Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 6 March 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette


Smelly encounters

There is no getting around it. We all exude a veritable degree of gas - some worse than others - from both ends of our torso. Add to it, a host of other smelly occurrences of the bodily kind such as stinky feet, B.O. and bad, horrible breath; not to mention a few others; and you have a veritable symphony of smelly smells of the human form.

Smelly means malodorous - having an unpleasant smell. However, your sense of smell warns you of dangers such as smoke and poisonous gases. It also helps you appreciate the full flavours of food and drink. Your sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than your sense of taste. You are able to detect thousands of different smells. The receptors that sense smells are called olfactory receptors. When your olfactory receptors are stimulated, they transmit impulses to your brain. This pathway is directly connected to your limbic system, the part of your brain that deals with emotions. That's why your reactions to smell are rarely neutral - you usually either like or dislike a smell. Smells also leave long-lasting impressions and are strongly linked to your memories.

Human beings have very similar characteristics to smell. Our reaction to another person is not unlike our reaction to smell. We either like or dislike a person. There are amongst us likeable persons and smelly characters. We are able to detect thousands of different characteristics in a person. The receptors we use to sense these attributes is called intuition. This pathway is directly connected to our sensory system. Lasting impressions are created in our memory of persons we like and dislike. Hence, Smelly Encounters applies to smell as well as people.


Anything that rots, also reeks. Our encounters with those physical variety of exhaust is usually unexpected, unplanned; and, therefore to some extent, endurable with exertion of effort. Social etiquette; and, unavoidable circumstances like travelling in public transport, demands of us to suffer the insufferable - in deference to those unfortunate brethren who knowingly and unknowingly pollute their immediate environment with their stink. But, tolerance also has a bad habit of becoming associated with condoning when used indiscriminately. And, aimless condonation is conduct becoming of servitude.

However, this article is not about those embarrassing encounters of the bodily kind. It is about, affairs of conscious action: those that result from the puerile, as well as the matured, effort of men and women alike; deeds that are performed to the detriment of the many, and to the benefit of a few; conduct that affect our daily life as well as our reputation as a cultured people who inhabit this resplendent and serendipity of an isle.

The affected call such acts as corruption; whilst the beneficiary calls it benevolence. In reality, the truth lies somewhere between the two nomenclature.

Corruption means the act of corrupting. The corrupt have or show a willingness to act dishonestly in return for personal gain of the varied kind. Corrupt is: a state of decomposition; tainted; putrid. Synonyms for 'corrupt' includes such words as: contaminate, debase, defile, deprave, deteriorate, pollute, putrefy, spoil, vitiate. Corruption, like smell, pollutes the environment. And, as I said earlier, anything that reeks is also rotting. Thus corrupt people deteriorate the self and the surroundings. Greater the corruption, extensive is the deterioration. However, in this instance, unlike with the normal substances in the world which rot from the outside in, the rot here commences from the inside. It also denotes that the corrupt, rot inside out.

We, as a people, may or may not be knowledgeable and possessed of wisdom. But, there is no question about our level of intelligence. Our intelligence quotient is comparable to the rest of mankind, if one takes the average. The tragedy, however, is that we have not learned to use this faculty in a productive manner. We use it for negative activity and for self enrichment in a wrong manner. For instance, I would ask God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I steal a bike and ask for forgiveness. A clever act by which, my dishonest intention is defused through the act of seeking clemency. Thus, through such deception, the offender aspires to obtain our acquiescence of his crime. We might also be tempted to over-look such acts by saying my conscience is clear. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

Now, let us look at what corruption does to a human being. When one begins to putrefy from inwards, it does not affect the outward appearance immediately.

The process of contamination is slow; but is certain to lead towards mortification of the being. The head, then the heart, followed by the soul, commences to affect. The person then is known to be afflicted by the cancer of corruption.

Like all carcinoma, the survival rate of the diseased is time determined irrespective of the offered medication. One might say that this applies to all matters in the cosmos. Yes it does. The difference is in the manner of decomposition. When most physical things in the universe, also known as matter, cease to exist in the form in which it originally did; it changes to energy and/or other substance.

One of the three basic Laws of Nature which governs the Universe, as formulated by Sir Isaac Newton, is that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. It only changes form. Neither does it pollute the earth as a result of such metamorphosis. However, when the corrupt begin to decompose inside out; even if appearances remain, the change is detectable due to the unendurable stink their act emanates. But like all humans who exude bodily ordour, the corrupt either feign ignorance or do not care. For they are aware that our apathy will ensure their survival. Yet, they know not, of the transient nature of life; nor about the fact that when they die, they transmit their stench to their near and dear. A telling toll, extracted from the guiltless; on account of the guilty. We Sri Lankans, unlike our co-countrymen, have become so obsequious to the extent that our tolerance level exceeds the limits extolled in all known religion.


It is also a sign of emasculation of the people. Hence, the corrupt in this country fare better than their counterparts in other nations. Here, they do not decay that easily because people condone activities of this breed of parasites. We add strength to this shameless impudence. We cower before the corrupt, not out of fear; but because of our admiration of, and desire to become, them. We yearn to become rich by imitation. In our country where forty percent of our people are living on poverty and more likely to join; money matters most, not ethics. We are aware that money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

The need in us impels the greed. Due to this greediness, we condone - not confront -corruption. We complain of the corrupt in whispers while falling silent in their presence. We are so week kneed that we are unable to, or do not possess the will to, tell the corrupt what they are: that they are corrupt; that we do not need their presence amongst us; that they are nothing but the scum of society. Our society does not boycott the fraudulent. We covet them. We hope for the crumb that they may throw at us. Until and unless we Sri Lankans have the courage of our convictions to discard what is bad, we as a nation will remain the poorer.

Intelligence alone is insufficient to make a people prosper. Knowledge and Wisdom are essential ingredients.

But, there is also the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom. An example that would illustrate this difference is: Knowledge is to know that a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. However, here is something to ponder over:

An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behaviour, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom, or beauty.

Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom. "Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. One of his colleagues whispers, "Say something." The dean sighs and says, "I should have taken the money."

Can a society degenerate beyond this? See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking, keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two activities.

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