What if everything we did in private had a public manifestation, so that our behavior would be broadcast to everyone who saw us? Like with smoking, for instance. Even though a person may not be presently holding a cigarette (or cigar, pipe etc.), there is an odor which lingers on the clothing, the hair, the skin, which informs those close enough to smell that the person has recently enjoyed a tobacco product.
So, what if every action had an “odor?” Imagine walking past someone at the grocery store and getting a whiff of “yelled at her husband over something trivial,” or a person with the scent of “volunteered at a retirement home today” crossed your path.
I imagine that good deeds would have pleasant smells, whereas less desirable behavior would be stinkier.
Would such publication of previous private actions have an effect on our choices? Would it deter people from continuing to privately behave in ways they wouldn’t dare behave publicly? Or, would it encourage more brazen behavior? Would there be more undesirable behavior performed publicly? I’m thinking blatant nose-picking on a large scale, and worse.
Also, what kind of effect would this have on altruism? To me, one of the components of altruistic behavior is that good deeds are done on a private level, without accolades. Perhaps, if actions had an odor, shy altruists would come to live a life where everything is ordered online and delivered directly to their homes. They would only emerge to furtively perform their good deeds and then quickly retreat into their cocoon of anonymity.
Ideally, I would hope that these scented actions would bring out the best in people. That mothers and wives would strive to improve their patience with their families (no small undertaking). that husbands would try to be more involved in familial activities, that CEOs and politicians would be more accountable for their actions (hey, as long as I’m being idealistic, why not dream big).
I guess this smelly concept is similar to the idea of how every deed we do is recorded and ultimately reviewed (after 120 years). When watching the video of our lives, I’m sure every good deed will produce a warm fuzzy feeling and every misdeed a grimace and regret for wasted opportunity, time, etc. However, this relatively abstract concept is hard to constantly keep in mind, no matter the value and benefit of such mindfulness. That’s why if we all smelled a little like our actions, it would maybe be a better reminder. Of course, maybe it would decrease our level of free-will, and then where would be the fun in choosing to do good?
5 thoughts on “the aroma of actions”
I was just wondering about that with the Parsha portion about “man” (manna) a few weeks ago. If I knew that everyone would know I had sinned because the manna was further from my tent one morning, it would be an awfully big incentive not to sin! It seems like there was less free will back then, but then again, the expectations for proper behavior were also higher.
Great topic. Thanks for re-posting!
Thanks Rivki! What a great thought about the manna. I hadn’t considered that. Also with tzaras, right? There definitely was more of an instant result to actions back then (and apparently, still in Israel, from what I hear).
That’s such an interesting way to look at it! I think if such a thing existed, it would help us hold back from doing bad. People would be
embarrassed to go outside if they knew others would know what they did…Though I wouldn’t want people to know about the good things I do – that’s between me and Hashem, right?
Maybe this would just cause everyone to stay indoors lol!
It’s an interesting concept to think about – and to remind us all that in the Next World there is no hiding anything!!
That’s a good point – everything will be laid bare in the next world. And people could be just as hesitant to display their good deeds, but on the other hand, it could be an inspiration to others, perhaps?