Let’s Bring Back the Good Sense of Common Sense

Common sense isn't as common as it used to be, but with a little practice, we can bring it back.
Let’s Bring Back the Good Sense of Common Sense
American inventor Thomas Edison (1847–1931) conducting an experiment in his laboratory, circa 1910. He once said, "The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” (FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Jeff Minick

“He ain’t got a lick of sense.”

There’s an expression I haven’t heard since my boyhood in Boonville, North Carolina. The people who once spoke those words could address them to just about everyone, from the sixth-grade schoolboy shooting a BB gun at his friend to the 20-year-old mechanic who had taken out a loan to buy a brand-spanking-new Ford Mustang. Sense referred to common sense, which meant sound judgment and a practical bent, and most of the grownups I knew in those bygone days struck me as eminently sane men and women for whom this virtue was second nature.

This common-sense approach to life was once considered as American as Yankee ingenuity. After all, it was Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense” that stirred patriot hearts during the American Revolution. Jump forward two centuries, and we find presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower declaring, “I do not believe that any political campaign justifies the declaration of a moratorium on ordinary common sense.”
Unfortunately, common sense today seems as uncommon as snow in Miami. Regarding our nation’s troubles, for instance, from the tangled mess of our southern border to our failing schools, remedies based on good sense rarely appear, shoved aside instead by ideology or sheer foolishness. As financial guru Dave Ramsey put it, “Common sense is now so rare, having it is like having a superpower.”
Here's just one example. We Americans are often appalled, and rightly so, by the feckless spending of our politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, yet tens of millions of us are slaves to debt incurred by a wallet-sized piece of plastic. Some people have escaped this bondage by following the Dave Ramsey plan for financial freedom, yet U.S. credit card debt stands at an all-time high. Like our federal government, too many of us refuse to meet a budget or slash our spending.
This lack of common sense extends far beyond our bank accounts. In “What Happened to Common Sense—Are People Really that Clueless?” Stef Daniel points to the many lessons parents teach their children regarding prudence and logical thinking, such as to stop, look, and listen before crossing a road.

Ms. Daniel then wrote, however: “By the time so many people reach adulthood, they have literally no common sense left. Suddenly life is about living in the moment and not thinking about consequences or personal responsibilities that we may have to others and ourselves.”

So how might we better practice some common sense?

We might begin by treating others with courtesy. This practice of basic manners requires little effort yet makes us better people and the world a better place. What could be more commonsensical than that?

When discussing hot topics such as religion or politics, we might try listening to others. Many of our troubles today, particularly on social media, derive from people's seeking to win arguments by crushing their opponents. Rather than going berserk and unleashing our tongues, most of us—I include myself—might benefit from hearing what the other person has to say.

Listening just makes sense. Common sense, that is.

Finally, we humans are a blend of reason and emotion, what Jane Austen called “Sense and Sensibility.” Love, romance, and aspirations often defy common sense. Let’s say a young woman wants to sail solo around the world. There’s the dream. To make that dream a reality, she spends a thousand hours preparing for the voyage. That’s where common sense becomes the builder of hopes and wishes.

Thomas Edison once said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

There it is: some common sense advice about common sense.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va.
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