“Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
“Use your common sense, child!” I remember being told this when I was young. I imagine it was said in exasperation by one or other of my parents, probably in response to some obvious question I had asked. Perhaps a more updated version would be: “Figure it out!” In a world where instant answers are expected and available at our fingertips, have we lost trust in our own common sense, in our own ability to work things out? I have observed this loss of vision in students who are mathophobic (there must be a word for this!), students who freeze at the sight of a word problem. The common sense side of their brain shuts down, and they lose the ability to reason it out.
As a student nurse, the first nurse manager that I met (known as the Ward Sister in those days) was old school. She had little respect for modern ways and stuck to her old traditions, even if science had disproved their effectiveness or even safety. But she asserted often that “You can train a monkey to change a dressing using aseptic technique. It takes common sense to make a nurse!” Well nowadays it takes thousands of dollars and many textbooks to make a nurse, and perhaps now they call it clinical judgment or critical thinking. But common sense is a good start.
When we ignore the information that our senses provide us with, we shut down our ability to make good decisions. When we choose to blindly follow leaders who themselves lack vision, it cannot end well. But how can we see beyond the immediate, to see the potential consequences of our actions? The past few weeks, after another scene of carnage, the political leaders chose to ignore the will of the people and failed to pass a few measures to make our society safer. But a few men and women of vision demonstrated the power of sitting in to stand up for a better future. It was a wonderful sight to behold.
We are often intimidated by the voices of hate and negativity. I recently had the opportunity to participate in one man’s vision of hope and positivity. Dr. Allan Cunningham has been highlighting individuals who champion a cause and make a difference in their community. He did this by interviewing them, then publishing their profile on facebook. He then had the audacity to go further. He set up a committee which reviewed these individuals, and they created an award show, the People Profile Awards. He raised funds, obtained sponsorship, and provided an evening of inspiration and entertainment (yes, there was food, drink and live music as well!). All from one man’s vision.
But included in that awards show was a Lifetime Achievement Award given to a Jamaican musician: King Yellowman. Quite aside from having a successful career as a dancehall deejay (worldwide), Yellowman’s story is impressive. His nickname comes from his appearance. He is an albino, a trait which leads to much derision in the land of his birth (the common name for albino is the demeaning ‘dundus’). There is such stigma associated with this condition that he was abandoned at birth, and was raised in orphanages. Jamaicans are not kind to people who are ‘other’. A person who is missing a limb will be known as ‘Oney’ (as in, one arm). Yellowman turned the insulting nickname into his stage name, and by the age of 14 he was performing in public, and won an award in a local music contest. This was just the beginning of his successful career.
But his story does not end there. In his 30’s he was diagnosed with skin cancer, and given months to live. It had invaded his jaw, and he underwent disfiguring facial surgery to attack the disease. That was over 20 years ago! He continues to perform live, demonstrating that true beauty depends on your inner character, not superficial outer appearances. Most of us want to hide our faces when we have a temporary blemish, avoiding the camera unless we are posed, made up and flawless. This man places himself fully in your line of vision and challenges you to accept him as he is. His music is not for all tastes, as he can be explicit in matters of a sexual nature. But he is a lively entertainer, and his music will get the average reggae lover on their feet.
We have to engage all of our senses to truly appreciate this world. We have to remember to use our common sense when evaluating situations. When we respond only to fear, when we make decisions without taking into considerations all of the facts, we run the risk of being manipulated by those in positions of power. When we look only at the superficial we may miss the nugget of gold hidden deep within.
This Friday morning I encourage you to follow the example of the brave and courageous in our society, those who are not manipulated by outside forces. I encourage you to think about what you are willing to stand for, and then speak out! I challenge you to make a difference in your corner of the world. No matter how small a difference you think you are making, it may lead to something bigger than you can ever imagine. I hope that you will use all of your senses, and appreciate the richness of diversity and variety in our world.
Have a great weekend Family!