Whatever happened to common sense?

Whatever happened to common sense?

As you get older some of the baggage of complexity falls away. Perhaps it’s a precursor to dementia. Perhaps it’s the ultimate realization that fundamentals matter. Perhaps it’s common sense reasserting itself. Whatever the cause, I savour it, relish the simplicity of seeing good behaviour, enjoy the things that make me laugh and even those that make me cry.

Oddly, as common sense has been whittled away, its mantras have surfaced increasingly. They can now be found in the wise words at the end of every promotional statement, in many religious doctrines, as part of all educational exhortations and adorning the training manuals of most management procedures. When not dismissed as jargon they are praised as the very fount of astral wisdom. Sometimes children and young people utter them, for they see more clearly than most. When they do they become international stars overnight.

I do not spurn such lucid language – indeed, use it myself from time to time – but I do wonder why the supporters of these utterances regard them purely as entertainment, something to keep the mind distracted during the long pandemic days and the dark Covid nights. Diseases like this one play to the gallery of emotional excess and discordant disbelief. Shakespeare would have had a field day with the soul sadnesses engineered by an unwelcome, invisible invader. Dickens would have dug the depths of didactics to build his storyline.

But real life – actual behaviour – remains largely devoid of any of these desirable simplicities. It is conducted like the worst soap television series, desperate to score an audience rating, unwilling to see the relationships between the jungle and savagery. While many accept that example is still the most effective model, parents, educators, priests, coaches, managers behave as though their working life and their off duty time bear no relation to each other.

And so, the aspiration of quality becomes the execution of quantity.

Seldom is this more unpleasantly displayed than by the exhibition of two men aiming to become the leader of the western world for the next four years screaming at each other, the one telling a string of already-established lies, the other trying to refute them over the bellowing voices of two farmyard creatures set to tear each other apart for amusement’s sake, to put on a good show regardless of the consequences. ‘Shame’ is the mildest word we can utter for it. Shame and wonder at why someone claiming the best ability of any to deal with the collective of climate, trade, health, land grab, technology potential and the basics of what humans want to be in fifty years time would devote even a minute to such an exhibition.

Whatever the truth or otherwise of unproven faiths, they all act with more dignity than that.

The journey into digitisation is an attempt to turn as much of life as possible into process. Of itself it is a worthy aim. Why plough an acre a day with a team of horses when you can plough thirty acres a day with a bulldozer? Cost-effectively it is a no-brainer.

Except that thirty acres with the plough employs thirty ploughmen; the bulldozer, one. Except that a team of horses plodding the ground brings life and vitality to the soil with every powerful, earthy step they take while the bulldozer rapes the balanced culture into silent submission. Except that the quiet of thirty ploughs enhances the countryside in which they toil while the bulldozer frightens away all the tiny creatures that create a living earth. Except that the weariness and exhaustion of a day’s physical ploughing is the most rewarding exercise a person can have, while eight hours of the bolldozer’s diesel fumes and thunderous noise leave the driver tainted and deaf.

Am I recommending a return to our agrarian past? Of course not, but I am suggesting that before everything becomes a digitised process we should consider which aspect of our lives is making us happy. The cabbage fresh from sun and rain tastes infinitely better than that from shrink-wrapped cellophane. The sweat of hard physical work rewards better than any badge of achievement. The ache for the freedom of happiness far outweighs the desire for snacks and alcohol.

As we build the new world of ‘instant’, can we reflect on what made the old world of ‘continuity’? Our one hundred years tenancy of the only known habitable planet in the firmament requires us to be useful, conservationist, adventurous and, above all, happy. I see excess where there should be joy and prison where there should be release. I see discontent where there should be harmony with life. I see rage where there should be reason. Above all, I see hopeless yearning where there should be delirious discovery.

And perhaps a return to common sense.

It is the greatest of all our attributes.