I read yesterday that the Elizabethans categorized five types of wit. Aha! I thought: the self-deprecating aside, the broad bawdy tale, the absurd jest, the clever quip, and the knock knock joke. Of course, this isn’t what they meant at all. They defined five wits to correspond to the five senses. “The five wits were sometimes taken to be synonymous with the five senses, but were otherwise also known and regarded as the five inward wits, distinguishing them from the five senses, which were the five outward wits.” The five inward wits are common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation (instinct) and memory. I’ve been reading some of Hobbes’ Leviathan, which dates from a similar time, and he explains how this works. When a person senses something physically, it makes waves inside of them as the wind makes waves on water. This decaying sense leaves an impression or an image, and this is the source of imagination or fancy. “And it is found in men, and many other living Creatures, aswell sleeping, as waking” This decaying sense, as it recedes, is called memory, and memory of many things is called experience. The imaginations of them that sleep are called dreams, and such imaginations that we don’t recognize as occurring during sleep, because the sleep is so quick, are called apparitions or visions. Imagination expressed in words or any other voluntary sign is Understanding, and “is common to man and Beast.” Predictably, I love this! I’m not very comfortable defining or deciding things, but I love to watch other people do it in an attempt to explain the strange workings of the world around them and inside of them. I love to think about how carefully Hobbes defined vagaries of sensations and emotions that seem impossible and indeterminate. Apparently, today, even scientists
say that the notion that we only have five senses is outdated and limited. Of course we have more than five senses! We sense balance and movement, we sense warmth and cold, we sense time passing. If we close our eyes we know the position of our hand, even though it’s not being detected by any of the five traditional senses. And I identify other senses not defined by Hobbes or science (as far as I know), but possibly the most important of all. Emotional senses, maybe. Sense of empathy, sense of decency, sense of humor–which brings us back to the beginning, when sense and wit collided in all of their shades of meaning. Even in Shakespeare’s time, wit meant not just sense and intelligence, but humor as well–the ability to see the absurdity of all of this confusion of sensations. What complicated creatures we are, moving through the world, taking it into ourselves and making it part of our memory and dreams. And this is true of man and beast, as well sleeping as waking.
We used to break down the sense of taste into four categories: bitter, salty, sweet and sour. And then we identified a fifth! Umami is that flavor. It’s a pleasantly savory, meaty flavor. As a vegetarian, I love the challenge of trying to create an umami flavor whenever I can. These rolls are a companion to the chocolate-covered cake of yesterday’s post. They, too, were meant for a wine tasting of Australian shiraz(es?). They, too, are very loosely based on the recipes of The Guardian UK’s Australian baker, Dan Lepard. Apparently, in Australia, one can find cheese and vegemite scrolls, which are like savory cinnamon buns. So I made these with marmite, tamari, spinach and balsamic. I thought these would be nice with wine.
Here’s Common with The Sixth Sense.