Once a bloodhound suddenly lost its sense of smell. Just like that, all of the scent-trapping folds around the bloodhound’s face ceased to pass along to its nose any of the familiar odors that had guided it unerringly through the world until then. The resulting disorientation proved as severe as it was sudden. Not that the bloodhound plowed directly into the side of the hound next to it and then careened back across into the one on the other side. It at least retained the presence of mind to continue swinging its head left and right and to press forward at a pace that might have betrayed hesitation to the alert eye but which, with every other nose pressed to the ground, went unnoticed by its companions in the pack. Fortunately they hadn’t located what they’d been sent out to find, the bloodhound sighed to itself once the search had been called off for the day. Imagine the embarrassment of stepping right over the object of their pursuit while the others stopped baying and looked at it in disbelief! Then there’d have been no hiding its failure to carry on as expected, and once failure was confirmed, no saving the bloodhound from being sent to a dreaded animal shelter of last resort, or worse. What an appalling thought! As appalling as the signal that would inevitably be sent to the rest of the pack that one of their members now lacked the defining quality making any bloodhound a bloodhound. To have your identity taken away in such an abrupt and total manner must leave you at a loss for how to fill the hole left in your psyche. And the more you strained to think of a way, the larger the hole would likely become, until all confidence that you’d even existed was drained away! In alarm, the bloodhound tried to resurrect its defining sense of smell from memory in hopes that when a sufficient number of scents had been recalled, they’d somehow close any gap in its self-awareness and allow it to start over again from a point just before this disaster had befallen it. Try as it might, however, the bloodhound failed to retrieve a single one of the scents it was sure must have crowded its nose in the last moments leading up to the fateful one. Confronted with such baffling olfactory amnesia, it couldn’t even be sure there had in fact been scents in its world to smell, although the idea that there wouldn’t have been struck the bloodhound as preposterous. Equal to claiming a dead body wouldn’t signal its decay far and wide or malefactors on the run didn’t betray themselves in the same way. Then again, who was to say evidence offered by the senses wasn’t all in one’s head—a mere fabrication of twitching neurons sealed up in a bony shell? It was all very confusing to the bloodhound. For if the senses were no longer a fact of life, what kept them from being nothing more than ghost trails of the mind? What proof would remain that your life wasn’t simply what imagination fashioned, whether out of subjective need or in consoling recompense for whatever you might have suffered at the hands of reality—and that in an effort to remember the life you were convinced was yours, you unwittingly lost track of the one you’d actually led? But if, instead, the senses spoke the truth, and everything the bloodhound smelled, tasted, heard, seen, or felt over the course of a lifetime, all of it, had truly existed and wasn’t simply what it wanted to exist, wouldn’t it follow, then, that the bloodhound too existed? There was something humiliating about finding yourself forced into posing such questions, the bloodhound had to admit. Perhaps it should look on the abrupt loss of its once acute sense of smell as a disconcerting but ultimately liberating experience: an invitation to a state of consciousness far superior to one spent with your nose forever to the ground. Who wouldn’t prefer to pass day and night in more uplifting pursuits, those promising transcendent dimensions of oneself that were not only within easy reach but were as constant in their presence as the stars? And if the bloodhound could find this kind of inspirational promise in its current plight, this severing of everything that had tied it to its senses in favor of a higher state of being, shouldn’t it rejoice at such unexpected good fortune rather than striving to bring those senses back to full strength and renewing its unthinking bondage to them? All this logic urging change was to no avail, however. Like some aging lecher who, while fully aware of the ludicrous figure he cuts, still cannot resist pushing through the crowd to overtake a ravishing stranger and steal a glimpse into her eyes, only to be stopped in his tracks at that very moment, wheezing for breath as she walks on without a glance in his direction and the crowd, too, strides forward around him—just in this way the bloodhound was powerless to free itself from the pursuit of its fugitive senses. The pull of what had always given its life meaning proved just too strong.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans