When I was a boy, my father didn’t take much time to talk to me about life. But on those rare occasions when he did decide to impart some “wisdom” on me, he would summon me to his presence, and give another lecture on “common sense.”
Dad’s brand of common sense wasn’t your average crop of life lessons, such as “don’t touch a hot stove” or “look both ways before you cross the street.” No, his special brand of worldly knowledge began with a reminder that I was “book smart,” not street smart. This was not a good thing, in his estimation.
Then came the pearls of wisdom, which mostly dealt with “truisms” such as “everyone is just out for themselves,” or “it’s an unfair world that makes you struggle for everything you want.”
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t live in a world that my father envisioned, a world where it was logical and practical to be suspicious of everyone. But alas, it seems that many of us have had similar lectures from our parents or others who we admired in our youth, regarding “how the world works.”
Do you really want to be restricted by how someone else thinks the world works?
If it’s common sense to see the world as a place to be regarded with doubt and fear, I don’t want any part of it. Do you?
Uncommon Sense and Occam’s Razor
Therefore, I propose we strive for what could be called “UNCOMMON sense.”
If traditional common sense dictates a world of negativity, uncommon sense seeks out optimism, trust, and hope. But make no mistake: this is not about some warm-and-fuzzy, kumbaya, “can’t we all just get along” fluff. No, this is a matter of true practicality.
Let’s use the concept of Occam’s Razor here. Occam was a Medieval monk who famously posited that the simplest answers in life are usually the correct answers.
So, I ask you: is it more likely that other people are self-serving and conniving, constantly thinking about how to get one over on their fellow human beings? Or is it more likely that most other people are just like you: other human beings, doing the best they can in the face of life’s challenges, seeking happiness?
Does it do you any good to think most people are expending the level of energy it takes to be sneaky and sly all the time? Deception takes a lot of effort, as it drains the human spirit. It’s not sustainable.
So how likely is it that most people are vain, selfish, and actively seeking the demise of others? Yes, those types of people do exist, but they are not as prevalent as we think.
I also want to take a moment to warn you that people often disguise negativity as “pragmatism,” “practicality,” or “being a realist.” Don’t fall for this bait-and-switch tactic!
Uncommon sense is the ultimate pragmatism, because it relates to the smooth flow of society. How? Think of it this way: when we alienate others with our judgments and unthinking “truisms,” labeling them with just one or two words, we make them little more than one-dimensional things to be ridiculed and ignored. And those we push away to the fringes of society often break from the alienation.
This breakage can manifest in numerous ways, from addictions to violent outbursts and all sorts of nastiness in between. Take one of the mass shootings from the last several years: the Elliot Rodger shooting at UC Santa Barbara. His version of “common sense” blamed women, and ultimately everyone but himself, for his problems.
I’m not trying to excuse the behavior of those who harm and kill others. I believe that when someone crosses the threshold into harming others, they must be held responsible for their actions, and face strong consequences. I’m also not laying all the blame for such violence at the feet of an “uncaring” society.
But could something have been done to reduce the chance of someone like Elliot Rodger resorting to violence? I believe something might have been done, in the time leading up to his actions, to potentially steer him away from that course.
What could have been done? I believe each of us can do our part to lower the risk of alienated people lashing out, just by giving others the benefit of the doubt. Each of us, every day, needs to do more than worry and live in fear of other people.
We need to take time to value and encourage happiness among other people, even if it’s just by not giving them grief for the small, mostly imagined “infractions” we encounter during the day: the driver that cuts us off, the person in line at Starbucks talking loudly on their phone.
Be The Change You Want To See
We need to maintain perspective when it comes to what truly matters in our daily lives. Is it really worth it to make yourself feel better by flipping the bird at another driver? What is the hidden cost of even such small actions?
Remember, valuing the lives and perspectives of others doesn’t just benefit them, it benefits all of us. The person you push away today may be the person who hurts you tomorrow.
Think about what you’re telling your loved ones every day. Are you doing your part to keep the weave of society from fraying? Is your so-called common sense holding you back?
Many of us talk of being different, standing out in the crowd. If you want to be truly unique in today’s society, then be tolerant, even though the talking heads, pundits, and so-called experts are telling you to be afraid of everything and everyone.
Lead by example, be the change you want to see, and maybe we can spread some uncommon sense.
About the Author
Anthony Simeone is a writer, speaker, personal development activist, and social change warrior with over two decades of experience studying the practical application of literature, philosophy, psychology, and other disciplines. The culmination of his work is the Live the Hero concept, which he offers as a “life path” for use in overcoming daily obstacles. Live the Hero combines the wisdom found in the arts and humanities with the latest discoveries related to modern neuroscience. You can contact Anthony and learn more about his work at livethehero.com.