Common Sense


The human quality that is expected to be the most versatile is common sense, yet, many a time, it is the most missing element from people’s behavior. I was prompted to think and write about common sense by two recent instances. I received a group-photo of a birthday function, in which a man was pictured with the face down. Well, the man would not have intended to keep the face away, otherwise, had not have posed for the photo. Then, whose mistake was that the person did not get pictured properly? It was the mistake of the person who clicked the snap as he/she did not show common sense to ensure that all the faces were captured by the camera.

The second incident was connected with social media. In this era of exponential explosion of social media, it is not uncommon that many people share messages on social media without checking their veracity. I had seen instances where highly-educated people sharing information that did not stand basic scientific scrutiny. Also, it is often that people share spurious information which can easily be filtered out by using basic intelligence. So, what makes people to unknowingly fool themselves in this process? It is the lack of common sense.

What is common sense? One of the most difficult questions as it does not have a straight answer and that any answer will be inconclusively debatable. A quick conclusion one can draw from the above incidents is that common sense involves quick and timely application of mind. Why does the application of mind have to be quick and timely here? Because common sense is the apt response to a certain evolving situation where time to apply mind comes in and passes out quickly. For example, the photographer would feel bad at the photograph he had taken and most likely would do it properly if another chance had been given. But common sense does not repeat by itself with respect to a particular context. So that brings me to say common sense is the apt response resulting from the timely and quick application of mind.

The room that common sense offers to anyone to understand and interpret it is too big to accommodate just one definition. So there is ample space to look at it from many perspectives. The dual-word term contains an easy word: common as well as a difficult one: sense. The easy word: common stands for minimum-required or minimum-expected. So common sense is the minimum required or minimum-expected sense. What is sense or being sensible? It is a herculean task for anyone to explain what sense is as its realm spreads across many disciplines like a psychologist will explain it in a different way than how a biologist does. Sense is the ability to discern right and wrong. Now, I have walked into the usual minefield where people argue that right and wrong are relative — though not relatives — and that one’s right can be another one’s wrong and vice versa, Despite such high level of subjectivity, right can be clearly differentiated from wrong because right can never be wrong, nor can wrong ever supplant right — this is non-negotiable and fundamental.

There is a saying that truth is the only absolute thing in this world, meaning everything else is relative. Hence, whatever the way I try to explain right and wrong, it will have that element of the inevitable relativity. Harmony is the key word that I am using to differentiate right from wrong or vice versa. Right is an action that is capable of producing an outcome which is in harmony with the natural outcome of that action. Natural outcome is guided by a set of principles for doing things which if done by nature will be impeccable. In other words, common sense is the ability to act which will be in harmony with the way nature would have done had the action been outsourced to it. Nature does not spread falsity unlike we do in social media, nor does it throw open countless panoramic spots in awkward ways like the photographer did because nature can not be anything other than natural, i.e., can not be anything without common sense.

If we bring together the aforesaid two perspectives and hybridize them to arrive at a definition of common sense, then it can read like this: common sense is the apt response resulting from timely and quick application of mind in conformance with the natural principles that govern such a response. There can be many more plausible explanations for what common stands for like it is a manifestation of basic intelligence, a tool to measure speed of thinking, an asset that is inert in presence and powerful in action and so on. Whichever the way one understands and explains common sense, there are none who do not show a bit of it at some point of time in their life as it is the minimum sense everyone is blessed with.

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