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The Utility of Common Sense in Daily Life As our philosopher explains, the influence of common sense is above all appreciation of daily events. “We have,” he continues, “very rarely in life the opportunity of making grave decisions, but we are called upon daily to resolve unimportant problems, and we can only do it in a judicious way, if we are allowed to devote ourselves to certain kinds of investigation. “This is what may be called to judge with discrimination, otherwise, with common sense. “Without this faculty, it is in vain that our memory amasses the materials, which must serve us in the comparative examination of facts. “And this examination can only be spoiled by decrepitude, if common sense did not succeed in dictating its conclusions to us. “Thanks to this faculty, we possess this accuracy of mind which permits us to discern truth from falsehood. “It is this power which aids us in distinguishing what we should consider as a duty, as a right, or as a thing conforming to equity, established by the laws of intelligence. “Without common sense we should be like an inexperienced gardener, who, for want of knowledge, would allow the tares to grow and would neglect the plants whose function is to nourish man. “In order to conform to the habit of judging with common sense, one ought first to lay down the following principle: “No fact can exist, unless there is a sufficient motive to determine its nature. “It is when operating on the elements furnished us by common sense that we are able to discern the quality of the object of our attention. “One day, a sage, whom people gladly consulted, was asked by what means he had learned to know so well the exact proportion of things, so that he never failed to attribute to them their real value. “‘Why’ they added, ‘can you foresee so exactly the evil and direct us to that which is right and just?’ “And the superstitious people added: “‘Are you not in communication with the spirits, which float in space, which come from the other world? “Would you not be counseled by voices which we have not the power to hear, and do you not see things which are visible to you alone?’ “‘You are right,’ replied the saintly man, smiling: “‘I have indeed the power to hear and to see that which you do not perceive; but sorcery has no relation to the power which is attributed to me. “If you wish, you will be able to possess it in your turn, for my means are not a secret. “‘I keep my eyes and ears open.’ “And as every one burst out laughing, believing it a joke, the sage began again: “‘But this is not all; after having seen and heard, I call to my aid all the qualities which constitute common sense and, thanks to this faculty, I draw my conclusions from my experience, from which enthusiasm, fancy, as well as personal interest are totally excluded. “‘This done, and my judgment being formulated in my thought, I adapt it to the circumstances, and especially to the material situation and to the mentality of those who consult me.’ “From these counsels,” thinks the Shogun, “we must draw a precious lesson. “It is true that an exigency, physical or moral, can determine, in different individuals, a very different resolution. “According to the manner of life adopted, or the direction given to one’s duties, different resolutions can be made without lacking common sense. It is indisputable that what represents social obligations does not demand the same conduct from the peasant as from the prince. “We should outrage common sense in presenting a workman with a gorgeous robe suitable for great ceremonies, in which to do his work, but reason would be equally outraged if one put on a shabby costume to go to the palace of the Mikado.” The nature of resolutions inspired by common sense varies according to environment, the time, and the state of mind in which one is. These conditions make of this quality a virtue really worth acquiring, for it is more difficult to conquer than many others and its effects are of infinite variety. But as always, Yoritomo, after having signaled the danger, and indicated the remedy, gives us the manner of its application. That which follows is marked by that simplicity of conception and facility of execution which render the doctrine of the Nippon philosopher absolutely efficacious. Instead of losing himself by digressing from his subject and by placing himself on the summits of psychology, he remains with us, puts himself on the level of the most humble among us, and says to us all: “The best way to use common sense in daily life consists in declaring one’s honest intentions. “What should I do if I were in the place of the person with whom I am discussing? “I found myself one day on the slope of a hill named Yung-Tshi, and I remarked that the majority of the trees were stript of their foliage. “The season seeming to me not sufficiently advanced for this condition of vegetation, I exprest my astonishment to a passer-by, who replied to me: “‘Alas! This occurs every year at the same time, and it is not well to cultivate trees on the height of Yung-Tshi, for the sun, being too hot, dries them up before the time when the foliage ought to fall.’ “A few days afterward my steps lead me on the opposite slope of the same hill. “There the trees were covered with foliage, still green but uncommon, and their appearance indicated an unhealthy condition of growth. “‘Alas!’ said a man who was working in the hedges to me, ‘it is not well to cultivate trees on the height of Tung-Tshi, for the sun never shines there, and they can only acquire the vigor they would possess if they were planted in another country.’ “And, altho recognizing the truth of these two opinions, so contradictory, I could not help thinking that they were the reproduction of those which men, deprived of common sense, express every day. “The same hill produced a vegetation, affected in different ways, by reason of different causes; and the people, instead of taking into consideration how carelessly they had chosen the location of their plantation, preferred to attribute the defect to the site itself, rather than to their lack of precaution. “Both of them were suffering from a hurtful exaggeration, but each one explained it in a way arbitrarily exclusive. “He of the north made out that the sun never shone on the summit of Yung-Tshi, and the inhabitant of the south affirmed that the health-giving shade was unknown there.” This is why it is indispensable to the successful resolution of the thousand and one problems of daily life, both those whose sole importance is derived from their multiplicity and those whose seriousness justly demands our attention, to employ the very simple method which prescribes that we place ourselves mentally in the position and circumstances of the person with whom we are discussing. If each one of the inhabitants of Yung-Tshi had followed this precept, instead of declaring that the hill never received the sun or that shade never fell upon it, they would each one have thought for himself. “At what conclusions should I arrive, if I had planted my trees on the opposite side?” From the reasoning which would have ensued, the following truth would most certainly have been revealed. “If I were in the other man’s place, I should certainly think as he does.” This premise once laid down, the conclusion would be reached; all the more exact, because, without abandoning their arguments, each one would present those which it is easy to turn against an adversary. Before solving a problem, he who desires to avoid making a mistake must never fail to ask himself this question: What should I do if my interests were those of the opposite party? Or, yet again: What should I reply if my adversaries used the same language to me as I purpose using when addressing them? This method is valuable in that it raises unexpected objections, which the mind would not consider if one had simply studied the question from one’s own point of view. It is a self-evident fact that, according to the state of mind in which we are, things assume different proportions in the rendering of judgment on them. We must not argue as children do, who, not having the sense of calculating distances, ask how the man standing near to them will be able to enter his house, which they see far away, and which seems to them of microscopic dimensions. One departs from common sense when one attributes to insignificant things a fundamental value. We neglect to consider it in a most serious way when we adopt principles contrary to the general consensus of opinion accredited in the environment in which we are living. “A high dignitary of the court,” says Yoritomo, “would be lacking in common sense if he wished to conduct himself as a peasant and, on the other hand, a peasant would give a proof of great folly were he to attempt the remodeling of his life on the principles adopted by courtiers. “He who, passing his life in camps, wished to think and to act like the philosopher, whose books are his principal society, would cause people to doubt his wisdom; and the thinker who should adopt publicly the methods of a swashbuckler would only inspire contempt.” In ordinary life, one ought to consider this faculty of common sense as the ruling principle of conduct. One can be lacking in thought, in audacity, in brilliant qualities, if only one possesses common sense. It takes the place of intelligence in many people, whose minds, unaccustomed to subtle argument, only lend themselves to very simple reasoning. A versatile mentality rarely belongs to such minds, because it is not their forte to unfold hidden truths. It walks in the light and keeps in the very middle of the road, far from the ambushes which may be concealed by the hedges of the cross-roads. Many people gifted with common sense but deprived of ordinary intelligence have amassed a fortune, but never, no matter how clever he may be, has a man known success, if he has not strictly observed the laws of common sense. It is not only in debates that the presence of this virtue should make itself felt, but every act of our life should be impregnated with it. There are no circumstances, no matter how insignificant they may appear, where the intervention of common sense would be undesirable. It is only common sense which will indicate the course of conduct to be pursued, so as not to hurt the feelings or offend the prejudices of other people. There are great savants, whose science, freed from all puerile beliefs, rises above current superstition. They would consider it a great lack of common sense if they expounded their theories before the humble-minded, whose blind faith would be injured thereby. Of two things one is certain: either they would refuse to believe such theories and this display of learning would be fruitless, or their habitual credulity would be troubled and they would lose their tranquility without acquiring a conviction sufficiently strong to give them perfect peace of mind. Even in things which concern health, common sense is applicable to daily life. It is common sense which will preserve us from excesses, by establishing the equilibrium of the annoyances which result from them, with reference to the doubtful pleasure which they procure. Thanks to common sense, we shall avoid the weariness of late nights and the danger of giving oneself up to the delights of dissipation. “It is common sense,” says the philosopher, “which forces us at a banquet to raise our eyes to the hour-glass to find out how late it is. “It is under the inspiration of this great quality of mind that we shall avoid putting to our lips the cup already emptied many times. “Common sense will reflect upon the mirror of our imagination the specter of the day after the orgy; it will evoke the monster of the headache which works upon the suffering cranium with its claws of steel; and, at some future day, it will show us precocious decrepitude as well as all bodily ills which precede the final decay of those who yield to their passions. It will also impose upon us the performance of duty under the form which it has adopted for each individual. “Common sense represents for some the care of public affairs; for others those of the family; for us all the great desire to leave intact to our descendants the name which we have received from our fathers. “For some of those still very young, it is like a lover long desired! “For sages and warriors, it blows the trumpet of glory. “Finally, common sense is the chosen purpose of every one, courted, demanded, desired or accepted, but it exists, and under the penalty of most serious inconveniences it does not permit us to forget its existence.” Coming down from the heights where he allows himself to be transported at times for a brief moment, Yoritomo tells us the part played by common sense with reference to health. “Common sense” he assures us, “is the wisest physician whom it is possible to consult. “If we followed its advice, we should avoid the thousand and one little annoyances of illnesses caused by imprudence. “The choice of clothing would be regulated according to the existing temperature. “One would avoid the passing at once from extreme heat to extreme cold. “One would never proffer this stupid reflection: Bah! I shall take care of myself, which impudent people declare when exposing themselves carelessly to take cold. “We should understand that disease is a cause of unparalleled disorder and discord. “In addition to the thought of possible sufferings, that of grief for those whom we love, joined to the apprehension of a cessation of social functions, on whose achievement depends our fortune, would suffice to eliminate all idea of imprudence, if we had the habit of allowing common sense to participate in all our actions of daily life. “To those who walk under its guidance; it manifests itself without ceasing; it dominates all actions without their being compelled to separate themselves from it. “It is unconsciously that they appeal to common sense and they have no need of making an effort to follow its laws. “Common sense is the intelligence of instinct.”


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