“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.
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.