How good is man’s life, the mere living! How fit to employ
All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy!
EACH ONE OF OUR FIVE SENSES IS A WONDERFUL THING, BUT THE COMBINATION OF ALL OF THEM WORKING TOGETHER IS EVEN MORE AMAZING. The interplay of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell is intricate. What a world they open up to us! What a delight to drink in the power and the beauty that our senses reveal to us!
As I have written elsewhere, we would do well to use our senses more fully and more actively. Rather than allowing each day’s sensual experiences to simply wash over us, we should contemplate them and relish them. We should deliberately touch and taste and hear new things. Like our other capacities, our sensory abilities will expand if we exercise them, and if we don’t do so, they will diminish.
But I would offer this warning: our senses are tools or instruments, and they should only be used in the service of honorable work. To say that something is “sensual” is simply to say it comes to us by our senses. In itself, sensory experience is morally neutral, but our senses can lead us into evil if they are not governed by valid principles. In the world as it now is, much that could be experienced with our senses is degrading and destructive. But we damage ourselves, and we dishonor our Creator, when we use our senses in ways that degrade us. So we should be careful what we take in with our senses.
That said, however, it is still true that our senses are wonderful endowments. They bring us great joy. And no small part of the joy is sharing what we have experienced. If you are not accustomed to doing this, I advise you to try it. When you’ve seen something interesting, tell somebody about it. When you’ve heard a song or a sound that thrilled you, describe it to another person. Even the texture of things we touch and the aroma of things we smell are worth talking about.
Too often we don’t value our senses until we lose one of them, and the loss of even one sense is a profound sadness. But even when that happens (as it will to most of us eventually), what we find is that our other capacities are sharpened and made more exquisite. As our physical senses fail, our hearts long all the more for their true home.
“The loss of a sense adds as much beauty to the world as its acquisition” (Marcel Proust).