He began my lesson by explaining just what common sense is. Dharma believes that "common sense is a practical view and approach to ourselves, to other people, and to all aspects of living. It is how we deal with issues and problems, how we manage our own thoughts, our beliefs, our attitudes and how we cope with other people. It is essentially practical and worldly, not intellectual or academic. Common sense requires that we are flexible and ready to jettison habits and old ways of thinking when they do not serve us practically." Common sense is much more than just a way to solve problems. It also involves taking a sensible perspective, having functional attitudes and beliefs, being able to tackle a range of problems, getting on with people when it matters, grasping another's perspective, knowing and using emotions appropriately, not losing sight of the goal, being flexible and adaptable with a sufficient range of behaviors to match the job. "In other words, Irwin, common sense is neither common nor sense. It goes far beyond that. Common sense requires that sometimes we will need to complicate things to get sensible, practical, workable answers. Simply put, it's sound judgment that's not based on specialized knowledge."
I mulled over what he had to say so far and I could see that, indeed, most us really don't use common sense. Both humans and frogs alike tend to look for the easiest possible solutions to our problems...both big and small. "Dharma, if common sense isn't really common, is it possible for us to learn it or is it just something we either have or we don't?" Dharma smiled. "That's an excellent question, son. The answer is, yes, common sense can be developed. It's something we're all born with but, like all other skills and abilities, we need to hone it. And that requires time and patience."
Common sense equates to wisdom. it's an understanding of how life works. Most humans have a reasonably good understanding of what is the right thing to do in most instances; responsible vs. irresponsible actions. This means that each person must, at some point, learn through his experience. So common sense boils down to experience; being able to learn from life's experiences and then applying those lessons to other problems. It's the whole, why reinvent the wheel if you don't have to, scenario. learning is one of the most wonderful of life's gifts, But it doesn't do you much good if you don't apply what you've learned to real-life situations. Humans who appear to lack common sense simply fail to apply what they already know. In other words, common sense is not something that you either have or don’t have at birth. Like most traits, anyone can acquire it and improve upon it.
My wise teacher and dear friend said that it seems like millions and millions of frogs, humans too, are waiting around for something good to happen in their lives. At the same time, they are spending an enormous amount of energy complaining about all their bad luck. "Most of us tend to miss the most obvious things when it comes to success in any area of life. While in search of the magic formula for success, they mistakenly overlook the importance of something as simple as common sense." He went on to add that using common sense on a regular basis doesn't guarantee success but a lack of it comes pretty darn close to guaranteeing failure. Developing common sense comes down to nothing more than developing the habit of using it. All habits, fortunately, can be learned by anyone who brings a willingness to the game and applies a good dose of self-discipline.
You don't need to obtain a degree from Common Sense University.
After Dharma left this morning, I thought long and hard about how I could use more common sense in my own daily life. It occurred to me, too, that in addition to money not buying common sense, we could add that it doesn't buy ethics or good moral character. But those will, I'm sure, be lessons for another day.
I invite you back here again tomorrow for my March Calendar of Special Days. Until then,