303. Common Sense

What in the bleeding world is “Common” Sense, anyway?

Let’s get this out of the way: There is no such thing as “Common Sense”. Not, at least, in the form how people imagine it to exist. There isn’t a pool of little facts and trivia with defined boundaries that encompasses Common Sense. And if I could draw a Venn Diagram here, you’ll see how your Common Sense is hardly my Common Sense.

Last Wednesday, I was en route to the classroom on the 3rd floor when, out of the corner of my eye, I picked up a little tip from the School of Dentistry: spit, don’t rinse.

(just like how I accidentally eavesdrop on people’s conversations as I walk by, I also pick up words and images as I pass them. I’m just naturally nosy that way)

I’m not sure how common this little piece of knowledge is, but to me, it was revolutionary. What do you mean, spit, don’t rinse? I’ve been told to rinse all my life! (Or at least for the first couple of years until I grew up and brushed my teeth without being told to.) Won’t your mouth taste like toothpaste after? Is that even healthy?

A quick fact-checking with Mr. Google and some cross-checking between several authoritative sources (Reddit, LifeHacker, and The Guardian. Don’t judge me) told me that yes, it is recommended to spit out the toothpaste gunk instead of rinsing it out, so that the fluoride content in the toothpaste has time to do the work it was meant to do, instead of being removed before it could do any real good.

(kind of like me in the last company I worked at, I guess)

I will have to get back to you guys on how well that works for me.

Who knows how long this information had been floating around. Since 10 years ago? 20? Before the time my parents were born? From the creation of fluoride toothpaste itself? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

I guess simply because everyone around me either: a) didn’t know; or b) knew, and thought it was Common Sense.

See, the problem about the notion of Common Sense is that it assumes that people share the same pool of knowledge as you. But the truth is that we don’t so much drink from the same spring of knowledge as we have our own little puddles of knowledge that sometimes spill over when we come into contact. Say, for me, it’s Common Sense to backup important (not necessarily sensitive) data onto cloud storage, just in case someone decides to run an industrial-strength magnet across my hard disk. But my parents, who do not even begin to understand hard disks or cloud storage, probably think of it as techno-nonsense.

And this doesn’t just apply to hard knowledge. Even when it comes to people skills – for most of my secondary school life, I did not know many ways of initiating conversation past “So, you’re new around here, eh?”. I did not know how to shake someone’s hand, smile, look them in the eye and say, “Hey, I’m Joseph. You are?”

Nobody told me how to do that. Because eh, it’s Common Sense.

When people say that Common Sense is not common, it’s true, but not in the way they mean. People, in general, are not stupid; but what is known to you is, in all likelihood, unknown to the next person. Especially if said next person happens to be me. There is no “Common” Sense – there is sensibility that you have, and sensibility that I have, and sometimes, we happen to have the same sort of sensibilities.

(in an alternate dimension, I’m socially awesome when I start conversations with, “So, you play GunBound?”)

So the next time someone displays an incredible, honest ignorance of the facts, remember that there is no such thing as something that everyone should know. Help a fellow human being, will ya, and gently nudge them onto paths of righteousness. Because who knows, the next person to find himself not knowing might be you.


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