Common sense?

December 23, 2015
Rick London

Rick London


For many of us these days, making sense of certain human behaviors seems to defy common sense. In fact common sense doesn’t seem very common anymore. But was common sense ever very common? Before slavery was abolished, was it very common? Before women had won the right to vote, was it very common?

An old friend of mine was fond of reminding me that “motive is everything” and that it’s difficult to discern people’s intentions. And then there’s Ambrose Bierce’s definition of politics as, “A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

I think the marketing of some version of common sense, in order to capture common ground or build consensus, if not merely alignment on any issue facing our world today, is the essences of what politics is all about. No matter what the hidden motive or intention may be.

Today, as in days gone by, the art of scapegoating is alive and well. It seems to me that we have become even more stealth like and sophisticated when it comes to judging, blaming and not taking responsibility for our own thoughts, words and deeds.

Even though my mother was a Holocaust Survivor, I still grew up being called disrespectful names. We could give many examples of man’s inhumanity to man.

Religious persecution, class segregation, racism and just plain hate, fear or ignorance have plagued humanity for as long as we can remember. Yet by some estimates, by 2044, minorities of every persuasion will be the new majority in our country. So one way or another, I believe we will eventually come to our common senses to embrace the necessity of a common ground that advances our common good.

We are blessed with a belief in free speech. Yet we find it so easy to attack another person for their use of words, rather than having a truthful civil conversation about content, context and meaning.

I’m reminded of the parable telling the story of a handful of blind men each touching a different part of an elephant. They ended up arguing over what they were experiencing without the benefit of having the whole picture before formulating their opinions. This is especially worrisome these days with so many of us relying on sound bites for framing our own points of view.

As with most creatures living on earth, we tend to do better at getting along and communicating with individuals who belong to our own “intra” group, organization or system. We meet our needs for community, opportunity and safety within our own political parties, faith-based organizations and belief systems.

By the turn of the 20th century our world population had grown to one billion. The last hundred years or so has ramped up our numbers to some seven billion. It would seem to me that time is of the essence for how we rebalance our capacity to be better at “inter” connecting with all of our separate factions.

Nature provides us with various examples or blueprints of what we might try aspiring to, as creatures who have been given a consciousness that goes far beyond mere instinct alone. One of my favorite examples is the human body, a magnificent system unto itself. Created from the fewest of cells, it evolves into a world made up of trillions of cells. While all of these cells share characteristics in common, they remain unique and diversified onto themselves and within their own intra-group communities. There are groups of cells working together within organs like the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs. And then these organs work together in groups or systems like the cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, digestive and endocrine systems.

At every level of increasing complexity, be it an individual cell, cells that are a part of a specific group, groups working together within a system or systems working together as a body; they go about their daily business relying on their interconnectivity and interdependency. When everything is functioning well, we have a strong constitution; our body is thriving and resilient. Without much thought on our part, our individual cells are very good at living united. Though our organs are substantially different, fortunately for us they know how to coexist.

So what’s the glue that holds a healthy body together? I’ve come to think of it as unselfish service, love or maybe even the Golden Rule. What inspires me to think like this is the consequences of a selfish cell. That type of behavior we may know as malignant. For various reasons a cell loses interest in cooperating, collaborating, communicating and coordinating with what’s in the best interest of the body as a whole.

So how do we human beings learn to get along, no matter our station in life, as effectively and efficiently as the cells of our body are capable of doing?

It’s difficult to imagine everyone sharing the same political or religious beliefs any time soon. So is there anything we can have in common besides just meeting our biological needs? To me, how we go about meeting our social emotional needs may be the other vital factor.

One of my suggestions requires a conviction that “character counts.” I believe that when adults live by the “Six Pillars of Character” our children will grow up better adults by following these six pillars: being trustworthy, responsible, respectful, fair, caring and engaged citizens.

This is the season when we find a wish or a prayer for “Peace on Earth” on many holiday cards. Perhaps “Peace on Earth” would have a better chance if those “Six Pillars of Character” became our glue, our foundation for finding common ground and for living united. I believe that one day this will become common sense and I am truly grateful for that.

Rick London is a longtime Nipomo resident.

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Merry Holiday to all, focus grateful, remember to share and peace will be with you.

merry xmas. like it should be you fraidy cat.

What’s up with the ‘x’ ?

I say “Merry Char-ist Mass”. Char = LOVE. An ‘ist’ is an advocate or believer ( i.e. Methodist, Baptist, et al ).

So a ‘Christ’, a Char-ist is a believer and an advocate for love.

A ‘mas’ or Mass is a celebration.

What does merry holiday even mean?

I’m glad you asked. At 16, I worked at Manor Market on Ocean Ave in San Francisco. My boss, Joe Pierotti, at this time of the year would say,” trim the trees, hang the socks, you bring the bagels and I’ll bring the locks.” So I spent two years working in a jewish community and learned that my Merry Xmas was not for all, so for all, I thought to try Merry Holidays.

This is Christmas Eve, so saying Merry Holiday is stupid.

“Happy Holidays” is PC nonsense to undermine the majority view.

If minorities are offended by Merry Christmas, then they need thicker skin.

So, you are for a ‘dictatorship of the majority’ ?

Sounds communist to me.

Good article, we are woefully short on those traits you point out. I appreciate the message and hope we will all try harder to adhere to those wise and honorable principals, the six pillars of character.

Amen, Rick. Thanks for your astute message for the season. I wholeheartedly agree.

reason maybe excluding brevity and clarity for sure.

how much paper do you need to write about common sense. next.

Rick, I became lost in the disjointed rambling prose. I cannot determine what you are trying to communicate. I believe that you have something heartfelt that you wish to impart to all of us. Perhaps the editors can assist you in redrafting your article.


Thoughtful article. Many good points.

An observation, though: sometimes …most frequently among small minds and tribalist impersonations, common sense is discarded for common myths and opinions.

The fealty and devotion by a group concerning clearly wrong and false beliefs often becomes zealotry and fanaticism.

Your ‘Six Pillars’ of character ( or wisdom ) are all true and good. But they all can, and are, negated by only one trait: selfishness.

We are a world of 7 billion. Most, we will never know …and so they are convenient strangers to be feared and demonized, by ignorant people and the exploiters that profiteer from such banal crudeness.

And America ? America ?

It is a nation of conceited dolts …self-absorbed morons, proud …PROUD of their stupidity, and full of hate for anything they don’t understand ( and have no desire to ‘want’ to ).

95% or more are completely invested in limitation, cowardice, and pretension.

The only ‘change’ this type will ever have happen to them is death and extinction.

That’s a lot of bloviating Adam, even for you!

I’m not Adam, you dimwit !

Increase the peace.


Sorry, but a large part of the problem that you’ve mentioned is caused by there being too many followers of Bronze and Iron Age religious belief systems in this world. These said religions all have differrent Gods that are greedy, jealous, selfish, self-centered, petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleansers; misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, and capriciously malevolent,……. whew!

Unless you can magically remove these said primitive Gods from mankind’s mind, then your notion is nothing but “pie in the sky.”

If I never hear the term “I pray for world peace” again, it will be too soon!

Bravo, Brother Ted !

As we have discussed on multiple occasions: there has been ONE ‘perfect’ individual in all of known history …

And they CRUCIFIED him !

Even he had the guts to ask the Bronze-Age god of the time, supposedly his own, while he was dying, ” Why hast thou forsaken me ? “.

Brother Slowerfaster,

The real psychotic thinking is when Jesus is considered to be God incarnate, then when He uttered “Why hast thou forsaken me,” He was talking to Himself! I know, this is only one incident of many where the following of a Bronze Age belief system in the 21st Century remains incoherent.