by Anne Malatt and Paul Moses, Australia.
Anne: I’ve always wondered about the term common sense.
We all use the words:
- “It’s just common sense!”
- “Use your common sense!”
- “She has no common sense!”
- “Common sense is not very common” as the saying goes – but is that true? I feel there is more to it than we commonly understand.
What does common sense mean to you?
Paul: I too have wondered about that and I looked it up in the dictionary, and the words are derived from the Latin sensus communis meaning ‘feeling in common’.
The word sensus means a sense, a feeling we have in our whole body, not just a thought we have in our minds.
The word communis means something that we all share and have access to, equally so, no matter who we are.
So common sense is a communal thing, the feeling we all share, that we all have in common.
Anne: So common does not mean low, stupid or less than in some way, but brings us to equality and shared values. It transcends all the barriers we have put between us – gender, age, colour, race, religion, nationality, culture – and brings us back to the truth, that we all share a knowing we have in common. Having common sense does not make us ‘common’, or a ‘commoner’, in the commonly used sense of the word, but makes us part of a community.
Paul: So in practical terms, what are we talking about?
Anne: Well, it’s common sense to know that when we feel tired, we should rest, and if it is in the evening, maybe even go to bed!
Yet how many of us actually do that? How many of us go to bed by 8 to 9 pm, when our bodies start to wind down, and we are falling asleep in the chair in front of the TV anyway?
What do we do instead? We over-ride this feeling – this common sense – with stimulation. We turn up the sound on the TV; we go and get a drink, a cup of tea, coffee or cake/chocolate/sugar of some sort. This kick-starts us, so we can stay up longer than our bodies actually want to, we get over-tired, and then when we finally decide to go to bed, we cannot sleep, because of all that sugar/caffeine/adrenaline running through our veins!
Paul: We all do this, don’t we – no matter who we are or where we live.
And what about eating? Common sense tells us, with the feeling we have after eating – be it racy, lethargic, bloated, dull – whether the food we have eaten suits us or not, yet we continually disregard that feeling and we never question the energy we are in which leads us to keep on choosing those same foods.
Isn’t it common sense to know when we have eaten enough? We all know that feeling and yet we override it all the time – we take no notice and just keep on eating. If we eat more food than we need, the excess food is reflected in excess weight in us.
Anne: And if we put on weight eating certain foods, we know we are not going to lose it if we keep eating the same foods that made us fat!
Paul: Common sense tells us this, yet we keep searching for the perfect diet and exercise plan in magazines. These diets and plans offer unrealistic expectations that don’t stand up in everyday life.
Anne: Yet how many of us complain about our excess weight and the fact that it is not going anywhere, while we sit and have a drink and eat some chips or cake, to try and not feel the fact that we feel bad about ourselves?
And it is common sense to know that if we drink 12 beers in one evening, we will wake up dehydrated – after a “sleep” where we tossed and turned and had to get up to pee – with a furry tongue, foul taste in our mouths, thick head, craving for fatty foods, and feeling cranky, yet seriously thinking about having another drink. Why do we ever have more than one hangover? What drives us to do this to ourselves, over and over again?
Paul: Common sense is definitively a knowing – not a knowledge-based thing – which also explains why it transcends all belief barriers. So knowing all that common sense offers, why do we not live that? Why do we choose to over-ride it, knowing the repercussions?
Anne: Yes, the way we are living is making us sick, as people and as a society. Illness and disease rates are rising; we are increasingly dependent on stimulants, medications, alcohol, drugs, entertainment – anything to help us not feel how we truly are, and the consequences of the choices we are making.
Paul: Historically, we did have and did practise common sense; otherwise, we would not have the words for it, i.e. sensus commmunis.
Anne: It was known and practised by the ancients, but somewhere between Plato and Aristotle we reduced this knowing that comes from our bodies – a feeling that we all shared, to knowledge, that was attributed to our minds, and held more by some than others, in separation to the whole.
Paul: Common sense was demeaned further in the Dark Ages, when the simple truth and knowing that comes from the body and is available to all, was made complex and obscure, and overridden by the doctrine of religion. All the major religions tell us what to eat and when we can eat, teaching us to over-ride what the body actually needs.
Common sense has been demeaned by Religion through its dogma, and Science has created a complexity around understanding, where things can’t be that simple, and Philosophy made it even more obscure. The word common has been twisted to mean something or someone that is of lower standing to the ruling class – i.e. commoner – or someone with lower moral values – i.e. they’re common – or that’s just too simple to be the answer. And so there has been a setup of some people thinking they know more than the masses (the ‘common’ people) and the masses going into a lack of confidence in what they truly feel and know.
I feel that we have gone out of our way to squash our feelings, to make them less than the truth.
Anne: Our feelings are very individual – indeed some think that this is what makes us human – but there is a level at which we all feel the same.
This feeling sense comes not from our well known and trusted five senses – which live in the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin – but from our inner heart, the place within where a deeper level of feeling (the so-called sixth sense) resides.
This is the sense we feel first, and then we use our five bodily senses to confirm or override what we have first felt. This sense is not a mystery, but a simple everyday reality, that we just know, that we all feel.
Paul: Common sense is what we know, what we feel to be true, and we all feel this. The only difference between us is how aware we choose to be of it, and how willing we are to use and honour it, or ignore and or over-ride it.
Do we have a responsibility here?
How were we raised as children?
Was our common sense, our knowing living way, cherished and nurtured?
Have we as parents nurtured that common sense, in our selves and in our children, or have we over-ridden it?
Anne: To me, the way we have raised our children has been a direct reflection of how we ourselves have lived, in honouring of our common sense, or not!
When we are young, we look at the way adults are living and it does not make sense to us.
So do we say:
Well, that does not make sense, because I know what feels true in my body, so I will just trust and abide by what I know, and live in a way that honours that.
Or do we say:
There must be something wrong with me – as in I cannot trust my feelings – or there is something wrong with them – and then do we give up on living a true life and use this as an excuse to indulge ourselves in the same, or worse, wayward behaviours?
I remember as a child watching and feeling my parents smoking, drinking and arguing and thinking: “I will never live like that when I grow up”. And yet, as I grew older (I would not call it growing up!) I indulged in exactly the same behaviours, if not worse!
Paul: Yes, I remember feeling trapped in the sadness and loneliness of life growing up, and ended up doing things, like eating and drinking in a way that was not healthy, just to cope with the way I was feeling.
Anne: So if it does not make any sense, why do we do it?
How and why do we choose to ignore it, over-ride it, deliberately go against it?
Paul: Common sense is felt when we are with our whole body, and then we know what is true. But if we separate from the whole of who we are, a part of us can take over and let our thoughts run the show – the part that wants to do it our way, that wants to be individual, that wants to be special, and separate from the whole.
That part says: “I demand the freedom to choose what I want, to do as I please, no matter what” and the desire to smoke is a great example of this, but there are many ways we all do this (and we all know what our ways are!).
Anne: Yes, and if we drink alcohol, for example (which does not make sense, given that it is a poison), we lose our common sense, and sometimes we lose so much of it that we even think we are ok to drive, putting ourselves and everyone else at risk. And when we sober up, we ‘come to our senses’ and feel the full force of the sense-less choices we have made.
Paul: When we honour common sense, we honour ourselves and we also honour everyone around us. When we don’t, we are in disregard, not only of our selves and our own bodies, but of everyone and everything else too.
Our common sense – the feeling in our body – is actually an impulse of truth, a road map, if you like, of our way back to a more simple and loving way of life.
Anne: Common sense brings us back to the truth of our body, and the truth of who we are; the innate qualities of love, stillness, harmony, and joy that are our birthright. It is our way back to the love that we are.
Paul: And not only does it make no sense to override what we know is true to our self and our body, but it also holds us back from the connection that this sense is always offering us, which is what we all deeply crave – to belong to a whole where we share this gift of truth.
To wake to another day having slept a sound sleep of early to bed and early to rise, having eaten what was true for our bodies, not having stimulated our senses or dulled our selves with our particular choice of drug, is to be part of a symphony of rhythm – to see the sun rise, nature in all its glory and what it holds for us, to spend the day with our selves and the people around us is a joy, and the feeling of a sense we all have in common with all of that.