Common sense is not a common virtue

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Common sense is as rare as genius.” Never before has that been more true than today. We can’t all be rocket scientists but that doesn’t mean we have to be down right stupid either.

Common sense would tell an educated nurse who has been assigned to care for an Ebola stricken patient not to get on a plane during the incubation period of that deadly virus. Somehow, this escaped the thought process of the nurse in question and now there is a plane load of people who have gone their separate ways to track down with the hope they do not further spread this deadly disease.

In the words of Victor Hugo, “Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.” Our president, by all accounts, is a well-educated person. Still, in the midst of a Middle East crisis that sees ISIS snubbing their noses at the western world, while an Ebola outbreak threatens to infect up to 10,000 people a week by December, and when your poll numbers continue to plummet, common sense would tell you it is not a good idea to attend a democratic fundraiser held at Gwyneth Paltrow’s home. My guess is we will see more common sense from our president after the November mid-term elections but then common sense also tells me by then it will be too late.

Too bad Harriet Beecher Stowe was not around to advise Roger Goodell. She said, “Common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they should be.”

When a 220 pound NFL running back sits next to his wife who weighs about half as much tells you he punched and knocked her out in an elevator, common sense should tell you this guy needs more than a two game suspension. It doesn’t even require seeing any video to know the kind of damage he inflicted.

Then again, if your fiancé knocks you out with a punch, common sense would ask, “What are you doing marrying this guy?”

“Common sense is the most widely shared commodity in the world, for every man is convinced he is well supplied with it.”  These were the words of René Descartes. I wonder if Michael Brown Jr. believed he possessed much common sense. You would think if he had any he would not have robbed a convenience store and then gone walking down the middle of a busy street just prior to getting shot and killed by a police officer. Brown’s lack of common sense is what led to his demise as much as anything else and common sense would tell the protestors in Ferguson that Brown is not a martyr.

It was Thomas Edison who said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

We idolize too many people in our culture who only possess the first two traits Edison mentions. Common sense would tell a football player if they make their living smashing their head into others, they can expect to have brain damage at an early age in life.

Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and countless other celebrities should know it is difficult enough to make it in Hollywood and even more so if you are constantly needing to go into rehab. Of course, if their parents had any common sense, they might have decided against pushing their kid to become a child star that becomes ill equipped to handle the adult world.

Even W.C. Fields knew what he was talking about when he said, “Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps him from betting on humans.” Just pick up a newspaper or go on line. How many stories are there that focus on people who lack common sense? Even those who cover the stories often lack it.

And before you tell me how easy it is for me to sit and judge others for their lack of common sense, let me admit to some of my own shortcomings. Common sense would tell me the more I read about others lack of common sense, the less flabbergasted I would become over the current state of affairs. If I had any common sense when I was younger, I would have gone to film school in my twenties and waited to begin a thirty-year career as a teacher. And common sense would have told me long ago life is easier to enjoy when you focus on the good and not the bad.

What would this world be like if Voltaire was wrong when he said, “Common sense is not so common.” No one knows for sure, but my guess is it would be a lot more boring than it is today.