Thoughts That Hurt to Think #110 – Common Sense Isn’t Really Common!

As different as our individual experiences may be, we humans almost all share some pretty important commonalities. The way we interface with the world surely would seem unique and strange, if we weren’t all seeing it through similar lenses. We all hunger, we all thirst, and we all want for something beyond our basic survival instincts. Sometimes it seems as though the more extremely widespread our collective consciousness becomes, the more apparent it gets that we are all variants of the same thing. Other times, it feels like the journey to common ground may be light years away.

Some problems arise, within that wide range of experience; and the way they are dealt with can alienate one aspect of humanity from another in ways that can be detrimental to everyone involved. The people dealing with certain situations bond with others in the same proverbial boat, but that bonding can cut them off from all the folks in the world living under different circumstances. We almost never see someone in the same way as they see themselves, and bridging that gap can be made impossible by a very long list of highly likely circumstances.

Everybody knows you need to keep babies away from open light sockets and electrical outlets; yet who can say when that lesson has been completely absorbed? Lots of kids get shocked, of course. That probably makes a pretty clear mark on the lesson timeline. It still leaves out all the kids that don’t, though; along with all the ones who don’t learn the lesson the first time. Plenty of adults get shocked, as well. All you need is a little more confidence than you have ability, when cracking open a breaker box; electricity is happy to teach the same lesson over and over, no matter what your age may be.

Believe me, I know.

Some people are content to never work on any kind of outlet, or take the cover off a breaker box. That’s one way to avoid this kind of scenario, but it separates them from all the people out there who have some basic understanding of electricity. You can learn all kinds of stuff by diving into a home wiring project, and it’s pretty hard to go wrong with the kind of information available on the internet these days. Once you do it a time or two, it all just seems like common sense; then you meet someone who doesn’t know this stuff, and you wonder how they managed to get along their whole lives without such basic knowledge.

That’s just the thing, though. Right away, we just excluded everyone who doesn’t have electricity in their homes from this entire discussion. Those aren’t little numbers; but even if they were, those people should not be expected to know this type of thing. Also, we aren’t considering all the people who just don’t have any desire to work on home electrical projects. It’s super easy for those who have done something to think anyone could do it, and probably even easier to forget the anxiety and uncertainty they experienced back when they did it the first time.

Each of has different things we are attracted to, and that’s part of what makes humanity as a whole such a fantastic thing. That doesn’t mean someone with no desire to do anything in particular is dumb, or lacking in common sense; it means the more widely varied life becomes, the less likely we are to have commonalities most of us share.

Not long ago, nearly everyone fished and hunted to feed their families. Maybe it was only one or two members of each family, but the number of people killing animals compared to the number eating them was fairly comparable. In our modern society, a few people do almost all the killing; and the number of hunters per capita is lower than ever in human history. On top of all that, some people can’t even imagine hunting or killing their own meat. In a freakishly short period of time, the common perspective on hunting has gone from accepting it as a part of life to not being able to understand why someone would ever do it.

Of course, that’s just one example. Back in those days, you were well rounded if you knew how to hunt and cook and keep a clean hut. The further we go along humanity’s timeline, the more we see opportunities for employment becoming increasingly specialized. You have to know all kinds of things to do almost any job these days, and nearly all of that knowledge is completely useless in virtually every other scenario. A bunch of other people out there may have the same specialty, but that doesn’t mean they want to talk about it after hours just to connect with you. Most people in the modern world are way more passionate about their hobbies than the thing they do to make money, so you’re better off making friends with folks who share that aspect of your experience.

In the first few years of my adult life, I made a deliberate attempt to learn certain things. Basically, I looked at all the things I did or used; and decided I would learn enough about them to not be too dependent on others. From cooking and cleaning to working on my own car, I tried to make myself into someone who did not feel helpless when something went wrong in the modern world.

Since then, a lot has changed. Computers were barely a thing back then, and mobile phones were a rarity; I steered away from both, since neither seemed at all necessary at the time. Now I get a report every week telling me how many hours I spent staring at my iPhone screen, and I have two work laptops and one personal computer that each gets more attention than the mobile device giving me those reports. To top it off, I am not nearly as comfortable working on a vehicle these days; there are more wires and tubes and parts under the hood of a new car than ever, and I’m much more likely to take it to a mechanic if something goes wrong than I am to try and fix it myself.

When we learn something, a funny thing often happens. We tend to forget we didn’t always know that thing, right along with forgetting how hard it was to learn. It’s just how the mind works, in most cases; and it isn’t rare at all to assume everyone knows everything you know. That doesn’t make any sense, though. If we look at all of human knowledge as if it were the ocean, each of us really only swims through a very small part of all that information. The amount that sticks as we move through it can be likened to the droplets of seawater streaming off our body as we pull ourselves to the shore. It seems like a lot, until you look back at all the drops you left in the ocean. Then we realize even a lifetime of studying is likely to leave us feeling more ignorant at the end of the journey than we did at the beginning.

If some serious shit goes down, nobody is going to benefit from all those skills they learned to navigate modern life. A singularly devastating event like a meteor impact or super volcano erupting could put us back in the dark ages right quick, and make all that knowledge completely useless. A lot of people might die as a direct result of the disaster, whatever it is; but most of the rest of us would not fare much better in the aftermath. We don’t know how to hunt and gather in the best case scenario; doing those things in a post-apocalyptic setting would simply be asking too much. Even modern hunters and anglers would struggle, since very few of them can make their own gear. A lot of us would starve, simply because we don’t have what most of our ancestors would have considered common sense.

This might all be a little disturbing, when we really delve into what kind of knowledge we may or may not share with the people around us. I find it refreshing, and use this line of thinking to remind myself that everyone has as much of a genuine and full experience of being human as I do. We’re all way different from each other, in lots of ways; and we’re only going to see that gap continue to widen as life gets more complex. No one is walking around with an empty brain, however; and it helps in my dealings with others to remember that they have a complete set of ignorance and knowledge just like I do.

It’s just a different set, that’s all.

You know…because common sense isn’t really common.

Thanks for reading!

All the best,


J.K. Norry
The Secret Society of Deeper Meaning
Twitter: @JayNorry

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