Senses stretch far beyond the basic five

I can remember studying the five senses way back in RuthAnn Seifke’s kindergarten class 40 years ago. Sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Taste stood out most because Mrs. Seifke brought in examples of sweet, salty, sour, etc.
 
Who could forget an M & M followed by a bite of sauerkraut? The sensation was forever emblazoned into my tongue. It’s a combination I haven’t since repeated, although I have made the mistake of a sweet roll with a grapefruit juice chaser. I’m a slow learner, but if that’s the most crucial bit of information I’ve lost, I consider myself fortunate.
 
After learning the basic five senses, my friends and I fantasized about possessing the elusive sixth sense: Clairvoyance, the ability to know what is about to happen. No doubt, we would have used our powers for the good. Yeah, right. I think I sort of developed clairvoyance as a teen, predicting when something was about to hit the fan and sensing I’d better lie low for a while, thus earning myself multiple, underserved second chances.
 
The other sense I always wanted to possess was the ability to perceive what other people were thinking. This cracks me up as an adult, as there are plenty of times when I don’t even know what I am thinking. Back then, I thought mind-reading sounded ideal for getting ahead in the world.
 
I remember watching a 1970s television show starring Sally Field, called “The Girl With Something Extra,” about a new wife with extra-sensory perception (ESP). Oh, how I longed to be similarly gifted. 
 
From a married perspective, though, the liabilities outweigh the benefits. While the unrealistic expectation a partner SHOULD be able to mind-read frequently causes couples problems, it’s that very same inability that keeps couples together. Never ask dumb questions like, “What are you thinking right now, honey?” He’s wishing you would drop dead while his mouth is saying you look “drop dead gorgeous.” So it’s good ESP is beyond our reach.
 
What I have found, through my ongoing geeky research into matters that don’t really matter, is human senses don’t end with the basic five. We don’t have just a sixth sense, but a seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth: Equilibrioception, thermoception, proprioception, nociception, and magnetoception.
 
Why are you just now hearing about the other five senses and from me, of all people? Look at the spelling of those words. Just the sight of them would have blown your little kindergarten minds well beyond the tall slide area of the playground. But now that you  students are older and Zenlike ready, let me be the teacher who appears.
 
Equilibrioception is a vestibular or balance sense that allows for equilibrium. The inner ear vestibular labyrinthine system regulates it. I learned this the time my dog experienced canine vestibular disorder and staggered around, puking for a couple of days. Extensive carpet scrubbing reinforced the lesson. 
 
Thermoception is the skin’s sense of the presence or absence of heat. This is different from our body’s internal thermostat workings. Some people are much more in tune with this sense, which keeps them tuned in to the weather channel.
 
Proprioception is a kinesthetic sense that provides an overall body awareness, particularly the location at any given time of joint and muscle movement. It provides us with vital spatial cues that let us pick our noses without gouging our eyes and guarantees the chairs we absentmindedly go to sit on are really under our butts.
 
Nociception is a sense of physiological pain, detected cutaneously (by skin), somatically (via joints and bones) and viscerally (in body organs). Evidence of this can be had after a night of heavy drinking or through the body malfunctions inherent to growing older.
 
Magnetoception is the sense (or absence of) direction. Birds keenly possess this one, as do some humans (although not my mother or sister, Kerry), and display heightened awareness of the Earth’s magnetic field. Heretofore, being called “birdbrain” should be taken as a compliment.
 
There’s also an internal sense of time and timing that many people clearly lack. But that’s another column. Now that I’ve brought you to your senses, go forth in awareness, even if you can’t spell or pronounce them.
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