Getting Common Sense

How many times have you heard the expression, “Well, that’s just common sense?” It is usually said as if common sense was in fact pretty common, and everyone had some. That is not the case. Common sense is not common at all – in fact it is a rare commodity that should be considered priceless in the few places where it is found. Why is that? Well the following tale, versions of which can be found in the folk literature of various cultures around the world, will explain it.  This particular version is from the Hopi people of the south-western United States.

There was a time, long ago, when common sense truly was common.  It was a trait shared by almost everyone, young and old, and it helped greatly to create harmony among the people.  It came to pass that an old shaman of the tribe began to feel neglected.   He thought he was all-wise and took pride in the fact that others would often have to come to him for wisdom.  Although he didn’t charge much for his service, still it was an important part of his getting along.  It began to seem to him that since everyone had a modicum of common sense it might be that he was no longer really needed at all.

So he devised a plan by which he could garner all the common sense from others and hoard it unto himself.   Then the people would have no choice but to come to him for advice and wisdom.  His plan was to quietly visit the homes of all of the Hopi people during the night as they slept, and stealthily “snatch” their common sense from their sleeping brain.  He wasn’t truly sure if this would work, but he would try and see. It took him many years to travel from village to village and home to home as the people were spread out over much of the land.   His plan seemed to be working.   As he would snatch the sense from a sleeping person, he would put it into a large earthenware jug that he carried.  A stout stopper in the mouth of the jug kept it securely in place.  Eventually he came to the last person in the last village of the people.  His jug was full!    Now when someone came to him for advice or wisdom, he could unstop the jug and dole out a small bit of the common sense.

His worry now was what to do with this valuable jug.  It contained all the common sense of his people.  He couldn’t just let it lying around.

He searched and searched, and finally, high up on the sheer wall of a nearby flat-topped mesa, he saw a niche in the rocks, a small cave.  This would be a good place to hide his jug.   He could then climb up and get it whenever he wanted.

He took the jug, tied a strong rawhide cord through the handle, and put the cord around his neck.  Thus with the jug hanging securely in front of him, he slowly began to climb up the rock wall of the mesa.  It was not as easy a climb as he had hoped it would be.  He was not as young as he used to be.  He also had to be very careful not to bump the jug, which hung in front of him, against the rock.

He was almost to the niche where he would hide the jug, when a small Hopi boy from his tribe came to the base of the cliff.  The boy looked up, and he hollered up to the shaman.  “If you slung that jug around to your back, it would be a lot easier to climb the wall!”

These truthful and sensical words from the mouth of that young boy infuriated the shaman.  He realized that in spite of all the years of work, he still did not have ALL the common sense in his jug.  That young boy still had some.  Taking the jug from around his neck, he threw it down from the cliff where it landed on the rocks below and shattered into hundreds of shards.  The wind was blowing gently, but enough that it soon scattered all the common sense that had been in the jug in all directions.

And so you see, to this very day, although a few people do have a modicum of common sense, you and me for example, most people don’t have a bit of it.  Because it is still all out there, blowing in the wind.