Lyall Watson

Lyall
Watson
1939
2008

South African Scientist, Rationalist, Botanist, Zoologist, Biologist, Anthropologist, Ethologist and Author

Author Quotes

Smell is a long-distance sense, a way of stretching time and finding out in advance what lies ahead.

Smell is stimulating. It stirs things up and makes us nostalgic - a wonderful word which literally means 'ache for home' - which serves to inspire new circuits in the brain.

Smell was our first sense. It is even possible that being able to smell was the stimulus that took a primitive fish and turned a small lump of olfactory tissue on its nerve cord into a brain. We think because we smelled.

The fossils that decorate our family tree are so scarce that there are still more scientists than specimens. The remarkable fact is that all the physical evidence we have for human evolution can still be placed, with room to spare, inside a single coffin!

The limits of sensory evolution in fish are defined very largely by their habitat. Water is physically supportive, carries some kinds of odor well, and is kind to sound - letting it travel several times faster than air will allow, but it inhibits other more personal kinds of communication.

To get to know someone new, you need to touch a lot.

We are in tune, and given the chance, we do things tunefully. We dance.

We share our planet quite naturally with a permanent aeroplankton; a buoyant ecology too soft to hear, too small to see, but heavy with mood and meaning. Imagine being aware of all these airy inclusions - and you can begin to understand how it might feel to be able to smell really well.

You have to learn to immerse yourself in the silences between.

If elephants didn't exist, you couldn't invent one. They belong to a small group of living things so unlikely they challenge credulity and common sense.

If you simply walk on the beach as we are doing, you have no special color. But if you travel with a purpose, it is different. When you go somewhere important or you return home from a long journey, you build a shape around you and it reaches out ahead to touch your destination.

It is a truism among researchers into smell that all human subjects behave as if they themselves do not smell like humans, because all humans smell bad.

Seriously, a smaller, leaner, cleaner, tuskless and more secretive elephant is exactly what is needed. It definitely would live longer.

Air is traditionally 'thin,' but the more we learn about our atmosphere, the more substantial it becomes. In some places it is so filled with inorganic flotsam that it is almost thick enough to plough; in others, it has become so primed with the by-products of life that it comes close to being a living tissue in its own right.

All I do is look, listen and try to make sense of what I find, in biological terms.

Before sight and sound hijacked our attention, we shared with all life a sort of common sense, a chemical sense that depended on direct contact with matter in the water or the air.

Breathing air is a liberating experience. It freed our ancestors from the constraints of staying wet or having to remain within easy reach of water for refuge, respiration or reproduction. But the biggest change it made in our lives was to expose us to a whole new range of sensory experience.

Even in the lives of fishes, sensation is seldom a matter of one thing or another. Senses overlap. The lines between them often tend to be blurred, and the best that we can manage, by way of description from the outside, is to say that the senses of fishes appear to dominate one at a time.

Even the cleanest air, at the centre of the South Pacific or somewhere over Antarctica, has two hundred thousand assorted bits and pieces in every lungful. And this count rises to two million or more in the thick of the Serengeti migration, or over a six-lane highway during rush hour in downtown Los Angeles.

I have had close relationships with three species of wild pigs, each a chance encounter on a different continent, and all continue to enrich my life in surprising ways.

I live and work alone and travel light, relying largely on my memory and making a point of letting intuition guide my way.

It is a fascinating and provocative thought that a body of water deserves to be considered as an organism in its own right.

Both dance and dream are brought into being by the consciousness of a moment. They can never be repeated or successfully imitated. But you can dance and dream again. You must, if life is to continue.

He was his usual philosophic self and tried very hard to explain to me that although life was stained with agony, this was necessary. That scars only concealed, and finally helped to reveal, an essential peace. He said that what we, who pass so swiftly, experience as songs of love or cries of pain are only overtones to a single note in a very much larger harmony.

We try to abolish intervals by our manic insistence on keeping busy, on doing something. And as a result, all we succeed in doing is destroying all hope of tranquility... You have to learn to immerse yourself in the silences between.

Author Picture
First Name
Lyall
Last Name
Watson
Birth Date
1939
Death Date
2008
Bio

South African Scientist, Rationalist, Botanist, Zoologist, Biologist, Anthropologist, Ethologist and Author