A couple of days ago I was eating Chinese food, and I became aware that I like the taste of onions. I used to find it unpleasant, and for some years now I've considered it inoffensive-but-boring, but now I am to the point where eating a bite with an onion in it was an unexpected pleasure; the sort of thing I might seek out, rather than just tolerating. The strangest thing about this is that I remember and recognise this taste I now enjoy from back when I didn't like it, and it's exactly the same taste. I always subconsciously assumed that there was something inherent that determined whether something tasted good or not -- I mean, not that the quality of 'tasting bad' was an integral part of any given food (despising cheese, which everybody else in the world is delighted by, made it impossible ever to make this mistake), but that the subjective sensory experience of it included a sense of its being either pleasant or not-so, so that 'badness' was part of the taste I experienced. I guess I kind of supposed that other people eating cheese were tasting something different
. But no; there is nothing changed about the taste of onions now, except how I react to it. So the thing that caused me to find onions objectionable wasn't in my sensory perception of them at all, even though that's the thing I clearly didn't like.
It strikes me how much of the work of interpreting inherently neutral stimuli my brain is doing outside of (or rather, presumably underlying) my conscious mind. I've been thinking for a long time about the role of completely chemical-contingent (even by human standards) involuntary affective reactions in my experience of the features of people that I find physically attractive (that's what this poem
is about), but clearly I still have some adjusting to do toward applying this sort of understanding more generally.
I keep feeling like I read a book that I forgot to write down, but if so I've since forgotten more than that, since I can't call it to mind. I might be getting a false positive from the Iain M. Banks book that some of you saw me with, which I put down not far in because I didn't feel like I was in a space to want to read about the protagonist's making stupidly self-destructive decisions. I'm sure I'll get into the Culture books eventually.
Madeleine Robins, Point of Honour
Steven Brust, Jhegaala
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
Madeleine Robins, Petty Treason
Ekaterina Sedia, Alchemy of Stone