“The only thing surprising about common sense is how uncommon it has become.” And common things are the basis of common sense even though common things are not commonplace; they are terrible and startling, death for instance and first love.” -G.K. Chesterton
Common Sense is good sense and sound judgment in practical matters. Let’s break this down a bit for a clearer understanding. Practical is of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas. Good describes that which is morally right. Common Sense is the prudent practice of man to maintain societal order and peace of mind and soul. The word Common is synonymous with the following: universal, established, traditional and orthodox. Sense is a feeling that something is the case. Each of the aforementioned synonyms clarifies the term common sense. Through them common sense is applicable to all cases and issues. We know it is traditional by the very fact that modern man expends so much energy in trying to vanquish it from any conversation on issues of the day. Common Sense is of the ordinary; the greater part that makes up the reason in the common man. It is normal in that it recognizes the obvious. Proof of the longtime existence and generally prudent acceptance of common sense is in that mankind has been kept from extinction.
Folly is the lack of good sense. And therefore is contrary to common sense. One who lacks good sense and acts so is oft-times referred to as the fool, for those acts are seen as being foolish. Synonyms for this term are many and revealing. Among them are foolhardiness, stupidity, idiocy, lunacy, imbecility, rashness, recklessness, injudiciousness (showing very poor judgment), and imprudence. This last synonym for folly is quite the antonym of the term considered so integral a part of common sense. Prudence being the term that often reminds one “to look before you leap!” If all mankind was instilled with folly rather than common sense I dare say I would not be here to write this essay, nor would you likely be here to read it.
Given a can opener and a pen, which would best be used in writing a letter? Which would best be used to open a can of soup? A bath tub is found to be overflowing. Is it better to immediately turn off the faucet and drain the tub or first run for towels and a mop? When approaching a red light while driving is it better to slow to a stop or throw caution to the wind and drive on through? I believe each of us knows how most, if not all, would answer these questions. For each choice has its own reward. Only the prudent use of common sense in each instance here would yield a favorable outcome. But why do we not do so with the bigger issues of our day? If we have common sense in the small things why not the big things? One might view small issues as the ordinary and big issues as the extraordinary and therefore would require a separate approach. But is that thinking valid? The model airplane and the full-scale airplane each adhere to the same principles of aerodynamics.
Man’s common sense is predicated on objective truth. That truth is simply “WHAT IS.” The apple grows on, is nurtured by, falls from and is found under an apple tree when it reaches maturity. The apple does not do so from a pear tree, no matter how much one may so choose to argue. We have a free will which impels us to either use common sense or to play the fool. That which we choose opens the door to order and peace or chaos and conflict. Chaos and conflict occurs when we are not all on the same page. No one thing necessarily requires a contrary view or action. It is only one’s subjective perception that compels such. If in using our free will we were to yield to our instilled common sense in all matters, then we would be in common in those matters whether small or big, and, therefore, enjoy peace in order. But, contrary views and actions are acted upon because there are those who believe by free will that there must be alternatives. And it is only prudence that can keep us from choosing so. We can do what we want or what we should. There may be times when our want is seen as our should. But, want is self-oriented and in that someone must have not for us to have. By freely choosing what we should we need not suffer conflict in chaos.
Common Sense and Folly can be applied to our societies; in our politics, philosophy, religious beliefs, relationships, attitudes and views toward life and death, our desire for objective truth and our respect for our neighbor, etc. In each, are we using our common sense or exercising folly? Just look around us; in our communities, country and world. It becomes quite evident that Folly has a strong foothold. Mankind finds itself at a precipice. However, the still existing conflict and divisiveness holds the promise that common sense is yet somewhat prevalent. And with it we may still pull back from the edge.
Without common sense we will perpetuate a world where free will is no longer freeing. All will be subject to the strongest of ill wills. The folly of man will topple him from his lofty status of objective truth, justice, reason, logic, love and mercy to the depth of the instinctual beast, where all are ruled by survival of the fittest.
“Lord, what fools these mortals be.” – (Puk: A Midsummer Night’s Dream)