“Consider how quickly all things are dissolved and resolved: the bodies and substances themselves, into the matter and substance of the world: and their memories into the general age and time of the world. Consider the nature of all worldly sensible things; of those especially, which either ensnare by pleasure, or for their irksomeness are dreadful, or for their outward luster and show are in great esteem and request, how vile and contemptible, how base and corruptible, how destitute of all true life and being they are.
“It is part of a man endowed with a good understanding faculty, to consider what they themselves are in very deed, from those bare conceits and voices. … as also what it is to die, and how if a man shall consider this by itself alone, to die, and separate from it in his mind all those things.” ~Marcus Aurelius
Dissolved and Resolved
Seeing people pursue the temporary “gifts” and pleasures of the realm of matter with total abandon is always amazing to those of us who are at lease partially awakened spiritually. We shake our head when we see people who say they can’t spend five or ten minutes a day in spiritual growth practices, stand in line for six or seven days to get the cellphone flavor-of-the-month. If we ourselves were among those matter seekers at some time, we are even amazed at ourselves. Not angry, of course, just amazed at our foolishness.
Nature of Sensible Things
When Marcus Aurelius calls the material things “sensible,” he doesn’t mean intelligent, smart, as in “common sense”. He simply means things that appeal to the physical senses, whether good or bad. This would include food, both the healthy nutritious kind, and the junk food eaten simply for pleasure. It means clothing, housing, and any other material possessions. He particularly opposes those that “ensnare” us by pleasure or “their outward luster and show.” So the wearing of clothing for modesty or to keep warm is fine. Its the wearing of fancy clothing to impress others with our wealth and good taste that is “vile and contemptible”. The owning of a house for shelter is acceptable. But the owning of an eighty-room mansion for a family of four to live in is abomination, especially when there are families sleeping in the streets a few miles away.
Destitute of True Life
Those Sensible Things are destitute of true life, not because they are dead. Some of them may in fact be fancy pets kept not out of love, but fashion. But when we embrace such things wholeheartedly, it is we who become destitute of true life because we are moving away from the spiritual and toward the material.
Attached to Sensible Things
It is not just owning material possessions that is a problem, but being attached to them. A good example of a person who has become too attached to things is one who refuses to evacuate in an emergency for fear someone will take some of his things. Placing sensible things at a higher value than human or animal life is a sure indication that the person has become too attached to those things.
In fairness to them, it is an easy thing to do. Unless you inherit a fortune, it takes much work to accumulate an abundance of sensible things. This makes us value them more then we should. It makes us get attached to them. This is exactly what the demonic masters of the material plane want. The more they keep us attached to matter, the less likely we are to escape back o spirit.
Separation from Sensible Things
The last part of the quote is difficult to understand. Essentially he is saying you can’t take it with you. He is warning that such things, such pleasures, are temporary.
A wealthy man has a bundle of money in each hand and offers them to you. In one hand, he has $100 dollars, in the other, one million. He says that if you take the million dollars, you can only keep it for ten seconds, then you must give it back. If you take the $100, however, you get to keep it. I hope you are all smart enough to take the $100. Having a million dollars for a very brief time doesn’t mean much. What many people fail to realize is that temporary is temporary. Whether for ten seconds, ten years, or ten decades, it’s still temporary. And we should always consider the permanent to be of greater value than the temporary. Sensible things are all temporary. Only spiritual things are permanent.
So Marcus is Saying
we shouldn’t wait until we die to become separate from those material goods and pleasures. He says we should let them die in our minds before then. By that, he doesn’t mean that we must rid ourselves of all sensible things, but that we must stop being attached to them. A smart man. A spiritual man.