I still have a vivid picture in my head of that “pained” look on my grandfather’s face as he would ask where the heck my “commons sense” was—-whenever I did something “less-than-brilliant.”
I have thought about this notion ever since, and especially now since the mantle of “grandfather” has been passed on to me.
Nonetheless, this idea of living life in a “common sense” way was implanted in me when I was very young. Today however I have come to realize that the term—-for all intents and purposes—-has NO MEANING—-at least not in the way my grandfather meant it. What he was “really” saying was, “why the heck would you not think of doing that the way I would have done it?”
There are entire books dedicated to the notion of “common sense.” Our founding fathers even justified separation from the British by appealing to “common sense.” (Common Sense-by Thomas Paine)
I think in the good old days, common sense actually made more sense. Back in times when everyone’s background and life experiences were more similar than they are today, the idea of common sense probably did make more sense.
When the world was much bigger than it is today, people didn’t run into people with different ideas about how to do things as often—-and common sense flourished. When different people came into your world you either killed them or worshiped them—-or at least had them for dinner—hopefully not literally.
As the world became smaller and smaller—-especially with the advent of the internet—-common sense became nearly impossible. I think this loss of “common sense” is what drives some people to pull back into themselves and their immediate environment in an attempt to find that “old-school” common sense again—-or perhaps merely to justify their inability and/or unwillingness to embrace change—-to learn new things.
I think we are actually witnessing a “TRANSFORMATION” of common sense.
No longer do we have the comfortable “luxury” of exclusivity—-an existence that will allow us to exclude other ideas from being added to our frame of reference.
Not only does the Internet, and the general improvement of education, allow us to “know” more—-we MUST know more.
We act as if there is some sort of limit to the amount of information that can be crammed into our brains. People who study the brain say that there are some limits to the “storage” of readily available information (like what you do to the brain when you try to cram for a final exam) as opposed to what you can absorb over an extended period of time. I am sure we have all experienced that feeling of being overwhelmed when entering a new framework of information, but the next thing you know we are giving advice to someone else that is just climbing on board.
It has almost become irresponsible to not strive to know more. What constitutes “common sense” has expanded astronomically—-to an “enlightened” version of common sense if you will. For survival of the planet it is now desirable for the older version of common sense to become less common. Reversions can still be seen in the greed and selfishness that has resulted in the current economic issues, and in the fanaticism of terrorists & religions zealots all around the world. So while old-school common sense becomes less common it can still creates a lot of havoc—-a sort of tyranny of “common sense.”
This is the true cost of exclusivity.
I think what is important is to set your own pace of learning—-some are sprinters, some are marathoners, and some are turtles—-embrace change at your own pace—but do embrace it.
Unlike the old-school common sense, the new common sense takes a lifetime—-perhaps even longer. It is not a place to arrive at, but a place always on the horizon—-a place to strive for—-it can actually keep us alive, as opposed to limiting our possibilities and killing us. Not having “common sense” can be seen as an opportunity—-as opposed to being seen as something missing.
Isn’t it really about “good sense” when we get right down to it?
What version of common sense makes sense to you?
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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