I firmly believe that to survive in this world we all need the right combination of basic intelligence and a healthy dose of common sense. We don’t have any say in how much of the first ingredient we’re blessed or cursed with. We simply hope our parents didn’t settle.
Common sense is a bit trickier. Dictionary.com defines it as “sound, practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training or the like; normal, native intelligence.” Naturally I wasn’t content with just that so I took a ’common sense’ quiz (and did rather poorly by the way. Try it and you’ll see why.). One of the correct answers tells us that the judgment must be “based on things that are common knowledge and established facts, either by the person making the judgment or by society in general.”
We all know common sense isn’t as common as it should be. We know that those with very high intelligence can be sorely lacking in it often because they want to reason things out. We know that the highly emotional can let their feelings over-ride what would appear to be a common sense decision.
Common sense is learned and is the result of the knowledge we have. It is fluid but not universal in that it differs from setting to setting, country to country. It requires social interactions so that we can learn from others. Common sense in animals leads to self-preservation.
Common sense keeps us from putting our hand into a fire or stepping out in front of a speeding car. Children do not innately know this. They need to be taught?either by listening or ’learning the hard way.’
So, if I have above average intelligence and a healthy dose of common sense, I’m sitting pretty, right? If I am willing to learn from my own mistakes and those of others, I’m ahead of the game, right? If I routinely replicate past successes, my own and those of others, I’m really cooking, right? If I can ask and learn or read and learn, I can keep growing and improving the quality of my life.
So, given all that, why don’t I consistently do what is smart or right; what is in my best interests; what will improve the quality of my life?
Hell, if I know. Why do I delay returning to the treadmill until I’ve regained much of the weight I lost? Why do I believe that this time just one sweet square or one scoop of ice cream will satiate? Why do I wait until the chickweed has covered the ground before grabbing the jug of Roundup? Why do I believe that I’ll have more time this summer to maintain a yard that’s clearly too much? Why do I believe that certain leopards (people) can change their spots?
Hell, if I know. I just keep remembering Oprah saying we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes until we learn the life lesson needed. Sometimes smarts and common sense aren’t enough, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..