Steve Woods

The Emerging Global Sense

In Social Media, What Day is it? on November 4, 2009 at 10:50 am

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”  ~ Siddharta


Dad was madder than this...

Today is Use Your Common Sense Day. How many times, growing up, did an adult say to you angrily “Use some common sense?”  Oh, it was the worse, because it left you feeling like you were mentally deficient, that some part of your logical faculty had been left off when you were formed in the womb.  It was a popular one for my Father when he was angry at some stupid stunt I had pulled and got into trouble over.  Of all the things he said to me, in addition to the belt-smacks on my bottom, that statement stung the most.  I was left wondering for long disquieting hours whether or not I was ever going to grow up and be as smart as my Dad, whether or not I would ever be good enough…

Origin of the concept of Common Sense

Common sense as a phrase was first coined by Aristotle, although he had something very different in mind from



what we think of today.  Aristotle viewed common sense as a physical reaction, a visceral response to the signals provided by a special, inner body organ, akin to our eyes or ears, tongue, nose or skin.  This mysterious, hidden organ pulled together  and filtered the information from the other organs and helped us to make sound, practical judgments.  Sound a bit like a brain, huh?  I believe Aristotle held this theory because of the bodily impulse we feel when driven to do what is right, or what our conscious tells us is best.  Like puppets, we are physically manipulated by the forces of common good. And like a puppet, if the impulse is strong enough, it is impossible to deny our master’s wishes.

Common Sense today

Today we know common sense as sound, practical judgment, derived from experience rather than study.  We didn’t learn to use it from long periods of time in classrooms, or as a result of pondering great works of literature; rather it is native good judgement, learned in the locality in which we live, allowing us to make what appear to be sound decisions in our environment.

Business group

We tend to shun those that oppose our beliefs.

As a concept, common sense refers to attitudes and widely held beliefs that ultimately may be difficult to justify.  Despite this fact, they are generally assumed by those holding them to be time-tested and reliable, generations after first developed. Break from these long-held beliefs and you will likely find yourself isolated from the larger group and labelled as mentally disturbed, mentally handicapped or socially inept.  Why don’t you just get it?  It’s common sense!  It’s not the fault of the one questioning; often, we deny them their fair hearing as a protective measure, keeping ourselves from having to share in the new challenge to our commonly-held beliefs.

The Genius of the Opposer

On the flip side of the coin, it is also the mark of true genius to shirk what is conventionally held as common knowledge, in the pursuit of a once-hidden truth which ultimately we come to embrace.  We once held as common sense that our big, beautiful Earth was flat, actually imprisoned those that said otherwise, and treated opposers publicly as insane or in league with the Devil.  The very word Satan comes from the Hebrew


He smilingly opposed those of his time...

word Ha’Satan, meaning “the Opposer.”  How much easier it must’ve been to simply point fingers at those that questioned our common-sense authority and call them such, than to take the long hours of time determining if what they were saying was valid, and/or admitting a personal mistake.

Through the centuries, we’ve also held as common sense that only men and women could (and should) be attracted sexually to each other, that men and women of different races could not marry, that the darker the skin the lighter the intelligence, that our circumstances are born to us and cannot be changed, and a host of others that still linger.  Just this week a judge stepped down after publicly refusing to marry an interracial couple, because he held the opinion that those relationships were fraught with disaster.  Remember, his opinion would’ve been applauded as common-sensical by a majority of our population 60 years ago, and is now derided by an even-great percentage.  Oh, how social tables turn…

The Value of Common Sense

So if common sense is so capricious in nature, why is it held in such esteem?  John Berger viewed common sense as a home-grown ideology developed by the great masses in response to having to figure things out without the benefit of a proper education in critical thought.  After all, most of us can’t afford an experienced, personalized teacher to walk us through life, spending day after day with us examining the values that guide us, exposing every closely-held truth to the light and helping us move past the misconceptions.  We have to get on with the practice of living today and now, working with others, trying to get along…

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”  ~ Einstein


Our cobbled-together, sea-worthy lives

Common sense works because it allows us to travel the rough waters of our lives on a lashed-together raft of semi-false wisdom.  But at least we are moving, right?  Berger viewed common sense as a mish-mash of religious hold-overs, information we individually discovered through experience, skepticism of “new” ideas as a form of protection of what we already hold as truth, and items held merely for comfort’s sake.   The very thought of trying to approach this mountain of tangled briars and slowly, methodically removing each branch, pricking ourselves emotionally along the way and crying through the pain is frightening, to say the least.  But as a society we go through this pain together and cyclically, in nation after nation, as one gifted, charismatic philosopher after another pushes us forward together.  Ghandi was one such figure, Confucius, Buddha, Martin Luther King, Jr. and a host of others.  There are men and women in our future, still-unborn, who will someday pull us closer to the shore and one day help us find more honest paths to stroll through in life.

Emerging from Common Sense

So why is it important to face up to our commonly held values, to cast them aside if they work so well?  Berger re-emerges in this conversation, and tells us that despite its efficacy in holding us all together “happily” in belief (unless you are on the short end of the commonly-held belief,) common sense never grows from its own nourishment, never moves itself (and hence us) beyond its current state, without the insertion of philosophy.


It's scary to go into unknown places...

Descartes viewed common sense as the faculty man uses to survive on life’s journey, until he finds himself in the mysterious realms dominated by the lords of philosophy, a domain in which all of the tools amassed in his life are roughly taken from him and cast into the rough seas of fact.  Some of us have a more difficult time with the loss.  You’ve seen them, sitting in the back row of your college Critical Thinking class, angry as the professor verbally pickaxes the sturdy foundation the student resided on up to that moment.  And just like that student, I have walked upon a firm foundation built on religious values, good intentions, stereotypes, personal experience and plain bigotry.  I have had the floor destroyed from under me on more than one occasion.  It’s a painful time, as I find myself once again in that place, the role of my Father played by life itself, and I once again that little child being painfully schooled.  And once again, I smart for a time, until I accept that I was wrong, that I have much, much more to learn, and forgive the harshness of the lesson in favor of the content.

Social Media and the new Global Sense

“Common sense is not so common.”  ~ Voltaire

With the advent of Social Media and Internet-connectivity, we find ourselves going through changes that do not reverberate in one isolated community, in one nation or religious group.  Our lashed-together rafts are no longer travelling down local streams, but are instead fighting against ocean currents.  Those locally-held belief systems are collapsing under the critical eyes of the larger community, whose lives were not shaped by the same values.  Login, and find yourself challenged in all directions.


The emerging social Global Sense

The Internet is rapidly becoming that personalized teacher, ever-present and ready to walk with us.  Hold racist ideals because your parents do?  Be ready to have to explain yourself to a variety of individuals of every race, to those who never held such beliefs and are disgusted by those that do.  Misogynist?  Be prepared for an onslaught of women who have more than the mental capacity to decimate your “common sense” values with 140 keystrokes.  Common misconceptions, stereotypes, and small-mindedness have never known a time where there were fewer places to hide from the light.  What is true where you live is no longer true when dealing with the globalized community of Twitter or Facebook.

It’s time to step into the light, to share with others, to listen intently to the words of others, and learn from each other.  It’s time to do more than tolerate; rather, let us learn to embrace, and one more – let us learn to Change. Social Media is redefining common sense, pulling it from the tight grasps of the small village, the isolated desert town, the gated community lives we lead, and unfolding before us a new Global Sense of what we believe.  This shared stream of thought is being nourished daily by each and every one of us who are connected into the larger community, spreading runners underground and popping up in places impossible to ignore, knocking old, valued crockery off of shelves and upsetting those asleep.

It is unfortunate that my Father passed away before the emergence of Twitter.  If I could’ve persuaded him to discover it, I think he might’ve gotten a taste of his own medicine.  And I would’ve been there beside him, helping steer the raft…

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  1. Beautifully written. A man after my own heart. Towards a personal global common sense of an emergent global commonweal. Chapeau!

    • Thank you for such a kind comment! I love our emerging Globality of thought – so many disparate protectionist philosophies have separated our family! And like any family, the more we come together in open understanding and acceptance, the more we can enjoy each other’s company! ~Steve

  2. Great Steve! Now with this other comment of yours, you made me think… you think there will be unity & acceptance in our life time?
    Around me, because that’s the type of person I am (not bragging about my good-hearted nature; honestly speaking), and maybe in Films (I see those perfect ones, they’re called fantasy).
    I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. It’s late, and need to sleep now. Going to the hospital in the morning to get an injection in the csJoint/back.
    I’m an artist (creative person). I’m not a writer, but looking forward to ‘trying’ my own blog. I guess you’ve inspired me 🙂
    However, I do write quotes. I’ve kept them in a journal.

  3. I do believe that over time, increasingly our children and their children will try to work in unison, across borders and faiths. I think it will be a difficult thing for many of us to grasp, and we will find ourselves at odds with our progeny.

    I embrace the Globalism we are fostering not because I believe in its success, but in its merit.

    I hope that you are feeling much better soon, and I look forward to more blogging from you!


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