airport as a matter of general reference and then he vigorously nodded his head and said with an unbending confidence “7 euros”. Great! I got in his taxi. Being in early evening traffic there were a lot of stops at lights during which times I noticed he kept fiddling with his phone. Then I realized he had circled around (I am not making these stories up!) He said he was sorry, he would find it. He would find it???? He is one of hundreds if not a thousand plus taxi drivers in Lisbon and he doesn’t know where the f… he is and where the f… he is going? He would find it? No less than three times, he said “Sorry, I will find it.” He then asked if I smoked? No. He asked if it was okay if he smoked and I responded with some kind of “please don’t.” He did his own rendition of sighs and hair gesturing.  Again, he was sorry and quickly stopped at a light, rolled down his window, and asked another taxi going the other way along the boulevard if he knew the Rue I was going to. That taxi driver shrugged and left when the light turned.  “Sorry” again he said to me. Then it was I who suggested he try Google maps. With this he finally pulled the cab over and stopped and punched my address into his phone. All I could do was roll my eyes. “Okay” he said, “I know where!” Great.  We got there eventually, but in a lot more than 7 kilometers. Even so, by golly, I was going to stick to his word. I paid him his 7 euros and walked away.

Taxi # 3: unexpected generosity 

Bear with me please, this is the best of them all.  Really.

So, I had just finished the last segment of my five days hiking along Fisherman’s Trail. It was wonderful. I knew that morning when I set out that I was only going to go part way since I was going to return to my previous night’s lodging in preparation for my BUS ride the next day to Lisbon. As I was hiking along the sea cliffs, savoring the last bit of the pounding surf I came to the trails end before I would go overland to the town of Rogil where I knew I would be able…to get a…taxi…back to Odeceixe. I assumed anyway, that I could and would.  Besides, if I couldn’t, I knew I would just back trek on the trail even if it would be a very long day doing so.

After what became a longer than I expected hike through farm land and off beat paths I reached Rogil. Staying on the inland road I reached a lovely coffee shop at the junction of the main highway. As I ordered a double espresso, I asked the owner if there would be any trouble getting a taxi back to Odeceixe. He shook his head and said “No trouble, easy.” Music to my ears, of course. I asked him that if after I finished my espresso would he call a cab for me. He smiled. Feeling confident and a bit hungry I ordered one of those nice little chicken pastries with my espresso.  I dropped my pack, took out my camera for a few last shots of the lovely gardens around the patio, and sipped my espresso and ate my little pie. I went back in and placed my cup and saucer on the counter and indicated I was ready for the taxi and he nodded affirmingly as if it was the surest thing in the world.

Within a minute he came out to the table and said that there was trouble with the taxi. I shuffled my feet as if to personally signal preparedness to keep on trekking… “Okay, trouble, of course, taxis!” I barely had time to think as he proceeded to tell me that both taxis were busy and were not available. But, without missing a beat he went on to say that he was going to drive me in his car.

He would drive me in his car? Oh, he is a taxi guy too. Okay, great. Really great. I grabbed my back pack and followed him down the back side of his espresso shop expecting a taxi cab to be sitting there. No, this was his personal car and as I stood there while this dear man began to clear out the passenger seat and floorboard of loose papers and empty coffee cups and all such things that tend to accumulate, I realized he wasn’t a taxi driver in addition to running an espresso café, but rather, this man was a good man who “promised me” a taxi would be available and was literally going to personally drive me to Odeceixe. And he did.  It was a delightful ride of about ten klicks in which in his limited English told me about his two children. One, his “woman child”, who was 21 (he wrote the number in the dust on his dash board given he wasn’t sure how to say the number), is away at college studying math. And his “man child” was 19, again, he wrote the number further down the dash dust board. The man child I learned is very good with computers and is at a tech school doing auto computer engineering. I indicated that he must be proud. He got the jest and nodded his head with a bit of embarrassed joy.

He took me into Odeceixe. As I got out he did too and retrieved my back pack from the boot of his car. We shook hands and then I gave him ten euros. Again, he embarrassingly smiled and took the ten-note. He turned his car around in the village square and as he banked the corner out of town he waved. Such a great taxi man, I thought. How wonderful humanity is.

Moral of the stories: win some loose some. But in the end, we win.  I believe this.

Granted there are rough and ugly people in life, like the first taxi driver who seemingly was determined to have a bad day for whatever his reason. Sometimes, we just have to call a spade a spade and let them go, hopefully without harm. God forbid he had been the driver down to Porto Covo!

Sometimes, there is simple ignorance and just plain honest mistakes.  They are going to happen. It doesn’t matter if it is me or the other guy who makes them. We have to let them come, think them through, do what we think is best and then, let them go.

Most importantly though, there are so many wonderfully good and kind people, all around the world. Certainly, I encountered numerous of them in Portugal both in the towns and on the trails: Germans, Scandinavians, South Africans, Australians, Swiss, Italians, Dutch, Canadians, and of course the Portuguese. Oh, and would you believe, only one other American did I encounter on the trails, all who were quick to smile, assumed for you a good day, happy to share a stranger’s meal, lend a hand up a ragged cliff or give you a promised ride when the other drivers were busy.

Everywhere, always, I believe there will be glorious moments of respite and the best of humanity will shine forth. I choose to focus on this.

Feelings IX: Joy From Intuition

This is the ninth in a series of “feelings”. Our most recent addition, Feelings VIII had to do with the feeling of joy, specifically related to the joy that one experiences in one’s five physical senses. Here we would like to explore joy that comes from what we might call our sixth sense, which I am calling intuition. This joy from intuition is something like when you say, “I don’t know why, but I just feel good (or joyful, or happy, or content).” Let’s consider together how we might understand, value, and express this intuitive joy.

What is intuition?

This word “intuition” is sometimes used too much and sometimes not used at all, so I want to be careful in how I suggest we use it for the feeling of joy. Importantly, I subsume this word intuition under the heading of the word feelings that we have been studying these recent weeks. Recall that the word “feelings” as I am using the term is very important but does not lend itself to any exact definition. Succinctly put, feeling is first a physical feeling, secondly an emotional feeling, thirdly a thinking feeling, and fourthly an activity-based feeling. People tend to express their feelings in one of these arenas. For instance there are people who express their feelings primarily with their body experiences, others with their emotion, others with their thoughts, and others with their activities. I think feelings encompasses all four of these phenomena in life, and that emotional maturity requires us to become more fluent in all of these ways of expressing feelings.

Some people call intuition a “gut level feeling,” and such people profess that they experience these sixth sense feelings during dreams, whether awake or asleep. Some people consider such intuitive feelings spiritual. And while some people would use the term “spiritual” to explain this experience, but certainly this sixth sense is not limited to religious experiences however profound they might be. When we talk about a sixth sense, we might even be talking about one of the five senses operating at a level beyond our awareness. Neuropsychologists might be able to see what part of the brain is firing when we have this intuitive experience, but we will defer that discussion to folks who are more skilled than we are in matters neurological. We can say that times of joy come with people and without people. Consider the following.

Times of joy with people

People of some personality types have their greatest times of joy with people, while others find joy in other avenues. People-based joy can come in many forms including:

  • In depth conversation
  • Simple weather-related brief interaction
  • Sharing an experience with someone
  • Being in a familiar group of friends or family
  • Being in a lecture where everyone is intent on learning the same thing
  • Caring for a child or playing with a child
  • Planning or thinking about a future event with people

Times of joy without people

Consider the many times you have found joy being alone, perhaps when you were:

  • Reading a new book or a favorite poem
  • Appreciating some special aspect of nature
  • Remembering a very special time you had when you were alone
  • Writing something, like this blog
  • Playing by yourself, whatever that might be
  • Working alone on a project without any interruption
  • Praying or meditating

If you acknowledge that you have this feeling, this “sense of something,” you will then be able to consider whether it is a simple thought or emotion that has passed through your head, or a profound understanding of something important to you. If this sixth sense feeling stays with you beyond a few seconds, you need to take a moment and allow it to run its course. If this feeling comes and goes within a few seconds, you don’t have to spend time trying to bring it into consciousness, but if this feeling stays with you, your next task is to give it some room.

Giving intuition room

Giving intuition “room” means allowing yourself the freedom to experience intuition time to unfold. Again: you might notice something physical, emotional, intellectual, or action oriented. This is easier for some people than it is for others, probably due to personality type and temperament. If you do this easily, you may be predominantly an intuitive person, but if giving intuition room is difficult, you may be a person who is more practical, rational, or analytical. It is possible to give intuition room by allowing yourself to feel something that has no exact cause, which again, is easier for some people than it is for others. Everyone is intuitive in some way, but not all people acknowledge this intuition, even to themselves.

Giving intuition room is quite simply allowing yourself to experience this feeling, this gut-level, analytical, emotional, or physical thing without knowing what “it” is. Just feeling it. True intuition can lead to amazing scientific discoveries to which many scientists attest, or to insights about oneself or the universe at large. “Just feeling” an intuition means allowing yourself to experience intuition in the way that is most natural to you: physical, emotional, intellectual, or activity-based. There are times when you feel an intuition about potential danger, but most intuitions are quite apart from danger and the fear that accompanies danger. Once you have given intuition room, you often will discover that you have a feeling of joy. Let’s consider how that might happen:

  • For people who are primarily physical in their experience of intuition, they might experience a very pleasant physical experience, perhaps a physical calm, a physical strength, or better yet a feeling of general body pleasure
  • For people who are emotional, they will most likely feel inclined to cry, crying being an expression of joy (and of course of sorrow), but joy that is born of love
  • For people who are intellectual, they may experience this intuition in a sense of knowing something or understanding something
  • For people who are activity-based, they might experience intuition while doing something, very often having success in some physical endeavor.

Consider the joys in your life. Consider writing them down. Consider putting them into a poem…or a project. Consider sharing them with someone. Trust your intuition

Further Reading

Feelings 1-VIII blogs

Pillard, N. (2015). Jung and intuition. London: Karnac

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper and Row.

Schutz, W. (1967). Joy: expanding human awareness. New York: Grove Press

Freedman, J. (1978). Happy people: what happiness is, who has it, and why. New York: Harcourt Brace.

Feelings VIII: The Sense of Joy

Feelings VIII: The Sense of Joy

A couple of blogs past we offered Feelings VI: It’s All About Hurt, and then paradoxically offered Feelings VII: It’s Not All About Hurt in which we suggested that the feeling of joy is just as important as the feeling of sadness, which is the heart of “hurt.” Today we would like to unpack this business of joy and try to be practical about how we can experience and express more joy in our lives. Keep in mind that the emotion of sadness and the emotion of joy are on a continuum of love. In other words, we feel joy and sadness singularly because we love something: joy when we have it, sadness when we lose it. We have written extensively in several venues (blogs, papers, and our book, The Power of Positive Sadness) about the importance of sadness, which we yet think is the heart of most difficulties people have in life, like relationship problems, anxiety, depression, and anger. But today we would like to look at the other side of the “love continuum,” namely the side that is about having something that we love, which brings some kind of joy to us.

Joy is most easily recognized through one or more of our five senses, but also comes through intuition, cognition and fantasy, which we are daring to call our “sixth sense”. We will start this discussion by examining the ways joy enters our system through our five physical senses and then proceed into the murky waters of intuition. As we examine the various ways that we experience joy, consider your own experiences with joy, whether recent or long past.

Joy coming through the sense of smell (olfactory)

This might seem an odd way to begin our discussion of the experience of joy in the five senses. When we think of smell, we generally think of bad smell, rank, rancid, or disgusting. So, while smell might not seem the most obvious way to start a discussion of joy as experienced in the five senses, it is actually the most important place to start because the sense of smell is our most basic sense. Consider the animal kingdom, whether it is a bear sniffing the air for the scent of pray or your dog sniffing telephone poles and certain portions of other animals’ anatomy, and you will see this most central sense operating in nonhuman animals. Smell might well have been the first sense developed, at least by mammals. Furthermore, there is an interesting thing about smell that most people don’t know but that contributes to many addictions. With all the other four senses (sight, touch, hearing, and taste) information that comes into the sense organs goes through a transfer point in the brain before we actually have cognition of it. But smell goes through no transfer point, and instead goes directly into the cerebral cortex, which then creates some kind of thought or action. It seems that this most primitive sense remains primary, at least if we see how smells are processed in the brain. Interested readers might rea about pheromones, which are chemicals that trigger a social response in the animal kingdom including humans. It is the smell of something that immediately enters our brain, much more quickly than the other four senses. Consider the aromas that entice you, like flowers, new mown hay, meat cooking on the grill, the stew simmering on the stove or the smell of fresh air in the autumn.

Joy in hearing (auditory)

Something heard might be offensive, but actually most of what is heard is on the pleasant side of the spectrum of like/dislike. There are many kinds of sounds that reach our brains through our ears. Music is one of the predominate vehicles for experiencing joy through the sense of hearing.  Music is universal from tribal drums to Gregorian chants. Music is described often as “moving” “Being moved” is a way of describing this indescribable experience we call feeling that connects us to either a memory or evokes a sense of ease and peace internally. What pleases you when it comes to music: Christmas cantatas, a bit of sax jazz or maybe the Spanish guitar?  The choices are as varied as there are people in the world. The feeling that one has with music is what we want to discuss in our continuing attempt to get at what “feeling” is all about.

What does it mean to be “moved” by music? This “being moved” is a “feeling,” including emotion but it is more than emotion. One person can have a profoundly positive experience and another a significantly negative one, all to the same music. Once at a men’s workshop, I played Pacobel’s Cannon, to which Deb and I were married, and which I find to be quite “moving” in a positive way. I enjoy hearing the Canon. However, when I played the Canon, one of the men in the group said, “I hate this piece of music.” Both his feeling and mine were genuine, both were valid, and both needed to be expressed but not to incite an argument. Bob and I took turns talking about our feelings about the Canon and in so doing, learned about each other.

While the most dramatic, music is not the only auditory experience that can bring positive feelings. Pleasant auditory feelings can be nature-created: wind through pines, the cardinal’s song, water lapping and rain on the roof. Human made sounds can be just as wonderful: Distant train horns, office laughter, the giggling of young children, engines operating at peak performance, or even the ticking of a clock.

Note the sounds in your life that bring you a sense of pleasure, which is that “feeling” coming to you when you hear something wonderous or satisfying. How often do you comment on these favorable sounds compared to the honking cars, barking dogs, or screaming children that you find offensive?

Joy in touch (kinesthetic)

As music is first to come to mind when we think of pleasurable sounds, sex usually comes to mind when we think of pleasurable experiences of touch. Certainly, sexual contact in its many forms is nearly universally a good feeling. There are, of course, many people, for whom this is not the case, not the least of which are those who have been molested early in life. For the larger majority of people, sexual touch is gratifying and brings this good feeling, “good feeling” being a term we have used for the many experiences in life.  One of the components of sexual or intimate touching is that it is generally reciprocal. It is the exchange of touch the give and take that adds so much to sexual or intimate pleasure.

“Just touching”, that is the simple act of tactile engagement brings a multiplicity of pleasure. The first jump of summer into a cool lake, brushing your hand along ancient monuments,  stroking your pet or ruffling the hair of a child, grasping your favorite fountain pen or the warmth of your morning coffee mug.  For some, like artisans, the touch of their tool can actually ignite their inspiration. A carpenter can pick up a block of wood and sense what to do with it. I know an artist who describes the picking up of her brushes as a “holy sensation”. We all know the wonderfulness of touching our pet or feeling them brush up near us, to hug a friend at the airport when they arrive, a good strong and secure handshake at the end of a successful business meeting and of course, the pleasure of when your grand-daughter slips her little hand into yours is that “good feeling” that is only experiences through touch.

Touching and being touched can reach deep inside of us and may even reach our core self. If I am touched by a person familiar to me, that touching can be quite spontaneous as well as particularly pleasant, partly because the touch was unexpected. At that moment, you can feel something special, something of a connection, something safe even though the touch was simple and short. This simple and short positive experience can also occur when you touch something, whether living or nonliving. What happens in moments like this is that this person or thing has had an enhancing effect on you. You feel yourself, and also you feel better in some way. Do you acknowledge the pleasure, contentment, connection, or safety that comes with certain kinds of touch?

Joy in taste (gustatory)

Similar to the olfactory senses, the sense of taste provides the greatest variety of good and bad feelings. “Good” and “bad” may be due largely to acquired taste. Who immediately liked coffee when you first tasted it as a child? Who didn’t like ice cream as a child? It appears that the sense of taste, more than any of the other five senses, appears to develop over time largely with familial and cultural influences. I am impressed with Mexican and East Indian folks who can pop hot peppers into their mouths and enjoy the flavor when some people might become seriously ill with such ingestion. Consider the taste of sugar, meat, fruits, vegetables, alcoholic drinks, and a glass of water with a fresh slice of lemon or lime. Which are to your liking. Which feel right? My wife loves to prepare green bean in drizzle of olive oil, a well sliced onion and a good splash of white wine and wonders how anyone else wouldn’t like her prep.  Our grandson doesn’t like green beans at all, and probably wouldn’t even if grandmother coated them in sugar. Taste is about as individual as there are people on the planet.

Joy in sight (visual)

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? I continue to find that true even as my preferred mode of communication is with spoken or written words. Sight is perhaps my weakest sense, at least somewhat due to the fact that I am color blind. When Deb points out the roses on a wild rose bush we pass on the road, or the tomatoes on the vine as we are walking from the office to the house, I am always at a loss to see such things. As we speak we are in the last of summer where everything is lush and green, perhaps my least favorite color because I often cannot distinguish green from red, brown, or gray. Where Deb uses terms like Kelly green or chartreuse, or when I read something like “very verde,” I am bemused because all these colors are simply green. Driving home from our cabin up north last week the forests were alive with color and shape for Deb, the shades very distinct. I can appreciate a sunset and the like, and I even commented to Deb on how we might have a full moon next week, but I am not moved by things visual the way so many people are.

People who are more gifted in matters visual are a gift to the world. Such people are those who create visual things and those who appreciate them. Clearly, artists of all visual forms are those who use their talents to enhance the visual beauty of the world. There is something special in the artist who often feels compelled to create visual art. Michelangelo reportedly “saw” David before he carved him and only needed to chip away the marble from what he “saw.” Artists certainly have an appreciation for art in its many forms, perhaps especially in their chosen modality, but appreciation of art is something that many people have. Things that are seen include the created art of painting, natural art of the Colorado Mountains or Niagara Falls, or the simple beauty of two young girls dressed up for a dance recital. In everything seen, there is potential for joy or for disgust. Consider how many times you have spoken of what you have seen noting the frequency of your comments about what is beautiful.

There are many more things seen that are quite beautiful, often only to the eye of the beholder. Once while playing basketball, I was lucky enough to catch a “baseball pass” from a teammate and make a layup. A few minutes later another teammate graciously said my play was “a thing of beauty.” There are many such things of beauty that the “eye of the beholder” might see that others might not including shapes of objects, like elements of nature, human-made objects, or the human body. Use your imagination.

With all of the senses we are discussing, consider if for you it is easier to focus on the negative compared to the joyful. Then you might just share this joy coming from one or more of your senses, or you might be just as pleased to recognize it and remember it.

Further reading

Previous 7 blogs on Feelings

Forthcoming Feelings IX: joy from the sixth sense (intuition)