Boca's Nose Knows

The sciencey people say that smell (usually regarded as a sense that is kind of marginal in importance) is actually the most evocative of human sensory faculties, subconsciously tying memories and experiences through the power of odor. Take the smell of vanilla, it might kindle long forgotten recollections of a summer day baking chocolate chip cookies with Grandma while bright sunlight streamed through lattice glass windows. Or perhaps an acrid whiff of gasoline stirs images of family road trips, siblings being pressed together in hot and muggy cars at gas stations with eager smiles for an ocean sighting in the future. Smell is integral to our perception of our world and our storing of distant but consequential memories of our existence, a way to shortcut to deeply embedded files in the harddrive of the human brain.

Smell is a way we subliminally categorize our world.
Unfortunately, due to a inauspicious combination of violently belligerent allergies and a nasal passage that was mutated to disallow air passage in one nostril, I am not only a radical mouthbreather, but I also am unable to smell.

Now when I say that I cannot smell, I mean it in the sense that it is like the world is covered in several layers of thick wool blankets. I can only detect the most powerful of smells, vanilla and gasoline being among the tiny handful of scents I can perceive through the dense fog of hyposmia. Its kind of funny that my mother is a bona-fide Super-Sniffer who can detect even the most infinitesimal of odors with her finely tuned schnoz. I guess the super-sniffer trait is recessive.

Anyway, I never really noticed that my lack of smell was so pronounced until I took this corticosteriod medicine for a week before I had to get allergy shots and suddenly, I could smell. To put it in perspective, I was like the blind man Jesus healed who had never seen before and for the first time ever could discern the visual world. Well for that week, my eyes (or in this case, nasal passages) were open and I could discern the multitude of odors that made up our subliminal world.

It was a revelation. My friends thought I was insane when I ran up to them with a feverish look in my eyes and shoved Skittles in their faces as I blathered on about how Skittles actually smelled like their respective fruit and I could finally understand the complaints of my classmates when they protested about the reek of formaldehyde in the biology classrooms. I suddenly could catch a whiff of cranberries and be immediately transported back to Thanksgiving where I got my first bike. It was wonderful!

But like all good things, my week of olfactory excellence, came to an end, and a day of the medicine, I was back to my cloud of allergies and all the fragrances of the world were stifled under mucus and pollen. I was very bummed about that, but then I realized that I could see, and hear, and touch. I laughed at my good fortune of being born with a pair of eyes and ears that could hear. As evocative as smell is, I’d never trade it for the ability to see a sunset, or hear a sonata. I thank God for making me the way he did and I have no right to ever complain!

Man of Steel

Courtesy Legendary Pictures

Courtesy Legendary Pictures

I went and saw the new movie “Man of Steel” in theaters today. (NOTE: I may have spoilers in here so read at your own risk). Now I am a big superhero movie geek, so I am not entirely unbiased when it comes to movies like this one, but I must admit, it was really good. But even though I am a sucker for unabashed hero vs. villain throwdowns and epic explosions, I have to say, on the heels of Ms. Gwen’s talk on Saturday, this might be one of the first superhero movies that has made me think about what it really means to be a superhero. As Superman is THE superhero, he’s probably the best example to examine.

So let’s take a look the character of this movie’s incarnation of the preeminent man in blue spandex, Clark Kent. Now Clark, our Superman is an alien who has pretty much been endowed with godlike powers. He can fly into the stars, crush steel with his bare hands, shoot laserbeams out of his eyeballs, do pretty much anything. But unlike other great superheroes that have graced the box offices of America, Superman has a singular quality that makes him different. He has another ability, that many would probably not notice on first examination, what I call Super-Humility.

Take a look at any one of Superman’s actions in “Man of Steel”; all are infused with an impossible sense of modesty that is just astounding. Superman is pretty much a god but he never loses his temper and never fights back when a puny earthling slights him or insults him. There’s a scene in the movie where Clark Kent is a kid and a schoolyard bully is pushing him down on a chain-link fence and punching him. Now Clark can easily end it; he could destroy this thug with his pinky but instead he turns the other cheek and allows the kid to keep taunting him. Somehow, Superman is able to selflessly rise above all the hatred and fear thrown at him because he only wants to help people.

It doesn’t even end at Super-Humility either, Superman is also completely under authority, despite the fact that he is in all respects, completely above everyone else in everything. There’s another scene in the movie where Superman is about to confront the villain to save the world and he has a plan to stop the evil machines that are about to destroy Earth. But Superman doesn’t just take control and do it, after explaining his plan to the army general, he then asks the man’s permission to go ahead with it. To reiterate, Superman did not need the general’s permission, but he asked him first anyway because he respected the man’s authority.

Probably the most shocking example of Superman’s respect for authority is when he is younger and his adoptive father charges him not to reveal his powers because he doesn’t think the world is ready. Then a tornado is coming and his father goes back into it to rescue people and is about to be killed. Clark is about to go back and save him, which would reveal his powers, but his father looks back and tells him not to. Clark loves his father and you can see the anguish on his face but he obeys his dad and doesn’t save him. What other superhero would trust like that or obey like that.

What other person would obey their authority even when it lead to somebody’s death. Then I realized as we were driving home, Jesus did that. Jesus had godlike power and turned the other cheek. Jesus obeyed his father even when it lead to death on a cross. The Krytonians kept on saying how it was Superman’s responsibility to be an ideal that the people of Earth could look up to and I realized that Jesus was that to us. What made Superman a hero is what make the characteristics of Christ christlike: Love, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Thankfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. Ms. Gwen’s talk suddenly took on more dimensions for me. Like she said, we are superheroes because we have those characteristics that Christ had, that superhuman ability to love even when we are confronted with hate. We have superpowers. Being in God’s spirit makes us superheroes able to fight against evil for His glory, just like Ms. Gwen said. It’s just so cool.


Sandcastle Building

The building of sandcastles is a time honored and ancient tradition that has been preformed by both sandy bottomed toddlers piling sand on their first vacation to professional artists defying both logic and gravity in International Sand Sculpting Contests. The art of building miniature worlds in ground up rocks and shells has inspired the creativity of children and their elders for countless generations.
My opportunity at building my own miniature universe came last weekend, during my family’s whirlwind two-day vacation to the beach.
As my parents, grandmother, and great aunt all shuffled our numerous nessessary articles for beach bumming out of our hotel to the sand, I too scanned the bustling shoreline for an appropriate spot to begin my own attempt at the beach goers tradition of build ones sand fortress.

Sandcastle Building in Wildwood Crest, NJ
The location of one’s castle is tied the personality of the builder. Some choose to build it in the dry and shifty sand far from the destructive ocean where their castle is safe from the tide. Others desire to build in the challenging surf, where the pounding sea tests the integrity of the builders design in an ultimately unbeatable game of ingenuity versus raw power. I chose to build my castle in the middle ground between the wet sand and dry, the place where the sand was just damp enough to be hard and sculptable but not too close to the hissing sea that the tide would overcome it.
I began by building the central fortress, laying foundations of cold wet sand for sturdiness. I did not use tools, as I regard a proper sandcastle to be formed with only one’s bare hands (which also helps prevent the loss of shovels and buckets to the enveloping dunes). As I piled on the wet sand of the central tower, I pulled up the hood of my white jacket to protect my tender neck ears from the ravages of the gleaming midday sun.
When the tower was built to a satisfactory height, I dug four long deep ravines from the base of my tower. These would serve as highways to the surrounding villages that surrounded the central tower. I built walls on either side of the ravine and connected the walls together until the complex resembled a four leaf clover.
I stood up and stretched by aching back so sore from kneeing and examined my castle.
“The fortress is unguarded” I thought to myself as I observed how the four long ravines would make excellent pathways into the keep for a marauding rival army. I took my big toe an drew a line in the sand around my castle then began digging a deep moat. I then built a high and fortified wall nearly a foot in height. I added parapets to the walls and built little houses and churches and markets in the open space between walls. Finally, I stood up and gazed at the sprawling construct and smiled. I have always loved building sandcastles and I felt so blessed that God allowed me and my family to come to the beach and admire His ocean. I felt so full, sitting with my parents and grandma watch the tide come in.


A.C.T. Test

Pencil and calculator in hand...

Pencil and calculator in hand…

I had ACT’s this morning, which those who had driven past Granny White this morning would know by the hundreds of cars in the parking lot which would be amiss any other Saturday in summer. As the hundreds of students funneled through the only entrance in the entire school that was “ACT kosher” we were directed down the long, dusty halls to our testing proctor who scrutinized our identification papers with more rigorous inspection than the Soviets guarding the Berlin Wall.

We were hustled down the long A hall and corralled into classroom by alphabetical order. The proctors rechecked our ID’s and testing tickets again, just in case one of us had magically teleported into the classroom, then sat us down in rows of desks.
“Please surrender electronic devices to the proctor,” The teacher in the front read curtly from the front of the room. “Any students found possessing any of the following devises: cell phones, pagers, stopwatches, timers, or will be dismissed from the testing area and their testing materials will be destroyed.”

A wave of students pulled out their dozens of cell phones and iPods and sat them on the teacher’s desk. I saw her eyes widen a bit at the sheer number of electronics before she directed the students to remove the batteries from their gadgets (because all of us apparently know how to remotely activate our cellphone spider robots to google answers for use then transmit information via Morse code…).
We all sat down and after half an hour more of hearing the numerous ways our behavior would have us excommunicated and our precious tests incinerated, we were given our testing booklet. I opened the book with trepidation, seeing the columns of tiny writing and questions purposely designed to trick feckless students. I prayed a bit, got out my lucky pencil, and began marking the bubbles. As I came close to the end of the Reading Comprehension, I made a horrifying discovery. I had accidentally skipped question 3 and all my bubbles were one wrong on my Scantron.
“Oh Sweet Strawberry Crêpes!” I whispered in horror as I saw the five minute mark rapidly slip towards me. I gazed in dismay at my test sheet as I frantically erased all my marks.
“You have five minutes left.” The proctor announced unhelpfully.
I gnashed my teeth and feverishly bubbled in haphazard smudgy dots, only glancing at the smeared marks I left in my wake.
“One minute left.” The proctor declared.
“Geuh!” I silently screamed, 20 questions left!
I scribbled in marks, almost blind to their placement in my frenzied terror. “Must finish test!!” My mind cried!
“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…” The proctor counted down.
My pencil flew to the last five question, marking desperately with graphite the final bubbles.
“TIME!” The teacher called, “Put down your pencils and close the test booklet!”
“YES!” I crowed in my mind, doing a small fist-pump. All 70 of the questions filled out and corrected. I breathed a sigh of relief and closed my eyes. So much drama and terror in a moment was physically and psychologically draining, but I had a victorious, abet somewhat exhausted grin on my face.
“I see you’ve all finished Test 1,” The proctor chirped cheerfully, “Only four more to go!”