The sense of sight. The sense of hearing. The senses of taste, smell, and touch.

What would we do without these gifts? How would we know anything about the world? The point is: we wouldn’t.

The senses are our gateways to the world and we usually take these raw endowments of the human person for granted…until we lose them.

Or when we come into contact with other people who never had them.

Effusions of Joy

The four short videos below should be sufficient testimony to show what wonderful blessings the human senses are to us. They give us the ability to perceive the deep wonder of the world around us, a dimension of reality we often miss in our day-to-day existence.

Our senses are gifts of nature and grace; they are given for the very purpose of discovering that wonder deeply hidden in the world.

If you want infallible proof of this, watch the infant in the first video well up with emotion when the gift of hearing is given to him for the first time by the modern miracle of technology. I didn’t think babies were even capable of that kind of complex emotional reaction.

The baby’s reaction shows how deeply rooted in the human heart is the capacity to perceive beauty – it overwhelms even those who cannot yet speak or even have a rational thought.

“Out of the mouths of babes you have found perfect praise,” said the Psalmist (Ps 8). This is a prophecy fulfilled.

Each of the videos below depicts in its own way the wonder of God’s gift of sense experience and someone’s innocent reaction to it.

Certainly, God can give mystical gifts of perception to reveal His divine beauty to us, but He normally reveals His beauty through the world He created and through the human senses, which are our way of perceiving that world.

The reactions of those who receive these gifts for the first time are so many effusions of joy.

The Gift of Hearing

Baby 1: Crying with Joy (duration, 1:33)

Baby 2: Laughing with Joy (duration, 1:33)

The Gift of Sight

Boy seeing color for the first time (duration, 3:03)

Girl seeing her friend for the first time (duration, 1:42)

Soul Work

Consider for a moment how much you actually learn about the world through sight and hearing. These senses are first of all protective in that they provide an early warning system for danger. (Imagine if we could not hear the blast of a car horn warning us of oncoming traffic or see a heavy object that was about to fall on us!)

But these two senses have a much more critical function for our lives: they enliven us. That doesn’t happen automatically, though. We must cultivate the senses in a way that we tend a garden by fertilizing and weeding it.

These senses need regular doses of beauty and harmony – the primary objects of sight and hearing – if they are to thrive.

Choose just one beautiful thing today and pay close attention to it, in all its detail and all its beauty. It could be a famous painting or a lovely object or scene, but it doesn’t have to be. Beauty can be found in the simplest things.

Then, if you have a moment, listen to something beautiful, whether it be a piece of music or a recording of the sounds of nature (search “nature sounds” on YouTube for hours’ worth!)

Really listen for the deeper expressions of beauty that might be hidden underneath the surface tones. Even sound shows us that the world is a three-dimensional, multi-layered, and profoundly beautiful gift of God.

If only we have ears to hear and eyes to see.