Friday, April 24, 2009

Ain't Nothing Common About It

"You got a lot of book learnin', but you ain't got the common sense of a fly sometimes."

Any of y'all ever had somebody say that to you, or something like it?

I have, and let me tell you, that is an uncomfortable experience.

Long time readers of the blog know I'm a fairly intelligent guy. (Let me make sure I don't cramp up from kissing my own butt.) At times in life I've been deemed extremely intelligent. Unfortunately, I've occasionally let that go to my head. My ego has always been a healthy size, but in certain situations, it's been known to start to look like Michael Clarke Duncan.

Whenever that's happened, God has found a way to take me down a few pegs, usually by reminding me of exactly how dumb I can be. Whether it be forcing me to talk about a subject I'm clueless about, or having me make a serious gaffe, any time my ego hits the 'roids, God is quick with the detox. I've learned over the years that just accumulating book learnin' doesn't do much good, if you don't have the common sense, or wisdom, to use that knowledge.

Which brings me to Gandhi's next social sin, knowledge without character.

I guess I could have discussed this topic from the aspect of having morals and letting those morals guide your use of knowledge. I thought about doing that for a while. After all, when I think of "character" I typically think of a value system, a "code."

But, character can also refer to temperament and personality. And that's where I think some knowledge seekers fall short. They allow their new found knowledge to affect their personalities and temperament to the point that it's easy to wonder if they have a lick of "common sense."

Common sense is a misunderstood phrase. Most of us think of some sort of homespun, down-home wisdom when we think of it, and that's only partially true. The deeper meaning speaks to the fact that life is rarely as simple, or as complicated as we would like to make it. Therefore, common sense, is often the ability to cut through the fog of misunderstanding and reveal the truth about situations.

Knowledge is of course invaluable in this process. Information can stimulate our minds in new directions and allow us to see the world from a different perspective. But, that only happens if we have an open mind and heart. It only happens if we have the ability to sift through information and determine what's truly important instead of becoming bogged down in minutiae.

Common sense will not allow you to overlook obvious and persistent warning signs in relationships. Nor will it allow you to inflate the importance of minor issues so that they become major concerns. Common sense goes hand in hand with discernment and wisdom, some would probably say it's just a synonym for those two words.

What I think Gandhi's warns against is the accumulation of information and knowledge without the simultaneous hoarding of common sense. It's a terrible thing to possess power and not know how to wield it.

Unfortunately, there are no shorts cuts to wisdom or common sense. While we may have varying degrees of wisdom from birth, all of us must nurture those fledgling gifts in order to reach our full potential. We must train our minds to think about the world and our place in it. Only then do we insure our knowledge is tempered by character.

Only then do we have common sense.



Mr. Noface said...

I have the same ego issues you do and I find that I'm usually able to use the good sense God gave me when I'm not focused on how S-M-R-T I am (like Homer Simpson). Other times you would think that I was mildly retarded (not to offend any one living with any form of metal retardation), because I'm to stuck on my "genius" to see the forrest for the trees.

ch555x said...

good points to remember...

Deacon Blue said...

Heh...Big Man, loan me some ego next time you find yourself with a surplus. Sometimes I think I could use a bit more.

Big Man said...


Yeah, I think you'll be all right.

MacDaddy said...

Good stuff, Big Man. Hey, come on over to The daddy has something for you.

MODI said...

Honestly Big Man.

"Ego" is the last word that comes to mind when I think of you. I think one of your greatest strength is your ability to reason while side-stepping ego traps. Your brand of writing is refreshing and distinctive precisely because it lacks ego... Then again, I just know your Internet personality. Perhaps your dick swings far more forcefully off-line!

Anyway, I don't necessarily view "common sense" and "character" as interchangeable. The former has more to do with "perspective" and the latter "integrity". In the end, both are very important to possess.

But I don't know if many people suffer from a lack of common sense as we do a lack of "character". It is easy to willfully deny oneself "common sense" when we don't like where that sense leads. I don't think it is an intelligence barrier, but an emotional one. We often lack "common sense" cuz we believe what we want to believe.

Not to get too deep, but I think that it is tied to America's materialistic culture. We are socialized to want to be "rich" before we want to be "great".

Big Man said...


That was a great point.

It reminded me of an argument I once had about Kobe Bryant.

I said there is nothing Kobe cannot do offensively. That includes get his teammates involved by passing. However, in the past, he's chosen NOT to do certain things for a variety of reasons.

I think that's a perfect example of your point.

MODI said...

Exactly! Kobe is a perfect example!

Raving Black Lunatic