05/01/2013

Is Sense Really Common?

Posted in General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , at 9:05 am by The Water Bearer

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A friend recently quizzed me, “Where on earth is their common sense?” in the midst of describing someone’s behaviour which she found to be unacceptable. It was coincidental, because I have been pondering a few questions about common sense lately.

How common is sense anymore? What exactly are the common elements of sense? Does common sense even exist? Or does it perhaps keep evolving as the generations change focus on what is sensible?

I had a thought the other day that perhaps common sense might advance as we develop sensitivity to consequences, to become more sensitive to what we feel is right and wrong.

Does it then make sense, that those who appear to have less common sense than others, may have been afforded less understanding of the consequences when faced with their own poor choices? Are those who have lacked productive discipline even aware of the actual repercussions of their actions which lack ‘common sense’?

The wisdom of this generation varies far and wide, some think that it is common sense to ‘block’ someone who bullies you online, yet regardless of the amount of awareness on this subject, many others seem unable to reach this conclusion. A few may recognise that it is common sense to be ready to be a parent when you choose to start having sex, especially if you been told this all your life. Yet so many others are still children who can barely look after themselves when they make this huge decision. Some feel it is common sense not to air dirty laundry on facebook because it gives so many others the opportunity to voice their opinion about the private situation, and that adds fuel to a fire they are already struggling with. We don’t have to look far on our newsfeed to see how uncommon this sense is… It can leave those of us who have “common sense” baffled by the lack of sense those around us display.

I asked my husband, “What do you think is the difference between sense and common sense?” He replied, “I don’t think there is any such thing as common sense!” Wow! I found his straight to the point answer, freeing and mind blowing on so many levels.

Common sense refers to an accepted understanding which everyone knows. Past examples of common sense include ‘the world is flat’ and ‘African Americans only have worth as slaves’. So then assuming everyone knows a wide range of things is a stretch! Isn’t it?

While looking up some examples of common sense I found this quote.

“Don’t confuse lack of common sense with absent mindedness. Common sense refers to deliberate decisions about which you can predict the outcome.” (Ref – Yahoo Answers)

So therefore, is anything we can predict the outcome of (either via our own experience or a logical reasoning) simply sense, or can it become ‘common’ if enough people accept the theory?

So some examples might be; if you go out in the rain you are bound to get wet. Or if you don’t eat you get hungry, don’t drink and become thirsty, don’t sleep and become tired. The really basic stuff may in fact be common sense, yet we often stretch this phrase to accommodate other examples which may not be as common as we have been led to believe.

I personally have learned many valuable lessons and live my life differently because of them. The choices I apply in my life have now become common practice for me so they feel like common sense to me. But can I expect anyone else to have the same sensibilities as me in their own lives? I don’t think so….

All these questions have led me to a couple of theories.

We can no longer assume everyone or anyone knows something that we understand, just because we have believed it for a long time and found others who agree with us. I have lost count of how many things I thought I knew to be true only to discover they were merely a misguided opinion of someone who was certain enough to be convincing.

The idea of adamant common sense may be linked to our childhood, if whoever raised us convinced us, and our other family members, of various ‘reasonings’, then it can be frustrating and confusing when the outside world holds completely different principles to these.

Perhaps it’s time to let common sense and the assumptions we make regarding it, take a back seat to sense from sensitivity and open mindedness, and encourage loving explanations instead of frustrated collisions and unmet expectations?

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