What is Common Sense?

clip_image002Yeah, just what are we talking about? Before we can appeal to this mysterious common sense we have to know what it is—that’s just common sense. :) True of course, but my circular reasoning for a bit of levity doesn’t quite define what it is. One thing common sense is not would be popular opinion–or masses of people parroting the droning messages fed to them by mindless TV, political slogans, and news broadcasts. All of these sources regularly release their material without running the “logic checker” along with the spell checker.

Enough of what does not constitute common sense so let’s cut to the chase. We can consider similar terms such as horse sense and good sense, which imply an instinctive good choice in response to a dangerous situation or perhaps a personal moral crisis. These are great qualities to have, but I like this short definition for common sense which would apply equally to routine decisions:

“. . . Sound practical judgment. . .” from Princeton University WordNet

Although common sense needs no specialized training, performing sound judgment requires adequate and pertinent facts; and the decision maker must prioritize them properly (the knee-bone connects to the leg-bone—not the shoulder-bone). If your computer won’t start—what now?  Dig into your bank account or your credit card for $1500 to buy a new one?  First, check if it’s got power from the wall.  Common sense—Right?

That’s pretty simple. We can apply the same trouble shooting methods to auto repair, plumbing problems, and similar challenges we all face at home and at work. What about the big stuff? Do our politicians apply the same logic to their policies—say for example—the so called fix to our (also so called) healthcare crisisclip_image004? (Yikes! Many of you are fetching your pitch forks right now) :)

Of course, I had to mention something controversial to prevent boring you.  But I think it’s fair to ask whether or not our leaders attempted to enact reform measures that would leverage inexpensive steps to reduce healthcare costs; or did they do something that was more akin to buying a new computer without even checking to see if the dead one was plugged in?  Remember, there are cures worse than the disease—and you can bet that our political-media-complex is set by default to inflict those “anti-cures” upon us.  The real checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution aren’t the three branches of government. Look in the mirror to find that–if you are a citizen.

Now it’s not the purpose of this article to solve the healthcare debate (that’s for other articles sure to appear soon), so after having started the brawl, I’m making a hasty exit from the bar (for now). Still, just for the fun of it, I’ll pick another fight in the bar across the street:

Does God exist? (Imagine the Geico commercial guy asking “Is the Pope Catholic?”) ;)

Common sense says emphatically YES! (certainly The Common Sense Drummer says so) and God does plenty besides merely existing.  Again, I’m only offering a teaser at this point because volumes have been written on the topic (on both sides) and the debate rages on.

Suffice it for now to note that common sense tells me that the “stuff” that exists just didn’t pull itself into being by its own bootstraps (which ironically, also would have been non-existent). Furthermore, the Creator would not be some impersonal (Star Wars like) force, but would have to be more intelligent than the most intelligent created being.

Therefore David wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Ps 53:1) Again, I hear the sound of pitchforks; but I’m not trying to insult atheism by proxy. We all fall prey to foolishness, so it is prudent to ask whether or not one’s world view is rooted in common sense.

One Wordclip_image006

Remember the three words: “sound practical judgment.” This is a nice, tight nutshell that appeals to the “Spock” (the Vulcan side—“Beam me up, Scotty!”) in me, but why use three words when a single word will do?—particularly when that word also inspires the heart and penetrates deep into the soul: wisdom. Common sense is wisdom. There is a book I highly recommend to immerse one’s self in wisdom—written of course by the great wise king, Solomon; (naturally, I also recommend the composite book that contains Proverbs) but if you go there, perhaps you won’t need me. But Solomon said, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)—apparently we still need each other.

Solomon also wrote “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov. 1:7)  Now that’s common sense.


Gary Plavidal

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