Instant recognition!

life begins at 40What is it about the human brain that enables us to see, hear, or smell a thing and instantly recognize disparate details about that object based upon past experience.  Carl Jung’s comment that life begins at 40 because up till then you’re doing research has a lot of truth to it.  We are accumulating memories that are going to provide the context for so much of life later on.

Take for example this watercolor by Robert McGinnis. McGinnis poster art

McGinnis was the artist who did a lot of promotional art for the James Bond franchise — and also for a great many other cultural icons of the last 90 years.  And

I have been thinking about how our brains can look at an image, or an ojbect and instantly recognize certain characteristics about it.  We can place it in time, we can associate it with other know entities — like an entertainment franchise.  Heck, there are smells I smell today (well, in recent memory) that remind me of a ratty house in our neighborhood inhabited by the filthiest family I have ever known.  I KNOW that aroma. It says only bad things to me when I smell it.  Similarly there are mechanical sounds that I heard in 35 years of helping my dad superintend an apartment building that mean No Good — the sound of water dripping for example.  And sight — of course — gives us the most clues.  We make myriad associations based on what we see.

Thunderball 1973

When you look at the James Bond poster adjacent it’s not hard to know without a doubt that it belongs in the 1970’s (actually 1973).  That image above was used as cover art for an Earl Stanly Garner novel, one of the Perry Mason series, The Case of the Bigamous Spouse and it’s easy to tell that the work is at least back into the 60’s (actually 1964) by the different nuances in the image.  We might say, “it looks older.”  Why we may not be able to define.  We just “know” it. Sometimes our brain draws lines of demarcation and definition in order to put things in some sort of category that only one person in the world will recognize — but to that one person it’s all that exists in the world.



I could talk about “batons”, or I could talk about “batons”. In either case I’d be using the same word but there’s quite a difference between a baton used for twirling and one used for self-defense (a tactical baton). Yet, a glance at either is enough for the brain to make a connection between very different things.

defensive baton

Or a baton?

All of this has a way of coming back to RV’ing — wouldn’t you know it!  A part of being a good (read that word “good” as in “successful”)  RV’er is being able to recognize patterns in the RV life you live.  And there are patterns everywhere.  Some of them are visual, others are aural or olfactory — but the brain is able to recognize them and we do well when we pay attention.

In an RV a “musty smell” is never a good thing and as soon as one smells it you really need to find out where the smell is coming from.  So much of modern RV’s is built with particle board of one variety of another and water is the death of that stuff.

Similarly, discolorations are another dead giveaway that something is wrong.  Once again a little water laying on a surface will get into the material and both weaken it and change the color.  Then again wood takes on different colors depending on how much heat it’s exposed to.


Take this sample of the same wood exposed to differing amounts of heat.  If I harken back to our friends experience changing out their refrigerator, one of the things they found when Michael started working on the repair is that there had been charring of the wood surrounding their refrigerator.  And I’m betting that there was an aroma to go along with the head damage.

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 6.37.39 AMYes, it’s possible to let things go until they just quit. We can ignore the signs, the patterns that are there to be seen, but we do so at our own jeopardy.  And the jeopardy of others on the road with us.  For surely, a lot of the things that can go wrong with an RV are failures that are going to reveal themselves when we’re going on down the road.

What is it about a thing that tells us that we’re looking, or hearing, or smelling some particular fact that we already know about.  The picture of folks standing in a depression era line for coffee and donuts does not need to be explained.  Similarly, one can instantly place the era for a really great piece of stride piano music.

There are patterns all around us.  There are clues and giveaways that speak to anyone who is  watching – listening – smelling that tell us who, what, what, when, where and how.  But are we paying any attention?  If we are we can save ourselves a lot of trouble.  If not… well, the repair shop is willing to collect as much “green” as they can…  The choice is up to us.

I hope that today I might have inspired at least one person to think more carefully about what it is that’s going on around us.  To me, patterns are everywhere.  But not every recognizes patterns.

Anyway… Thanks for stopping by and I’ll be here again tomorrow to chat.  Why not stop by!


7 thoughts on “Telltales

  1. We had one of those check your senses experiences yesterday. It started with the sound of the fire alarm. First Dave grabbed his noise cancelling headphones to protect his ears. Then we looked at the clock to see if it was probably someone burning their meal. Then we checked with our eyes and our noses for signs of smoke. Not sensing anything there we headed to the stairway where Dave went on outside and I sat looking out the window to see what the fire company’s response was. When only one truck arrived we knew we only had to wait for them to walk the halls before they turned the alarm off and we could go back in. I wish we could teach all the occupants here to open their patio doors instead of the hallway door when they burn their dinner. That would clear the air in their apartment without filling the hallway with smoke thus sending all the rest of us an unnecessary alarm.


    1. Linda….

      I love it. Meaning the story, not the routine inconvenience of having to evac. when someone burns a pork chop!

      We used to attend a regular conference held at a nearby university where we were housed in dorms and even without cooking facilities false fire alarms weren’t unheard of. Something to think about when considering one’s future housing choices. Thanks for mentioning it — I’ll add it to my list of things to think about when considering an apartment complex.



  2. Oh man! This post pushed my extremely weary buttons (believe me, at this point that takes some doing – haven’t had a day off in ages, don’t even know what day of the week it is, and perilously close to self destructing ) A while ago I posted “Recollections” – point being, sense of smell is a powerful master. In my mind sight is logical, scent is interpretive.Sight tends to settle within definable parameters, scent on the other had is an unabashed vixen poised to evoke startling emotion when least expected. One whiff of summer sagebrush after a thunderstorm sends shivers up my spine. Sigh and hugs. 🙂


    1. Hmmm…I need to think about that for a bit because I agree that scent can be interpretive, but I’m not entirely sure that it is always interpretive, or that the other senses are not… I wonder if that is equally personality dependent. I say that because there are isolated memories of similar impact that I associate with sight and with sound. Perhaps not as many — I agree there — but for me I know they do exist.
      For me the sight of a bloodied bandage, almost any bloodied bandage takes me back to the delivery room and the birth of our daughter and I see the nurse placing her all wrapped up on Peggy’s chest — and there was this little piece of blanket hospital cloth with a drop of placental blood on it that I noticed as they placed her in position. Brings back the proudest moments of my life. So I know it’s not just aroma.
      Then there is the oddity that not all stimuli are able to spawn an interpretive reaction. I had a friend who’s father was a construction plumber and there is an aroma from the packing that they put around old cast iron pipe that is vivid in my memory — because it’s sort of acrid the sensation is burnt in my nose forever — but not for any reason I’ve ever been able to associate — it’s just a smell. Not good, or bad — just a smell of childhood. Go Figure.


You’ve heard what I’m thinking. What's on YOUR mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s